Backert Labs is running a contest to name their next linestage. Submit your picks online for a chance to win one? Well, sure — sign me up!
Their first offering is, as you may know, the Rhythm 1.1 — this is a $7,500 tour-de-force linestage, with chunky knobs and toggle switches that flip with a satisfying ‘thunk’. That unit is one of the very best-sounding I’ve come across to-date, with a pair of 12AU7 triodes in the gain stage, VCaps everywhere, including the power supply, a remote control, and an output impedance of 150Ω. It’s also pretty sexy.
The new, as-yet-unnamed-but-lets-call-it-“Tone” linestage, is very similar to the Rhythm. Retail price is targeting $2995, but will lose some of the fancier parts, like the V-Caps (in favor of poly caps) and the super-sweet casework. That said, the sound quality is supposed to be remarkably close to their flagship. Not sure that’s a good thing or not, but bargain hunters ought to take note. I’ll be getting some “personal time” with the two linestages this week, so there will be more to report on soon. But my first impression was “all good”.
Shown here with a VPI Classic turntable and Dynavector cart playing through an Art Audio Vinyl One phono pre (a Marantz SA-11S1 SACD player was also on deck — for the bits, ya know), through a pair of Odyssey Audio monoblocks, the sound coming out of the Montis loudspeakers from Martin Logan was sultry. I don’t really know how else to put it. It was hot-shivers time. I was decidedly uncomfortable. I had to sit down or risk embarrassing myself. Wow. And yes, I just made an inappropriate joke.
Okay, so I’m overstating things, but you get my drift — this was as unlikely a combination of gear I was expecting to come across, but it worked. And how! Of all the disparate bits-and-bobs in the room that I can readily put a finger on, the most obvious were the Montis ($9,995), which can reach down to 30Hz @ -3dB. I’ve been a fan of ML for longer than I’ve been an audiophile, though I understand that integrating the panels with the woofers can be tricky. Show conditions, shmoe conditions — this speaker, with this combo, was great. Somebody wins the “setup guru” award, for sure.
The sound was immersive, tactile, and when the music called for it, sensual. Really. This was clearly and obviously in that Best-In-Show category, an elite level that unexpectedly became rather crowded at CAF this year. Happy happy, joy joy!