JVS Reaches the Top

For those who have been thinking it's time for the people in white coats to carry me away—they actually did. Oxnard, CA-based Dan Wiggins, who spent 25 years in audio development for Sonos, Harman, and lots of other audio brands whose names he keeps to himself, recently decided to follow his passion. A year ago, he founded Periodic Audio, whose BE (Beryllium) in-ear headphones (top price: $299/pair) won a headphone award at the Los Angeles Audio Show.

Not only was the sound good, but the invitation to settle into Periodic Audio's relaxation lounge chairs, which included cellphone chargers, was too good to resist. Never has a visit to the doctor been more fun. One of our "terrorers," the exquisite Ms. Daisy Mae Doven, finds all this snore-worthy—that's what she's doing now, while curled up on the chair next to me as I type—but many an audiophile find Periodic's achievement worthy of accolades.

Dan D'Agostino Master Systems, who snared a RIHPA for their Momentum phono preamp, assembled a striking system in which their DDMAS Progression preamplifier with optional DAC module ($26,500)—if memory serves me right, this won an award at the Los Angeles Audio Show—joined the DDMAS Progression stereo amplifier ($22,000), dCS Rossini player, MartinLogan Renaissance ESL 15A speakers ($25,000/pair), an expensive Stromtank S5000HP AC power source ($39,000) powering the amp and speakers, and a Stromtank S2500 ($19,500) powering the front end. Cabling was by AudioQuest, whose Wild Blue Yonder cabling, I might add, also won an RIHPA award.

For my thoughts on the sound of Dan D'Agostino Master Systems electronics, please see my review of the Progression Mono monoblocks in the October issue of Stereophile. For a taste of eye candy, please gaze above.

Technics was not only out in force on the 11th floor of the Marriott Tower—they were also sounding, really, really good. All thoughts of mass-market mediocrity vanished as I listened to the beautiful timbres, impressive depth, and superb balance from top to bottom of the range on a file ripped from a Tomasz Stanko ECM recording. (Trumpeter Stanko's more recent recordings are available as hi-rez downloads from HDTracks.) Perhaps this system lacked ultimate grace, as well as ultimate bass control. But for a setup in which two racks full of equipment and four speakers were sandwiched into a very small space—forget about proper speaker distance from the rear and side walls—it sounded very, very good.

Bill Voss of Technics was eager to show me the insides of the company's new SB-G90 loudspeaker ($4999.99/pair), which joined the SU-G30 integrated amplifier ($4000) and ST-G30 music server with SSD ($5000). Cabling was Nordost Tyr2 speaker wire, with digital relayed by DLNA. The coaxial speaker's rear-mounted Balance Driver Mounting Architecture (BDMA), labor-intensive layered cabinets, and other efforts to reduce resonance demonstrated impressive dedication to sound quality.

AVM of Germany, whose top-of-the-line monoblocks I praised in my review for Stereophile, has scored a major 30th Anniversary coup. Thanks to the efforts of international sales director Peder Bäckman, AVM is poised to penetrate the US market big-time via a distribution agreement with Music Direct.

Emphasizing the lower end of the price spectrum, AVM showed their new A30 110Wpc class-A/AB integrated amplifier ($2995). Fed by a Mobile Fidelity UltraDeck + turntable with UltraTracker MM cartridge ($1999), and feeding Wharfedale Reva 3 speakers ($1499/pair) via an AudioQuest Niagara 5000 and AQ cabling, the system did a very nice job on a MoFi test pressing of Donald Fagan's Nightfly, and a 45rpm reissue of Direct Straits' Love over Gold.

At other audio shows, either John Atkinson—whose declaration of "superb measured performance" was accompanied by that "gobsmacked" word that he is rumored to have retired—or other members of our team have enthused over the DEQX HDP-5 preamplifier/digital linear phase crossover/frequency & group-delay calibration and room compensation system ($5995). (Say that sentence in one breath, and you will be entered into a contest to win either one of these units or a round-trip to Australia. The decision of the judges is fallible.) Another reviewer on the Stereophile team, Kal Rubinson, wrote of one of the DEQX units, "It made…all music more of a joy to hear."

Now Roon-ready, the DEQX HDP-5 formed a complete, all-DEQX system with brand new DEQX A250x3 three-channel monoblock amplifiers ($2795/pair) and equally brand new DEQX/Legend Acoustics ISR active monitor loudspeakers ($16,995/pair). The speakers are only sold with the above components, and include digital correction filters. Playing 1/2" master tapes, the system's tonality was not my favorite, but that doesn't mean that it didn't live up to its claims to a create a flat time domain between the speaker's range of 100Hz-10kHz.

