AXPONA 2018: Stereo Haven lives up to it’s Name

Keeping it real with Stereo Haven.

Stereo Haven is probably one of the most aptly named bricks & mortar outfits out there. I came across it late in the afternoon Friday during the AXPONA weekend at a time when I needed a stereo haven the most. If you’ve never been to one of the big audiophile trade shows, it’s hard to describe how tired you get from concentrating all day on listening. Usually around 4 p.m. I start to hit a wall, and need some sonic sanctuary in the form of a dark room, super-mellow tunes being played through an analog front end, and no interruptions.

Simple, and chilled out, with imaging to die for.

As soon as I stuck my head in their room for a look-see to assess if this was going to be what I was needing, and saw the beautifully-finished Falcon Acoustics LS3/5A monitors on stands, the Well Tempered Lab Simplex MK2 ‘table being faintly lit from behind by a crack in the drapes, and the glow of Line Magnetic tube amps below, I knew I had found my space.

Simplex MK2 with Kauri MC cartridge.

I didn’t even ask what was being played, I just sat, and listened, and listened, and listened. It was acoustic, it had sweet vocals, there was beautifully rendered guitar, and spatial imaging of the sound stage to die for – the LS3/5A is a BBC- heritage design that regardless of amplification can image in one of the most spooky fashions I’ve ever heard. I’ve owned speakers based on the design, and while they don’t do really loud, and they don’t scale big, and they really don’t do mush bass-wise (a nifty bump in the crossover gooses the perceived bass response), what they do is midrange, and 3D-imaging that will keep you spinning LP after LP, or CD after CD, or song after song from your digital-audio rig until the sun starts to come up again to signify a new day.

Line Magnetic LM508 integrated keeps things sweet albeit with resolution.

All this is not say they don’t rock, they most certainly do, but they do it with real aplomb, smoothness, and an innate organic quality to the sound that always has me either leaning way back in my chair letting the music hit me, or leaning far forward to hang on every note. Incredibly transparent to source, they are not licensed for manufacture from the BBC for nothing. The Well Tempered Kauri MC cartridge being used here was new to me, and while some may think pairing a $2,000 USD cart with a $1,995 ‘table/tonearm combo would be dubious: It wasn’t here. Synergy was the word that kept popping into my head, and it stayed there until I wrote this post. A true stereo haven, this room was a favourite of mine at AXPONA for it’s simple, uncluttered presentation, low box count, and chilled-out room vibe. Stereo Haven indeed.

–Rafe Arnott