NYAV12: Soundsmith

All that glitters is not gold. Clearly. Because chrome glitters quite brightly, thank you very much. And the big HRX turntable that Peter Lederman, the Soundsmith, brings to each show sure has lots of little chrome bits glittering in the moodily-lit rooms he sets up.

I’ve likened the experience of visiting a Soundsmith demo to stepping into a dwarven mine and I’ll stand by that. All manner of interesting things catch the eye here — and most of them are coming from Peter’s lab. It’s like a treasure trove of audio goodness in here!

The magnificent Hyperion cartridge is the one grabbing most of the headlines, so let’s start there. By now, you’ve probably heard that this $7,500 moving-iron cartridge sports a cactus needle as a cantilever. This magical material has a rigidity that’s startlingly good for use in analog setups, but it’s so outlandish, I know a lot of audiophiles are still puzzling over this. No matter. It works and works brilliantly. I think the only thing cooler than this is the 10 year warranty — which includes free re-tipping for the duration. What the hell. 10 years and free re-tipping? Best deal in analog. No kidding.

Peter’s phono cartridges may catch the imagination, but his other gear also shows a very high degree of cost/performance value.

That turntable, with all the bits and bobs on it, is worth over $20k. Yet Peter has no issue with running it all through his hand-made $700 phono preamp. It’s as if he’s daring you to ask why they’re so cheap. When the quality is there, why charge more?

Here’s a thing. Check out that rack, above. The middle bit is the Strain Gauge 810, used as a preamp. The bottom two are amps, HE-150 amplifiers, run bridged for about 440wpc total output. Yes, that’s all from Soundsmith. See the blue glow on the clear knob/dial? It’s a built-in power-meter and it flickers, swells and ebbs in time with output. Gimmicky, but cool. Think “power dials” on a Luxman, say. Yeah. Me want.

For the life of me, I can’t find much info in the “audio press” about those amps. The aesthetic is great, the specs look like they’re more than adequate … yet, there is a blistering silence on the Interwebs. Weird. Might have to work on getting a pair at some point, just to fill the gap. You know, as a public service.

Here’s another hidden marvel, the Firefly Audio speakers. Another Soundsmith creation, the larger Monarch and smaller Dragonfly speakers are the complement to any Soundsmith-run demo. In a word, they’re fantastic.

Tiny enclosures. HUGE sound. More silence on the Interwebs. Tsk, tsk.

This is really surprising to me, as these little speakers are clearly the star of the show. But perhaps we’re all distracted? Yes, the Soundsmith is known — and rightfully so — as a cartridge company. Their analog stuff is brilliant. But so is their “everything else” — starting with their speakers.

This is the 5th show (or so) that I’ve covered where there has been a Soundsmith room. Each of those rooms shares a commonality — they all sounded great. Part of this is very careful attention to setup detail. Part of it is inspired component matching. But it’s these little speakers that carry all that weight — it’s they that load the room, they that present the sound, they that capture the ear and the imagination and bring on the cheering.

Monarch speakers are $3,000/pair. The Dragonfly, playing so spectacularly when I visited the room, are $2,000/pair.

Jeff Joseph (right) of Joseph Audio and Peter Lederman (left) of Soundsmith.