I’ve had fun directing others on interesting ways to find an Avatar Acoustics show-room at audio shows before. My advice has been to “follow your nose” — Avatar’s Darren Censullo has a tendency to do up his room like a grown-up love shack with full-sensory room treatments, including some mood lighting, lit up salt blocks mined from the Himalayas, and finished off with some aromatherapy candles. It’s the latter that’s really different — especially for an audio show — but like I said, the pure audio signal is feeding just one of the senses Darren’s attempting to engage.
This RMAF, Darren came with a shopping cart full of new things — let’s start with the loudspeakers. Rosso Fiorentino is an Italian speaker manufacturer that pays a lot attention to “look and feel” and has a name for it’s leather-wrapped enclosures, subtle surfaces and gorgeous veneers. One thing they’re not known for is loudspeakers that actually conform to stereotypes of what speakers ought to look like. The Volterra, for example, has a rather distinctive cello-like shape — a design that’s a bit polarizing. I far preferred the more pyramidal Sienna, one of the richest and most nuanced speakers I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying at any audio show. Now comes the Certaldo, heading up the Rosso “Prestige” (aka, “entry level”) line, and this is something my wife would recognize — it’s a column! “Like a speaker’s supposed to look”, says she. I’m not so sure about that, but she does have a point — this is the most “traditional” look I’ve yet seen from Rosso Fiorentino:
The sides of the cabinet are made of composite high density fiberboard (HDF) panels having internal compartments filled with microscopic chips of marble. Friction losses among the chips give rise to a particularly high degree of internal attenuation. Layers of viscoelastic elastomers are strategically placed inside the cabinet to further absorb panels vibration while steel tension tie-rods firmly connect the aluminum front panel to the back of the speaker for increased rigidity.
Specs put that 2.5-way ported floorstander at 85dB, 8ohms nominal (5Ω minimum), 45Hz – 30kHz. Note that this speaker does not include the fancy Murata driver that the higher-end Rosso speakers do, but the extension still manages to climb way up into dog-hearing.
- Rosso Fiorentino Certaldo loudspeakers: $5,995/pair
- iFi iUSB power filter: $199
- iFi iDAC: $299
- iFi iPhono phono preamp: $399
- First Sound Presence Deluxe Linestage: $5,500
- AMR DP-777 DAC: $4,995
- AMR AM-777 Integrated Amplifier: $4,995
- AMR CD-77 CD Player (used only as a transport): $10,995
- Dr. Feickert Analogue Firebird turntable $12,995
- Dr. Feickert Analogue DFA 12.0 tonearm: $1,495
- Lyra Kleos cartridge: $2,995
I’ve talked at some length about the Feickert turntable and the reference-level AMR gear, so I won’t repeat that here. But there was some other stuff — the other “big news” was the introduction of Abbingdon Music Research’s iFi lineup. Quite frankly, if these bits were white acrylic, I’d say it fell off the shelf at an Apple Store. Which is, no doubt, the point. If you’re a subscriber to the Ken Kessler theory of how hi-fi is eating it’s own tail, then you’ll probably shake your head at this stuff. But if you follow Mike Mercer, this stuff is totally obvious for what it is — an affordable entry point into high-end audio. Me? I call it fucking brilliant. Bravo to AMR. To wit — I have an iUSB, an iDAC and an iCAN (head-amp) sitting here at Chez Moi. Yep. Guess you could say I agree with Mercer on this one. Ahem.
About the lineup — the iUSB is a dual-port “power filter” for your USB devices. An “ultra low noise” wall-wart power supply feeds into a “SuperRegulator” system that separates the USB audio and USB power elements. The upshot is a seriously quiet power supply (<1µv of noise) for your sensitive USB electronics — without having to worry about batteries. Score!
The iPhono supports both moving coil and moving magnet cartridges, and is capable of 40-66dB of gain, adjustable cartridge loading, and six different EQ curves (Decca, RIAA, Columbia, eRIAA, IEC — dunno what the 6th is). Got an entry level turntable? This isn’t your phono stage — this is some advanced stuff here. I got to hear this in “the big rig” here at RMAF, and I was impressed by the tone and frequency response. Sure, I’d probably prefer the $12k+ AMR PH 777 or even a Monk phono (somewhere here, but not obviously in evidence), but I was not complaining. If I get my hands on one, I’m thinking about it with a VPI Traveler or perhaps even a Project Carbon Debut. Hmmm.
The iCan is a headamp — more on that another time — and last but not least is the iDAC. Leveraging an ESS chipset, the iDAC supports 24bit/192kHz over asynchronous USB. The signal path is something they’re calling “DirectDrive” — that is, there are no coupling capacitors in that path. The result? No idea — I didn’t get to hear it yet, but I will — as I said, it’s already here.