The big news in Soundsmith land, besides the fact that Peter Ledermann’s fastest top-of-the-line Hyperion cartridge with its cactus spine and diamond tip was making wonderful sound in multiple rooms at RMAF, was the introduction of the Hyperion Mk.II ($7500). Boasting great channel separation, its 10-year warranty includes retipping for the original owner.
Of equal importance, Soundsmith introduced the MCP-2 Mk.II phono preamp ($799) with built in step-ups and continuously variable loading from 10 ohms to 5k ohms; the Strain Gauge MK IV cartridge, an essential part of the complete Strain Gauge system, that includes further refinements to its RIAA compensation; and three new Strain Gauge phono systems. The new SG-200 Mk.V ($6499.95) is a smaller and less expensive version of the Strain Gauge system, and new SG-210 ($7499.95) includes a volume control with both fixed and +10dB variable outputs for driving an amplifier directly. Finally, the new SG-220 ($8499.95) offers all the features of the SG-210 plus input line switching, remote control for volume, mute, and input source selection.
For sound, in addition to the VPI HRX with JMW 12.7 arm using the Strain Gauge system, Soundsmith demmed the Hyperion cartridge with a Schröder Artemis turntable ($8000) and arm ($4000). I heard a rare vividness and warmth from the latter that were in a different class entirely than many of the other analog systems I encountered on floors 4 and 5 of the Marriott. Whether the music was Beethoven’s Violin Concerto or Diana Krall doing, for better or worse, Diana Krall, the characteristic Soundsmith glow made me wish that I could have remained in the room for a long, long time.
Also in use were the Soundsmith Counter Intuitive device for VPI arms ($49) and Vivenda Soundsmith VP anti-skating device ($299), two Soundsmith HE-150 450W power amplifiers used in mono configuration ($12,999 each), and Soundsmith Dragonfly speaker system ($1999/pair).