by John Stancavage
I’m probably pushing the age limit a bit, since the crowd is mainly bearded twenty-somethings and others only a bit older — including many hipster types. But everyone is cool with each other, even humoring geezers like me.
I enjoy scoring points occasionally during these events by informing less-clued-in friends that the DJ is playing Midlake, Dawes or a special coke-bottle-color pressing by Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin.
It was with this self-delusion of coolness that I walked into the Peachtree/Zu Audio room at RMAF 2014.
The place was big, the lights were, low and, just like my Sunday hangout, there was a big couch and a long DJ booth.
The DJ, Peachtree Audio’s John Derda, was dropping the needle on some of the coolest music I’d ever heard. Track after track was inventive, highly addictive stuff. Only I couldn’t place any of it.
A guy on the front row, however, had no such trouble. He yelled out band name after band name, giving Derda props for his good taste. It turns out I’d also just missed a set by a guest DJ, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Michael Shrieve, that the crowd was still buzzing about.
Looking around as my eyes adjusted to the moody lighting, I could see that despite having one of the bigger rooms at the Marriott Tech Center, Peachtree and Zu had decided to go with a less-is-more strategy. Instead of packing it with a warehouse-load of functional and static displays of equipment, the companies decorated it the way a young commodities trader who was into vinyl might outfit his Manhattan loft.
Despite me looking like a rumpled, bespectacled Matthew Broderick wandering on to the set of “Big Bang Theory,” Derda patiently filled me on the room’s gear. The speakers were Zu Druids Mk. 5 ($5,200 a pair) and two Zu Undertone subs ($2,000 each), driven by a nifty Peachtree Nova 220 SE DAC/amp, which offered 220 watts per channel of pure mono Class D power ($1,999). Turntables included a Rega RP6.
The entire system, including cable, was an amazing $12,000. Part of it sat on another cool product (how many times am I going to type that description about this room?), a Zu Modern Console No. 1. Zu was merely using it as table here, but the $7,800 contemporary-styled rack also has built-in speakers and is designed to serve as an updated version of the venerable console stereo. The top of the Modern is especially cool (there I go again), as it floats on strong magnets, allowing you to place a turntable or two on top.
Overall, the sound of the room was much like its vibe — warm, enveloping and easy to cuddle up to. There was an emotional connection to the music that was lacking in some of the higher-priced rooms.
The Peachtree/Zu room, in fact, was the only one I returned to later in the show. It was after midnight, though, for a party that was just getting started. Berated [I think “encouraged” might be a better description. — ed] by “certain members” of the Part-Time Audiophile/Audio Traveler team for a perceived lack of ability to stay up late, I joined the Zu crew for more tunes until after 2 a.m. Maybe I’m not so ancient after all. That’s what I’ll keep telling myself, anyway.
Now, where are my spectacles?