This was the world debut of Fern & Roby‘s new loudspeaker, ModWright has us rocking out, and Black Cat Cable has us purring. The visit to Room 516 was a lot of fun. Many of the people involved in this story are my favourites.
Just this summer Dave McNair and myself journeyed to Fern & Roby to give a first listen to Chris Hildebrand’s new The Raven III loudspeakers. Both of us left quite impressed. Furthermore, we hope to have Marc Phillips review them as he also reviewed the original Raven floorstander and bookshelf speakers.
The new Fern & Roby Raven III floorstander, an evolution of the original Raven floorstander (review linked here) and Raven II bookshelf (review linked here). But more so of the Raven II bookshelf speaker if we’re to be fair and honest.
Build wise, it is a modestly sized floor-standing full-range speaker. The slender cabinet structure shares a few horizontal dimensions with the Raven II bookshelf speaker, but is vertically taller. However the added enclosure volume is ported and tuned much like the preceding Raven floorstander.
The main (and only) driver is of the full-range high-efficiency type, and not one selected off the shelf. It’s a custom driver that Fern & Roby and SEAS developed over the 2020-lockdown-year to further evolve the new Raven loudspeaker’s signature sound.
Since I’ve been covering audio shows I’ve known Dan Wright of ModWright Instruments and witnessed first hand as his modified players and electronics of his own branding have risen to become audio show staples. ModWright known at the midpoint for powerful solid state designs, Dan evolved the brand to include all-tube components like his Ambrose series of electronics, and now more recently with the hybrid KWH 225i integrated amplifier it seems there’s nothing Dan Wright can’t do.
The ModWright KWH 225i was born from years of solid-state and tube component design, and it’s predecessor the KWI 200 Solid-State Integrated. Taking the high biased solid-state output stage from the Reference KWA 150 SE power amplifier, combining it with the controls and integration from the KWI 200, adding a tube preamplifier stage, and then bumping up it’s total output power to 225 watts per channel at 8 Ohms, and 400 watts per channel at 4 Ohms (the first 25 watts being in class-A). Features include a handful of RCA inputs, a balanced set of inputs, HT bypass, preamp outputs, and zero global negative feedback — this is the KWH 225i, and it’s not f***ing around.
Like before at Fern & Roby’s factory showroom, the new Raven III sound like the loudspeaker Fern & Roby were always destined to make. The signature tight center image, depth of bass, and spatial elements are all here. Added with the KWI 225i into the mix, is a chameleon like character to deliver authoritative bass and scale when the music calls for it, along with some tubey charm in both color and aura around the speakers.
During my initial visit too Room 516 at Capital Audiofest 2021 the sound of the speakers were delicate and pleasing as was the music being played. Creating a vibe that did everything right in the bulk-middle of the frequency range. When I returned on Sunday for a last chance listen, I brought along our friend Langston for it was him on the first day of the show that claimed the Fern & Roby / ModWright exhibit to be his favourite.
Langston and myself fired up tunes from Hayley Williams and Gorillaz, and like the colorful lizard — colors and the dynamic limits were transformed. The power of the ModWright KWH 225i pounded through bass drops with steady grip on everything above. The speakers rode waves with Hamilton-like poise, and when the trip was over, everyone was smiles ear-to-ear, laughing with delightful awe.
Fern & Roby Montrose Turntable w/ Unipivot Tonearm – $7,500
Fern & Roby The Raven III Loudspeakers – $ 8,500 pr
Fern & Roby Audio Rack in Ash (48×22) – $5,650
Sculpture A’s A.3P Ebony Phono Cartridge – $4,535
Sculpture A’s Mini Nano Copper SUT – $995 (on static display)
ModWright Instruments PH9.0X Phono Stage – $3,900
ModWright Instruments KWH 225i Hybrid Integrated Amplifier – $8,500
Black Cat Cable Silverstar 88 (1m) RCA – $888 pr
Black Cat Cable Graceline II (3m) Speaker – $3,595 pr
Black Cat Cable Silverstar Power Cables – $875 ea