CAF 2014: Sadurni Acoustics and the Big Red Horn of Wonder


Everyone loves an odd couple. Felix Unger and Oscar Madison. Julia Roberts and Lyle Lovett. Ed Norton and Courtney Love. Brooke Shields and The King of Pop. Horns and Class D amps. At first blush, none of this makes sense. Or at second blush, either. In fact, forget the blush. Everyone Knows that Class D amps don’t go with horns and that’s Established Audio Wisdom.

Except, well … yeah. Not so much.

To be fair, the Sadurni Acoustics Staccato horn system, a $40k wooden horn duo with a brass super tweeter up top and a set of external subwoofers, is hardly the typical horn system. It really is quite amazing to look at, and the sound when paired with the super-clean, super-silent Merrill Audio Veritas mono blocks ($12k/pair), is ultra-detailed and uncannily transparent. Grab that sweet spot and you’re in for a ride.

Here at CAF, the setup was a bit challenging. I’m not sure what size room really would suit these guys — the footprint is rather large, but by end of the weekend, the crew had dialed it  in considerably. Well, as well as they could with the “super tweeters” blown. Yikes.

I stayed to hear a couple of tracks from Jonathan Horwich’s International Phonograph master tape sessions. His recordings capture an immediacy that escapes most LPs and digital formats — it’s all in how he gets his music, I’m sure, but the result is achingly, breathtakingly, present. Sadly, I’m completely unfamiliar with Jonathan’s catalog of local artists, but a call in there might snag gems unavailable anywhere else in audiophile circles. Got tape? Call. Used here with the superlative UHA Phase 11s tape deck.

The new-new in the room came from Merrill Audio, however, in the form of a brand new component: the Jens. Jens is a moving-coil phono preamplifier, with up to 70dB of gain. Like the rest of the Merrill line, the Jens features ultra-quiet dual-mono construction, with loading available from 25Ω to 5kΩ. Claimed headroom is enough to suit up to a 4.5mV cartridge, though I doubt that this would be necessary. Neat features extend to multi-stage filtering for the external power supply, Stillpoints footers, and a steel chassis said to minimize EMI/RF interference. Suggested MSRP is $15,449.

This new phono preamp was matched to the monstrous Saskia II turntable I saw last year at CAF. This thing is insane. 200lbs+ of turntable with a motor controller said to be the most stable available. The table was mounted with a Schröder tonearm and a Miyajima cartridge.

So, aside from some challenges, this was an altogether surprising combo. Going back to past visits (as this is not the first time I’ve heard them all together), provides a bit more scope and I’m reminded of how pleasantly surprised I was. Next time, I’m sure I’ll still have my moment of obligatory head-scratching, but preconceptions aside, I think these guys are on to something.

GIK Acoustics room treatments were used throughout.