Usually in the high-end, “blue smoke” is not something you want to hear in the same sentence as “tubes.” Unless, of course, we’re talking about Blue Smoke Entertainment Systems and their AXPONA 2016 room, which featured gear from Valve Amplification Company.
There was a glow to the system when I visited, but nothing to be concerned about. Indeed, the only things smoking were some of the tunes coming out of the rig, which featured VAC’s Signature IQ 200 amplifier ($14,000) and Signature line stage ($19,500), as well as an MSB Diamond DAC V ($48,000 as configured). Speakers were Von Schweikert Audio’s VR-55 Aktive ($60,000 a pair), aided by the same company’s V-12XS Shockwave subwoofer system ($11,500 each).
Also contributing was Blue Smoke’s own Black Box music server (exact price TBA, but tentatively $7,000), along with VSA’s MasterBuilt Audio cables, Harmonic Resolution System racks and SMT absorbers and diffusers.
Bass performance on this system was among the best at the show — deep and palpable, but without any bloat or migration into the lower midrange. Imaging also was impressive, as were the clean, extended high frequencies.
Overall, the VAC and Von Schweikert gear seemed made for each other, with both sounding even better than I remembered when paired differently at other shows. And that’s not blowin’ smoke.