Audio Element–dCS–VTL–Sonus Faber

Following the death of his father in July 2011, Brian Berdan had been running Brooks Berdan Ltd, the well-regarded retailer in Monrovia, the suburb east of Los Angeles. But T.H.E. Show saw the debut of Brian’s new venture, Audio Element, which will open in Pasadena in August. Many of the brands that used to be sold by Brooks Berdan Ltd. are going with Brian to the new store. Many were exhibiting in Brian’s two rooms at the Atrium. In the first room, Sonus Faber Amati Futura speakers ($36,000/pair), which I loved when I reviewed them in March 2012, were being driven by VTL’s MB-450 Series III Signature tube monoblocks ($18,000/pair), VTL’s TL-7.5 Series II Reference line preamplifier ($20,000), VTL’s TP-6.5 Signature phono stage ($8500), and the fully loaded, four-chassis dCS Vivaldi SACD playback system ($108,496). Analog playback was with a Grand Prix Monaco turntable ($23,500) fitted with a Tri-Planar tonearm ($5800) and Lyra Skala cartridge ($3995). Cables were all Cardas Clear and Clear Beyond and racks were all from Grand Prix Audio.

This was one of the first rooms I went into the first day of the show, but the sound was dark. Both on digital—Peter Gabriel’s orchestral remake of “Don’t Give Up”—and analog—the Peter Maag-conducted performance of Mendelssohn’s Fingal’s Cave Overture—two tracks I know very well, there was a lack of transparency.

I wnet back to this room the morning of the show’s final day. VTL’s Luke Manley had increasied the damping factor of the 450s, which he felt had improved the speaker control and clarity in the midrange. I listened again to the Mendelssohn LP and yes, while the balance was still dark, there was now a clarity that had been lacking two days earlier.

volvic's picture

You were lucky you were able to go back, but I wonder how many times this has happened to me and others who attend these shows and are sometimes surprised and disappointed with the poor sound coming out of some of these rooms.  I wonder how much proper matching and  attention is given by dealers and manufacturers to get the sound right when setting up in a hotel room.  First impressions are everything.