RMAF12: Day 1 Multipack (Part 4) — Harbeth and Bricasti, Audio Research and Vandesteen

There’s this stretch of rooms that got some great photos on Day 1, but I didn’t have any time to do even a little follow up. At 174 rooms, there were definitely some gaps. Yikes.

Luckily, Mal Kenny went through, room by room, and had quite a bit of color commentary — included here. I can’t thank him enough for filling in some rather glaring holes my shortened schedule opened for me. Cheers!

Audio Alternative presents Vandersteen & ARC: Part I

  • Audio Research Corporation Reference 5SE Preamplifier: $12,995
  • Audio Research Corporation Reference 75 Amplifier: $9,000
  • Audio Research Corporation PH8 Phono Stage: $7k
  • Audio Research Corporation DAC 8: $5k
  • dCS Debussy DAC: $12k
  • Audioquest Dragonfly DAC: $250
  • LP12 Turntable with Radikal power supply & Keel Sub-Chassis, Tiger Paw Top Plate, Ekos SE Tone Arm and Lyra Kleos MC Cartridge
  • Vandersteen Audio Quatro Loudspeakers in Zebra Wood with M5 Crossovers: $12k
  • Audioquest Meteor Speaker Cables and Colorado Interconnects.
  • Sunoko – Vent T Component Racks

From Mal Kenny:

Quattro woods and ARC? Yes please.

If Vandy can be too warm, the ARC gear balances it out. If the ARC gear is accused of being unmusical, it’s by people who haven’t heard it paired with Vandersteen. I don’t know how you could complain about the sound here. In particular, the Quattro Woods share the Vandy trait of having completely invisible crossovers. There’s almost no sense that you’re listening to a speaker.

We always forget these brands that have been around forever. That’s a huge mistake. There’s a reason they’ve been around that long.

Audio Alternative presents Vandersteen & ARC: Part II

  • Audio Research Corporation Ref 10 Preamplifier
  • Audio Research Corporation Ref Phono 2SE
  • Audio Research Corporation Ref DAC
  • Audio Research Corporation Ref CD8
  • Audio Research Corporation Ref 250 Mono Block Amplifiers: $25k
  • Vandersteen 7 Loudspeakers with M7 Crossovers
  • AMG Viella 12 Turntable and Tone Arm with Lyra Atlas MC Cartridge
  • Audioquest Speaker Cables and interconnects including Wildwood Speaker Cables, WBY XLR & single ended interconnects, NRG 100 & NRG 10 AC power cables, Cinnamon Ethernet and Diamond USB and Ethernet cables
  • Harmonic Resolution Systems SXR-1921 Isolation stands, M3X-2123 Isolation bases and R1-1921 Isolation bases

Insane sound in this room, featuring some rather nifty new bits from Audio Research, including their monster 2-chassis ultra reference preamp, the $30k REF 10. A REF DAC rounds out the announced bits, but I am loving the vu meters on the REF 250 monos. Very lust-worthy gear in here.

Bricasti & Harbeth Part 1

  • Harbeth Super HL5 loudspeakers
  • Bricasti M1 DAC: $8,495 (with USB)
  • Parasound CD1 CD Player
  • D’Agostino Momentum stereo amplifier

From Mal Kenny:

It turns out that Dan D’agostino may have built the perfect amplification for Harbeths. I’ve never heard a Super HL5 sound that good. The Bricasti rep was kind enough to let me walk through the filters available on his DAC, and there’s some impressive engineering there. I can really see why people like it.

Bricasti & Harbeth, Part 2

  • Harbeth M30.1 monitor loudspeakers: $5,995
  • Bricasti M1 DAC: $8,495 (w/ USB)
  • Bully Sound BSC-60s stereo amplifier: $7,980
  • Perreaux Audiant DSP32 DAC/preamplifier: $2,995
  • Music Vault Music Server: prices start at $2,495

More from Mal Kenny:

Did I say that Dan D’agostino made the perfect amp for Harbeths? His son may have outdone him. The sound coming out of the M30s was completely satisfying. It was everything that every Harbeth owner has been striving for. This was a wonderful, wonderful room.

