ModWright, Fern & Roby, Black Cat Cable, Weiss | CAF 2022

On the face of things, one might think this is last year’s system brought around for an encore. Yes, the Fern & Roby Raven III speakers (rumored revised) are back, along with the ModWright KWH 225i Hybrid Integrated and PH9.0X Phono Stage. Black Cat Cable hung about the system tree with care. The rack from Fern & Roby is also back, the same as what Marc Phillips uses at home. So what’s different?

Reporting by Eric Franklin Shook

We have digital from Weiss Engineering in the form of a DAC501, the new big-boy Fern & Roby Custom Reference Turntable with Schröder CB tonearm running last years Sculpture A cart for analog play, and sandwiched in between the sources and preamplifier, the all NEW Analog Bridge from ModWright.


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ModWright Instruments Analog Bridge

The new ModWright Analog Bridge (estimated to start at $2,900 USD) is unity gain device with no volume control. It features two selectable RCA inputs, while outputs are also RCA, and as an added-cost option, the whole shebang can be upgraded to include fully balanced XLR ins-and-outs.

On the front, an input selector switch, and toggle to enable the use of either 6922 or 6SN7 tubes in fully separate circuits. The power supply is internal and tube rectified (5AR4) to allow for more ‘tuning’ and tube rolling tonal changes.

Another added cost option is the addition of a voltage specific Linear Power Supply for digital devices that would otherwise run off wall-wart DC power.

Fern & Roby Raven III

Last year we witnessed the world debut of the still new Fern & Roby Raven III ($9,500 pr USD) floorstander, an evolution of the original Raven floorstander (review linked here) and Raven II bookshelf (review linked here).

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.

ModWright Instruments KWH 225i

The ModWright KWH 225i ($9,750 USD) hybrid integrated is a combination of solid-state amplification and tube preamplifier design. 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.


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The Sound

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. Then hearing them last year on ModWright a great sense of what these loudspeakers were capable of with some serious power in the foundations.

This go-round was a reminder of how refined and open the Raven III are at the top-end of their custom drivers frequency range, along with the enclosure design doing it’s part to underpin the music with ample bass extension and bass control.

What’s new here is the Analog Bridge from ModWright, and in active form, the impression it left me with was a lot like experiencing a dramatic shift via a cable loom change. Which is to say, it’s still easily audible, but not night and day. It’s one of those things that in short listens at audio shows isn’t enough to pin down, but you know that if someone removed it from your home system, you’d probably call the audiophile police.

Hearing an exhibit system loomed with Black Cat Cables brought me several strong emotions. Our friend, and founder of Black Cat Cable, Chris Sommovigo passed away earlier this year, and his absence has been felt around the industry and community.

If you would like to hear even more coverage from CAF 2022, check out our recap report and highlights from our audiophile-oriented show The Occasional Podcast. You can stream the episode direct from the embed below, or from your favorite podcast platform including iTunesAndroidGoogle, Deezer, SpotifyiHeartRadio and more.