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Capital Audiofest 2017: DSA, Studio Electric, Tweek Geek – No Cheap Tricks

From Cheap Trick To The Symphony

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The Story

Listening to audio equipment all day, every day, for three days straight can get a little tiring. That is until you find yourself seated in front of a system, no longer listening to audio equipment, but instead listening once again to the music.

Generating a lot of buzz during the show was the DSA room, featuring Dave MacPherson’s Studio Electric loudspeakers. In speaking with Dave we discussed the history of his design philosophy. Himself spending decades in the service of musical performances, Dave’s talents to engineer live sound and studio monitors have been tapped by everyone from Cheap Trick to large symphony orchestras. DSA founder and principal designer, Douglas Hurlburt, Ph.D. was enthusiastically open about his amplifiers, so much so that he opened one up just for me to see inside. At the foundation of this 125 watt Class-A beast — about 8lbs of 1/8th thick copper ground plate, a gaggle of cooling fans, and more power caps than I am willing to get close to.

Late in terms of not making my way into this room until Sunday morning. By then I had plenty of systems to reference floating around in my head. Feedback from show attendees about this room were many, but a few speculating that the number of Tweek Geek room treatments were hoisting the system to greater heights so to stand apart from the crowd. Maybe they were on to something.

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The Sound

I sit down with predisposed confidence towards the electronics sitting in front of me. Considering the cost, passion and time that went into designing the DSA electronics, I’m expecting them to tell it like it is. They do.

First up the FSX floorstanding loudspeaker, playing Ray Brown’s “Malaguena” through a Miyajima Madake cartridge. At first listen I felt all was a little on the bass heavy side. The FSX’s strength in all areas labeled bass and overall mello approach to the upper ranges demanded something be done; a switch over the Ortofon A95 was in order, and exactly what the doctor ordered. I mean that last idiom literally, as it was the Ph.D. in the room who made the suggestion. Immediately all was right in the world, music flowed with an unveiled top end, and properly measured bass clap. Though I felt the Miyajima had more focus on the soundstage, the Ortofon had me won over with just about everything else.

Moving down in scale to the M4 monitor (which wasn’t even supposed to be at this show) I had concerns. Would these sealed bookshelf speakers have the necessary oomph to load the room properly? Firing up Nat King Cole’s “Sweet Lorraine” and in quick order, the moderately sized M4’s answered YES! Being sans proper speakers stands, the M4’s monitors were placed atop the FSX towers, admittedly too high for proper listening so I took to standing. What I am about to say I make with caution, but it seemed like a great deal of the magic I found in the FSX’s were being given to me in the smaller M4 monitor, and at nearly one quarter of the price. In what may seem like my most recklessness moment, I deem the M4’s the most lovable bookshelf monitor I’ve encountered at the show, regardless of price.

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The System

Dynamic Sounds Associates (DSA)
Pre I Linestage Preamplifier $16,500 USD
Amp I Class-A Monoblock Amplifiers $25,000 pr USD
Phono II Phono Stage $13,500 USD

Studio Electric
FSX Floor Standing 3-Way Loudspeakers $11,500 USD
M4 Stand-Mount Monitor 2-Way Loudspeaker $2,400 USD

Digital Sources via Tweek Geek
Aqua Hifi Formula DAC $14,000 USD
Aqua Hifi La Diva CD Transport
Auralic Aries Wireless Streamer $1,595 USD
w/ S Booster Power Supply $450 USD

VPI Industries Avenger Reference “Magnetic Drive” (3 Tonearms)
w/ 12” Metal and 3D printed Arms $30,000 USD
Ortofon MC A95 $6,500 USD
Ortofon Cadenza Mono $1,280 USD
Miyajima Laboratories Madake $5,995 USD
Miyajima Laboratories Zero-Mono $1,995 USD

All Cables by Tweek Geek
Dark Energy XLR Interconnects (starting price) $574 USD
Dark Energy RCA Interconnects (starting price) $499 USD
Dark Energy Speaker Cables (starting price) $599 USD
Dark Energy 14ga Power Cables (starting price) $542 USD

Power Conditioner, Room Treatments / Tuning via Tweek Geek
Tweek Geek Dark Matter Power Conditioner $7,495 USD
Stillpoints Aperture Acoustic Room Treatments $795 USD
Stein Music Harmonizer Room Treatments $2,995+ USD
Also part of the room was:
– an Entreq Olympus Minimus atop an active platform (that Tweek Geek is developing.)
– Tweek Geek active room Gizmos (also coming soon).
Bybee iQSE’s used as passive room treatments.

Kanso Audio Furniture
Hamoni 5-Space Asymmetrical Rack $10,804 USD
Hamoni Heavy Duty Amp Stands $3,500 pr USD

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