David Cope of Old Forge Audio has tried stepping away from two-channel audio. Maybe he thought it would be easy? At this moment in the story, feel free to take a few minutes and laugh at that thought. Okay, maybe after David retired from Audio Note UK in 2016, the decision to open a small recording studio that solely focused on capturing genuinely live recorded music using exclusively: ribbon microphones, tube electronics, and half-inch tape — isn’t exactly leaving two channel audio. It’s stepping to the other side.
Like all addicts toying with recovery, David found himself needing to score. David hit up Jonathan Halpern (audio drug lord) of Tone Imports and “borrowed” a pair of Auditorium Hommage 755a loudspeakers. I say “borrowed” because they likely never made their way home, and were the exact pair I listened to when I covered Old Forge in 2017 (read here). And were the impetus for David falling off the wagon and ending up back in old haunts, here with us two-channel ghosts.
Fast forward to Capital Audiofest 2018 and here we are in a room full of really excellent gear listening to what again seems like a really emotionally engaging system. Give credit to David Cope, as he knows the good stuff, and is who I’ll return to when I have that audio itch that needs scratching.
Showing a slew of American debuts, the most interesting to me was the Acapella La Campanella 2 loudspeaker which from the photos doesn’t outright look like the traditional horn loudspeaker, but it is. These are spherical horns, which look more like mushrooms than speakers, but perform like no other horn I can think of. The ideal position to be in for all loudspeaker designers is to have a single point source which can cover all the frequencies, dynamics, the soft and powerful passages with precision and flavour. This doesn’t exist mind you, but an expertly designed two-way loudspeaker can get you remarkably close to the ideal.
The La Campanella 2 is a 93db sensitive 8-ohm two-way loudspeaker. Each channel houses four 6.5” proprietary custom woofers, loaded in a ported enclosure, and hyper-spherical horn loaded with a low mass (0.3g) tweeter. Five octaves of music (700hz – above 20hz) are handled by the spherical horn. This is a tremendous feat of delicate engineering, and it yields bushels full of smooth and controlled output across its stated range.
Also demanding of my intrigue was the Wand 14-4 turntable and Wand Plus 10.3” tonearm. The first thing your eye catches (even from across the room) is “that record looks small.” When in fact, it’s the turntable platter that is larger. Fourteen inches of large pulley, low-slip mass and inertia; the platter twirls confidently around the top of the Wand turntable. Above that, a Carbon Fiber uni-pivot tonearm of the 10.3” type (both 9.5” and 12” are available) from Wand’s Plus series of tonearms.
And while I’m mentioning my favourite parts of the system, I might as well mention how appealing the Pure Audio electronics look (and sound, but more on that later.) The Pure Audio components are full of esoteric level technology. Terms like: dual-mono, multi-tiered power supply, matched J-Fets, Class-A, fully regulated high-current power, flat response, etc. — just reading that list aloud I feel my inner Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor voice coming out, along with some chest beating, and a few “man-ape” grunts at the end.
Back to the looks, the Pure Audio company should get into architecture. Getting close enough to the Reference Monoblocks, I imagined myself small, walking into the chassis and looking around from the inside. Surely, if the Arga Khan Award for Architecture was awarded to concept pieces, the Pure Audio Control 2 preamplifier would qualify for consideration.
Wouldn’t it just suck, if after all this, the sound in-room wasn’t good? Yes. Thankful as I am this third week of November (as I write this), the sound in-room with Old Forge as my personal curator of sound — was immaculate. The vinyl dark and detailed, the power… powerful and distortion free. The La Campanella 2’s bigger than life, but not without precise control and presence of insight. The Spherical Horn is now my new favourite horn ever, of all time.
The La Campanella 2’s bass section on it’s own in other systems would be worthy of a few gushings. Here however, the Spherical-Horn are some kind of alien magic. They stand tall, and intimidate the eyes. They have me locked into my seat listening, and I’m slightly afraid of them. I want to say to them, “Klaatu barada nikto!”, just in case they had plans on world domination.
– 14-4 Turntable – $4,200 USD
– Plus 10.3” Tonearm – $1,600 USD
– JSD Lime Cartridge – (price uncertain)
– Vinyl Phono Stage – $4,500 USD
– Audio Control 2 Preamplifier – $9,500 USD
– Reference Monoblock Amplifiers – $9,500 pr USD
– La Campanella 2 Loudspeakers – $26,000 pr USD
– Mr T Power Conditioner – (price uncertain)