Review: Luminous Audio Arion and ModWright PH150 Phono Preamplifiers
Review: J2, SIT-1, and F7 First Watt amplifiers by Nelson Pass
Review: Rogue Audio Sphinx Integrated Amplifier
Review: Nagra HD DAC; or, Closing the gap between digital and analog
Music Review: Suzanne Ciani and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith … and Don Buchla
One of my favorite moments at the Capital Audiofest this year happened courtesy of Robin Wyatt of Robyatt Audio. Robin had just popped up, ready to put on a new LP, when he caught sight of a young girl, tucked into the back row with her Dad. He immediately zigged, and called her up to the front row, asked her some questions, and queued up the Pink Panther. Big grins, all around. It was cute — and I gained new respect for how quick Robin is. Dude’s a wizard — I’m pretty sure that Dad is attempting to plan a raid on Fort “College Fund”. For the kid!
One of Robin’s best moves? Teaming up with Kent McCollum of Electrostatic Solutions. Flipping genius. Why? Because Kent’s rebuilt Quad 57s (and 63s!) are astonishingly great — and here, in a hotel room, all of the weaknesses most speakers are completely obviated by panels. And of all the panel speakers, the Quad ESL speakers are among the very best that were ever made. You game? Kent can set you up for your very own legend at about $5,500/pair.
The doodads up on top of the Quads? ENIGMAcoustics Sopranino super tweeters ($3690/pair). Quad ESL57 lovers know how amazingly rich those mids are, but the top-end maybe could use a little assist. The Sopranino is a very interesting (and sexy!) tweak/boost. The 57 (unlike, perhaps, the 63) might want a little sumpin’-sumin’ “up top” — and the Sopranino is sonically unobtrusive and effective.
Driving the Quads today were the gorgeous Miyajima OTL 2010 22wpc mono block amplifiers ($18,500/pair). This may well be the best-looking amp on the market today. Nom nom nom. A “matching” WO-1 preamplifier ($18,500 — includes a phono stage) sat in the rack with a bunch of step-up transformers.
All cabling came from one of my favorite cable brands, TelWire, and Chris Kline was actually on-hand to walk attendees through the demo and talk up his best-in-class power cords and associated signal cables. Unlike many brands, TelWire offers only one type of interconnect and only one type of speaker cable, the best that they know how to make (which happens to rely on “Ohno Continuous Cast” copper). Power cords come in two flavors, “regular”, and “high-current”. Full disclosure, I use a set of these power cords in my Big Rig. My take? They have not been beaten.
Up on top of the rack, two turntables from VPI (and a total of three tonearms!) were available for tailored vinyl playback. A Miyajima Madake sat on arm #1 (a Schröder CB “captive bearing”) and a mono-only Zero was mounted on arm #2 (a 12″ JMW 3D arm from VPI) — both of which bracketed the new Magnetic-Drive VPI Avenger (price ~$30k with the arms; carts were extra). Jumping to turntable #2, a leather wrapped Classic from VPI (totally custom — call Robin for details) featuring a matching-leather-wrapped JMW tonearm, mounted with a $10k Neumann DST cartridge. The copper top platter on the leather-wrapped Classic? A Micro Seiki. The lovely and deeply technical audio rack and amp-stands came courtesy of Kanso Audio Furniture.
I’m having a hard time with this room. I want to tell you that “this isn’t my sound” that, perhaps, “I’m a horn guy” and that what I really want in audio is “massive dynamics” … but all of that goes out the window with the first needle drop. This isn’t high-end audio. This is something more than that. Beauty, elegance, immersion — this is sex. With the best-looking models you’ve ever daydreamed about. Models that are also, inexplicably, into you. It’s crazy. If I had money, I’d be sending piles of it to the gents running this room.
Best-In-Show? Yes — and a front-runner. Easy-peasy.