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AXPONA 2018: Triode Wire Labs, Border Patrol, Volti Audio

There is a reason.

If we’re being serious, this is obvious — because there’s always a reason. It may be stupid, it may be incidental, it may be irrelevant, it may be serendipity, or God, or luck, or spooky-action-at-a-distance, but even then, there’s a reason. But in the case of “why this particular room sounds really good”, the reasons are a bit more straightforward.

Chalk one more up to Team Natural.

Today’s iteration of The System has quite a bit of newness. First up, the new “cladding” I saw on the amplifier and speakers — they match. That may not sound like anything special, but it’s kinda startling how nifty it is. The striking casework on the 18wpc BorderPatrol S20 EXS integrated amplifier (prices start at $18,500) was a lusciously striped ebony and was perfectly matched by the finish on the flanking Volti Audio Rival loudspeakers (more on those in a second). That amplifier is quite familiar to me, but for those just now coming to the party, I ought to mention the copper chassis, the cryogenically treated “inter-stage phase-splitter/driver transformers, the point to point hand wiring, and the dual external tube rectified choke input filter power supply design.” If that means nothing to you, understand this this is a 300b tube amplifier with eerie transparency, drive, and actual extension into both the lows and the highs, and not “just for a 300b”, but period. “Astonishingly great” is a quote I’ve used more than once.

But that’s not the new thing. The new (well, “-ish” at this point) thing is the thing I’ve already raved about: the DAC SE (prices start at $950). This DAC is deliriously underpriced, a price which is offset somewhat by what it doesn’t do: compromise. It won’t play MQA. It won’t play DSD. Hell, it won’t even play high-resolution digital files at all — it’s strictly Redbook (CD quality) only. But hook it up to a CD transport, or a Roon endpoint like the ultraRendu, and you have one of the best-sounding sources you can buy at any price. No shit.

The Volti Audio Rivals (starting at $7.900/pair, and with this finish, $8,400/pair) are also familiar to me. That is, I took delivery of my very own pair just prior to Capital Audiofest last year. What’s new here is a whole different look — veneer front and a textured-paint back. Check the photos for a high-resolution detail shot of that finish. The best part? No fingerprints — ever. Yeah, that’s a thing now. Anyway, these speakers also now feature an optional outboard crossover (price is still TBD), with matching finish. These speakers are absurdly easy to drive at 100dB, and easily can produce a 32Hz-20kHz range. Given my room at home, I cannot ask for (or handle) more — I’m loving the organic sound and the wild dynamics. I’m guessing you will too. I am still flabbergasted at the entry price. There’s just no way it’s gonna last — and with the robust uptake by the market that this speaker is seeing, I’m guessing that the introductory prices will come to an end (so if you were looking for a reason to get off your keister, consider this “fair warning”).

Last, but not least, are the new wires from Triode Wire Labs. I’ve long been a fan of the work of Pete Grzybowski, or “Triode Pete” (aka, “Pete Grizz”, for those of us with phonetic impairments), and the easy, natural sound he’s able to encourage out of an audio system. The fact that TWL is also rather reasonably priced is just icing on the cake. This is another brand (and the third in this room) that has yet to realize how absurdly underpriced their “sound” is. Whoops. Did I say that out loud? Ahem. Anyway, so, what’s new? Version 2 of the Spirit interconnect! Three main differences over the outgoing wire: a solid core, a new dielectric (that Pete swears is “better”), and a new outer organic cotton exterior sleeving. Overall impressions? The guys say “it’s better”, and while I’m inclined to agree, we’ll get a closer look at some point in the near future.

AXPONA 2018 Coverage brought to you by Zesto Audio

And one last treat tucked away behind the rack? A Pi Audio Uberbuss!

All in all, this room was absurdly fun. I’ve heard this gear in several combinations and permutations over the last several years. Many audio show enthusiasts have as well — for a reason. And it’s worth a think about why these brands they keep showing up together. Obviously they bring out the best in each other. While I have no doubt they’d work well with others — keep reading Part-Time Audiophile for many of those comparisons — but the INESCAPABLE fact is that they do work well together. Enough so that the recommendation to acquire the gear as a set is simple, straightforward, obvious and unhesitatingly easy to make. And make gain. And again.

They’re clearly having fun making great sound. I’d be very happy to wrap the whole room up and take it home with me. But then, I already have.

About Scot Hull (991 Articles)
Founder, Editor and Publisher at Part-Time Audiophile and The Occasional Magazine.