Having gone ga-ga over the sound of Tekton Design Double Impact monitors ($2000/pair, or $3000 with upgraded paint finish) paired with Parasound electronics, I was eager to hear the sound of Tekton's significantly larger, floorstanding Double Impact ($3000/pair, or more for custom finishes). Alas, by the time I could reach their room, Eric Alexander was rushing to complete packing everything up so he could make his flight home. All I can tell you is that Eric is quite excited about the speaker's claimed flat response from 30Hz-30kHz. Between that and its sound, Tekton's speakers have generated an astounding number of posts on Audiogon. Gotta hear, gotta hear.

After staring at Eric's boxes, and uttering a great big sigh, it was time to bid the 11th floor of the Marriott Tower a fine adieu. Thus did my three packed days of listening at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest come to an end. Not with a bang, but a whimper.

tonykaz's picture

Well, I wondered, I even asked, now JVS using the snared description kinda says it, doesn't it?

Haven't we all felt a bit snared by D'Agostino stuff?, even JA owns some, hmm.

There were plenty of times that I would've bought a pre-owned ( and broken-in ) KSA100 but ( darn it ) people that own the stuff don't ever seem ready to sell.

I've missed my window, I'm an Active Loudspeaker guy now. The most I might consider is a PAM 5 preamp.

I'll tip-toe past Dan's gear and head to the Headphone stuff, holler-out if you need help releasing yourself from the "Snare".

I'll be-there 4 y'all.

Tony in Michigan

Linear Tube Audio's picture

If you make it to CAF in a few weeks, we'll have the same pair of Tekton Double Impacts, albeit with significantly different amplification, set up in one of our rooms. With no planes to make, we'll be sure to have them playing until the last bell rings. Very happy to see an impression of Tektons that matches what I hear from Eric's customers.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

I'm glad my writing has served you. However, what any of us says in these show reports is not the equivalent of a review. It is simply a snapshot in time, taken in unfamiliar surroundings, usually with a combination of different elements than we are accustomed to. We can never be sure of what is responsible for what until we try a product in our own reference systems.

Linear Tube Audio's picture

Certainly true, and I've altered my original post's phrasing to reflect that. While your write up did give me an opportunity to make a self-serving advertisement, I posted because I'm sincerely glad to read the thoughts of someone who had a great time listening to Tektons at a show, as after a limited appearance at LAAS and the commentary so far from this RMAF has not been as enthusiastic as a personal fan of the speakers (myself) would hope.

DrRodCrawford's picture

One correction and one comment regarding Jason’s DEQX/Legend write-up.

The TOTAL system price (HDP5 preamp-processor + 2 of A250x3 amps + ISR speakers) is $16,995 and not just for the Isobaric Small Red (ISR) speakers themselves as Jason stated. Active ISRs obviously require active crossovers and so cannot be sold separately from the DEQX.

The system is deliberately voiced as flat as possible because we believe that, along with the very low distortion of the drivers plus time/phase distortion correction, this leads to high faithfulness with the recorded event – ie what ‘high fidelity’ should be about – and what John Atkinson and Kal Rubinson apparently like. However, with its parametric EQ abilities the DEQX processor can provide almost any tonal balance one prefers so Jason could have heard his (distorted!) preferences.

dalethorn's picture

".....the DEQX processor can provide almost any tonal balance one prefers so Jason could have heard his (distorted!) preferences."


DrRodCrawford's picture

Maybe just an inconvenient truth??

dalethorn's picture

I wouldn't want to open a can of worms here, but if you'll allow for personal indulgences in audio, there are plenty of cases where "those distortions" sound better than the more accurate alternative. Fortunately I'm not the reviewer, so I don't have to be concerned about recommending unclean audio to the purist audiophiles of the world. And somewhere in there, I try to have a little empathy.

DrRodCrawford's picture

Am happy for people to have personal preferences but also like them to understand what they are preferring. In my experience of designing speakers for over 30 years (including at Linn) one form of distortion is often used to mask another and if one is not careful this can multiply out of control – as Floyd Toole once said ‘like a dog chasing its tail’. However as the distortion is systematically decreased, particularly the speakers which are usually the major source, then there is no need for distortion masking and one can hear the musical event as it was recorded (ie with ‘high fidelity/faithfulness’) so it becomes more alive. That is what DEQX-Legend were aiming at.