Newport 2014: BorderPatrol blasts Volti into orbit

Well that was fun.

No. That’s not right. That might give the wrong impression. Let me try that again.

Holy crap! That was a complete blast!

Yeah. That’s better.

Greg Roberts of Volti Audio partnered up with Peter Grzybowski of Triode Wire Labs and Gary Dews of BorderPatrol for the show. Greg brought his exquisitely finished, 104db sensitive Vittora horns ($25,000). A full loom of Triode Pete’s cables, including the newest “Spirit” interconnects (starting at $299/pair), pulled all the bits together. And Gary brought a stack of his electronics.

The star of that set was a kitted-out “S10 EXS”, an SET amp with 80 pounds of external power supply per channel (about $26,000). A Control Unit EXT1 (just north of $12,250) handled the linestage duties. Silver discs got spun by a TentLabs CD transport. Bits were processed by a BorderPatrol dac. Gary got a little cagey when I asked the price on that one: “It depends on how you want it built. It’s not cheap”. A modest system for modest means, then?

It was definitely time to crank the Basie.

Just thinking about “C. B. Express” played at front row volumes — with perfect instrument separation, with an easy treble, with unrestrained dynamics, with real body and real drive — has me giggling like a twelve-year-old who just egged his teacher’s house. Heck, I was nearly giggling like that in the room. The experience pretty well short-circuited my ability to analyze what I was hearing. I was two minutes into listening — and barely noting that the sweet spot seemed to the one place in the room that the subwoofer didn’t work well — before I realized that Gary was trying to get my attention.

“THAT’S REALLY LOUD,” he shouted. The spoilsport.

I had so much fun that Kirsten and I returned with her test track, First Aid Kit’s “Ghost Town,” for a more subdued listen at a more reasonable volume (because Gary is a spoilsport). Forcing me to listen to this stereo without embracing my inner delinquent was probably a good thing. I was able to marvel a bit at how well the system captured so much of the bloom of the voices, while also noting that the guitar’s decay didn’t seem at all well served by my off-axis position.

Greg Roberts has done amazing work integrating the tweeter and the squawker (near miraculous work, really), but it’s a horn system. There will be issues. The bass is still delayed enough that the lower vocal range has a bit of separation from the upper. Get too far out of the sweet spot and the integration of the other horns deteriorates, too. The Vittora may be a big speaker, but it’s an exceptionally intimate speaker.

Not that you’ll care when you crank Basie. It’s just a complete blast.

T.H.E. Show at Newport 2014 Show Sponsor