Rockport's Orion and Absolare Make Glorious Music

Of the fraction of rooms and booths I was able to cover at Munich High End 2023—the "I wish I could have" list is at least as long as that of the exhibits I enjoyed—Rockport Technologies' triumphant meeting of its Orion loudspeaker ($133,000/pair–$143,000/pair with the custom finish shown) with Absolare's Altius phonostage ($52,000), Eternum preamplifier ($85,000, below), and Hybrid Altius monoblocks ($120,000/pair) was an unqualified triumph. There was, of course, far more in the system than those four components, but what's most important is the effect of the music on visitors. As Absolare's Kerem Küçükaslan cued up "You Look Good to Me" on a classic Oscar Peterson LP, everyone sat at rap attention. Ella and Satchmo's "Isn't it a Lovely Day" sounded about as warm, luscious, liquid, musical, and dreamy (as in "If this is a dream, please don't wake me up") as it gets.

Rockport has grown immensely in size and scope since Josh Clark bought the company and began to mentor under founder/designer Andy Payor. Its Orion loudspeaker, which is one step down from the top-of-the-line, may have been shipping since late last summer, but first made its European show debut at Munich 2023.

"All of our products use the same reference crossovers and the same level drivers," Clark told me. "The cabinet is the big differentiator. The higher-level models have stiffer, more massive, and more self-damped cabinets. We believe in cabinets that do not make their own noise."

Rockport's top-of-the-line loudspeaker contains two separate aluminum castings for its inner and outer shell. The Orion, in turn, has an aluminum inner shell and carbon-fiber outer shell. The goal was to get as close to the company's absolute reference in the "smallest possible package."

"This is our smallest and purest example of a full-range 3-way Rockport that has three drivers, with one driver per range," Clark said. "It contains an all-new woofer, midrange, and tweeter, all of which we manufacture. Although different models have different size drivers, all contain our best technology." Despite the speaker's size, Clark was confident that it would work well in a 16' × 20' room.

Digital sources included Metronome's Kalista Dreamplay CD transport ($45,000), Aurender's N30Sa streamer/server ($25,000), and a Roon playback and streaming system ($15,000) comprised entirely of SOtM components that included a network switching hub, DAC/preamp, 10MHz master clock and power supply, cabling, and other playback enhancers. The DAC was Nagra's HD DAC X ($65,000). The analog portion, in addition to the Absolare equipment noted above, consisted of a Kuzma Stabi R turntable ($9595, above) with Kuzma Safir tonearm ($20,000) and Zyx Optimum cartridge ($17,500). Echole Infinity cables, and a Stabilian Rack with bronze feet completed this stellar system.