Hopping from room to room at this year’s Capital Audio Fest, it seemed that vintage audio redux remains quite the rage. Nowhere was this trend more apparent than in the Robyatt Audio/Electrostatic Solutions room, which in recent years has always drawn a large and interested crowd.
Again this year, Robyatt’s Robin Wyatt paired up with Kent McCollum of Electrostatic Solutions, otherwise known to me as “The Quad Guy.” Together, these gentlemen know how to make some beautiful music come to life. The source was a lovely vintage Garrard 401 ‘table housed in an elegant OMA slate plinth and equipped with the very cool looking Schroder Wood CB and BA tonearms ($5,250 USD, and $4,850 USD, respectively) sporting the Madake Snakewood L/E and Zero Mono cartridges, both from Miyajima Labs ($7,500 USD, and $2,150 USD, respectively). Amplification was by DNM Design in the form of the 3D Six preamp ($12,500 USD), and P3s amp (23 watts per channel; $9,250 USD). I was quite impressed with the simple, yet highly elegant, “less is more” design strategy of these amplification modules.
I was most intrigued by the re-built Quad ESL 57 speakers, however, as the sound emanating from said transducers was amazingly modern and engaging for a sixty-year-old design. Given the work that McCollum has to do, all by hand, to get a stock vintage set of Quads up to his own modern standards suggests that his asking price of $5,500 USD/pair (add another $800 for the accompanying spider legs) must represent a tremendous value indeed. I’ve never spent much time listening to the Quad ESL 57, but this demo brought home to me just how good these speakers can sound. I now fully understand why these classics have such a loyal following among true music lovers, even today. And the best news for Quad lovers is that Kent reports that there are legions of unrestored ESLs out there just waiting for his magic.
Collectively this system put out some sweet and engaging sounds. Vocals particularly caught my attention, sounding smooth, intimate, articulate, and appropriately colourful. This was one of the handful of rooms that I visited that I probably could have spent the whole day in, just taking in the music hour after blissful hour.
Well played, guys, well played.