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Newport 2014: Austin Hifi sheds blood with Crimson Products and Tocaro

KEF R Series

DSC00103 hiresnewportlogoforweb At first, the German-made Tocaro Loudspeakers look like another version of "the usual" -- my first thought upon entering the room was "British monitors?" They've got some interesting things going on, however. The 42D ($14,000) features a 10" full-range driver and 5" high-frequency driver of a construction I've never seen before: it's a laser cut laminated wood membrane, and it essentially looks like a flat black disc. The speakers do not make use of an electronic crossover, and can be bi-amped or used with a single stereo amplifier.

In this case, they were bi-amped with the Crimson Products Ltd. CS640E-III 175w mono amplifiers (two pairs at $6,000/pair). Pre-amplification was provided by the Crimson CS710 pre-amp ($7,000), which can be controlled either by remote or with the appealingly simple faceplate controls.

Digital was supplied by the Resolution Audio Cantata ($6,495), which we did not have opportunity to sample this time around. Tasty analog goodness came from a Linn Sondek LP12 with an Ittok LV II tonearm (vintage) and Reson Etile cartridge ($1,075). Cabling was also from Crimson Products.

I loved the look and feel of this room. After so many dark rooms stuffed with gear, it was something of a treat to drop in on a bright, air-conditioned room with simple set dressing and a turntable spinning Barney Kessel, Shelley Manne, and Ray Brown’s “The Poll Winners.”The sound here matched the room’s comfortable and airy atmosphere. The speakers are remarkably transparent, lending a sense of ease to the presentation. I felt there was a hint of solid state signature from the Crimson amps, but nothing too interruptive; indeed, the treble was exceptionally natural. I left (reluctantly) feeling refreshed.

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3 Comments on Newport 2014: Austin Hifi sheds blood with Crimson Products and Tocaro

  1. I am curious as to whether the hint of a solid state atmosphere you refer to is the result of your (our?) being used to a hint of tubeyness. I heard something like what you refer to when I first came to the Crimson/Tocaro combo from hybrids and tube gear. Then it went the other way: when I returned to my hybrid and tube gear, it sounded a bit tubey! When Mario from Audio Note was here visiting once with Dave Cope of Audio Note, his first reaction to the Crimson/Tocaro system was, “Not bad for solid state.” Dave, who is somewhat more liberal of mind, smiled at me knowingly.

    • Kirsten // June 22, 2014 at 6:01 PM //

      That’s a good question. I’m sure familiarity is part of it. I do find that certain types of solid state, Class-D in particular, strike me as having an unpleasant harshness in the treble, especially when they’re not sufficiently warmed up. Other solid state gear doesn’t provoke this reaction, so I’m slowly trying to learn what the differences are between solid state that annoys me and solid state that doesn’t. At first blush, the Crimson gear didn’t make me grumpy, so that’s a good start, and I’d be willing to concede that what I was reacting to as “solid state sound signature” could have been any number of other elements, up to and including hotel power issues.

      • The Crimson amps do take around half an hour to settle in, warm up, sweeten just a bit. But I expect they were plenty warm when you heard them. So dunno what was up.

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