High Water Sound: TW Acustic, Cessaro Horn Acoustics, Codia Acoustic Design, Stein Music

As I scurried around Sunday trying to see and hear as much as possible on the show's last afternoon, Room 594 was one of several visits I was looking forward to. Based in Lower Manhattan, distributor/dealer Jeffrey Catalano's High Water Sound is always, uh, a high point at shows where I've heard his demo systems.

Good (or bad) things tend to happen in threes, so the cliché goes. Here were good things in threes. This time he had three products premiering—later than expected due to COVID-related delays, he told me. The TW Acustic Raven LS 3-motor turntable ($24,000), TW Acustic SE 300B monoblocks ($30,000, pictured below), and Cessaro Opus One loudspeakers ($45,000/pair).

The demo model of belt-driven Raven LS turntable had a solid copper platter—a composite platter with 10mm of copper is also available—and two 12" TW Acustic tonearms installed, one fitted with a Miyajami Infinity Mono cartridge ($3500), the other with a Stein Music Aventurin 6 MC cartridge ($6500, below); I listened to the latter. Atop the spindle was a Massif Audio Design Record Weight ($1000).

If you want to trick out this 'table, as was done at AXPONA, you have the option to add a couple more DC motors, for a total of three. The standard single motor comes up through the plinth at the rear of the table very close to the platter. If you're just running with that single motor, you need to use a shorting plug that comes with the 'table. But to add the two optional motors, you can plug directly into the housing; you just need to install three bolts to secure the extra motor unit Catalano explained. Only one belt still runs between all three pulley points/motors. The approach is reported to more evenly distribute and average out the errors inherent in motors.

The cool thing is—besides the sonic advantages—you don't see any of this from the listening seat(s). The whole operation is stealth, discreetly tucked away behind the turntable.

The TW Acustic Raven LS turntable was connected to the TW Acustic Phono RPS-100 phono stage ($20,000), which fed the signal to the, yes, TW Acustic RLS-100 line stage ($20,000), then into a pair of their new SE 300B monoblock amps. At the end of the chain were the striking new German-made Cessaro Opus-1 speakers (above). Those two-ways have a horn on top with a beryllium diaphragm compression driver and an alnico—an acronym of sorts for aluminum, nickel, and cobalt—bass driver. The horn has adjustable output of –2dB to +2dB. If you want more bass, Cessaro offers matching subwoofers, Catalano said. The system was supported by Codia Acoustic Design 2 Stage 5000S racks ($9500 each). Cabling was from Stein Music, Furutech and Harmonix Hijiri Million. Stein Music also supplied room acoustic gear.

Listening to a couple of cuts, "Minas de Cobre" and "Inspiracion," on my Calexico Spiritoso LP floored me. Those tracks were recorded live with Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg in a large studio setting in Potsdam, Germany. With this system, I heard a thrillingly convincing depiction of the spread of the group—and not just certain musicians' and vocalists' placement within the soundstage. Sufficient width and depth gave a much stronger impression of the acoustic space, a greater "you are there" feeling. There seemed to be close miking on Jacob Valenzuela, the mariachi trumpet player who doubles as a vocalist. Brass and string timbres seemed natural. Plenty of fullness and body came through on other fare too.

I appreciate Catalano's taste for what's essentially classic gear—such as tube amplification and high-efficiency horn speakers—with modern design improvements and materials. His taste in music is also eclectic: old and new LPs, obscure and beloved, spanning genres and eras.

As I was leaving, a 30-something guy came in. When Catalano's Nashville dealer, Colin King of Gestalt Audio Design, asked him what kind of music he'd like to hear, he replied, "Something fun and quirky." The dealer said, "I think we've got you covered." Indeed he probably did.

Ken Micallef adds some thoughts:

High Water Sound wasn't my original assignment, that belonged to Julie Mullins. But once I realized fellow New Yorker Jeffrey Catalano was at the show, I couldn't wait to see what he'd brought to Axpona.

Not only does Catalano maintain an incredibly high level of room sound quality year after year, he brings more records (in every genre) than any exhibitor I know of, and he plays them, nonstop.

Hearing Jeffrey's German TW-Acustic based rig at Axpona was largely like hearing it at his home in NYC's historic south street seaport, where the ghosts of gangsters and fishmongers rub elbows with the ghosts of native American Lenape Indians. From far historic, Jeffrey's hi-fi was entirely present day.

If there's one hi-fi sound I wish mine most resembled, it would be High Water Sound's: natural, flesh and blood, breathing, jubilant.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

I know. Not a good thing. But I'm envious of Julie for getting the chance to cover this room. It's always one of my favorite stops... and a long one at that.

Here's to many more shows with Jeffrey Catalano!!!

Julie Mullins's picture

Yes, I was grateful to have been assigned this room! Always a pleasure...

hemingway's picture

My visits to Jeff's room at AXPONA over the years are always great. The music is always the best at show to me. He is a real music lover and a hell of a nice guy

Julie Mullins's picture

Yes, I agree he's both.

TNtransplant's picture

Jeff's systems and demos invariably put the music first. Always an oasis at shows where it seems that for many other rooms the opposite is true.

This year the sounds emanating from most of the rooms had me immediately turning around and walking out the door.

Julie Mullins's picture

Thanks for commenting. Some rooms were playing music at times that was less than inviting... Although I bring my own music too, it's always nice to hear something new (even if only new to me) and different as well.