Of the last three shows I’ve been to, the Highwater Sound rooms have been a highlight of the trip; Axpona counts as yet another feather in magician Jeff Catalano’s cap. The sound here was just plain wonderful.
Of course, when you’re visiting Jeff, you have to be prepared to flip through 500 or so albums from everything from ZZ Top and up through the alphabet from there. And Thomas Woschnick (the “TW” in “TW Acustic”) was doing just that when I walked in. ZZ Top. At an audio show. Well, I never! LOL.
Now, I need to mention something about the proprietor. Jeff is an old-school audiophile. Tubes. Vinyl. Digital? No way! This whole “computer audiophile” thing, to Jeff, seems to have missed the point. Putting words in Jeff’s mouth, analog is where the music is at. And every time I visit him, I can completely understand where he’s coming from. Analog, done well, is untouchable.
The sound coming out of the high efficiency Horning Eufrodite Ultimate Zigma Plus ($22k as configured) speakers were exceptionally fast, clean and rambunctious. Bass was deep and enveloping. Highs were extended and the midrange … oh, boy, howdy that midrange. This is the kind of sound quality that really left me scratching my head when visiting the YG, Scaena and Lansche rooms. Why would I pay more, again? I’m at a loss.
The new TW Acustic mothership, the $40k Black Night, was on full display that Friday. This is a beast of a turntable. I don’t think I’m ever going to have the scratch for a table like this, but it practically reeked of sex appeal. This is the kind of turntable that walks into a bar and instantly gets mobbed by models. This is the kind of turntable that not only turns heads, but may well cause them to spin around in circles. It’s awesome. With the TW Acustic Raven 10.5 tonearm and an Ortofon Windfeld cartridge, the source was revealing, musical, and truthful. This is what synergy is about, folks. Freakin’ gorgeous.
BTW, on the Night’s second armboard sat another Raven 10.5, with a Dynavector XV-1s, but this was only in standby during my visit.
Powering the speakers was the ($24k) two-chassic 22Wpc Horning Hybrid Sati 1605 SE. The Tron Electric Seven Ultimate Stereo ($12,500) phono preamp rounded out the components (a mono version of this preamp was also sitting on the rack, just in case).
The sound was hot! Literally! But then, what else do you expect when visiting Jeff Catalano? A/C is noisy, so off it goes, which means that your musical journey can easily take place in a cozy little room that quickly approaches sauna-like if it gets crowded. Lucky for me, Friday was hardly jammed, so instead of immediately dropping the 20lbs I sweated out at RMAF 2010, I merely got a bit of a tan at Axpona 2011. 😉
One last thing I want to mention before I forget — Jeff doesn’t really do “room treatments” in the normal sense of the word (where it means “absorption”). No panels here! Which is interesting. He’s a big fan of diffusion — witness the ficus trees hanging out in the corners of the room. “Absorption takes out the good with the bad”, Jeff explained. Well, he’s not getting any argument out of me. His room sounded spectacular. ‘Nuff said.
For me, this room tied for “Best Sound” at Axpona 2011. Great room. Great gear. Great sound. Well done — again!