Optimal Enchantment from ARC & Vandersteen

Saturday’s first taste of the real thing for this writer came in the form of midrange truth. The location was the third floor Santa Cruz room put together by Optimal Enchantment, a Santa Monica-based high-end retailer whose 25 plus-year history in the business perhaps grants it the right to so audacious a name. The amps were Audio Research REF 610 monoblocks, each of whose twenty glowing 6550 output tubes help account for their 600W output and $40,000/pair price tag. Speakers were an industry given, the Vandersteen 5As, the cable Audioquest, and the turntable a Basis Debut Signature ($10,900) outfitted with a Transfiguration Orpheus cartridge ($5,000) and Basis Vector Model 3 tonearm ($3750).

After listening, I spent a while speaking with Bob Clarke of Basis. Asked how close to the sound he wished to hear he had achieved after three days at the show, Bob replied, “About 80%.” Among the challenges the exhibitors needed to address were the room’s walls, which literally moved if you pushed them hard enough. Imagine trying to achieve a solid image, let alone solid bass, in such an environment. Given such drawbacks, my proverbial hat is off to Optimal Enchantment.

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