Hearken Audio: Reed, Trafomatic Audio, 432 EVO, Playback Designs, Yeti Acoustics, Stein Music, HRS, Stealth

All prices are in Canadian dollars.

Hearken Audio always comes to the Toronto and Montreal Audiofests with a trove of gear, much of it exotic to me either because I've never heard of it or rarely see it anywhere else. It is invariably intriguing from a purist-artisinal standpoint and usually superlative sounding.

It was no different with this year's batch, which included a Reed Muse 1C friction belt drive turntable in Karelian birch ($22,600), equipped with a Reed 3p Macassar Ebony 10.5" tonearm ($7210) and Etsuro Urushi Gold cartridge ($17,500). On the electronics side of things was a duo of Trafomatic Audio electronics—the 100Wpc EOS + power amplifier ($14,500) and two-chassis Lara preamplifier ($15,200)—a Linnenberg Bach phono stage ($24,000), a 432 EVO Aeon music server ($11,000), a Playback Designs MPD-8 DAC with integrated volume control ($33,000), and a Yeti Acoustics network switch ($2500) and power conditioner ($10,600). Pressuring the air was a pair of SteinMusic HighLine Bobby M speakers ($34,000/pair), which combine the HighLine Bobby S standmount ($20,000) with the HighLine Bobby Bass Extension. Equipment stands were by HRS, and cables were Yeti Acoustics and Stealth Audio.

The result of this combination was very musically satisfying, with sound from both digital and analog front ends that was big, finely textured, intimate, alive, breathy, and vivid, conveying a serene sense of ease and stability.