Some of the set ups at AXPONA are altars to the Gods of high fidelity that seem to expect that you will kneel, or perhaps prostrate yourself at their feet as you grovel something like “I’m not worthy…” in a whiny, nasal-infused voice as you self-flagellate for your audiophile sins – I SHALL NOT LISTEN TO DIGITAL FILES LESS THAN 24/384 – (or 24/386 if you’re Brian Hunter).
Luckily, as impressive as the audio altar was in the Quintessence Audio Ltd. O’Hare System 2 room on the 12th floor at the Westin O’Hare, no one was genuflecting that I could see when I showed up early Friday morning.
This was a meticulously set-up room with real attention to detail to create a synergistic system that could emotionally engage listeners with an aural wave of pleasure tuned to the frequency of extremely satisfying. The fact that it was dark as a coal mine in there, and I almost fell over twice because I could barely see only added to my enjoyment. It was like my living room, only with no volume restrictions. And I had to wear pants.
The analog front end featured a ‘table I’d very much like to get my dirty hands on; the AMG Giro G9 ($10,000 USD), with the AMG 9W2 tonearm ($3,500), and AMG’s own Teatro LOMC cartridge. Amplification of the teeny-tiny signals the Teatro was feeding through the 9W2 were being blown up by the Audio Research Reference Phono 3 ($14,000 USD), the Audio Research Reference 6 Line Stage ($14,000 USD), and Audio Research GS150 stereo amplifier ($20,000 USD). Cabling was handled by Kubala-Sosna, and Critical Mass supplied the racks.
The sound was big, room-filling, and had a depth, and breadth to the sound stage that I’ve come to associate with systems finished by Sonus Faber. The AMG front end was really delivering the goods on punchy, jammy mids, deep, tight bass, and smooth upper frequencies with plenty of micro detail, which wasn’t coming at the expense of musicality thanks (me thinks) to the joint US/Japanese construction, and parts of the Teatro cartridge. This is a very interesting approach to design, and building a cartridge, and not one I’ve seen often. From AMG’s website:
“The Titanium body is designed and manufactured in the United States. The generator and stylus/ cantilever are from Japan, where the Teatro is assembled and tested. All development and listening tests have been performed with the AMG 9W2 and 12J2 tonearms mounted on the AMG Giro and Viella turntables.
The Teatro’s special 2-piece titanium body provides a superior strength-to-weight ratio and is dimensioned to minimize resonance and reflected energy. The internal construction is radiused and includes a fixture for rigid mounting of the MC generator. The Teatro uses a stylus guard machined from a solid aluminum billet.
The Teatro’s generator is an extremely efficient electro-mechanical design, with each channel using a separate coil for maximum separation. The coils are wound with Ohno cast (OCC) mono-crystal high-purity oxygen-free copper wire. Neodymium magnets are combined with a special soft magnetic alloy yoke consisting of cobalt and iron, for a smooth and dynamic sound.”
Audio Research gear absolutely fascinates me, and I’d love to take some home for review. Their kit is finished to such high tolerances that you cannot help but be impressed with the quality that these pre-amps, and amps exude not only visually, but sonically. Overall, an incredibly impressive sounding, and looking room that didn’t seem to play favorites with music, as rock, jazz, and electronic all seemed to suit the system to a T.