Vandersteen x 2
Me: What are you putting on?
Him: (sounding slightly hostile) What am I putting on?
Me: Yes. What music are you playing?
Him: It’s violin music.
Me: (To myself: Yes, I do know what a violin sounds like.) To him: What violin music?
Him: “I can’t pronounce it. Here, you look.”
This is supposed to entice someone to buy equipment?
Thus went the start of my visit to the first of two rooms, hosted by The Audio Alternative of Fort Collins, that showcased Vandersteen loudspeakers. Here were Vandersteen Model 7s ($52,000/pair) with Audio Research Reference 150s, vertically biamping the speakers. The rest of the chain, with prices not specified, included Audio Research Corporation’s Reference 10 preamplifier, Reference 10 phono stage, and Reference CD9 compact disc player/DAC; AMG’s Viella 12 turntable and tone arm with Lyra's new Etna MC cartridge ($6995),making its worldwide debut,; AudioQuest’s Wildwood speaker cables, Wild Blue Yonder interconnects, NRG-100 and NRG-10 power cords, Diamond USB cable, and Diamond Firewire cable; and Harmonic Resolution Systems’ highly praised SXR 1921 isolation stands, M3X 2123 isolation bases, and R1-1921 isolation bases.
The system emphasized the violin’s midrange over its soaring top. Wondering if the LP playback system might be at fault, I asked to play my CD of soprano Eileen Farrell, whose voice is accompanied by an orchestra recorded with considerable midrange body. That, unfortunately, led to this:
Him: What’s the volume level?
Me: I can’t tell you.
Him: You can’t tell me?
Another attendee: There is no volume. (It was now 37 seconds into the track.)
Him: There is no volume? Oh, I have the mute on.
I am not making this up. Nor can I pretend that the sound was other than overly sweet, yet damped on top. Everything sounded flat, with the orchestra’s depth and richness absent.
More successful, on all levels, was Audio Alternative’s adjacent room that mated Vandersteen 5A Carbon loudspeakers with M7-HP balanced crossover ($25,000/pair), Dan D’Agostino’s Momentum Preamplifier ($26,000) and Momentum monoblock amplifiers w/Momentum floor stands ($60,000/pair), ARC’s Reference DAC 8 ($5000) and Reference Phono 2SE ($12,000), Rega RP-8 turntable with RB-808 tonearm and Lyra Kleos MC cartridge ($2995), Rega Valve Isis CD player ($8000), similar AudioQuest cabling save for a Wild AES digital, and Grand Prix Audio Monaco Equipment racks. This system definitely had a top as well as very fine basswonderful bass, in factbut violins on Reiner’s recording of Scheherazade were strangely wiry. When I asked about power conditioning, I was told, “We don’t do a lot of that in our store.” Perhaps its absence in the electrically hostile hotel environment accounted for the wiry top?