Newport 2012: Acoustic Zen and Triode Corporation

Big tubes. Bigger speakers. Sexy finishes. Sultry sound. Thundering bass.

This look, this gear, this sound — this is why we’re audiophiles.

This is the gear we take home to our long-suffering families and loved ones and they finally say, “Wow. I get it now.”

This is the sound that stuns our friends and neighbors, rendering forever inadequate their box-store receivers and crap-ass speakers. This is where their plotting starts.

Hee hee!

I love finding an Acoustic Zen/Triode Corp room at an audio show. Every one of them has  been an exercise in the best possible kind of audiophile excess. This is luscious, gorgeous stuff. And it looks great, too.

Robert Lee of Acoustic Zen teamed up yet again here at Newport with Santy Oropel of Twin Audio Video (the importer for the excellent and affordable Triode Corp line of tube gear and more) to put together a textured, layered sound that was easily among the best at the show. Again. This is becoming something of a thing for these two, who seemed to have come up with a formula these last few years that has consistently and thoroughly soothed my savage beast, tickled my fancy, and sketched giant shit-eating grins all over my face.

Robert thinks I’m funny. But then, hey, looks aren’t everything (har, har). Ahem. Moving on ….

In this room, Robert was showing his mid-range $16,900 Crescendo loudspeaker in a burled finish you kind of have to see to truly believe. To say that it’s “furniture grade” does it something of an injustice, but that’s just where things start. This Acoustic Zen speaker is a transmission-line 3-way design with a horn-loaded tweeter and some giant bass drivers.

I got a chance to play my Chris Jones CD, Roadhouses and Automobiles. My bass torture track, “No Sanctuary Here”, is a tour-de-force of creepy atmospheric thunder — but only if the speakers can “do that”. Here, they “did that” in a way that made a couple of the other folks in the room look at me as if to say “what the hell are we listening to?” Robert promptly plucked the CD case from my hand and I wasn’t sure he was going to give it back. Anyway, thrilling stuff.

Moving on to the electronics, Santy’s Triode Corp gear included a $3,250 TRV-CD5SE CD, a $3,200 TRX-1 preamplifier, and a pair of huge $22,500 TRX-M845SE monoblocks. A word about this gear — it’s all assembled in Japan, one. Two, it has a level of fit-and-finish that is startling to look at. For example, the first amplifier my wife looked at and called “pretty” was a Triode Corp integrated. There’s the red lacquer, gleaming chrome, and glowing bits that really lift this brand out of the haze of reasonably-price electronics. And lastly, three — all that’s irrelevant as it’s the sound quality that makes them a must-audition.

Here’s the bottom line — audiophile gear can easily cost more than a car. In some cases, more than a house. I don’t really get that kind of gear, but whatever. But, as everyone keeps saying, quality doesn’t have to come with that kind of price tag. The Acoustic Zen/Triode Corp room was another, elegantly phrased, case in point. No, it’s not cheap by any means. But where the cost/performance/aesthetic grid meet to chart that epic curve, you’ll find this gear there, right at the start.

Lucky for you, Robert and Santy do a lot of shows. Find them. Bring your CDs. Plan on taking your time. I think you’ll find the time well spent.


  1. I was wondering if you have heard the acoustic zen adagio’s and if so how they compare to the Tekton Lore-s? I am hopefully going to go see vinnie this weekend and listen to his signature 15 and lore-s set-up but I am not sure if I can audition the adagio’s. I am interested because I am hoping to replace my rainmakers very soon. thanks.

    • No, I have not had the chance to compare the Lore-S with the Acoustic Zen speakers.

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