NYAV12: Audio Arts shows Zellaton, Berning, Holborne, Tellurium Q

Gideon Schwartz’ Audio Arts room showcased a prototype speaker from Zellaton, the just-released $59,750 Concert. Details, such as impedance and sensitivity, are all forthcoming and should be posted online by next week.

Feeding these speakers was a combo from David Berning, a $12,300 ZOTL Pre One preamp with the optional phonostage and the $18,400/pair ZH-230 monoblock amplifiers, putting out 60wpc each.

All cables came from Tellurium Q. The Graphite interconnect runs $1,495 for 1m. The matching Graphite speaker cables are offered at $3,995.

Talk about unexpected. Of this gear, the only thing I’ve even read about prior to visiting is the OTL gear from Berning. All new-to-me, which is always fun.

So, taken as a whole, which is really all I can do here, this system kicked all manner of ass. The sound was delicate and finessed. I heard a Johnny Hartman LP played here with such raw emotion that I wanted to run out and buy it.

These Zellatons are amazing. Not familiar with the brand? Me neither! But the speakers arise from the drivers, so that’d be a good place to start. The original patent on the Zellaton driver was filed back in 1930 (!!!) by Dr. Emil Podszus. It was his grandson, Manuel, that built the speaker that stood tall and proud here in NYC.

Remember the Pawel/Ensemble PA-1? No? Well, while they’re not out there anymore, but Gideon tells me that they were one of the best-selling speakers of all time. That monitor used the Zellaton driver. Ever heard of Magico? Yeah, well the Mini-1 used a driver that was, arguably, a Zellaton copy. Not convinced? Well, the history is out there.

A few years ago, Zellaton stopped providing these drivers to the market, deciding instead to build their own speakers with them. Everything for these speakers is built in-house, the driver, the cabinet, the tweeter — all made for the single purpose of creating a linear, transparent transducer.

All that aside, all I can say is that the sound went deep, played cleanly, and had tremendous extension. When the music called for grace, there was grace. When the music called for balls, well, yeah. Uh huh. Let’s just say that the speakers really got out of the way. The imaging was freaky-precise, with spectacular depth and width. What a sound stage!

Maybe it’s just me, but I thought the Berning gear was stunning. I couldn’t stop ogling. I guess I’m a sucker for worked aluminum and the fat knobs and switches just totally turned my crank. That etched top panel was such an elegant touch, I needed to fondle it. So I did. Of course, I made sure that Gideon wasn’t watching. It’s unseemly, that’s all. Didn’t want to make him uncomfortable as I frothed at the mouth a little bit, though I think I hid it well. Having the camera in front of my face certainly helped.

I’m not familiar with Holborne, but the minimalist $5,275 Analog 2 was very clean and elegant in its matte black finish. The $3,475 Analog 2 tonearm was mounted with a Benz-built special-for-Holborne $1,975 MC1 cartridge.

Holborne is all hand-made in Switzerland. Check out the table — that belt, isn’t! They call it a “tape transmission line”, which is a fancy way of saying they use the tape out of the cassette. That is, someone ripped the guts out my Thriller tape and used it to wind up a platter. Friction? What friction? Nothing but bearing and motor control, here.

Stereophile’s Michael Fremer will be reviewing this setup sometime late this year.