CHICAGO (PTA) — Since last years Axpona, the one thing I looked forward to one thing most, revisiting The Audio Surgeon room. For it is Dr. Andy Collen, “the audio surgeon” himself, that hosts a room like no other.
To re-acquaint for some, or introduce for others, let me tell you about Dr. Collen and The Audio Surgeon. The story could be a long one, but I’ll do my best to convey the important details while also moving along for the sake of reading time. Dr. Collen’s friendship with Harry Pearson (founder of The Absolute Sound and fellow North Carolinian like myself) is where I will begin, as it is this relationship that becomes a pivotal point in Andrew’s life where his obsession for attaining better sound directs him to action as a muse and “golden ear” of sorts to help Harry identify the best sounding gear amidst the every broadening sea of manufacturers. So even if you haven’t directly dealt with Dr. Collen — the audio surgeon — you’ve likely been indirectly influenced by his ear for sound.
Andrew is not a shy person; he is outgoing and will speak his mind — but moreover he cares, that’s the major characteristic that overrides all other descriptions of Dr. Collen. He cares: for sound, for his customers, for the manufacturers. His need to see the hobby and industry succeed is personal one (as is my own). Himself being on the other side of the industry for so long, he understands the audiophile and knows they are not to be underestimated. It wasn’t until a little over four years ago when Dr. Collen decided to start The Audio Surgeon as a way to continue his evangelising for the hobby, and also be a better steward of the industry.
What may set Dr. Collen apart is his ears, but not in the way you may think. He listens to people, understands his audience; this is key to his success as a dealer. He’s not telling his customers what they should like, he’s listening to them to find out what they like — then delivers. It’s recognition for other people’s perspectives that gives Andrew his success, in short we’ll call it audiophile empathy.
Here at AXPONA 2019, I arrive to the hotel the day before the show, and find my lodging room tucked away at the end of the hallway on the 7th Floor, which also happens to be an exhibiting floor of the show. I get a bit curious and I pace the hallway to see who my neighbors might be. Especially considering I might be neighboring to one of those sub-woofer companies that might to have a late night showing of “Sub-Woofer: The Movie”. Alas, no sub-woofers, but within ten paces of my lodging room, is The Audio Surgeon, could this be strange luck? During my entire weekend at the show, I probably popped into Andy’s room at least five times. Each time taking a listen, and gathering notes about the sound. Plenty of which, I carried around in my consciousness while listening to other rooms.
Many things came to realization about Dr. Collen’s room at the show. For one, the system seemed to use the short wall better than anyone else at the show. Again, this comes from system setup experience, of which Andy has plenty of. But secondly, it has to do with the Dynaudio Confidence 20, which was the star (piece of equipment) of my time spent in the Audio Surgeon room.
Along with the fact that Andy and I are both insane. Or maybe better yet, we speak the common language of the asylum. We both found the Dynaudio Confidence 20 to be that outstanding value, that even at the show produces the musical vernacular within the same scope and albeit “confidence” of many full-range speakers at the show, well into the $40K-60K price range. Only to those involuntarily committed to this hobby, would we begin to explore a near $13K reference level stand-mount monitor as a supreme bargain. But to us, that is exactly what the Dynaudio Confidence 20 is.
Also, because we’re not regular people, we’re audiophiles. We tinker and toil in squeezing out the best possible sound via tweaks, upgrades, modifications, and sometimes our own craft. Enter Andy’s top-secret, but not too secret, speaker cable. Just for a song or two, we lined up the Confidence 20s and swapped in Andy’s wire. Moving and emotional statements were made. To the witnesses, we had NDA’s prepared. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
The bulk of my listening was done with Cardas Audio cables installed, and as for the show-goers it was definitely all anyone else heard. So I’ll keep my sonic impressions in-line with that configuration. Rotating through many albums and Andy’s introductions of what was playing, and even his suggestions on what to listen for, the entire room and system glistened. Outright I thought the room was doing damn well for a lack of sound treatments. Balance of the dynamics and tone were proving to be to everyone’s benefit. Songs we all know by heart were opened up just a little bit more with each preview. What it all draws down to, is that the system was in tune. Something seldom found at a show. With each visit, often at the start of the day, I carried a reference with me that when called upon, seemed the perfect measure.
– Confidence 20 (w/ custom stands) – $12,900 USD
– Special Forty – $2,900 USD
– Jubilee Preamplifier – $33,000 USD
– Jubilee SE Monoblock Amplifiers – $85,000 pr USD
– V40SE Integrated amplifier – $4,500 USD
– Blackbox Power Supply upgrade (as shown) – $1,200 USD
– Avenger Reference Turntable w/3D Tonearm – $19,500 USD
– Fatboy Tonearm upgrade (as shown) – $4,000 USD
– VAS Reference Phono Cartridge – $3,500 USD
– “Phono Loco” Phono Preamp – $8,000 USD
– AVR-20 Power Conditioner – $4,500 USD
– Nucelus Music Server – $1,398 USD
– M21 DAC – $16,000 USD
– M3 DAC – $4,999 USD
– Clear Power Cord (1.5m) – $820 USD
– Clear Beyond Interconnect (1.5m) – $4,550 USD
– Clear Speaker Cable (8ft) – $4,750 USD