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RMAF 2015: Zesto Audio for fun (the second time around is waaaaay better)

The Zesto gear combined with the Kharma International Double Nine Signature loudspeakers

The Zesto gear combined with the Kharma International Double Nine Signature loudspeakers (DB9-S — $37,500/pair USD).

I know, I know … readers will be all up in my business because Scot Hull already covered off this room more than a month ago, but after consulting with the Hull-ster he said “WTF?, Ahhhhh, go for it…” So I’m going to add my two bits to his two bits and hopefully you’ll now have enough change to park your ass here and read what I’ve got to say.

It was recently pointed out to me by a friend, and fellow hi-fi reviewer that I’m an experiential writer, which to me means I like to go on about how this amp makes me feel, or how that cartridge connected with me. Which, yeah, is pretty much how I like to write because I personally don’t really care a whole lot about measurements other than as a starting point for system-matching. Also, there’s more than enough measurement-type writers out there for the people who care about it a whole lot to get all excited about it.  And as it’s been stated ad nauseam in the audiophile world, “it ain’t all about the measurements.” So with that out of my system, let’s get ready to rumble.

For starters, just so I don’t repeat what Scot wrote regarding gear, and because people mercilessly complain when I don’t include a price in everything that I write, here’s the breakdown:

  • Zesto Andros 1.2 phono ($4,700 USD)
  • Leto 1.5 preamplifier ($7,500 USD)
  • Eros 300 mono block amplifiers ($19,900 USD)
  • Merrill Williams Audio REAL 101.2 turntable ($7,200 USD)
  • Triplanar U2 tonearm ($6,200 USD)
  • Dynavector XX2 MkII cartridge ($1,985 USD)
  • Cabling courtesy WyWires
  • Diamond Series speaker cables (starting at $7,999/pair USD)
  • Diamond Interconnects (starting at $4,495/pair USD)
  • Platinum Series USB cable ($899) and Platinum Series High-Current Power Cords (start at $999 USD)
  • WyWires/Daedalus Audio joint venture, called the Power Broker ($3,299 USD)

RMAF 2015 coverage brought to you by Noble Audio! Click for more ….

Merrill Williams is a nice place to start the analog chain

Merrill Williams is a nice place to start the analog chain

Dyna and

Dyna and Triplanar make me smile…

This was a fun room. The vibe was all “giddy-up!” and “let’s crank the tunes and get down with valve amps and vinyl”, which was blowing smoke way up my backside, so I was smiling like an idiot every 30 seconds or so and looking around with this shit-eating grin and I’m sure people were all like “that guy is soooo high.”

Dynavector XX-2 Mk II is a super fast, big, tight bass cartridge with lots of love for the midrange and sweet , natural highs with tons of decay in a well-matched tube-amp based system... IME.

Dynavector XX-2 Mk II is a super fast, big, tight bass cartridge with lots of love for the midrange and sweet, natural highs with tons of decay in a well-matched tube amp-based system… IME.

Zesto

A beautiful looking phono stage (Zesto Andros 1.2) that seemed to do the business with the Dyna pairing

So much gleaming chrome and valves!

So much gleaming chrome and valves!

The Kharma

The Kharma International Double Nine Signature loudspeakers: Authoritative sound and tonal delights

This was another example of great system-matching in my books, all the cabling wound up by one manufacturer (which I’m a big fan of, I prefer to keep all my cables from one company if at all possible) and with all the pre, phono and power duties from Zesto, this was a set up that played real nice together because they’re designed to do just that, play music together and deliver a cohesion to the sound that I find is often lacking in systems that have amps, pres and phono stages culled from various manufacturers, never mind different speaker cables and power cords, etc.

Can you strike gold with the patchwork approach? Yes, of course you can. Does this approach yield sonic gold as often? Not in my experience. Keeping the approach more holistic usually pays off a lot more. Again, YMMV.

Feel the POWER

Feel the POWER of 150 Watts of Pure Class A, KT88 output tube goodness.

This was one of those rooms that I felt deserved a second look, and thanks to George and Carolyn Counnas of Zesto for being such happy and gracious hosts. Keep spinning George!

George Counnas spins another slab of the plastic fantastic.

George Counnas spins another slab of the plastic fantastic.

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About Rafe Arnott (391 Articles)
Editor of InnerFidelity and AudioStream