RMAF 2015: Turning it up at BorderPatrol and Volti Audio


rmaf-2015-200x200If I could afford it, the Volti Audio Vittora system would be the one that would anchor my sanctum sanctorum. At $25k, for the two speakers and a matching subwoofer, that’s not likely to happen soon, but a man can dream. And what a dream — 104dB sensitive, and staggeringly capable down to 25Hz, the Vittora is a slam-happy, vertigo-inducing, roller-coaster of an audio system.

Shown here with the full loom of cables from Triode Wire Labs, including the massive Seven Plus power cables ($549 each), the new “Digital American” power cord ($499 each) for the DAC, with “American Speaker Cables” (starting at $699) and Spirit interconnects (starting at $349).

All shelving and amp stands were courtesy of Volti Audio.

The DAC in use was the BorderPatrol DAC ($9750), based on the Analog Devices AD1865 chip, implemented without oversampling or digital filtering. The DAC uses 6SN7 tubes in the output stage and Duelund CAST film and foil coupling caps. The external PSU sat below, square under the rack, stuffed with a proprietary twin power transformer topology that was tube rectified and choke input filtered, going to the 6SN7 output stage and a separate, independent supply to the digital circuitry.

The amplifier was a BorderPatrol S20 EXS ($25,750) integrated, featuring a quartet of paralleled 300b tubes from Emission Labs for a solid 18 watts or so per channel. It features a custom multi-tap transformer set that generates an unexpectedly wide bandwidth for an amp of this type — which means “real bass” and “real air”, in addition to the “walk-in midrange”.

The “EXS” part refers to the massive external power supplies, here sitting on the outboard amp stands. These suckers are 90lbs each (one per channel), featuring copper casework (like the amp itself; that’s what’s under that tasteful wood trim), and contain three independent tube-rectified, choke input filter supplies, in a twin-transformer configuration. That’s almost 200lbs of power supply. For a total of 20 watts per channel.

[ … hoe-lee crap ….]

This was one of three rooms where the speakers did that vanishing act. For the record, at over $50k, this was also the most expensive setup to pull that trick off. But vanish they did — the speakers, set up counter-intuitively along the long-wall of the hotel room and heavily toed-in, provided a single-seat sweet spot that unzipped my skull and poured in a fiery blend of awesome and “we’re all gonna die”. Did I mention that these guys really like to turn it up? Erhmahgerd.

So, Reference Recordings has this CD version of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare. Maybe you’ve heard of it? If not, go buy it. It’s exceedingly well recorded. Deathly quiet, with percussion that can — and did! — rattle the jelly in my eyeballs, it scales across 20+ dB in fractions of a moment. This is awesome. Or terrifying. And the difference depends entirely on the volume. Apparently. Also apparently, 115dB is about the volume where unexpected bowel motions begin. No particular reason I’m sharing that. Just a warning!

All I can say is “Wow.” Okay, that’s clearly not all I can say, so I’ll say this too:

This was an amazing room. Best in Show? Definitely one of my favorites!

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About Scot Hull 1062 Articles
Scot started all this back in 2009. He is currently the Publisher here at PTA, the Publisher at The Occasional Magazine, and the Executive Producer at The Occasional Podcast. There are way too many words about him over on the Contributors page.