There was a lot of great gear on display at AXPONA this year. Some bits were terrifically expensive. Some, not so much. Some have been around a while. And some, like the Amazing Line Source from Bob Carver, have not quite gotten out the gate just yet.
The ALS is, well, a line source. It’s tall. Taller than me! And to me at least, it looks for all the world like a set of 13 Sunfire ribbon speakers all stacked on top of each other. There’s another 26 (I think there are 13 to a side) small drivers that flank the front-firing ribbons. Deep bass came courtesy of the bizarrely flat Sunfire Subrosa (top picture, lower right, up against the wall) and is included with the speaker system.
Shipments are scheduled for May. The speakers will set you back a cool $22,000.
So, how’d it sound? Well, the sound stage was big. Enormous, actually. ‘Cavernous’ is a good word to use here. Floor to ceiling, to be sure. But … imaging was a bit imprecise and everything seemed a little flat. Dynamics? Just meh. I took my notes and wandered on my way.
Day 2, I had some time so I swung back by. And guess what? I’m glad I did.
The first thing that occurred to me was that someone had been playing with the volume control [tsk, tsk] and everything was much louder than I remembered it from Day 1. And guess what? Everything sounded better. Much better, actually. But was it all just volume? Did the speakers need the extra volume to EQ them out?
Hmm. No. It was the dynamics that tipped me off. Now, there were dynamics aplenty — this music had lots of punch, snap and jump as the volume went up … and down … and up. The music had some great range! This is where I think I stumbled on a missing link. In a word: audiophiles. Them and their lousy personal music. Yep, on Day 2 we were back to the demo tracks … while Day 1 had been audience driven.
Damn audiophiles. [Sigh]. What can you do?
Anyway, this second time through, the sound stage very clearly overflowed the room in every direction. The upper-mids/treble was pretty much endless and effortless and those ribbons added some serious air. Metal snapped, rang, and shimmered. Bass was still a bit loose and a touch soft, but three different folks I chatted with after blamed that entirely on the room. I’m sure they’re right, but after visiting the Martin Logan room, with its seven subwoofers, I did wonder if the full system really ought to go out with a second Subrosa as a default. Maybe even a third. Boom — BAM!
All in all, I think this was a fun pre-launch. Kudos to the Carver team!
On to the next lust inspiring element! Get it? Element! Ha! Hmm. No? Look, these are the jokes, folks. Fine, we’re talking tubes, okay? For the ALS, power derived from two pairs of the new $12,900/pair KT120 Carver Black Beauty mono block amps, each dropping 305wpc into the bi-amped speakers. These are some pretty amps — and those tubes are ginormous. Fit and finish is very clean and rather elegant and simple. It’s all about the tubes, here.
Analysis Plus provided the cabling throughout.
Fronting the amps was the majestic Purity Audio Ultra GT preamp. This is a Darth Vader preamp if I’ve ever seen one. It’s big. It’s black. It’s imposing. It’s b-l-a-a-a-c-k. It’s got a separated power supply. [Cue the mechanical breathing machine]. Want top of the line? Here it is. Your $28k gets you Bybee Music Rails and Silver Purifiers, pure silver wiring, V-Cap CUTF caps and a bucket-load more of audio goodness. Dude. If you can possibly build it to audiophile specs, Purity just did it. Holy megacow.
Speaking of He Who Moos, you have to peek inside one of these preamps before you die. Why? Just do it and stop your backtalk.
What the hell is that?
No, those are not toroidal power transformers. Oh, no sir! Inside this chassis are some of the most monster Dueland output caps that have ever been seen this side of a blockbuster summer flick from Marvel Comics.
I must have said something aloud because the Purity rep just laughed at me. “Yeah, we get that a lot.”
But for the life of me, I just can’t understand why they’re not green and labeled with the cautionary words: “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”
Tuneage was coming from a $5,000 AMR CD777. I’ve had a man-crush on AMR for some time now, so it was reassuring to see this capable disc spinner providing some very capable audio feed. There was an M2Tech digital-to-analog converter sitting, forlorn, on the shelf up next to the preamp, opposite a Mac laptop. Not sure if they ever used, but every time I was in the room, tunes were all CD-driven. And why not?
On my way out, I managed to catch Bob Farinelli and talked him into holding up a prototype of the upcoming Carver EL84 amp. Rated at a 20wpc, this amp will be the next one out of the gate. According to readers far more astute than I, the amp will be called the “Little Black Beauty”.
Like the rest of the line, the little $2200-ish stereo amp sports an attenuator like the rest of the Carver lineup. Yes, Virginia, you can use this as a one-input integrated if you so chose, though most feel that the preamp functions should be left to a preamp. In those case, the attenuator here could be deployed to help … ah … attenuate … hum in a system that sports full separates.
Cute little baby amp! Simple circuits, simple paths, is this the way to great sound? We’ll see soon.
Also on the near-term horizon for the Carver group is a stereo amp, based on KT120s that will be good for 100wpc, as well as a matching stereo preamp.
Bob Carver also gave a pair of talks at the show. I swung by for a quick set of shots and managed to catch him mid-animation, talking to his reasons, thinking and the theories behind his Amazing Line Source. His enthusiasm was great to see. Wish I could have hung out for more of the talk!