There was something special happening in the Fern & Roby room shared with Voxativ in Chicago, and it kept me coming back for more. The turntables that Christopher Hildebrand, and cohort Jesse Brown had brought from Richmond, Virginia not only looked amazing, they did that thing where they sounded amazing.
The analog translation duties were being handled through Voxativ T-211 amplifier with Oshima transformers ($22,900 USD, $31,400 CAN) and 97dB Zeth-B loudspeakers ($17,000 USD, $24,500 CAN), and had palpable emotional weight, texture, and rocksteady pitch. A totaldac digital source/streamer handled digital duties. I have covered Voxativ previously, and I associate no sound signature with Holger Adler’s designs whatsoever. It’s incredibly punchy, and incredibly transparent gear.
Of particular note during my listening sessions was the bass… the bass in this room had so much definition, so much composition, and to me that quality of definition was directly attributable to the foundation the 70 pound cast-iron plinth’d Fern & Roby Tredegar turntable (starting at $10,500 USD, $14,400 CAN) was providing to the Schröder Reference SQ tonearm, ($7,500 USD, $10,300 CAN) and the custom – for Fern & Roby – Soundsmith Magnolia Moving-Iron cartridge ($4,850 USD, $6,650 CAN).
There was a blackness to the soundstage in this set-up when the needle was dropped into the groove before playback initiated that was something I noticed immediately (and which I listen for from ‘tables). If you want to have an accurate baseline for noise floor, the run-in groove is a good place to evaluate how quiet a ‘table, ‘arm, and cart is. The Tredegar is equipped with a high-mass 35-pound bronze platter (non resonant, and non-magnetic), and features a custom inverted bearing design with a micro-adjusted motor control. Piano notes, and extended vocal passages held startlingly consistent pitch, and busy, multi-instrumental passages had excellent separation, with no smearing on transients, and true tone reproduction for brass, and strings.
While the Tredegar is the top-of-the-line turntable offering from the company, the entry-level Montrose looked every bit as serious, albeit in a slighter less intimidating guise. If the Tredegar is a Dreadnaught, think of the Montrose as a Corvette. The industrial design, the classic lines, the materials used… the patina to every component, and aspect of these two turntable designs is utterly unique, breathtaking, and has to really be seen (and touched) to be truly appreciated. I didn’t get a chance to hear the Montrose, but I’m looking forward to reviewing one in the coming months. Also on display at AXPONA was Fern & Roby’s fledging phono stage: The Maverick Phono II ($625 USD, $850 CAN) which comes in either moving magnet or moving coil options. It features configurable daughterboards for cartridge options thanks to multiple-resistor settings.
Fern & Roby continues to impress as they thoughtfully navigate their entry into the high-end audiophile market with gorgeous gear that elicits a romantic, and bygone era of high fidelity in many ways, and I for one can’t wait to see what they do next.