My wife, who has hated Harbeth, is now a huge fan. For my part, Bully Sound was in my top three solid-state rooms. D’Agostino’s son is a real talent.

Ask me about sponsorship!


  1. Hi Neal Van Berg here, I design and build the Music Vault. The Music Vault is one of the worlds best sounding digital sources but don’t take my word for it, check out what my customers have to say. Regardless it is easy to take pot shots from the cheap seats especially when you are sitting at home and haven’t even heard the product or used it. The Music Vault is the only server that comes standard with raid 1 to protect your music when one of the conventional drives fails. The Music Vault 24-192 was the first commercially available server that automatically output the native sample rate of the music stored on it. It comes with my personal support and a full two year warranty. I use only the best components inside, the best possible power supply and the Music Vault Diamond besides being truly bit perfect has less than 20 pico seconds of Jitter worst case.
    In addition the Diamond comes with a custom designed 6′ cable that completes the package.
    The Music Vaults are usually the least expensive component in my customers stereos.
    Keep in mind there is the cost of parts, the time to build and the time spent supporting customers.
    I was asked by Mr Meltsky from Music Culture and originally the M in MBL how I could sell my Music Vault so inexpensively after he learned what was inside it, what it did and how it sounds.

    Of course you can build anything yourself and depending on your skill get mediocre to great results. The Music Vaults are designed for people that want a complete solution and fabulous sound. You will find Music Vault Diamonds paired with the worlds finest DACs, Speakers and Amplifiers.

    • Neal — thanks for writing in. I’m sure you get a lot of confused customers, given the saturation the market is now seeing with music servers adding little or no value above and beyond what Dell brings to the table. Like many things, it comes down to a question of value — I appreciate your helping us understand what it is you’re up to, why, and how it helps the sound quality.

  2. Those are good points, except you can buy the latest CAPS server already complete starting at $1200, which is a much smaller and much more attractive product to boot. The Auraliti players are even more affordable, $700-800 plus another hundred or so for external storage. In my opinion 300-400% markup isn’t justified just by “ease of use”.

    • Sorry — swap ‘justified by’ with ‘claimed to be justified by’. Here’s the problem with commodities — the margins are shit. The typical valuation equation takes parts costs, adds labor, marketing and overhead, and comes up with X. X is then doubled (direct) or tripled (dealer network) to get MSRP. The exact formulas don’t really matter, except as an illustration — but the point is, most vendors white-labeling a solution full of commodity parts will always have a problem competing. Of course, this applies to loudspeakers too — hell, all of high end audio. The DIY crowd has a lot of fun talking about how much audiophiles overspend. But if you’re not handy with a soldering iron, or don’t know how to read a circuit diagram, well, lets just say that ignorance has a cost. A cost that others can exploit for their considerable gain.

  3. I’d really like to see Music Vault (and similar servers from other companies) justify their price tags. That’s a $150 Silverstone case, and a $40 Asus Blu-ray drive. Style points zero. It’s running JRiver so I’m sure it’s fairly standard computer hardware, and some software automation. For $2500+ I am unmoved. Sonore isn’t building their own enclosures either, but at least they aren’t using off the shelf stamped steel PC cases.

    The Bladelius and Aurrender servers aren’t any more expensive than the upgraded Music Vault boxes, and they ARE using custom hardware. It smells to me like some serious markup is going on for what’s basically a regular computer.

    • Honestly? I believe most of the price tag is justified by “ease of use”. The bulk of audiophiles looking to get into computer audio aren’t “server guys” or “IT guys”, so the familiarity with operating systems, drive mounts, or the availability of alternative drivers, might be non-existent. Wiring up your own CAPS server simply isn’t an option. Flipped around, all those computer bits are pure commodity, so there needs to be some margin to make the pre-assembly and pre-configuration work actually worth doing. Hence the markup.

      But if you are an IT guy or computer savvy, you’re quite right — there really isn’t a lot of value in most of these computer server offerings.

Comments are closed.