Here’s the thing, and this is the last time I’ll mention my past life on the other side of the industry as an importer and distributor. You see, I was stuck in my room for eight years. I rarely got out to explore and see what else was out there. I never knew about Fern & Roby, or LTA amplification, or a hundred other intriguing brands until I started covering shows for Part-Time Audiophile. At AXPONA 2019, I had one primary goal–to dig deeper into the Fern & Roby mystique.
Fern & Roby, based in Richmond VA, does things a little differently. They make their own speakers and turntables and other products, and all of them are rich with weathered patinas, mid-Century embellishments and a bespoke exclusivity. They also feature products from other companies, most notably Linear Tube Audio amplification, so they’re also a dealer–one that focuses, of course, on the entire system. At last year’s Capital Audiofest, I was immediately attracted, somewhat unreasonably so, to the Fern & Roby single-driver Raven loudspeakers ($9500/pair). The legs and cabinets evoke a mint pair of Quad ESL-57s, and the sound is just as unique.
“We really should know each other,” I said when I introduced myself to Fern & Roby’s Christopher Hildebrand. PTA has been very enthusiastic about Fern & Roby and LTA, and I feel like I was late to the party because it seemed that everything has already been reviewed in these pages. I love the looks of the Tredegar turntable, with its natural imperfections and its Schroder tonearm, and the way it projects a solid, confident sound that’s settled firmly in the grooves. I also dig Hildebrand’s taste in music–he won me over at CAF when he played Tinariwen’s Elwan.
LTA amplifiers, which I’ll talk about further in a separate report, are also a revelation. I barely noticed them at last year’s Rocky Mountain Audio Fest–these are relatively non-descript black boxes, and I’ve heard that LTA is planning to make them look a little more nifty in the future. I don’t know about that–I love how they get out of the way both visually and sonically and just let the music play in an effortless manner. These are, of course, based on David Berning’s ZOTL circuits, so they’re light, small and transparent as all get out.
As a system, I’m really intrigued, so much so that I’m going to bug Chris Hildebrand for some review samples–whatever hasn;t already been covered at Part-Time Audiophile. This is the stuff I would have lunged at ten or fifteen years ago, before I became a you-know-what, because it’s so one-of-a-kind. In fact, I’m lunging at them right now. Wow.