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CAF 2015: Seductive Salk brings out the Exotic, with DanaCable, LampizatOr, Wells Audio

Salk-1995

I’m not sure what happened, but somewhere in the last couple of years, Salk Sound did something not just good but downright amazing. I like to think that in some small part, the Exotic line of SEAS drivers are just that incredible — but great drivers in inexpert hands is just an opportunity for shame. Here, in Jim Salk’s hands, what we have is extraordinary. Marvelous. Breathtaking. Absolutely stunning. Really. Salk should just stop making everything else. These speakers are so unbelievably good, the world needs as many of these as he can make. Get to work! Go go go!

The Exotica 3 retails for about $13k/pair (exotic finishes can add some), which is a bit more than predicted a year ago at CAF, but I’m way over that. 92dB, and 20Hz to 20kHz at 8Ω nominal, means you can probably run the snot out of them with just about any damn amplifier made. I like that!

Interestingly, at least to me, was the plate-amp on the back. A ha! Cheater! Yes, the bass section on this speaker is powered — which, if you ask me, is just flippin’ genius. You want to fill a stadium room? Ha! Pardon me while I snort milk out of my nose at your sheer audacity for even bothering to ask. You want to shoehorn this thing into a troublesomely small room? Ha! Pardon me while I … you get the idea. Don’t matter what you got, this speaker’s bass response can be trimmed up to fit.

Wells Audio Innamorata amplifier ($7k) provided the upper part of the frequency response here. Lovely amp, the Innamorata is a healthy 150 watts into 8Ω. Here, it was probably loafing along at about 10 watts.

Walking around, trying to get you your pictures, I almost fell victim to the big, massive, black snakes from Gingko Audio/Dana Cable tracing their way from the speakers to the amp and back to the rack (prices start at $695/2m pair of speaker cables; $195 for interconnects). Pretty sure these were “Diamond” — a 4-ply weave of 4awg OFC copper. These suckers are heavy.

All the way in the back, I found a balls-out DAC/Preamplifier “BIG 7” from LampizatOr (review is coming very soon from AudioStream). I’m pretty sure those were 2a3 tubes sticking out the back-end of that bad-boy. The DAC carries a completely separate path for processing DSD information than for processing PCM digital files. It carries an analog volume control, too, that’s worth describing:

TAIV kit is made in USA and designed by the aerospace engineer. The resistors were selected from many others as having least sonic signature, even if honestly those are ridiculously expensive resistors (SMD type).

The principle of operation is BINARY: the resistors are selected by microprocessor and switched by gold contact relays in a binary fashion: 1,2,4,8,16 etc. This way we have 64 steps in 6-bit arrangement and using only 7 relays. This is the most logical and elegant way of doing this. At any given time there is only a parallel pair of resistors in the signal.

There are a lot of options for your own personal Lampi, so I cannot stress it strongly enough — if you’re interested in pursuing what is arguably the best digital-to-analog converter on the market (I said “arguably”, relax), talk to someone. You can try Lukasz Fikus, the designer but he’s wicked-busy these, so perhaps a call to the importer (USA here) is probably a your best bet.

This was one of my favorite rooms at CAF this year, and another contender for Best in Show.

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