Newport 2012: Audio Summa Presents Silverline, Conrad-Johnson, Parasound, Kuzma

San Pedro’s Sal Zambrano of Audio Summa had everything-and-the-kitchen-sink at Newport. It was crazy. Four pairs of Silverline speakers, gear from Conrad-Johnson, Kuzma, Parasond, BEL … I walked in and the first thing I thought was “oh, this is gonna be fun”.

My next thought was, “hey you, get out of that seat.” Crowded room. Good demos do that.

The $35,000 Silverline Grand Boleros dominated the room. That system was run by an $9,500 Conrad-Johnson ET-5 preamp into a (sadly, NFS) BEL 1001 MkIV amplifier. A very clever-looking $3,700 Kuzma Stabi SD turntable was paired with both a $2,950 Stogi S NSE 12″ tonearm and a $5,800 Kuzma 4-Point that Stereophile’s Michael Fremer went nuts over. A $6,500 TEA2MAX from Conrad-Johnson did the phono preamplification.

So, all of these pieces were new-to-me, and quite frankly, I was very curious to see how they’d all hang together. Stunning sound, huge sound stage, yeah — even in the sub-optimal long-wall setup, I heard enough that made me want to pack it up and toss it in the truck.

System #2, which I didn’t hear, was fronted by the sculpted Silverline Sonatina MkIV, offered at $5,995 a pair. Some very fancy mirror-finish custom gear from Silverline was in the chain, too, including a CD player and a tube preamp — either piece can be special ordered for about $12k. A $950 Parasound A23 amplifier was on hand for 125wpc to power the speakers.

It’s great when an expensive system does well, and I do like the expensive bits. But when you can get stellar sound for fractions, well, that’s a whole other thing. And the star of that particular show was on the short-wall.

Parasound’s new Z lineup was on display here, and included:

  • Zcd: $400.
  • Zdac: $450.
  • Zpre v2: $400.
  • Zamp v3: $350.

And stepping into the spotlight was the tiny $699/pair Silverline Minuet Supreme Plus Monitor. Sal apparently swapped in the $1,499 Silverline Prelude periodically, but I missed most of that as Sal was switching over to the Minuets when I walked into the room.

“Bowled over” is a cliche. It also completely fails to capture my enthusiasm for this little system. Aside from the obvious shortcomings — it is only 9″ tall — this system killed it. I can’t believe how small this speaker is — and how small everything in this rig is. The only that wasn’t small was the sound [ba-dum-bump]. Sorry, all that seems to be falling from my fingertips at the moment are cliches … but I have to say, there’s a reason sayings like that became cliches. This system? One of those reasons.

I’ve been recommended the Minuets by several dealers — none of whom actually sell them, which is interesting. There’s a little buzz out there about how good they sound … yeah, consider me buzzing. I’m gonna have to get a pair.

If you’re curious, Sal will be showing off Silverline at RMAF this year. He’s bringing the big Grand Boleros and a brand-new pair of the Minuets. But this time, the Minuets are wearing some fancy new clothes — specifically, “piano black”, a new $100 option for the speaker.