Fine Sounds America: Pro-Ject, Sumiko, Rotel, Sonus Faber, and Cardas

A big system can sound amazing, but a simple, well-tuned system will outperform a megabuck system that's set up badly or in a room that can't handle its size. That's easy to hear at a hi-fi show, where you frequently walk straight out of one room and straight into another. Do that enough times and you will gain an appreciation for the importance of good setup.

When I walked into the Fine Sounds America (FSA) room, FSA's Jeff Coates and Josh Gwin introduced me to Pro-Ject's T2 Super Phono turntable. At $599 including a built-in phono preamp, it's uber-affordable. The Super Phono was in two of the room's systems; the room held four systems in all (just one playing at a time, fortunately). Otherwise, this excellent, affordable system consisted of the Rotel RAS-5000 Integrated Streaming Amplifier ($2999) and the Sonus faber Lumina V Amator Speakers ($3499/pair). The Super Phono, with a Sumiko Ranier MM cartridge ($149), performed brilliantly on vinyl. The source for silver discs was a Rotel RCD-1572 mk II CD Player ($1199), which I didn't hear. Cables by Cardas and Pro-Ject.

Playing Duke Ellington's Money Jungle and Jimmy Smith's Got My Mojo Working, both sourced from original (or at least early) vinyl, this little system pumped out tunes that jumped and cavorted like real music should. I didn't find myself pondering, "Hhmmm, that treble is so revealing" or "Such midrange clarity!" I was too busy tapping my feet and grooving and swinging in wide-eyed wonder at such flesh-and-blood sounds communicated with no fuss. The system's fluidity, engagement, and fun won me over.

This room was packed with equipment. Some of it active, some of it on passive display, some of it introduced in the video below including:

  • System 1: Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Evo turntable ($599), Pro-Ject MaiA S3 integrated amplifier ($799), Pro-Ject Stream Box S2 music streamer ($399), Pro-Ject CD Box S3 CD player ($549), Pro-Ject Speaker Box 5 S2 speakers ($849/pair), Pro-Ject Tri-Stand speaker stands ($499/pair).
  • System 2: Pro-Ject JukeBox E1 turntable with built in phono pre ($799), Pro-Ject Stream Box S2 music streamer ($399), Pro-Ject Speaker Box 5 speaker ($349/pair).
  • System 3: Rotel T11 FM Tuner ($399), Pro-Ject Debut T2 Super Phono turntable ($599), Rotel S14 integrated streaming amplifier ($1999), Sonus faber Lumina II Amator speakers ($1499/pair), Pro-Ject Tri-Stand speaker stands ($499/pair).
  • Static Equipment: Pro-Ject Speaker Box 5 S2 speakers ($849), Pro-Ject MC Step Up Box S3 moving coil transformer ($549), Pro-Ject MC Step Up Box DS3B balanced moving coil transformer ($1099), Pro-Ject Tube Box DS3B balanced tube phono preamp ($1099), Pro-Ject Phono Box S3B balanced phono preamp ($49), Pro-Ject Phono Box DS3 B balanced Phono Preamp ($799), Pro-Ject Speaker Box 5 speakers ($349/pair), Pro-Ject Stereo Box S3 BT integrated amplifier w. Bluetooth ($499), Pro-Ject T2 W Wifi turntable ($1199), Pro-Ject S3 DAB+ Internet/FM radio tuner ($549), Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital 2023 Edition digital preamp ($549), Rotel A10 mk II integrated amplifier ($799), Rotel CD11 mk II CD player ($699), Sumiko Moonstone moving magnet phono cartridge ($299), Sumiko Wellfleet moving magnet phono cartridge ($449).

Ortofan's picture

... the component prices don't rival those on a Monroney sticker.

The system that I would like to have been able to see/hear would have been comprised of a Rotel A11 KI Tribute integrated amp, a Rotel CD11 KI Tribute CD player, a Pro-Ject Debut PRO turntable (with bundled cartridge) and a pair of ELAC Debut Reference DFR52 floor-standing speakers. $3,500 total - maybe less with a system discount from a dealer.

Glotz's picture

You can see a ton of rooms that have lower price tags.

ken mac's picture

And unless we somehow teleported into each room or sent our AI accomplices, each room report was a flesh and blood experience.

Glotz's picture

Is that the intent of the every manufacturers at the shows? No.

Cutting edge products drive the midmarket offerings. The only place where anyone can see real trickle down technology in action, anywhere.

I relish great sound and almost great sound. I'm not jealous of others that have money and I benefit from learning, listening and experiencing these high end products. Clearly you don't.

There are enough entry-level products for anyone to get excited at every show. If I was at a car show, I would be just as excited to see new cutting edge tech displayed as economical autos. Sorry, if you don't care about that. A lot of people do. There Is something for everyone. Not to mention vinyl, cds and accessories.