RMAF 2013: Von Schweikert, Constellation Audio, United Home Audio, Critical Mass Systems, Master-Built Audio


Those of you who follow along at home may remember that I was not terribly certain about the Von Schweikert Universe VR-100 XS ($140,000/set) when I heard them at CAS — while I appreciated the bombast and warmth of the system, I also found it a bit too dark. At the time I chalked it up to either show conditions or “too much of a muchness” in the pairing with Raven Audio. Well, I’m still not sure what it was, but there was something about the synergy that worked much better this time, whether it was the components, the room, the power, or the ineffable Spirits of Audio.

This time around the speakers were combined with Constellation Audio gear: the Virgo II preamp ($24,000), Centaur Mono power amps ($27,000 each), and Cygnus media player/DAC ($29,000). I didn’t hear the media player while I was in the room, however, because I was treated to Louis Armstrong on a United Home Audio Phase 11 PB tape deck ($17,000). The cables were by Master-Built Audio, and ranged from $3,600/pair for 1 meter interconnects, to $12,000/pair for 2 meter Ultra Extreme XLR cables. The rack was Critical Mass Systems’ MAXXUM Precision Component Support System ($5,650 per component).

There wasn’t a whole lot here not to like. Armstrong’s voice really came alive and was nicely textured. The sound staging still strikes me as a bit odd with these speakers — sometimes deeper voices can seem like they’re coming in too low, or conversely that the singer seems to be too tall for the room. But the “too dark” sense was replaced with just the right amount of warmth, and the pleasant grit in Armstrong’s voice came through unhindered.