There were so many exhibitors at this year’s RMAF that it was not possible to go back to rooms. One of two wonderful rooms in the Marriott Tower that I most regretted not having time to revisit, Apex Audio’s mezzanine set-up of equipment mainly distributed by Musical Surroundings produced warm, gorgeous sounds and a “midrange to die for” on Reference Recordings’ LP version of Doug MacLeod’s There’s a Time (Stereophile’s May 2013 Recording of the Month). Managing to let the brightness of the latest CD transfer of Mercury Living Presence’s stereo version of Schoenberg’s Five Pieces for Orchestra come through while remaining a joy to listen to, the system inspired me to scribble, after listening to a track from an LP of guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, “one could listen for hours without fatigue.”

Doing the honors, through new and eminently review-worthy Focal Scala V2 Utopia loudspeakers ($32,500/pair), were Aesthetix’s Romulus DAC/CD player ($7000), Callisto Eclipse w/remote line stage ($19,500), Io Eclipse phono stage ($15,500), and Atlas monoblock amplifiers ($15,000/pair). Playing LP, we had Clearaudio’s Master Innovation turntable ($25,000) on Everest Stand ($12,000) with new Accu Drive battery power supply ($2500), Statement clamp ($1000), Outer Limit peripheral ring ($1350) and, finally Goldfinger Statement phono cartridge ($15,000). Add in a Graham Engineering Phantom II Supreme 10” tonearm ($7000), and you’ve just dropped, along with the needle, $63,850 on the turntable end of things.

It’s essential not to overlook three other main contributors to the sound: the new Critical Mass Soto Voce audio rack ($7000), a complete array of Nordost Valhalla 2 audio cables ($112,500), and a complete Nordost QRT power treatment system ($10,900). Expensive? Yes. Heavenly sounding? Absolutely!

Rick Tomaszewicz's picture

"a complete array of Nordost Valhalla 2 audio cables ($112,500)"

Out of curiosity, I wonder how many they sell a year.  

If you were the wealthiest audiophile in the world, but very private and had no audiophile friends (so no one ever learned about your cables), would you still buy them? Let's even say you could get them for half price, but had to sign a NDA about owning them; would you still buy them?

TreAdidas's picture

Behind CanJam, this was my favorite room! I had a couple of my non-audio enthusiast friends along with me and they too balked at the proverbial whipping boy of premium priced cables, not to mention premium priced systems. My response?...... 

Cables cables bo-bables, who cares!? Those Focals are the stars! You could either have some mid-level SUV that'll be dead in 10 years or some bomb speakers that will give you unsurpassed music for a lifetime!  The mids, highs, everything. That mid is just snappy and those highs super extended and not harsh. My goodness! I loved listening to some old jazz recordings the emcee had playing.  Even with dated recordings I was amazed at how much detail and flat out pleasant tones emitted from those speakers.  (Secretly though, I was curious what the Pantera CD I had hidden in my bag might have sounded like… would this system be able to hold something like that together?  Would Dime's guitar be perfectly suspended in space like Miles' trumpet?  How about Vinnie's powerful kick drums, would they give me this "you're there" sense of realness?  .... and yet, would Phil’s vocals dig deep into my youth and take me back to a time when music was about moshpits and adolescent aggression!?.... but alas I figured that might have scared the straights and got me kicked out of at least the room if not the show, so I kept that one tucked away for CanJam.) 

Now I acknowledge there were some incredible components backing those Focals, but still I have to believe that even with some more modest backing components, the sound would still be glorious. This got me thinkin’... I’d be curious to see how good something might sound where the speaker consumes say 85% of the budget.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Discussions as to which component in the chain makes the most difference have transpired since before the dawn of the LP era and stereo recording. Some say it's the speakers, because they're the final step; others point to the source, because that's where it all begins. Still others, especially those who are aware that in a string quartet, it's the inner voices that are responsible for the midrange heart of the sound and the sense of unity from which individual acts of creation on the part of the other players may spring, refuse to choose one component over the other. And there are yet others who insist that the cables, which, after all, transmit the sound between components and carry the electricity that powers everything, should be considered of equal importance to everything else. As should the room, since it ultimately shapes and colors the sound.

If you are good friends with a Focal dealer who has the time, energy, inventory, and expertise to let you hear the Scala V2 Utopias with different components and cabling, making one change at a time, I urge you to try the experiment. Of course, it's essential that each component warm up and settle in fully to allow it to sing at its best. (This experiment could take many days.) I expect a letter to the editor summarizing your discoveries and conclusions would be most welcome.

TreAdidas's picture

Gah… I wish!  While I am here in the Denver area and that sounds like a darn good time, I would not feel proper taking up so much of a dealer’s time when I lack the capacity to buy.  I’m a bit too junior in life and more specifically my career (i.e. insufficient disposable income) to warrant the monopolizing of a dealer's time.  Maybe we can talk in say 25-ish years.wink

I guess that is why I am overall apprehensive about going to dealers and would rather hit up the shows and Head-Fi meets (though I've only been to two). At the shows and especially at the Head-Fi meets I don't feel like I am wasting anyone's time but instead getting together with some folks and playing with our toys.   ... maybe therein lies a letter to the editor that I am more qualified to write.