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RMAF 2014: Xact Audio takes shot at vinyl gold with Garrard and Schroeder

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Logo - Blue VectorIn high-end vinyl playback, Herr Frank Schröder‘s tonearms are easily among the finest, and most coveted, being made. You don’t see or hear about them very often, which is precisely Schröder’s preference — every time a glowing review comes out (and they’re always glowing), orders spike and he starts pulling his hair out. He’s also a supremely nice fellow, so this a result we’d like to avoid. No upsetting the genius, ja? Okay.

Pssst! Have you heard that these are probably the best tonearms you can buy? Ack! Sorry. Couldn’t help it.

In the Xact Audio demo room, I found a Garrard 301 tricked out in a lovely candy apple red. Mounted on it was a (gasp!) matching Linear Tracking tonearm from (gasp!) Frank Schröder. I instantly started drooling. I mean, who wouldn’t? It was matching! Check it out — little red accents make the table combo a little matchy-matchy, but these are two iconic vinyl elements, together at last, and all dolled up for the party! Even if it was a little precious, I really was quite smitten. And outright envious. What a trick little pony!

The LT tonearm is more than a little weird. Most linear trackers I’m familiar with slide across an air-bearing, this one pivots. To maintain the proper position relative to the groove, the base pivots and that maintains tangency. That, my friends, is completely awesome. It’s also $9,990.

The Lyra Etna cartridge mounted on it is $6,995. The Garrard, mounted in a custom Dobbins’ 2-arm plinth, runs $5,650. An NVO phonostage ($6,700) carried the signals to the rest of the system.

Finally able to tear my eyes away from the vinyl machine, I noticed another couple of irregularities. First up was the massive Zu Audio Definition Mk IV loudspeakers ($14,500). These titans include an integrated down-firing subwoofer and can provide crushing SPLs with the slightest provocation — they’ve been on my “list” for a long while as a true full-range system that can be driven by just about anything.

Speaking of anything, Absolare is about as far from “generic” as you’re going to get. The hand-stitched leather on the Passion Signature 845 SET amps ($48,500/pair) was matched by the same kit on the Passion Signature line stage ($32,500). This stuff rates as some of the prettiest electronics to cross my path in recent forever. Not touching these pieces requires a will power that I have never possessed. Um. Yeah. Sorry about the fingerprints. In retrospect, that BBQ lunch probably should have waited.

Echole cables and Kodo Tech amp stands rounded out the package.

Okay, so, this system is not for the light of wallet of faint of heart. Roger that. It’s not exactly how I would normally expect this gear to get matched up, either. Roger-dodger. With all that said, it sounded pretty damn good.

And yes, I’m still drooling about that vinyl setup. Did you have to ask?

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About Scot Hull (979 Articles)

Founder, Editor and Publisher at Part-Time Audiophile and The Occasional Magazine.