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RMAF 2018: Zesto Audio’s Feast for the Ears and Eyes

KEF R Series

Zesto Audio wins the award, if there is such a thing, for the most beautiful system at the 2018 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest.

It’s rare to see this level of commitment to the visual impact of an entire system, especially since hi-fi show exhibits are usually put together to maximize sound quality, but the Zesto room was astonishingly gorgeous with its unified black, silver and chrome motif. The curved, mirrored face plates were striking because they amplified the glow of the tubes and, in a stroke of design genius, they did not reflect the potentially obnoxious image of gobsmacked audiophiles enjoying the incredible view.

More Than Skin Deep

None of this would matter, of course, if the sound quality wasn’t up to snuff. Using a pair of stunning Marten Django L Black speakers, a Merrill-Williams REAL 101.3 turntable with a Tri-Planar U2 tonearm and Benz Micro Gullwing SLR cartridge, all connected with Cardas Clear Beyond cabling and shown off on a Stillpoints rack, Zesto’s Eros 300 monoblocks ($19,900/pair) and Leto 1.5 preamplifier ($7500) were able to create tangible, lifelike images on Oscar Peterson’s We Get Requests. Ray Brown’s bass, in particular, flowed into the room effortlessly and wowed us all with fast transients and a completely balanced and cohesive realism.

My notes from the listening session merely state, “Ray Brown MAGNIFICENT.” Brown’s bass is usually full and clean and full of tiny details, but his presence has rarely been so solid and believable as it was through this system.

Groovin’ on a Saturday Afternoon

It was a pleasure to see the Merrill Williams turntable in action—I’ve long been intrigued with George Merrill’s designs—and it was obvious that the Zesto Audio Andros Deluxe phono stage ($6900) and the Zesto Allasso SUT ($2995) were a perfect match for the REAL 101.3. I noticed a perfect combination of detail and lushness from the grooves, a quality that only the finest tube phono preamplifiers can deliver on demand.

As a side note, I’ve seen Zesto’s George Counnas at dozens of hi-fi shows over the years—in elevators, in the hallways and sitting at the next table in the restaurant downstairs—and we’ve always exchanged pleasantries. But this is the first time I’ve sat down in one of his rooms and listened at length to one of his set-ups. The Zesto products surprised me with both their sonic and visual beauty; it’s audio components like these that define the notion of “pride of ownership.” I’m so glad I finally stopped by and said hello.