Rives Audio and Talon Audio (now owned by Rives) proudly introduced the Thunderhawk, a $25,000/pair, composite speaker consisting of the $10,000 Hawk positioned atop the Thunder cabinet. The latter’s woofer is available either with a passive crossover, or with the new Rives Sub Parc, fully adjustable active crossover, which includes a 1000W switching amplifier. Said to deliver full-range sound down to 18Hz, the system sounded absolutely seductive playing jazz vocalist Susanne Abbuehl’s Compass (ECM).

Credit goes equally to two VAC Phi 300.1 Reference amplifiers bridged in mono mode to produce 300W for $34,000, connected by Shunyata cabling to the Wadia Reference Transport 270 SE, Wadia 931 Digital Controller, and Wadia 921 two-chassis Decoding Computer. (That’s four units total, folks, and they ain’t cheap). Power was conmditoned by the Shunyata Hydra 8 power conditioner, Yes, the sound was undeniably warm, but it offered irresistible, all-enveloping unforced intimacy and detail. Despite brass whose percussive edges were softened a bit, the system’s mystical expanse of sound was a wonder to experience. Certainly Talon's Richard Rives Bird (left) and VAC's Kevin Hayes (right) weren't feeling too unhappy with the sound.