There should be an unwritten rule for high-end audio shows, and it is this: if you are going to play Dean Martin’s Dream with Dean, then you need to play it at the appropriate volume. This great-sounding album, one of my favorite reference LPs, is billed as “the intimate Dean Martin,” and Dean should sound like he’s whispering in your ear and not bellowing at you through a megaphone. At High End 2019, I was witness to this aberration in the Raidho, GamuT, Chord and Pear Audio Blue room. I kept staring at the guys running the room, wondering if someone was going to turn the volume knob counter-clockwise, and no one seemed to notice. That was unfortunate, but that sonic distressed was short-lived–once Dean was replaced with something a little more rawkin’, my impression of this magnificent system immediately changed.
I have a distinct fondness for Raidho Acoustics speakers. I think their current line of loudspeakers sets the bar for high frequency performance, thanks to the development of their FTT75 ribbon tweeter. Every time I’ve listened to a pair of Raidho speakers, I have been floored by the sheer transparency of the sound and the ability to hear deep into the musical event. At High End 2019, they debuted the TD 3.8 loudspeaker (88,000 euros/pair), their first mid-sized model to implement the larger 8″ woofer cones. TD stands for tantalum/diamond, which is the material used in the new woofer and midrange drivers that feature “one of the strongest motor systems in the world.”
I’m also a huge fan of GamuT ever since I heard their big speakers, now called the Zodiac, perform off-site at CES many years ago. This time, only GamuT cabling was used in the system, albeit from their Reference Line, with amplification handed over to Chord and their gorgeous, distinctive Ultima 2 monoblocks ($30,000/pair), Symphonic phono stage ($4500) and CPA 5000 preamp ($17,500). A beautiful Pear Audio Blue Odar turntable with Cornet arm ($15,000) with the mysterious Top Wing Red Dragon cartridge from Japan ($16,000) served as the source.
In know I kid about the Dean Martin–there was so much drive and clarity to this system that I can’t blame the demo guys at High End 2019 for getting a little too enthusiastic about the volume levels. I’ve discussed the incredible Raidho treble capabilities at length, but the bass in this room was so tight and controlled and free from distortion that it left bruises. That analog rig, by the way, deserves a lot of the credit for solid-as-a-rock stability in the image as well as plenty of air and space around the thunder. (I’m only now learning about the excellence of Top Wing.) Complaining about the loudness at a high-end audio show is a bit of a cliche, and I feel old for doing it. While Dream with Dean is almost sacred to me, I’m glad I stayed in the room and let these gentlemen make a great second impression.