It’s a must-stop event. Assuming you can find it. But I bet you can. Just creep along the hallway, long after the show hours have closed for the day, until you hear extraordinarily clear and really loud tunes. That’s where Greg Beron of UHA will be, spooling tape through one of his Phase decks. I missed it, sadly. Again. I think the last time I poked in on one of Greg’s all-nighters was at AXPONA last year. My loss, trust me.
Shown here at RMAF, Greg was working off of his brand new ultra-deck, the new-for-2017 (time traveler!), the UHA OPS-DC Tape Deck. The price for this two-element monster is $25,000. What you get — a brand new, outboard power supply (the ‘OPS’ part of the name) that goes the extra step and takes the AC wall-current and converts it to DC to feed to the motors, lights, transport, and head amps. “No AC whatsoever inside the deck”, says Greg. This is on top of the current state-of-the-art updated Phase 12 package (prices for that deck start at $19k), which has just about every “stock” component found in the original Tascam chassis ripped out and replaced by audiophile-grade parts. I feel compelled to note that those with sticker shock can take solace that while Greg has extended his line to these rarified heights, he’s also pushed in the other direction with the Phase 1, where prices start at $6,500. I might have reviewed one of those recently.
Fancy as analog tape is — and how hot a commodity — that was hardly all that was going on in this room.
At the very front of the chain, we found Classic Audio‘s T-3.4 Field Coil Powered System ($54,950). This loudspeaker is epic. 16Ω and extremely sensitive, they were easily driven by Atma-Sphere M-60 MkII 3.3 OTL amps ($7,400/pair) and an MP-1 Mark 3.3 preamplifier ($16,600 as configured). The speakers are only a bit smaller than their siblings, the 1.5, but given the unusually “modest-sized” room I found them in, I think that was a smart move. And no, the room was not tiny — not at all. You have to understand — Classic Audio usually grabs a ballroom and fills it right up to the ceiling with enormous soundscapes.
I’ve been a fan of Jim Aud’s work on Purist Audio Design for several years now, and seeing his anacondas weaving in and out of any system is a sure-fire indication of “secret sauce”. Fluid shielding sounds like a step into the looking glass, but that’s precisely what the new top-of-the-fluid-line Neptune series of cables bring to the their latest major overhaul. As Jim says, the new speaker cables use “fine single crystal copper strands in a 7 AWG bundle”, with positive and negative paths completely separated (which means four cables, total) for maximum isolation and flexibility. Note also that their speaker cables are all fitted with a rather innovative (and wildly helpful) connector system that allows you to screw in your preference of banana or spade — and then change your mind later without have to reterminate your cables. That’s cool — I wish more companies offered that kind of forethought. The Neptune line includes interconnects (starting at $1900/set), speaker cables (starting at $2,600 for 1.5m) and power cords (starting at $2k). I even saw what looked suspiciously like a power distribution block (!).
I kinda wanted to take this whole room home with me. Is that bad? Elegance, grace, and effortless sound is something that the world needs more of, and finding it with Classic Audio, Atma-Sphere, UHA and Purist Audio Design, is not only a treat, it’s a retreat. A haven. A safe place in a world that needs many, many more safe places. Sign me up for more, please.