Empirical Audio & Vapor Audio
I was unfamiliar with the Vapor Audio Nimbus speakers Empirical Audio’s Steve Nugent was using, which combine a 15” woofer with an MTM array based on a Raal ribbon tweeter, and cost $7895/pair. But with the speakers driven by 40W single-ended, class-A mono amps from Arte-Forma ($7495/pair), each using an 845 output tube, vocals, whether it was Frank Sinatra singing “What’s New?”, Julie London “Cry Me a River,” or Diana Krall “Girl in the Other Room,” sounded effortlessly real, with an ease to the presentation. (Note the corner traps and ATS Diffusors used to tame the room’s acoustics in the photo.)
I have been a fan of Steve’s Empirical Audio digital products since I reviewed the Off-Ramp 4 format converter in December 2011. Steve was using the latest version of the Off-Ramp ($3250)) with his Over Drive DAC ($8500), fed data from a Mac mini running Amarra and powered by a linear supply (the center unit on the bottom shelf in the photo.) Transformer coupling with the Empirical Final Drive ($2999 each; the two units either side of the Mac’s supply, meant that the DAC’s ground was physically isolated from the amplifiers’ grounds.