One of my favorite quotes in high-end audio is from the late Stereophile founder J. Gordon Holt: “If the midrange isn’t right, nothing else matters.” For me, one speaker brand that seems to nail the midrange is the Harbeth line, and fortunately for me, Vinnie Rossi sat squarely in my coverage territory in Room 449.
I got a good feeling when I saw the new, gorgeous Harbeth 40.2 Reference Monitor speakers, squatting there on short stands. Vinnie was playing some wonderful music over his well-regarded LIO, used as a preamp (with phono stage on board), driving the speakers with his new VR120 amplifier. What I heard: glorious. Everything was mating exceptionally with the Harbeths.
Of course, the Harbeths usually have fantastic midrange (and everything else) but I don’t always hear the “magic” with some electronics. But in that room, the magic was there. In spades. Certainly great sources like the Acoustic Signature Challenger Mk. III ($6,490, including the TA 1000 tonearm), mounted with a Dynavector XX-2 cartridge ($1,950), and all of those Tellurium Q Silver Diamond cables, didn’t hurt. I’m afraid I’m short-selling the system a bit here. The bass was as wonderful as the midrange and I heard nothing but coherent sound, top to bottom.
But what was really going on with the components? Simple: ultracaps! These Vinnie Rossi (the brand) patented designs bring a very low noise floor by delivering stored power, completely eliminating the grunge that might come in off the AC lines. What’s new — a stereo amplifier! The VR120 (shown in prototype, goes into production in November) is expected to deliver 225 watts per channel in stereo mode, and can be bridged to mono for 400 watts per channel. Build quality seems top-notch and it comes with a ten-year warranty.
About those beautiful Harbeths … this room was the U.S. premiere of the 40.2. The cabinet? Artisan-level furniture; I’d put these in a formal living room and my wife would not mind. Power handling is a whopping 650 watts. Frequency response is 35Hz-20kHz +/-3dB in free-space, with speaker grills on, and a smooth off-axis response. A vented 3-way design, drivers include a 300mm Harbeth bass unit, a 200mm RADIAL2™ mid, and a 25mm Ferro-cooled soft dome tweeter. Price is $14,990 in cherry, though it was shown here in a tiger ebony (which costs extra).
Vinnie is an extremely nice guy and I saw him go out of his way to play a lot of his visitor’s music. He really seemed to be having fun, and the rest of us were enjoying the effortless sound.
This combination was one of my top five rooms at the show.
Well done, Vinnie. Well done.