RMAF 2017: The Audio Alternative goes deep with Vandersteen, VTL, HRS, Brinkmann, and AudioQuest

Vandersteen Audio Model Seven MK IIs.

Bass. How low can you go?”

Familiar lyrics for me as I was a rabid Public Enemy fan in the late ’80s, and most of the early ’90s. The base they’re referring to was crack cocaine, and the ravages it was inflicting on many of the mostly black projects in inner cities throughout the United States at the time. But what I’d like to reference here is in the audiophile lexicon: Bass, and just how low it can it go.  Richard Vandersteen, design legend behind Vandersteen Audio, seems like he really wants to know the answer to that question because his Model Seven MK II loudspeakers ($62,000 USD)  paired with his Sub Nine subwoofers ($18,900 USD) were plumbing some of the cleanest, lowest octaves I’ve heard from floorstanding speakers of this size.

All together now…

The Audio Alternative out of Fort Collins, Colorado had paired the Seven, and Nines with VTL pre-amplification, and amplification for RMAF this year. Namely the TP-6.5 Signature phono stage ($12,500 USD with built-in MC Step-Up Transformer) feeding into the Tl-7.5 Series III Reference line stage ($25,000 USD) and Siegfried Series II Reference mono block power amps ($65,000 USD). Brinkmann was keeping the source in hand with their Balance turntable ($32,000 USD – with 12.1-inch tonearm, and RöNt power supply, Lyra Atlas MC cartridge $11.995 USD), and Nyquist DAAC ($18,000 USD) handling digital duties. AudioQuest had python-thick cabling snaking all over, including their new 15A Dragon AC cables ($4,700 USD), 20A Dragon AC cables ($11,150 USD), and 15A Hurricane AC cables (starting at $1,350 USD). HRS supplied the heavy-lifting muscle with a mix of VXR stands, and M3X, and RXR bases.

Noble-RMAF-2017 940 x 300
RMAF 2017 coverage is proudly sponsored by Noble Audio.
Lyra Atlas MC cartridge.

“So, there was bass you say? What about the the rest?” Hmmm, yes, well, the rest sounded awfully good, with deep 3D spatial-imaging on the recordings I heard while in the room, an open, unrestricted top end with lots of texture, and colour in horns, wood-bodied instruments, and vocals. But despite the disparate manufacturers, there was a tonal thread running through the sound that spoke of a system tailored to work in harmony together. An enjoyable, relaxing room that didn’t didn’t lose focus that music comes first, and also wasn’t afraid to blur the lines between gear, tunes, and good times.

–Rafe Arnott