I chose to visit the VK Music exhibit room at the 2019 Capital Audiofest for one reason–they were featuring equipment from Sparkler Audio. Part-Time Audiophile published a review for the Sparkler Audio Ether integrated amplifier and Spiral CD player from John Richardson earlier this year, and as I was adding their entries to the upcoming annual Buyer’s Guide for The Occasional I couldn’t help but notice that these simple pieces come from one of the former designers for 47 Laboratories, a personal favorite from years ago. You know, short signal paths, an insanely small number of parts in the circuit, pure simplicity.
VK Music is Victor Kung, who represents a variety of very specialized high-end audio products. They’re mostly exotic little tube amplifiers from Japan from brands I don’t know such as Elekit and Sunvalley, plus the crazy/beautiful-looking high-efficiency speakers from AER of Germany. (I have seen those before at a number of shows, but this was the first time I sat and listened.) Then there was that tiny little Sparkler Audio Spiral CD player, playing music in a system that was more optimized for sound than presented with a modicum of elegance.
I don’t think I was expecting much from the VK Music room, but the sound coming from the Sparkler/Elekit/AER system was incredibly pure and delicate and precise, with a transparency that bordered on downright haunting. As Victor played acoustic guitar songs from Joe Pass, I was reminded of my SET days, listening to really low-powered amps with really high-efficiency speakers and loving how the music just hangs in the middle of the air, daring you to reach out and caress it. The AER speakers are indeed high-efficiency–this pair was 104 dB efficient and a larger model is rated at 106 dB–old Klipsch and Altec territory. There’s a lot of magic in that part of the audio world.
The crazy thing about the VK Music room was that so much of this gorgeous tube gear was priced very low–enough to make me wonder if it was time to re-enter the SET world. And that Sparkler Audio Spiral CD player seems like the perfect CD player for the modern audiophile–small, simple and priced at well under $2000.