Building and growing a system can be an arduous task to say the least. More than just the components, it takes experienced ears and patience in fine tuning the sound. Further more, engaging the interaction between speakers and room can be overwhelming without the right guide.
Walter Swanbon of Fidelis Music Systems (near Boston MA) brought the dealer showroom experience to Axpona this year. For showgoers this experience goes a long way. The expo can sometimes feel cold or disconnected as the majority of attendees and exhibitors seldom interact other than at shows. Often the communications between the end-user and manufacturer are awkwardly fresh, and sometimes humorous. It is in those moments that the value of experienced dealers becomes obviously paramount to the continuation the industry. It was no surprise to see Walter engaged with his room’s guests when asked about the new products he was exhibiting.
Speaking of new products, the system in play was amassed from entirely new components. Stenheim was introducing their new Alumine FIVE; a Swiss made, fully aluminum floorstanding speaker. This new tower may be a little brother to their REFERENCE loudspeaker design, but in no way is it to be underestimated, at $50K/pr — would you underestimate it? Thought not.
Currently my new favorite tube integrated, the kind people at VAC were showing off their new SIGMA 170i, which was used to drive the Alumine FIVEs and do that well it did. The SIGMA 170i is the world’s only integrated amplifier with a patented iQ Continuous Intelligent Automatic Biasing System — which means the system holds true idle at the point of the output tubes, perfectly steady. This increases detail and dynamics, while controlling distortion and noise. You may find that tubes also last longer in this case.
Sourcing it all with sweet vinyl based nutrition was the new Acoustic Signature DOUBLE X turntable. Designed like anything German, it’s massive where it needs to be, and simplistically reserved where matters of user convenience are required. Like most things from German design houses, photos don’t do it justice.
I really don’t have much experience to compare these products to, as all of them are new to me, sans having heard Acoustic Signature turntables before on other systems. My listening notes have two words underlined, clean and extended. Remarkably, the sound is one of the lowest noise systems I recall hearing at the show. Those deep dark backgrounds we all wish for lives at this address.
We do a little listening with the MSB Analog DAC and things remain in control and sweet as ever. The VAC tube integrated amplifier has a lot of the hallmarks of strong solid state, with none of the cold nature by comparison. Overall I’m really pleased with the systems fastidious presentation when it comes to keeping things tight.
Alumine FIVE Loudspeakers – $50,000 pr USD
Sigma 170i Integrated Amplifier – $14,000 USD
Double X Turntable – $5,795 USD
TA2000 Tonearm – $2,395 USD
w/Dynavector XX2 Cartridge – $1,995 USD
Analog DAC – $9,950 USD
N10 Music Player – $8,000 USD
Statement Cables Speaker Cable – $13,900 pr USD
H2 Harmonizer – $2,395 set USD