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Capital Audiofest 2017: Old Meets New with EMIA

Meet EMIA Audio, an informal coupling of Experienced Music and Intact Audio (hence EMIA), two companies whose principals decided to informally join forces to make great music. Much of what these guys are doing involves melding older designs with newer technology. Their creations seem mainly to be bespoke, one-off pieces, focusing mainly on restoration and re-builds based on classic turntables and their accessories, as well as newly designed step-up transformers and phono stages.

The EMIA room was chock-full of really cool looking gear with a vintage vibe, along with some crazy stuff that would make Dr. Frankenstein himself drool with desire.

First off were the huge panel speakers, based on the venerable Quad ESL 57, each driven by dual hand-made 300B amps integrated into the speaker bases, along with active line-level crossovers, with the complete amp/speaker package costing around $100,000 as shown. Volume control was handled by an autoformer transformer-based unit (no price provided) which was fed by a custom LR phono stage. The phono stage included three separate step-up devices with switching (about $8000) which accepted signal from an absolutely beautiful ‘table built up from the classic Garrard 301. The ‘table itself was housed in a multilayered, tunable plinth with separate arm pods for easy setup. Several very hefty looking custom unipivot tonearms were mounted with care, one of which sported a concept field-coil cartridge utilizing an electromagnet, which in turn was powered by a seriously cool (and massive) power source employing a couple of huge and absolutely lovely mercury vapor vacuum tubes. The whole turntable assembly, including arm(s) was said to cost somewhere around $18,000 as displayed.

Sonic impressions

EMIA was getting an intimate, yet highly engaging sound from its hodgepodge of stereo sweetness. The panels sounded as large as they looked, but possessed a nice sense of touch and finesse, as would be expected from something based on the classic Quad ESL backbone. The analog sound was quite delicate and engaging, though I detected a faint hum when the music wasn’t playing, probably from the step-up transformer.

Outside of the phono stage and step-up transformers, EMIA has yet to develop many stock items for sale, though several new items are supposedly nearly ready for production. Definitely an interesting company that speaks to the audio geek within each of us, and one to keep an eye on in the future…

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