RMAF 2014: Harbeth and Acoustic Signature, achievable musicality











Fidelis AV, the New Hampshire dealer and importer of too-many of my go-to brands, showed off a simple system with some Harbeths and a La Rosita amplifier. Simple, in the Fidelis dictionary, means that I look forward to hearing whatever they set up. Always. Without fail. Every time. Covering them, in other words, is usually the most boring part of the beat. What are you going to say? “The Fidelis room featuring Harbeth speakers showed how achievable absolute musicality is even in an unfriendly space like this one?” How many times can you write that?

They’re good. They’re always good. Sometimes they’re great, but they’re always, always good.

So it’s nice when they surprise me.

It seems Fidelis has taken on the US Distribution duties for one of my favorite manufacturers, Germany’s Acoustic Signature. My old Final Tool Mk II is one of my favorite hifi possessions (next to the Technics SL-15). It’s been a superb performer, and Acoustic Signature’s support has been overwhelmingly positive. New armboards? Easy. Break a clamp? Easy. I’m not even done with the warranty on my bearing, but that’s an easy replacement too. They don’t seem to be in the business of getting repeat customers, because they take such good care of the ones they have. I even like the way their stuff sounds (which is a real bonus).

Thats why I was so excited to see a rack topped with the Acoustic Signature Thunder turntable ($12,700). That’s why I was even more excited to see Acoustic Signature’s first tonearm. Starting at under $1600, available in Rega or SME mounts, your choice of 9″, 10″ or 12″ arms (add $200 every time you go up a size) and featuring the competitive edge of azimuth adjustment, it’s a great entry into the market. I can’t wait to get my hands on one.

The guys in the room were playing some fairly pointed folk when I was there, and the system did an appropriately fine job of making it sound like a coffeehouse fundraiser.

I suppose the other gear had something to do with it. The Harbeth Super HL5+ ($6,900) did their British Monitor thing for voices, while power came from a La Rosita Maverick integrated amp ($9000). A Soundsmith Hyperion ($7,000) handled pickup duties, while phono preamplification fell to a Sutherland Duo ($4,000).

Fidelis is always good, but this outing saw them come very, very close to great. So, once again, the Fidelis room featuring Harbeth speakers showed how achievable absolute musicality is even in an unfriendly space like this one.