RMAF 2011: Volti, DSA, LampizatOr, Border Patrol, Amazon
The $10,500 Volti Audio Vittora is a fully horn-loaded, three-way, 104dB sensitivity loudspeaker is good for 50Hz – 20kHz. One look, and you’re probably thinking “Klipsch”. I was, anyway. But the sound … definitely not Klipsch.
The bass/mid-bass is delivered via a 15″ woofer in a folded horn. For those needing and wanting that extra oompfh (me! me! me!), a matching subwoofer (18″ driver) will be available for an extra $2400, plus something additional (still TBD) for the amplifier and crossover. Interestingly, this lack really wasn’t much of a hangup at the show — and quite frankly, probably helped considerably. Hotel rooms? Not optimal. But the Volti? This room was one to hang out in. Why? Well, the tone was just right. And the while it didn’t hit the lowest notes with an iron frying pan, what it did it, it hit square. I found this discussion of why on the Volti website:
The problem with that of course, is that getting a bass horn to play down low (below 50hz) requires a VERY BIG horn. We’re talking larger than a refrigerator here. In addition to the obvious problems with building a speaker that won’t fit through normal size doorways, building a horn large enough to produce very low frequencies and also asking the same horn to play mid-bass in an accurate and musical way just doesn’t work. The bigger the horn, the less musical and tonally correct the mid-bass becomes. Oh yes, I know there are many horn designs that have been introduced over the years that cover both low bass and mid-bass, and there are plenty of people out there who are going to defend these old designs and say that this one or that one does both just fine. I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but over the last few decades speakers have become a LOT better sounding than they used to be. What was once accepted as good sound quality (think Klipsch Khorn) is not so accepted anymore. The standards used to determine the quality of reproduced sound are much higher today than they were in the 1960’s 70’s and 80’s. So when I make the statement that building a big enough horn to produce a 30Hz wave, and also asking that horn to accurately and musically reproduce the mid-bass up to 400Hz is problematic, I am doing so using the standards set by the very best speakers being designed and built today.
Based on what I heard? Designed/builder Greg Roberts nailed it. What an amazing sounding speaker. Clearly a contender for Best In Show.
Packing the heat in this room was the superlative $13,500 Border Patrol S20 amplifier — another Maryland local — that I’ve loved in every Border Patrol room (two Capital Audio Fests and an RMAF now). It’s a single-ended 300B, dual-mono and with dual power supplies (the aluminum-faced boxes on either side of the amp in the picture below). Good for 18wpc, the amp is beautifully built, elegant, and with the Voltis, was producing powerfully seductive and elegant sound.
The $10k DSA Phono One, reviewed here by PFO, is made locally here in Maryland. That makes it awesome. DSA stands for “Dynamic Sound Associates”, and headed up by Dr. Douglas Hurlburt, an ex-DARPA scientist. According to the PFO review:
He uses no global feedback. Rather, feedback is employed within each of the four separate gain stages to ensure that all forms of distortion are held as low as possible. RIAA compensation is achieved using passive high pass networks, including the proper time constants, located between the independent gain stages of the amplifier chain, again to achieve low distortion.
Gain is 40dB/46dB/50dB/56dB/60dB/66dB and operation is single-ended or balanced with the standard loading for MD/MM, all available via some user-accessible DIP switches. Demos are available.
The $12k DSA Stage Two linestage is brand new — not even listed on the website yet. The handout states that the Stage Two uses the same design principles of the Phono One (wrt feedback, &c), and includes a 25-step attenuator for volume control instead of a more graduated “ladder” attenuator. Bandwidth is a very impressive 2Hz-500kHz. From the literature:
“A dual channel design with a dual channel highly regulated power supply and individual voltage regulators for each amplification stage.” Channels are matched to within .1dB, but each channel can be adjusted an additional 2.5dB (plus or minus) in order to accommodate source material imbalance — or imbalances elsewhere in the reproduction chain. Another interesting widget is the “12dB attenuator that can be used [for] high-level input signals and to balance them relative to lower level input signals … selectable for each input separately.”
“Following the amplifier stages is a separate high current output driver stage with a very low impedance output that permits the use of virtually any length and type of interconnect cable to be used.”
Balanced/XLR and unbalanced/RCA inputs and outputs are standard. Also included is an unbalanced tape out. Gain is 12dB, but an additional 6dB can be toggled in. Polarity and mono options are available off the front panel and the unit comes with a remote for source-selecting, volume and muting.
Analog in! Amazon Referenz ‘table ($11,950) with a Mørch tonearm and the Zyx Omega Copper cartridge ($4995). Pretty table!
This may be my favorite DAC. I had it in-house for almost a month, courtesy of importer Ming Su. This DAC is like the SET of DACs. If you like that sound — rich immersive immediacy in the mid range with tremendous clarity — then you’re going to lovelovelove the LampizatOr DAC. Level 4 takes the price to over $6k with options like volume control and balanced outputs, but that price is very competitive with DACs in this performance class.
Dr. Douglas Hurlburt with his new Stage Two linestage — had a shot, and wouldn’t you know it, the door opens exactly at that moment. Ah, well.