Please Don’t Stop
Choose a door, any door. Confronted with three entirely different systems in the Norvinz room, for some reason I ignored my usual inclinations and moved to the far right. There I encountered veteran electrostatic guru Roger Sanders, formerly of Innersound, who now markets Sanders Sound Systems products online and through Norvinz.
Sanders has just unveiled the not-to-be-missed, must-audition Sanders Sound Systems Model 10A electrostatic hybrid speakers ($12,995/pair). Extending down to 22Hz, and capable of playing some pretty loud music, the 10As feature adjustable midrange and balance, active electronic crossovers, and 600Wpc bass amps.
On the digital end, the speakers were paired with the poetically named Sanders Sound Systems Electrostatic, 360Wpc into 8 ohms, amplifier ($3995), specifically designed to drive difficult speaker loads; the SSS Linestage Preamp ($3995); Sanders cables and interconnects; stock power cables—"I’m an engineer," says Sanders, "Of course I don’t design special power cables!"—; and a very basic Pioneer DVD player. That may not sound like much. But the sound was so clear, articulate, and mesmerizing that I couldn't convince myself to take notes. In fact, I was so entranced by the sounds of soprano Elly Ameling and pianist Dalton Baldwin performing Schubert's "Die Sterne" that, when my close-eyed listening was twice interrupted by folks aiming to please this not-so-illustrious writer, I barked that all I wanted to do was listen. Who needs a coke when music gives you all the buzz you need?
I not only heard Ameling in person around the same time as she recorded "Die Sterne," but have also played this CD transfer on any number of systems. I don’t think I've ever been drawn so close to Ameling's artistry. Every subtle nuance, every intention, every slight change of color and shading, was so perfectly clear that I felt like was but a step or two from the real thing. Ameling's voice has a fine line that most systems smudge, as well as a one-in-a-million radiance on high notes that most speakers cannot handle without distorting. Here, everything was perfect. Overtones on the piano were stunning, literally the best I've heard. I can only begin to imagine how good Sanders speakers and electronics would sound when paired with a front end of equal or better quality than my reference Theta Carmen II/Gen. 8 combo.
But that wasn't all. For analog, we had the same Merrill-Scillia Research MS21 turntable ($24,000) that Michael Fremer reviewed so favorably in the November 2007 issue. Equipped with a Triplanar tonearm ($4000) and Ortofon Jubilee cartridge ($2000), the turntable seemed a perfect match for the Sanders Sound Systems set-up. (The phono preamp was a prototype from another company, with details as yet unavailable). Willie Nelson sounded fabulous, Miles Davis incredible. Just as with my CD, every bit of musical nuance seemed exposed. I wouldn't want to listen to second-rate musicians on such an infinitely revealing system, but with artists of genius, genius is what you hear. By all means check this equipment out. I certainly intend to do so again in the future.