I’ve visited the Volti Audio, BorderPatrol and Triode Wire Labs room at high-end trade shows many times over the last 18 months. I always enjoy the wide, immersive and powerful sound, and I often place this room among my favorites. But there was something different with this room at FLAX 2020. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it…
Oh yes, it was the brand new Volti Audio Rival SE loudspeakers ($19,900/pair). This is, of course, a Volti Audio Rival on steroids. It comes with all of the usual options and upgrades that you can order with the regular Rivals, but it comes in a breathtaking bubinga cabinet with curved sides and external crossovers that also come in breathtaking bubinga cabinets with curved sides, only smaller. In addition, you get internal wiring from Triode Wire Labs. The rest of the system was very close to the systems we usually see from these three fascinating companies: BorderPatrol P20EXD 20wpc power amplifier ($20,650), BorderPatrol DAC SE-i ($1850 with all the options), Innuos music server and a whole loom of Triode Wire Labs cables.
My first clue that the Volti Rival SE loudspeakers were doing something different was when I sat down on the comfy couch and faced the system. As usual, everything was set along the long wall of the room with enormous space between the features, almost to the point of qualifying as near-field listening. This usually creates that immersive quality that’s almost a trademark for these guys, but I noticed something different this time, something I can sheepishly describe as a more “conventional” soundstage, one that still captures those mind-blowing dynamics but in a deeper, more focused manner.
I don’t mean that Volti Audio’s Greg Roberts sold out and started making speakers like everyone else. No no no. But suddenly I had a feeling that the Volti Audio Rival SE just jumped up another notch in greatness, a notch I didn’t know existed until I heard it. Suddenly I thought, “Now I completely get THIS!”
By “getting it,” I mean that I suddenly looked around the room and for the first time I understood why these guys set up their room in their distinctive way. It’s not an exhibit room in some random hotel. It’s your listening room, and you’re now the coolest audiophile in town. Everyone comes to your house and hangs out all day because your system is much more exciting and fun than everyone else’s system. Your friends are basically addicted to it. No one wants to leave. You had to buy a dozen sleeping bags and you store them in the hallway closet. Everyone’s mail is starting to come to your house.
I can best describe the Volti Audio, BorderPatrol and Triode Wire Labs system at FLAX 2020 this way: I have just crowned a new “Chocolate Chip Trip” Champion. I have never heard this Tool song sound better. Danny Carey was blazing away on the drums like he was right there, less than ten feet away, and he kept beckoning to come closer, closer. No, Marc, you won’t go deaf. Trust me.
Yeah, you gotta hear this ASAP.