Multiple Goodies as Jason's Second Day Ends

Having visited the Aurum Cantus loudspeaker factory in China in 2009, and experienced every stereotype of shoddy Chinese manufacturing practices destroyed by what, to these eyes, were meticulous production practices, keen concerns for worker health and safety, and comprehensive testing, I am always delighted when Roger DuNaier of Audiophile Direct brings Aurum Cantus speakers to shows. Here, the Aurum Cantus V30M 2 stand-mount with aluminum-ribbon tweeter ($2600/pair) joined the Wells Audio Majestic 150Wpc integrated amplifier with phonostage ($4399; $3599 without the phono section), Sound Science Music Vault Diamond music server ($4995), Benchmark DAC2 DX DAC ($1995), and assorted Dana Cable products to produce "the kind of sound that makes you happy."

No matter what we heard, the midrange was lovely. Who could resist the joy in Aaron Neville's sweet voice, or the uplifting quality in Danish artists Gems Lysdel and Hugo Rasmussen's "Ages"? Roger's choice of music leans towards the positive, which was just perfect in a system whose treble, midrange, and imaging were all top-notch. The late Bob Reina was impressed by the Aurum Cantus V2M in March 2009. To Herb Reichert and Ken Micaleff: If this speaker, or others in the Aurum Cantus line seem a good match for your system, I encourage you to line a pair up for review. The 8-model import line ranges from the new V2M stand-mount ($1700/pair)—there are four stand-mounts total—up to the Grand Harmony floor-stander ($7500/pair).

Rusty Vawter's Channel Island Audio (CIAudio) specializes in low-cost products that often generate sound of a quality usually associated with more costly gear. Such was the case in his demo room, where, despite some resonance in the piano's upper mids, his neat little system produced some really nice sound. Ye olde a cappella classic, "Dese Bones" (or something to that effect), was a definite winner.

Heard from CIAudio: CIAudio PLC•1 MkII Passive Line Controller ($995) with AC•15 MK upgrade power supply ($295), PEQ•1 MkII MC/MM phono preamp ($995) with the same AC•15 MK upgrade power supply ($295), D•200 MkII monoblocks ($3995/pair), prototype DMC•1 MkII digital music console ($TBD) with VCD•5 MkII upgrade power supply ($329), and Transient MkII USB DAC ($699) with the same VCD•5 MkII upgrade power supply ($329). Additionally, we heard a Clearaudio Concept turntable with Satisfy arm and Concept MM cartridge ($2000), prototype Soulo TL•1 loudspeakers ($TBD), and Acoustic Zen Wow and Epoch cabling.

I've enthused about the sound of the PrismSound Callia DAC ($2750) at previous shows. This time, however, with bi-amped ATC SCM40A loudspeakers ($13,000/pair), Aurender N100H music server, and Atlas cables, the sound on the 2L recording of Arneson's soppy Magnificat was thin, with a harsh treble. (JA reports that when he visited this room, ATC's larger SCM50A—$21,000/pair in high-gloss finish—was playing and sounding a lot better, with superb transparency.)

In one of those big rooms on the 4th floor designed to turn heads, the new Wilson Benesch Resolution loudspeakers ($69,500/pair) joined Ypsilon electronics, a Thales/Ikeda turntable and Stage III cabling in attracting a great deal of attention. This configuration, put together by AAImports, was most successful on the Reference Recordings LP of Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man, where the system did the best job of conveying the air around the big bass drum that I've ever experienced. The sheer spaciousness of the presentation was enthralling. That said, the top splattered a bit, there was some bass booming in Ferit Odman's lounge music "Dameronia," and the top was a bit tipped up. As impressive as the drum sounded in the Copland, a preponderance of treble overtones gave it a cast that I never hear in actual performance.

Heard, in addition to the loudspeakers: Ypsilon PST-100 Mk.II valve preamp ($37,000), Aelius II monoblocks ($39,000/pair), VPS-100 valve phonostage ($26,000), and MC26L step-up transformer ($6200); Thales TTT Compact II turntable ($14,500) with Simplicity II tonearm ($9200) and Ikeda MC cartridge ($8500). An HB Cable Design PowerSlave marble power distributor ($13,500), lots of Stage III cabling, and Wilson Benesch R1 Carbon modular rack ($25,500 total) completed the chain.

My final stop Saturday was in The Audiophile Zone's Spendor/Jadis room. When we listened to a track from the Lou Harrison Violin Concerto, both the gong and violin sounded absolutely right and lifelike. Percussion explosions were tightly controlled, and the impact of the violin visceral.

"The texture is marvelous," I wrote of the sound through the Jadis I50 integrated amp ($10,345), Chord Dave DAC ($10,588), and Baetis Reference S source ($14,620). True, the new Spendor D9 loudspeakers ($11,500 in premium finish) were working very hard to do the percussion full justice without keeling over from the effort, but thanks as well to WyWires's Diamond cabling and Power Broker conditioner, Torus AVR15 isolation transformer ($3500), and Taoc racks ($3000), the system acquitted itself with honors. I am truly looking forward to the day when those Jadis JA200 monoblocks arrive for review in the fall.

After hours, J.C. Calmettes, chief designer of Jadis and son of Jadis's founder, André Calmettes, did a short presentation on the history of the company in the Brooks Berdan room. I couldn't stay for the whole thing—there were blogs to write—but I did manage to snap this photo of JC in pensive mode.

Anton's picture

Those Aurum speakers look like they could sound almost as good as Red Rose Audio speakers!

Dusty is a great asset to the hobby.

How many glasses of wine before 'pensive' takes over? ;-D

I've been three sheets to the pensive a few times.

On a more audiophile note: I think there is something important in those demo rooms that your listening to but not listing...those beautiful room treatments! Did the The Audiophile Zone mention where those lovely panels came from? They even look like they sound good!

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Whenever an exhibitor mentions room treatment, I include it. Sometimes they mix different brands. Shall I add that exhibitors routinely omit cabling, racks, and other supports as well as sundry tweaks? It's a shame, because all of the above contribute greatly to a room's sound.

Anton's picture

I am commencing a Google search for those gorgeous panels.

gkatay's picture

They are the Artnovion panels:
The white ones are the Sahara, and the cherry ones are Sienna.

Anton's picture

I appreciate it!

audiophiledirect's picture


Always great to see you at a show, your energy and enthusiasm are appreciated by all. Just a small correction to your coverage of our Audiophile Direct demo room #416. The Wells Audio Majestic Integrated Amplifier demonstrated retails for $4399 ($3599 less phono section). Sorry for any confusion!

Roger DuNaier

John Atkinson's picture
audiophiledirect wrote:
The Wells Audio Majestic Integrated Amplifier demonstrated retails for $4399 ($3599 less phono section).

Fixed. Apologies for the error, Roger.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Allen Fant's picture

Excellent -as always, JVS.
Always good to read about Stage III Concepts cabling/cords.
Wells Audio is on my must-demo list as well.