RMAF 2014: Usher Audio USA and Pass Labs


Logo - Blue Vector“Sorry, no Tannoys this time,” the folks from Pass Labs teased in the hall, referencing the last time we crossed paths at CAS, “but it still sounds great.” I made a show of pouting over the fact that no one had brought their homebuilt monstrosities, but really I was feeling pretty ok with it. After all, right now there are a sizable number of Pass chassis hooked up to my own Tannoys back home (stay tuned for some forthcoming reviews, natch).

Instead, this time pride of place was taken by a pair of speakers with a name like a special attack in Final Fantasy IX: the Usher Audio Dancer Mini 2 Diamond ($4,950). These shiny 2-ways were hooked up to the Pass Labs XA100.8 mono amps ($19,300/pair) and two-chassis XP-20 preamp ($8,600). Tunes were provided by the Accuphase DP-550 SA-CD player ($17,500) and a Cocktail Audio X-30 music server ($1,690), which is a nifty little integrated amp with DAC, CD player/ripper, internet streaming, and FM radio (I hear it also makes julienned fries!). Cables were by Siltech.

Admittedly, Carmen Cuesta-Loeb‘s “Dreams” was not quite as much to my musical taste as the combination of Pass Labs and The Pixies that I witnessed in California — sometimes it’s tough to exchange punk rock for smooth jazz — but there was no denying that this system sounded damned good, and I will grudgingly acknowledge that Cuesta-Loeb probably has better production values. Her voice sounded superbly sweet and articulate, and the whole listening experience gave me a sense of being well-supported; “there’s plenty of power on tap,” the system says, “so just sit back and listen to the music and don’t worry your pretty head.” The word “lush” came to mind, but not in a way that made me feel speed and dynamics would be lacking if I needed them.