Credo Audio, Audio Shield, EMM, van den Hul, VPI, Wolf

If you're like me, when attending audio shows you have your go-to joints, those rooms where the presentation will be engaging, the conversation interesting, and the good vibes effortless. Consistency frames the visit, like a homecoming where nothing has changed, where friends (and their hi-fis) welcome you. At the risk of sounding like a hawker, Credo Audio Switzerland—at Axpona's Nirvana B ballroom—has become one of my go-to joints.

It's funny, this "welcome home" feeling has nothing to do with cost, though it can be hefty; it's all about musicality, which is all too rare. Some megabuck systems translate the grooves or digits into mighty music, some don't, and that holds equally true for less expensive systems. If you're an experienced listener, a former musician, or a music lover for life, you know when a system gets closer to the ideal of breathing, flesh and blood music.

Credo Audio Systems' Michael Kraske and AudioShield's John McGurk assembled a beautiful sounding system at AXPONA. Speakers were the Michael Kraske-designed Credo Audio Cinema LTM line array loudspeakers ($169,995/pair). The analog front end consisting of VPI Industries Avenger direct-drive turntable ($30,000) with two 12" gimballed VPI Fatboy tonearms, van den Hul Frog Gold cartridge ($3520), DS Audio W2 cartridge ($4500), and van den Hul The Grail SE phono stage ($18,600). Digital due diligence was found in Wolf Audio Systems' Alpha 3 SX audio server ($11,095), EMM Labs DA2 V2 D/A processor ($30,000), and EMM Labs NS1 streamer ($4500) via Roon. Amplification comprised EMM Labs PRE Reference stereo preamplifier ($25,000) and EMM Labs MTRX/2 monoblock amplifiers ($85,000/pair). Cabling comprised van den Hul 3T Rock interconnects ($622/1m) and van den Hul 3T The Cumulus speaker cable ($6735/2m).

When I asked Kraske later about his goals for the Cinema LTM loudspeakers, he wrote, "I designed it to connect people to their music, to get the listener as close to the music as possible. I wanted to achieve an extreme dynamic range, very low harmonic and modulation distortions, broad and homogeneous horizontal dispersion behavior, vertical cylindrical radiation behavior, correct acoustic perspective of the soundstage, a clean step and impulse response, linear frequency-response over the entire frequency range and linear and uniform impedance.

"What I had in mind designing all the models of the Credo line," he continued, "from the EV 350 Ref Bookshelf all the way up to the Cinema LTM was, that there will be no straining with these speakers. In a word, they sound effortless."

Kraske's line array Cinema LTM speakers sounded seamless, immense of scale, truly immersive, and exceedingly musical. The entire system breathed in and out like living music, all be it in an incredibly massive soundstage, perhaps larger than life. But what's better than being submerged in music? From Billie Eilish's pop electronica (streaming) to Amos Lee's "Arms of a Woman" (vinyl) and Arron Neville's "It Feels Like Rain" (vinyl), I felt myself relax, even collapse, into the music.

David Harper's picture

Obscenely overpriced gear. Only someone with far more money than brains would buy this kind of gear. They would do better to donate 99% of the cost of this system to charity and spend the remaining 1% on an audio system. The sound quality would be just as good and they wouldn't have to worry about being judged when they go to meet their maker.

James.Seeds's picture

Yeah that's something I'd worry about if I could afford this system being judged on my obscenely expensive rig that'll bring me immense pleasure after work sipping on just as expensive wine with my fellow music appreciators who will certainly be breaking one of the 10 Commandments ENVY.

funambulistic's picture

In the mean time, I am breathlessly waiting for the commentor above us to tell us where we can indeed purchase a $4K (i.e. 1% of the roughly $400K in equipment described) rig that sounds every bit as good as the one pictured. Still waiting.

... still waiting...

JHL's picture

...generally don't hear so good.

David Harper's picture

I probably should have said 90%/10%
But I was right about more money than brains

Fleschler's picture

Most of my friends have high fidelity systems in the $20K to $40K region with mine in the $60K range but with a $150K custom listening room. I've heard many line array speakers but do those have side firing woofers? Without real woofers, I really doubt they will do adequate bass as all the systems I heard with multiple mid and tweeter arrays required subs.

gajgmusic's picture

Just wondering if you got a chance to hear the DS Audio W2 play?

David Harper's picture

"it is immoral to allow a sucker to keep his money" ; W.C. Fields.