RMAF12: Simplicity rules with Voxativ and Rethm [updated]

Single ended amplifiers and single-driver loudspeakers = purist audio. For those of us raised on solid-state amps and big multi-driver loudspeakers, this purist camp doesn’t make a lot of sense. Not at first. But, for this audio wanderer at least, I’m really beginning to wonder what I’ve been missing out on.

Voxativ

Two rooms at RMAF really underscored that for me. The first was the Voxativ room, run with the shockingly huge tubes that instantly cause me to shout “Oh, no — Kronzilla!” in my best faux-Japanese monster-flick voice over impression, complete with the requisite wide-eyed fervor, and mime a quick exit from the scene.

I’m gonna be honest here. I didn’t get it when both 6moons and then Stereophile went coo-coo-for-Cocoa-Puffs over these loudspeakers. I’d heard them in several different shows and quite frankly I’d given up trying to understand all the hushed reverence. And then I got to sit and listen to them. And then I failed to get up. Twice. Uh huh. Okay, fine. I was wrong. These are wonderful and yes I want a pair. They’re just not all that to look at, and with that $32,500/pair price tag, the 100dB sensitivity of the Voxativ Ampeggio Signature loudspeaker really ought to seem more Bentley Motors, to me. You know? I mean, it’s one driver in a not-very artfully concealed folded-horn box. After leaving this room twice, my answer to myself? Get over it. This sound was wonderful.

  • Highend-Electronics MusicServer1: $995
  • KR Audio P-130 preamp with KR05 tubes: $4,950
  • KR Audio Kronzilla SX power amp with T-1610 tubes: $17,550
  • KR Audio VA880 amplifier: $5,790 (display)
  • KR Audio VA320 integrated amplifier: $8,950 (display)

From my impromptu reporter, Mal Kenny:

Holy mother of God, this is the best single driver I’ve ever heard. It’s almost completely satisfying. The rear horn seems to be completely free from any midrange contamination, and the dynamics — DYNAMICS! — will knock you back. This was a masterful room.

More importantly, this was a room that kept sucking me in. You’d hear Tom Waits from halfway down the hall. Johnny Cash’s “Ain’t No Grave” would make you cry rounding a corner. Basically, you could listen to music that people actually enjoy listening to. There was no safe audiophile fare here. That can be death for some single driver systems. The Voxactiv, KR setup just ate it all up.

Rethm

I am very enamored of the look and sound of the Rethm lineup. Very natural feel, and here, the Maarga ($10k/pair), looked quite fine. I would love to try out a pair of these guys.

Voxativ, Rethm — I’m reminded me of an interesting mashup done over at 6moons with these two loudspeakers:

To conclude the Ampeggio/Maarga comparison, this—and not the larger—Voxativ speaker remains the best single-driver creation I’ve yet heard. John Atkinson’s Stereophile measurements shed light on its surprising in-room performance. That said, Jacob George’s eventual capitulation to the concept’s irreconcilable LF limitations and subsequent years of perfecting an integral active auxiliary bass system demonstrate an important point. Stubborn adherence to a lovely ideal (a single driver is best, period) can become somewhat myopic. That’s definitely relevant when the final retail price comes crashing down on tolerance for genre-specific can’t-dos and demands to get it all instead. Rethm’s $8.450/pr asking price for the Maarga demands that already, don’t you think? How much more so the Ampeggio’s $29.500? In my book the Indian isn’t simply the better balanced speaker. It’s the better speaker period. And that’s without yet factoring its decisively lower sticker.

Mal had this to say:

Rethm’s Jacob George was forced to substitute Nagra amplification after a hitch getting his own amps to the show. I’m convinced that’s like being forced to down Johnnie Walker Blue when you wanted a McCallan 25. This was absolutely one of my favorite rooms at the show. People were grooving in their seats every single time I walked in. Whatever flaws it had, the system was magic.

I played Dizzy Gillespie at Newport through these things at some considerable volume, a stunt that would drive anyone out of a room full of Lowthers. This room got it all, and it got it all right.

Side note: Less detail than other 7k speakers. Less macrodynamic versatility. Voices can come out of the rear horn, leading to an odd discontinuity. It turns out that I just didn’t care. I’m trying to decide whether or not to buy these things. I will, by god, build a room around them. Just a sweet, sweet system.

  • Rethm Maarga: $8,950
  • Nagra Jazz Preamplifier: $12,250
  • Nagra 300B Amplifier: $16,950
  • Metronome C5 Asymetrical USB Dac: $9,975
  • Metronome T3A Transport: $9,450
  • Rethm Taalam Rack: $2,100
  • Rethm Interconnects: $875 1M
  • Rethm Speaker Wire: $1,250 2.5M

Ask me about sponsorship!