Bob Carver, House of Stereo, Wireworld, eXemplar, Wolf and VPI | FLAX 2020











Bob Carver is BACK!

I’m not really sure he ever left, since his innovative and sometimes controversial products have been sold under different names over the years–Phase Linear, Carver, Sunfire and now The Bob Carver Corporation. Perhaps the next company will just be called Bob.

I’ve never had a lot of seat time with Bob Carver designs, but I’ve definitely known plenty of audiophiles who consider them among the best ever created. I also know plenty of audiophiles who think they’re gimmicky. All I know is that I heard an amazing system at FLAX 2020, hosted by Jacksonville dealer House of Stereo, that employed Bob Carver Crimson 350 monoblock amplifiers ($9500/pair), Crimson 275 stereo amplifier ($2750) and the Bob Carver Amazing Line Source speakers ($16,000/pair). Those speakers, which contained a massive array of drivers, were skinny and tall, so much so that it was difficult to take a photo of the entire enclosure.

Florida Audio Expo 2020 coverage sponsored by Core Power Technologies A/V
Florida Audio Expo 2020 coverage sponsored by Living Sounds Audio

The rest of the system included an eXemplar Audio eXception line stage ($5995), a Wolf Audio Systems Alpha 3 SX server ($9895), a Bel Canto Black EX pre/DAC ($14,000), a “bespoke” VPI Prime turntable ($10,000) and a van den Hul Frog cartridge ($3520), with everything on a Stillpoints rack and connected with Wireworld cables. The sound was exceptional, with an incredibly focused center image and deep, deep bass–perhaps the deepest at the show. The sub was from REL–as Bob Carver VP Frank Malitz explained, the company got out of the subwoofer market a while ago. I still remember those potent Sunfire subs, and how they were basically just a cubic foot in volume.

Scot Hull texted me to check out the Bob Carver room–it wasn’t on my list and I would have missed it otherwise. He wanted me to get more information on the upcoming 2180i integrated amp, which offers a lot of features and power for a projected price of around $4000. (There was a drawing for cables based upon attendees’ favorite faceplate color.) It wasn’t in the room, but the buzz on this and the latest generation of Bob Carver amps was tangible, especially when it came to innovations such as circuits that could actually “heal” defective tubes. Whhhaaaatttt? So much of the design of these tube amplifiers focus on extending the life of the actual tubes, so much so that the tubes can run all day and you can still place your hand on them comfortably. Bob Carver also provides an incredible 10 year warranty on the tubes, although he believes you’ll get many more hours than that.

Bob Carver is back, or at least he has my full attention for the first time in decades. This gear is innovative and it sounds great.