The phrase "save the best for last" rang true for me today. After close to five hours of listening, with ears that were beginning to scream, I heeded the advice of Sound Applications' Jim Weil and headed to the large room at one end of the 9th floor commandeered by Boulder’s Audio Federation. There I encountered the most rewarding sound I have heard at the show so far.
The first room to seize my attention today paired Triode Electronics from Japan with the Adagio Acoustic Zen and Micropure Kotaro speakers. Neither speakers was an ideal match for the Triode TRV 35SE (an El34-based class-A/B integrated amp offering 45Wpc for $1699) or Triode TRV-M300SE (300B parallel single-ended monoblocks outputting 20W for $4000), since both amps need higher-sensitivity speakers to truly shine. But both the soundstage and midrange were exceptionally enveloping, with highs more extended on the Kotaros. Distributed by Twin Audio Video of Loma Linda, designer Junichi Yamazaki’s amps have only been available in the US since April.
Thom Mackris of turntable manufacturer Galibier Design (whose Stelvio costs $12,500) had me smiling when he played a hilarious track by Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers. Although a little raucous on top, the system (Schröder Reference SQ tonearm, perversely entitled ZYX Universe cartridge, Artemis Labs PH-1 phono stage, preproduction Karna push-pull 300B 15W amp from Nutshell Hi Fidelity, and Gran Sfera Horns by Azzolina Audio) offered a compellingly huge, all-enveloping, elevated soundstage coupled to a beautiful midrange.