Newport 2012: TAD, Zesto, WyWires

I’m almost embarrassed to admit how much I love these $42k (up from $37k) TAD CR-1 loudspeakers. They’re just outstanding.

They’re dangerous, however. I’ve heard the CR-1s now about half-a-dozen times, and the demo hasn’t always been an unqualified success. When it misses, they can sound a bit hard. But When it hits, it’s a Babe Ruth kind of hit, with lots of fanfare, showmanship and grandeur. SMACK! Seeya, sucka!

I’ve talked to a lot of folks about this, and the consensus among the audio literati (all two of them) is that this speaker is one unforgiving sumbitch. If you fuck up upstream, the TAD is going to punish you for it. I’ve never actually heard “punishment”, but I have heard them sound a bit hard.

This makes the decision to show with TAD something of a ballsy move. It’s like screaming “No Fear” at a pool full of sharks just before diving in — while wearing a steak dress.

However it goes, it’s gonna be epic.

So. Here I was. Walking along the hallways of the Hilton Hotel. Aimless. Okay, no, I was probably frantic with the notion that I had a million rooms to get to and zero time to do “it all” in. Which is why I was rather nervous walking into the Zesto Audio room. This was either going to be a long, protracted stay or terribly fast. It could go either way.

I stayed for half an hour. And came back. Three times.

I loved this room. LOVED it. The sound was rich and big and grand and totally inviting. Detail? Check. Immediacy? Check. Room filling? Check. Made me want to hang out all day? Checkcheckcheck. I found my way back for their impromptu happy hour — I could hardly say no as the lovely and charming Nina Sventitsky (wife of WyWires’ Alex) was pouring wine from her personal stash. Score!!! And … YUM. Did I mention she’s a wine importer? And here I thought making audio gear was “the coolest”. Wrong-o!

The equally charming, and obviously pleased with themselves, George and Carolyn Counnas of Zesto Audio were on hand and showing off something new — the Leto, their nifty $7,500 tubed preamp. If I were able to make something this pretty — and have it sound this good — I’d be pleased, too. The aesthetic should be familiar to show-goers as it follows the elegant, flowing lines of their $3,900 Andros PS1 phono stage, a unit that suddenly seems to be just about everywhere.

Here’s some of the key features of the Leto (courtesy of the Zesto website):

  • Plenty of volume to handle all your source material
  • The input selection uses only electromechanical switching to provide the most musical detail.
  • The wide frequency response allows you to hear the finest passages in your music.
  • True floating transformer balanced Inputs and Outputs have lower noise and isolate one piece of gear to the next.
  • Left and Right ground switches allows you to control the grounding of the single ended outputs.
  • The output transformers provide a strong and clean signal to your power amplifier.
  • Recessed RCA and XLR connectors are high quality, Gold plated, with an isolated ground.
  • No pops when the unit is turned on or off.
  • Automatically goes to mute when turned on or off.
  • Remote control Volume, Mute and Mono
  • Remote bypass switch overrides the mute in case the remote is misplaced.
  • 50 hour factory burn in on all circuits and vacuum tubes.
  • Elegantly designed 16 gauge zinc plated steel enclosure to help isolate the electronic “chatter” from nearby equipment.
  • Award winning Isonode anti-vibration fee
  • Each unit is hand built “Made in the USA”.

Feeding the Zesto components was a Merrill Williams Audio R.E.A.L. 101 turntable. I really admire the R.E.A.L., which stands for “rubber elastomer acoustic laminate”. As you can probably guess, the ‘table has lots of elaborate tech built-in to address noise elimination. Follow the link for LOTS more info.

The R.E.A.L. retails for $7,200 but comes sans tonearm, so today, the latest $5,800 Tri-Planar Ultimate was doing the honors, with a Dynavector XX2 MkII cartridge dancing in the grooves for our enjoyment.

A $6,000 GamuT D200 amplifier was pushing current. The spec sheet says that it’s good for 200wpc into 8 ohms, doubling into 4, and stable into 2. Beastly!

A couple of other worthies to mention!

First is the Spiritual Audio VX-9 power conditioner. This was new-to-me, but just so you know, it’s offered at $2,995.

This entry-level 2500 watts/20-ampere device provides excellent performance, boasting 560 joules/30,000 amperes surge capacity … The VX-9 uses Light-speed filtering technology that eliminates the use of coils and transformers. There is no current limiting or transient delay. No sonic coloration or loss of high frequencies.

Last, but most definitely not least, was the full WyWires cable loom. A word of disclosure — I use WyWires in my main reference rig. To my personal knowledge and experience, Alex Sventitsky’s wires provide one of the highest quality and most neutral conduits that I’ve found. In my rig, WyWires show the most saturated tonal palette, best bass extension, detail, and treble clarity for any cable anywhere near their price. Of course, these wires aren’t exactly inexpensive, but again, in my personal experience, I couldn’t match their performance until I tripled my budget, which easily qualified them as a reference. The parts-quality is extremely high, and WyWires makes extensive use of expensive audiophile-grade parts, including the superlative (and pricey) Xhadow connectors.

Anyway, I just wanted to put that out there. Moving on ….

WyWires cables in the room:

  • “Silver” Speaker Cables: $1399/8′ pair
  • “Gold” balanced interconnects: $1599/4′ pair
  • “Silver” interconnects: $1399/4′ pair
  • “Silver” phono cables: $1199
  • “Silver” USB cable: $429
  • “Silver” Juice II power cords: $399

Some notes about WyWires: “silver” designates the baseline cable offering, featuring Alex’s latest thinking about geometry, dialectric and design. “Gold” takes this up a level by adding Bybee purifiers to the cable design. “Blue”, not actually in this room, is an entry-level approach that uses no Teflon in the dialectric and a simplified geometry — and is therefore offered at a lower price.

What’s new? Well, the interconnects have undergone an evolution in the last 6 months — and Alex has a trade-up program. Send him your old WyWires interconnects and he’ll upgrade them to Version 3.0 for you for $150/cable pair. He’ll also re-condition your connectors while he’s at it. I don’t know about you, but I have my carton ready to ship out! Be sure to contact Alex if you have any questions or are interested in the upgrade.