Salk Signature Sound/Audio by Van Alstine
The Audio by Van Alstine components have been getting a face lift of recent, as well as additional tweaking to their operation, all with good effect as I heard through Salk Signature Sound’s Soundscape 12 speakers. I am currently underway on a review of the Soundscape 10 and anticipate working with Frank Van Alstine’s electronics in the near future in conjunction with it. At that time I will weigh in definitively on the pairing, but these electronics had an ultra-smooth, non-fatiguing sound at the show. Individuals who like the more mellow sound of Vandersteen speakers may want to have a listen to Salk’s offerings along with Van Alstine; do not be put off by the ceramic mid and ribbon tweeter, as in the Soundscape 12 these were delicate without harshness.
The Salk StreamPlayer operating on Linux software ($1,299) led to the Van Alstine Fet Valve DAC ($2.5K), Fet Valve Preamplifier ($2.5K) and Fet Valve 600R Hybrid Amplifier ($3.5K). The smaller Salk Soundscape 10 (finish options available) starts at $11,999 and the Soundscape 12 starts at $15,999.
The more I have worked with networked and active cables the less enamored of them I have become, finding that they introduce unwanted artifacts. Having said that, some of the more memorable systems I have heard at shows have utilized Synergistic Research Cables. I cannot say without a formal review whether this is due to the fortuitous selection of components and speakers or the efficacy of the cables. Nevertheless, the Esoteric/Synergistic Research/YG Acoustics combination was a top sound for me. I have heard the YG Acoustics Anat and Kipod as well as the Carmel several times and have wondered whether they are capable of sounding lush and warm; with this system they did. Here is a listing of the Synergistic Research cabling in the system:
Active FireWire 800 with Gray Enigma Bullets MSRP $ 850.00
“The Music Cable” All in one Computer Audio Solution with built in Active USB Cable, 24 Bit DAC, Element Tungsten Active Interconnects, PowerCell line conditioner and Galileo Universal Interconnect Cells. Voiced with dual Silver Enigma bullets – MSRP $3,599.00
Element Copper/Tungsten/Silver interconnects with Gray Enigma bullets between preamp and Power amp MSRP $ 3,600.00 per pair
Element Tungsten Interconnects with silver Enigma bullets between Pre amp and sub woofers MSRP $ 2,600.00 per pair and Galileo Universal IC Cell MSRP $1500
ENIGMA MKII Valve Power Supply for Active Shielding MSRP $ 8,500.00 (available Jan 2012)
With an approximate value of cables and active cable system devices in excess of $35K, one is left to consider the relative value of the cables vs. the $77,950 valuation of the system’s components (MACH 2 Music Server with battery supply $1.7K; Esoteric Audio C-03 Preamplifier $13K; Esoteric A-03 Amplifier $14K; YG Acoustics Kipod II Signature $49K), excluding the Gran Prix Monaco rack ($6.5K) and stand ($1,995). You may be surprised to learn that I have built systems with a cabling valuation ratio approaching one third the entire system cost, as it is in this case, with superb results. I am led to conclude, based on show experiences, that Synergistic Research cables do not hold systems’ performance back as many other cables, networked or non-networked do. However, only a proper review would make that conclusion definitive.
Some rooms at shows whisper, “unobtainable,” while others scream, “VALUE!” One such room to fairly shout how good sound can be for an affordable sum was Odyssey Audio. I was winding down after three days of systems, and I could tell that at 4:15 on Sunday so was Klaus Bunge and crew in the Odyssey room. Nevertheless, I was warmly welcomed and invited to an audition. I’m glad I accepted as it was profoundly worthwhile! Klaus pointed out the handcrafted, loving fashion in which each component is made, as well as the quality parts used. The system sounded “all of that” with the Reference Monitors outdistancing the majority of small speakers I heard at the show. The bass response was so prodigious that though I knew there was no subwoofer used I still kept looking for one.
Coupled for this memorable last listen was the Symphonic Line Vibrato CD Player ($2.9K) and the following products from the Kismet series: Phono Stage ($2.9K; paired with a Technics Quartz Direct Drive turntable!), Integrated Amplifier ($3.5K), Stereo Amplifier ($2.5K), Monoblock Amps ($4.9K/pair), and Reference Monitors ($3.5K). Odyssey components are highly configurable/upgradable internally as well as externally via optional chrome accents (Optional pricing varies with feature set).
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