RMAF 2016: Wavelength and Vaughn play with lots and lots of fire


Jim Jordan of Vaughn Loudspeakers has been showing with vintage plasma tweeters from DuKane for the last few years, but this $20,000 Plasma Signature is the first I can recall with them integrated into the overall casework. This is a most excellent thing. The Plasma Signature, like many of Jordan’s designs, feature Fostex drivers arranged both forward + rear-firing (bi-pole), and this new model brings in a pair of matching/integrated powered subwoofers at about 60 Hz. Total frequency extension? 22Hz up to 60kHz. I’m pretty sure that qualifies as “hi-res”. The cabinet is bamboo, but the fascia/inserts all look like carbon-fiber. You’ve got the plasma tweeter up top, four 4″ drivers on the front and four more on the back with 12″ passive radiators … then a 12″ powered woofer with two additional 12″ passives down underneath, and all told, you have a Kaiju. It’s a beast. The tall, pyramidal shape is a new move, too, and brings a real hefty visual to what turns out to be something of a ballerina — at 150+ lbs per side, it’s also 96dB @ 8Ω.

Did someone say “low powered tube amplifiers”? I’m pretty sure I heard that. Which completely explains the Wavelength Audio/USB DACs amplifiers in the room. Designer Gordon Rankin is probably best known — at least these days, and at least in high-end audio circles — as the guy behind the USB DAC movement. That is, and to put not-too-fine-a-point on it, the reason USB-based audio doesn’t still completely suck is because of his work. We’ll get to that in a second, but first up, there are these amplifiers.

award-sighting-smRankin has been working in and around tubes for far longer than I can remember, but his tube amps are somewhat like Legendary Pokémon — we’ve all heard of them, but actually seeing them live and in-game? Yeah, not so much. Well, if that described you, RMAF was more than a bit of fun. There were a bunch of amps sitting out on that non-removable credenza (ahem), including an all-new Napoleon Ag, running during the entire show. This amp is a “Version 3” update on the original Napoleon released back in 1995. As you probably guessed, it’s tricked out with all-silver output section and transformers, and the all-new input section with that delicious WE 417 tube brings the topology down to a single stage. Sound tasty? Yours for $35k/pair.

Also new (or at least refreshed) was the Crimson, Rankin’s tour-de-force DAC ($9k), now with an updated input module featuring an FPGA DoP/PCM input module. The new Quotient Q1 (as this module is called) leverages the DAC’s 32bit ESS Sabre DAC chip “to decode both PCM and DSD to their highest quality.” I kinda get all googly thinking about demoing this bad-boy at home. Is that bad?

Cables came courtesy of AudioQuest. A Diamond USB cable (starting at $549), Redwood speaker cables (starting at $3,800) and Wind interconnect cables (starting at $1,495) were used throughout. (Cable prices provided by The Cable Company.)

Last year, the sound from the Vaughn-Wavelength pairing was easily one of the Best-In-Show. This year? It was better. Much better. Coherent, airy, completely transparent to the source, this sound was effortless and awesome. Very well done.

Rocky Mountain Audio Festival coverage brought to you by Noble Audio. Visit them at https://nobleaudio.com/.

About Scot Hull 1039 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.