Jeff Catalano is something of a legend on the audio show circuit, and may well be the only man I know of even more militantly pro-vinyl than Stereophile’s Michael Fremer. In fact, when the two of them get together, there’s a Great Disturbance in the Force and the universe tilts sideways more than a little bit. It’s an odd thing to witness. A whole lot of words get exchanged, but most of it is pretty much incomprehensible. Jedi stuff, I’m pretty sure.
If you don’t know, Jeff happens to be the proprietor of High Water Sound, a NYC-based dealer/importer for a variety of audio products like Hørning, TW-Acustic and Tron-Electric. This has the expected effect of making his demo rooms something a bit off the beaten path. The fact that he has room setup down to a science makes his demos one of the must-see on the show guide. But it’s his insane record collection that pretty much singles him out. He has more LPs than anyone I know, and they’re damn good.
I don’t think I’ve ever led with High Water Sound. Given what he was serving up, this seems like a particularly good place to start talking about what I found at Capital Audio Fest this year.
I walked in as Jeff was putting the needle down on “Take 5”, the ubiquitous jazz cut from Dave Brubeck. This being Jeff, it wasn’t the typical LP, however — no, this one was cut and pressed in mono. With the Ortofon Cadenza Mono ($1,200) cartridge on a TW-Acustic tonearm ($5,500) and into a Tron-Electric Seven Phono/Mono preamplifier ($15,000), the sound was … ah … a bit different from the usual presentation, where “different” = “nearly unrecognizable”. I’m pretty familiar with this cut — I think most of us alive during the 1970s are — but this was the best I’ve ever heard it sound. I really am going to have to look into a mono setup at some point, here. Score one for Team Catalano.
The next up was back to stereo with Blowin’ Some Old Smoke from Gabor Szabo. Crazy LP. The dynamics had the sound ping-ponging across the room. This is the second time he’s played it for me, and I thought it was awesome then, too — my copy is now on the way. Score two!
The base-clearing hit came at the request of the nine-year-old sitting next to me (his little sister, who couldn’t have been older than seven, was sitting on the other side while doting dad sat directly behind me, enjoying the sweet spot): 88 Basie Street. Kid has outstanding taste (nice work, Dad). That slow build up was finished off with a gusto that left me wiping the drool off my chin. Heh heh.
The system was pretty similar to what Jeff had in Newport: The new Hørning Eufrodite Mark IV Ellipse loudspeakers ($30k), driven rather happily by the new 1.5 watt 45 SE Monos from TW-Acustic ($15,000/pair). An Ortofon Windfeld ($4,200) cartridge did stereo duties, and the phono pre on that end of the chain was the absolutely instance Tron-Electric Syren II GT ($55k). The turntable in question was a TW-Acustic GT SE ($12,500) mounted with two tonearms. Silver Circle Audio’s massive Tchaik 6 did power distribution and conditioning (now $10,500). Zen Sati’s hefty and rather pricey Angel series interconnects and speaker cables were used along with TelWire’s power cords. Shun Mook provided all the footers and the record clamp. The rack was “builder grade”. Silent Running made the stand for the turntable. Symposium Acoustics made the platforms directly under the loudspeakers, an unconventional approach that I’ve seen Jeff use several times now. The regularly shaped room was liberally kitted out with “natural sound diffusors” (aka, large ferns) — and lava lamps. You know. For style.
Another great room from High Water Sound, and an entirely auspicious way to kick off the show!