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RMAF 2016: Dynamic Sound Associates, Spendor and VPI

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By Darryl Lindberg

In the Dynamic Sound Associates (DSA) room, the ebullient David Sckolnick presided over a fine sounding system that featured DSA’s solid state electronics: the well-regarded Phono II ($13.5K) and Pre 1 ($16.5K), along with the new Amp 1 ($25K/pair), which was described to me in technicolor detail by its enthusiastic designer Doug Hurlburt.  For starters, the amps are a non-loop feedback DC coupled design that put out 125 watts of pure class A (8 ohms) via Hitachi power MOSFETS in the output stage. There’s a great deal more that’s unique about the Amp 1’s design, but you’ll have to check out the website to get the full scoop. Whatever engineering magic Doug worked on the electronics was revealed on the speaker end, which consisted of a pair of the latest version of the classic Spendor SP-100 speakers ($12K) on Kanso Harmoni amp stands ($2K).

The sound had that effortless quality that’s reminiscent of the real thing, with fine dynamics, tonal accuracy, and reasonable bass response (no subwoofer here). Moreover, there was that ineffable quality that’s only found in analog—and this was an all-analog room. Of course, the electronics are one part of the system, but it takes a lot more the generate the sound I heard and this room had the goods. The front end was a lovely VPI Avenger “magnetic drive” with three 12” 3D printed arms ($30K, including arms), each fitted out with an Ortofon cartridge (Anna MC-$9K, A95 MC-$6.5K, and a Cadenza mono-$1.3K). David presented an interesting comparison of the Ortofon A95 and Anna cartridges (I preferred the Anna, at least on the material spun), as well an enjoyable romp through a mono Beatles disc. I also happened to be around for a brief and interesting recap of Ortofon’s long history given by Ortofon’s own Dee Hustinova and Louis Dorio.

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The system was lashed together with some sanely priced Luminous Audio wire: Synchestra Silver Reference interconnects ($699/meter), Synchestra Signature speaker cables ($40/foot+$60 termination), and Mega Lynx power cords ($699/1.5 meter).  Rounding out this assemblage was the Tweek Geek Dark Matter Power Purifier ($8K), Stillpoints Aperture and Stein Harmonizer room treatments ($650+ and $3K+, respectively), and Stillpoints equipment stands ($450+).

Once again, attention to setup details and equipment compatibility—and, of course, fine equipment—resulted in a satisfying presentation.  It wasn’t a bargain basement system by any means, but it sure wasn’t the super exotic and super expensive gear that populates some (occasionally disappointing) rooms.  I came back to this typically crowded room several times just for sheer enjoyment.

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