RMAF 2013: High Water Sound opens the Heavens

High Water Sound‘s Jeff Catalano has been working up to this room for, well, for forever. Many years, many variations, culminating in this one weekend in Denver.

What was the catalyst?

Oh, the hell if I know. It could have been any of a thousand things, a swarm of individual fireflies, but somehow, they knitted together for this glorious moment.

And it really shouldn’t have been. Not on the face of it. It’s just simply not possible that those loudspeakers, the $165,000 Liszt from Cessaro Horn Acoustics, would fit in that room. I mean, no way. Not with, you know, physics.

But … well, let’s just say expectations are a weed best found and pulled. They did fit, the sound field was incredible and this was by far the best room Mr C has pulled out of his ass to date. In fact, I think I’m only going to refer to “him” in the honorific from now on. Mr C.

As for the room? In a word? Stunning.

You want more? Ha! You get nothing!

Oh, okay, fine. First, it’s a horn — so, just check off dynamics right now. The sound levels on tap could have stunned cattle. Second, tone is just as much a done deal. Third, oodles of details. I really like that word. It seems to conjure up images of bowls full of steamy Asian deliciousness, which is wildly irrelevant except for that fact that I’m kinda hungry. Fourth, the top-to-bottom coherence, the sound stage, the life … kids, you don’t get to hear systems like this but rarely. Like “dinner at Per Se” rarely. Oh my.

I didn’t get to this room but late — well, it was early in the day but it was on Sunday. So, I suppose with three days of tuning and tweaking I should have been prepared for the best they had to offer. I wasn’t. I’m not precisely speechless, but adjectives have completely failed me. Which is a shame because a salad of superlatives wouldn’t do this room justice. I’m just going to stop babbling now.

Also shown was an entire suite of new gear. A new TW-Acustic turntable, the Raven Anniversary SE ($22k) was shown with a pair of Raven tonearms ($5,500 each); one with an Ortofon Windfeld ($3,899) and the other, the magnificent (but sadly unused as the matching mono phono preamp did not survive transit to the show) Miyajima Labs Zero ($2,000). The new ‘table features the same 3-motor unit from the flagship Black Night, as well as that ‘table’s motor controller, feet and platter. A new armboard is also a striking difference.

Tron-Electric Telster GT SE, a 211-based stereo amplifier ($65,000) with a “matching” Syren II GT Pre ($55k) made their US-debut here at RMAF.

SRA made their usual High Water Sound appearance with some stunning racks and platforms.

Silver Circle had not one but two Tchaik 6 units ($9,500, including the top-shelf power cord) driving the current; I’m told one was for the rack and one for the loudspeakers.

Some seriously wacky-looking cables, the CT-1 Ultimate Reference from High Fidelity Cables, made all the signal connections, with Shun Mook and Telwire bringing the power cords to the gear in the racks.




















About Scot Hull 1039 Articles
Scot started all this back in 2009. He is currently the Publisher here at PTA, the Publisher at The Occasional Magazine, and the Executive Producer at The Occasional Podcast. There are way too many words about him over on the Contributors page.


  1. We do all accept that fact that isolation platforms for anything other than a turntable is wacko audio tweakery don’t we (no this isn’t Mr Aczel – although I do wish he would make a return and is enjoying robust health).

    Overall impressive looking but not my cup of tea. I’d be happy with a Devialet and some Monitor Audio Platinum’s but kudos on bringing this all together, quite the undertaking.

  2. Scot, I am still trying to get my head, mind, body and soul around what was going on in room 589. Everything was new, I had (and still have) a head cold, the money and stress of putting this system together was over whelming. All negatives aside, this system was a paradigm shift. Never and I really mean never, have I experienced classical music in such a believable, realistic, you are there experience. I have always said what puts most people off to classical music is not the music itself but, the unrealistic portrayal that most hifi systems render a classical performance. Not here in room 589. As Chris mentions below, this system will sound even better back in NYC. Yes, I am sure it will but, I am not concerned about sounding better, I am more excited to explore my record collection, to visit other worlds, discover the unknowns and hopefully, find out more about myself and the reasons why all of this really matters.

    • Ah … spoken like a true music lover! Re freshing! I have to get up to Gotham to hear this system; one of these weekends!

  3. Crazy good sound from Jeff’s room.
    He always seems to pull off wicked sound and play great music. These will likely sound even more outstanding in his NYC loft with higher ceilings.

    • The speakers, you mean? I overheard someone whispering that they were already sold …. :-O

  4. Looks like Cessaro uses Le Cleac’h type horns for their big rigs too. The direct radiator woofer looks like a custom Supravox. Nice photos.

    • All Cessaro Horns are proprietary. They share nothing with anyone else’s designs. The horns are a dual layer of carbon fibre which is filled with a special polymer which renders the horns completely resonant free. Each of the horns weighs 75 kilos. Yes, the direct radiator is a custom Supravox while the midrange horn and the tweeter are TAD.

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