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.
Rankin 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.