If you’ve listened to our Florida Audio Expo wrap-up on The Occasional Podcast, you’ll know that there was once again consensus on the most impressive room at the show–Von Schweikert and VAC, hosted by Atlanta-based dealer The Audio Company. I discussed this in depth with our own Brian Hunter and Dave McNair, and we came to the conclusion that the now-famous $1.5 million system they regularly show is pretty much unbeatable at this point. They pull out all the stops–a small army comes together to make this happen–and we wouldn’t be real journalists if we weren’t completely objective about the excellence of this astounding hi-fi system.
Brian, Dave and I came to the conclusion that it’s not about reporting the same things over and over about the Von Schweikert and VAC room, but finding different reasons and insights on what makes these products sound so ultimately satisfying. I’ve been trying to do this on the last few reports, and this time I thought I had a different angle before I had even arrived–I’ve had the remarkable Von Schweikert Audio ESEs ($20,000) in for review for the last couple of months, so I felt even more “knowledgeable” about what’s going on with these designs. Perhaps I could get deeper into the sound knowing that I can experience a surprisingly large chunk of the $325,000/pair Ultra 11’s performance in my humble abode.
It wasn’t until the last day, almost the last hour of the show, that I discovered something new about The System.
I stopped by the room to say goodbye to Damon Von Schweikert, Leif Swanson and Kevin Hayes and everyone else in the room. Only Damon was there, and we sat in the very back of the room and chatted about the show while the music played up front. The room at FLAX 2020 was very different from the now legendary 50′ by 50′ space the team uses at the Capital Audiofest–it was more narrow and very deep, short wall vs. long wall kinda stuff. The sound of the system was slightly different, but still very familiar overall–incredible excitement, almost unlimited dynamics and a soundstage that was both massive and yet faithful to the actual dimensions of the performance.
Music was playing the whole time, obviously, and Damon and I were sitting a long, long way from the sweet spot. But it still sounded great. The overall balance hadn’t diminished by much, and what I was hearing resembled the illusion of sitting in the back of a club, some distance from the stage, yet still experiencing a live performance. I found that amazing.
Leif Swanson told me at FLAX 2020 that he and Damon were toying with the idea of giving The System a break and creating new systems at different shows to demonstrate how VSA strives to achieve the same incredible sound in any room. At the same time, people have stated that VSA and VAC have already set this very high bar, and that the crowds would be disappointed if The System wasn’t on display. That comes back to what I’m experiencing at home–if The Audio Company and their army can achieve the same stellar sound in a much smaller room, wouldn’t that be just as impressive? Also, the Ultra 11 isn’t even the biggest speaker they make. Hmmmm.
We’ll just have to wait and see.
Yes, it’s impressive, but if both systems were the same cost, and you didn’t allow me to sell anything after making a decision, I would take the Volti/BorderPatrol/TriodeWireLabs system for the pure, effortless, musicality it delivers. In the end, I would rather listen to a system that disappears, leaving just the music behind, than be impressed by an impressive stereo system.
Yes it was an amazing system, and it sets the standard, but what really impressed me in this room was that they took a VERY difficult room, put in a statement system that had to wow and they achieved that “wow” by being incredibly balanced and musical. There was never the feeling of “wow that bass is powerful” or “wow those vocals are lush” etc it was just …. right. Kudos to the whole crew for reaching beyond the wow factor all the way to real music!