Newport 2014: High Marks for High Water Sound


hiresnewportlogoforwebThis time, I wasn’t screwing around. After the fiasco at AXPONA, I wasn’t going to wait till the very end to visit Jeff Catalano of High Water Sound. Nope. Nuh uh. This time, it was bright and early Saturday that I showed up and I stayed right up until Stereophile’s Michael Fremer showed, at which point, I figured I’d stop bugging Jeff and let him focus on a real reviewer.

So, I’ll be honest. I have no idea what we were listening to at the get-go; Jeff has one of the best record collections in the business and actually shows up with a fantastic selection of LPs that he bought on the way. Yes, exactly. Jeff typically hits quite a few audio shows a year, leveraging them as impromptu dealer showrooms, so to keep costs down (and minimize shipping damage), Jeff tends to drive his stuff everywhere. Which means he gets to take his time. Stop, if he takes the fancy to do so. And when he does, he shops. For LPs. It’s quite possible that this guy knows more about the state of the record store industry than anyone else in the high-end. Regardless, his collection is totally solid and putting yourself into his hands is not only a good idea, it’s pretty much required. He’ll take good care of you.

At some point, Gabor Szabo shows up on Blowin’ Some Old Smoke and I’m wondering why don’t have all these awesome old LPs. I think I just need to send Jeff a check periodically and have him go shopping for me, or something. Seriously. 

On the new Hørning Hybrid Eufrodite loudspeakers, the Mark IV Ellipse, the sound was dynamic, tonally rich and harmonically awesome. Like bass and high sensitivity? Hørning is a must-see whistle-stop on that particular train. Here at Newport, the sound stage was big, set at the right height, and while sitting in the sweet spot, the sound was really expansive and immersive. Mmmm mmmm. I’ve been lusting after a pair of Hørnings for years, and this new design, with the shallow depth (relative to previous models) and curved-side cabinet, is the best I’ve heard from them. New designs mean new prices, however, and the Eufrodite catches a big 20% uplift to $30k this year. Sorry about your wallet.

Also new — as in, not yet for production — were the amps driving the. These come from TW Acustic, and the driver tubes are 45’s. Yes! That’s a whopping 1.5 watts per channel. Given that the speaker is about 98dB (or so), that output pretty much means that this is the loudest that this speaker will play — which should be fine for most of us! At least, in theory. In practice, well, given the tonal glories I’ve already mentioned, I could split hairs and offer that I’ve heard the Eufrodites bark harder. Just not with 1.5 watts! That was wicked cool. Price and availability for the 45 SE Monos from TW Acustic are all TBD.

In the rack was a $12,500 TW Acustic GT SE turntable, mounted with two $5,500 TW Acustic tonearms, one each for stereo and mono playback. A $4,200 Ortofon Windfeld did stereo duty; a $1,200 Cadenza Mono handled everything else.

A $55k Tron-Electric Syren II GT Preamplifier and a $15k Tron-Electric Seven phono/mono preamp sat, like the rest of the gear, on racks and isolation platforms from SRA. The loudspeakers sat, directly-coupled, to Super Plus Speaker Platforms from Symposium Acoustics. Teo Audio interconnects and speaker cables handled signaling. Shun Mook Acoustics carried power and provided room tuning bits. In the corner, under a shrubbery, sat the massive Tchaik 6 from Silver Circle.



















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