Focal+Soulution+Critical Mass+Tara Labs=. . .
Hardly ones to shy away from the big stuff, the folks at Apex Audio Denver filled the mezzanine’s large Blanca Peak room with an I-dare-not-do-the-math system that, for starters, paired Focal Stella Utopia EM loudspeakers ($95,000/pair) with Soulution’s 500 monoblock amplifiers ($55,500/pair), 530 integrated amplifier ($49,000), 520 preamp ($26,000), and 540 CD/SACD player ($32,500). Those still breathing can add in a Transrotor Rondino Nero turntable ($14,000), Graham Phantom Supreme ($6800), and Air Tight PC-1 Supreme Cartridge ($10,500). (I’m not sure if the first track I heard in the room was on LP). That’s only half the list, but, to cut to the chase, the sound was disappointingly dark and damped on everything I heard. That includes the excellent Sony CD of Murray Perahia playing Handel, where the bottom end was exaggerated and the glee and shine central to the music were absent.
The remainder of the system, demmed by Joe Lavrencik of Critical Mass, included Critical Mass Systems’ MAXXUM rack System ($5640/level), RiZE! component footers ($185 each) and RiZE! loudspeaker footers ($225 each); Running Springs’ Audio Nikolai Reference conditioner ($8000); and Tara Labs’ Zero Gold interconnects ($15,900 and a Michael Fremer reference), Zero GX phono cable ($3800), Omega Gold speaker cables ($24,000/pair), Cobalt power cords ($5000 each), and PM/2 conditioner ($600). What and where was responsible for the system’s imbalance I do not know.