Fine Sounds America, Rotel Michi, Sonus faber, Pro-Ject, and Cardas

My only regret about visiting the Fine Sounds America room was that I went there at 10 in the morning. Considering how excellent the system sounded, this set the bar for the rest of the day almost impossibly high, and I like to ease into things. Despite the fact that I hadn’t had my morning coffee yet, I was instantly awake.

Minnesota-based Fine, a leading importer and distributor, brought speakers by Sonus faber and amplification by Japan’s Rotel Michi. A pair of Sonus faber Olympica Nova Vs (that’s the Roman numeral five, not the letter vee) were set up along the side wall rather than toward the room’s front; Fine’s Josh Gwin said that the team had chosen that placement because it gave the best bass response. The Olympicas ($17,999/pr) were hooked up to a Michi P5 S2 preamp ($4599) and powered by a real looker of a Class AB amp: the 500Wpc, dual-mono S5 ($7999, reviewed by JVS here).

I’d hadn’t seen or heard the Michis in the flesh before and found myself seriously charmed by the power amp's front-panel display that features dual spectrometers and temperature readouts for the left and right channels.

The digital front end was a Roon-ready Pro-Ject Stream Box S2 Ultra ($899). A Pro-Ject Xtension 9 Evolution turntable ($4199 including the Songbird cartridge) performed the analog duties. Cardas supplied the cabling.

We listened to Jakub Ciupinski's somber, dramatic "Wreck of the Umbria,” performed by the Beethoven Academy Orchestra with Anne Akiko Meyers on violin. Next was “Chorale,” a Philip Glass composition played by Slagwerk Den Haag on all manner of clanking percussion and deep, sonorous bells. It all sounded terrific. The $35,000 system reproduced these recordings with so much nuance, naturalness, and controlled power that I would’ve thought I was listening to a six-figure setup.