I’m going to list just my three rooms All three were head and shoulders better than any of the other rooms I heard. (I suppose it says something about me that so many of the rooms that other’s raved about, sounded boring and without soul to me. ) My three favorites very different from one another and I cannot rank them, so I’ll list them in the order in which I heard them. Needless to say, this reflects my own personal taste, and I should perhaps mention that have not heard a planar speaker I wanted to take home with me since the Quad 57s. So with all that said, let’s look at my three favorite rooms.
Tannoy and VAC Room
Because of what Jeff Day had written about the Tannoy Kingdom Royals I couldn’t wait to hear them. I made an appointment to do so Friday morning before the show opened. I agree with everything Jeff had to say.
While the room was large, the speakers were set up on the short wall; it thus didn’t seem like I was listing in some huge room with speakers spread way too far apart. It was a very successful setup. The Tannoy Kingdom Royals were driven by the incredible VAC Statement amps and preamps. So far every system I have heard with these electronics sounded wonderful, full of tone and color. The source was the AMG V12 turntable and arm, which almost seems very underpriced in this system, especially considering it had a $15,000 Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement Cartridge. The digital was all by Esoteric.
Unlike Tannoy’s iconic Westminster Royal SE, the Kingdom Royal is not a horn loudspeaker. Instead, it is an ultimate interpretation of the late 90s Tannoy Kingdom, a great sounding dynamic loudspeaker. The Kingdom Royal is a four-way speaker that uses a 12-inch Dual Concentric™ driver, a new SuperTweeter, and a new 15-inch sub-bass driver, resulting in anoverall sensitivity of 96dB (2.83V @ 1m).
I find it rather shocking that I found a four-way box speaker to be one of the three best sounds I heard at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2013. As most of you know I’m pretty much a single driver or two-way, type of guy. Still this system sounded incredibly alive, with lots of beautiful tonal color. The speakers kind of transcend audiophile terms like imaging, soundstage, speed, and detail. They sounded very alive and with great body and scale, though I did find them a tad aggressive with digital sources, but only on certain recordings.
Saskia Turntable and Emia Electronics Room
This room featured Win Tinnon’s Saskia II idler driver turntable, Dave Slagle’s Emia amps, and a pair of RCA LC-1A LS-11 speakers. This pair of speakers was built the same year I was born, 1954, while the idler drive turntable and SET amps are older technology than that. Still, the sound was incredible.
The turntable is amazing. It uses a slate plinth which I don’t usually like but it worked here. The arm mounts are stand-alone units that simply slide into a slot on the plinth. The motor assembly is semi-isolated on the lower plinth. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t think an idler drive ‘table has been built from scratch since the Thorens 124. The Saskia was shown with a Schroeder Reference tonearm.
The amps were Emia’s Permalloy 50, that put out an amazing 2 watts per channel, driving the RCA LC-1A speakers in the LS-11 cabinets. Often vintage speakers don’t quite live up to their reputation, but I tell you these were incredible. The music was full of life and moved every emotion in me. I carried with me the new mono release of Illinois Jacquet’s “Swing, Swing, Swing” and it most certainly did. We finished side one and a room full of people asked if they could hear side two. This system will certainly make you wonder how far we have come in the last 60 years in audio.
High Water Sound’s Room
This isn’t the first time that Jeff Catalano’s High Water Sound room made my list of top show rooms. He was showcasing the Liszt speakers from Cessaro Horn Acoustics, which were powered by a Tron-Electric amp and preamp; the source was the TW-Acoustics’ Raven Anniversary SE turntable.
I spent two different listening sessions with this system and was simply amazed. I have heard very few bass horns that sounded as natural, as fast and as much like music, as these. The spherical horn for the midrange was just as impressive. The sound was rich, full, transparent, and amazingly powerful when the music called for it, but also amazingly delicate when called for. Like an amazing Super-Car this is a audio Super-System.
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