RMAF 2015: Focal, Soulution, Apex set the mood


rmaf-2015-200x200Former President Jimmy Carter famously once admitted he lusted in his heart for other women, but he never stepped over that line.

I think I know how our peanut farmer felt, except the objects of my affections — outside my sweet wife — are very large speakers.

I find myself looking at postings of people who have brought towering, banged-up Altec Voice of the Theater commercial models into their homes and thought, “Wow, I need to do that someday.”

The Esteemed Editor actually indulges me in this fantasy, typically assigning me to the biggest rooms holding the largest transducers. Yes, he’s an enabler and needs to have his head examined almost as much as I do.

That said, it won’t be a surprise for me to admit I spent a restless night awaiting this year’s early 9 a.m., press-only Friday kickoff of the 2015 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. Before my iPhone alarm had even buzzed, I was on my way to the mezzanine, where I was fairly sure I would find one of high-end audio’s tallest, most curvaceous beauties, the Focal Stella Utopia EM loudspeakers ($97,000).

It was love at first sight for me and the Stellas when we met a few years ago, and the intervening time has only made our bond stronger as we try to maintain a difficult long-distance relationship.

Part of the reason is that she has a big sister who’s an even more alluring temptress, but also twice as elusive. You’d also probably need to design a listening room — or maybe your entire house — around the 7-foot-tall Focal Grande Utopia EM ($180,000) before you could invite her in.

About 18 inches shorter, Stella makes an excellent dance partner. Born in Lyon, France, of good stock, she seems to be the perfect companion to make a man give up the hours spent in the all gin joints around the world and just stay home, listening to her voice only.

What makes the Stellas even more infuriating for a working-class schmo like me, though, is knowing she likes the best of everything. Seeing her at RMAF, on the arm of an associate of Denver’s Apex Audio, I wondered if I could make her as happy.

To support her, Apex called on the services of Soulution, which was debuting its 760 DAC ($72,000), 755 phono preamp ($72,000) and the new Air Tight Magnum Opus Cartridge ($15,000).

Along for a couple nights on the town were the Soulution 725 preamp ($55,000) or an Air Tight ATE-2001 pre ($28,000). An Accuphase DP-720 DAC/CD player ($27,000) spun silver discs, while a Transrotor Turbillon turntable ($58,000) and Graham Phantom Elite arm ($12,000) handled vinyl.

For muscle, Apex brought in the Soulution 711 stereo amp and Air Tight ATM-2001 stereo amp ($65,000). Cable was a mix from Tara Labs.

The Stella EMs, as you might imagine, made beautiful music. I sat with her for a while and then slipped quietly out the door, pausing to take one more glance. Someday, Stella, you’ll be mine.

860x300 PTA NOBLE RMAF-01
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About John Stancavage 196 Articles
Contributing Editor for Part-Time Audiophile

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