Soundsmith's Sonic ExcellenceMarigo's Surprise
Visiting the Soundsmith room is always a pleasure. Peter Ledermann's phono cartridges, preamps, and diminutive, how-can-such-a-little-box-produce-that-much-sound speakers always deliver superb sound.
This year, Soundsmith's vaunted warmth, color, and fullness seemed even better. As I soon discovered, the phono preamp in Soundsmith's widely praised Strain Gauge Phone System SG-200 ($5499) now has the same audio circuitry as the company's higher-priced systems. Even better, the price has dropped $2000.
In addition, there's a new, top-of-the-line Soundsmith phono cartridge, the moving iron Sussurro ($4499). Mounted on Teres Audio's Illius Tri-Pivot Tonearm ($4850), which in turn was mounted on a pre-production model of Teres Audio's Certus direct-drive Model 440 turntable ($14,600 and up), the Sussurro created a markedly different balance between female voice and accompaniment than did the Strain Gauge. I have no idea which presentation was closer to what was on the master recording, but both sounded extremely musical. It's all a matter of taste and perspective.
When I first entered the room, Chris Brady of Teres Audio told me that the addition of Ron Hedrich's Marigo Mystery Feet VXi ($799/set of three) under his turntable's outboard power supply had made a huge difference in the sound. Since I have two sets of Marigo Mystery Feet at home, one under my transport, the other under my DAC, and love them dearly, I wanted to hear how they had affected someone else's components.
The difference with and without the Marigo Mystery Feet under the Certus' power supply blew away everyone who was listening. Without Marigo's amazing supports, all the natural-sounding air and three-dimensionality we had enjoyed in the presentation vanished, leaving in their stead a deflated, uninvitingly flat image. It was as though we were listening to a very different, and far less rewarding turntable. Something that has this much an effect on sound cannot be dismissed as a mere tweak.