RMAF 2013: Joseph Audio, Jeff Rowland, VPI, Soundsmith, Cardas Audio


The individual components in this room were all heroes in their own right. Joseph Audio’s Pearl 3 loudspeakers ($31,500) fronted a system comprised of Jeff Rowland‘s 825 power amp ($32,000) and Capri preamp with phono option ($4,300). Jeff Rowland also provided a digital source, the Aeris DAC ($9,800), although this was not in use while I was in the room, due to reasons of delicious analog: VPI‘s brand new Classic Direct turntable ($30,000). This table, with its high-tech 3D printed arm (the first of its kind), represents the apex of VPI’s thirty-plus years in the turntable business. Its speed was rock-steady and the noise floor was incredibly low. The Classic Direct sported a Soundsmith Hyperion cactus-needle cantilever cartridge ($7,500). Cabling was by Cardas, from their Clear line.

Heroes in their own right, but together, man.… It was like The Avengers or something. An LP of Elvis Presley and the Jordanaires performing “Peace in the Valley” was transfixing. I was able to pick out each individual voice: the bass singing with weighty authority, the sopranos clear, and of course Elvis coming out silky smooth. Everyone in the room kind of went real quiet for the duration, with that hush as the final notes die away that tells you everyone’s heard something kind of special. Then someone shouted out, “Leave it on!” and we all stuck around for the next track. The whole system offered a superbly black background that let the music speak for itself.

Everything in this room demanded my full sonic attention, but not in a flashy or overly precise way that made me say, “Wow, that’s a good stereo!” Instead, it was all about the music. This was hands down one of the most immersive and richly textured listening experiences I had at RMAF 2013.