Scott Walker Audio, Von Schweikert, VAC, Aurender, LampizatOr, and MasterBuilt

Trigger warning: If sky-high prices for audio gear make you gnarly, this AXPONA report (and many others) won't lift your mood. Just the MasterBuilt-brand cabling in dealer Scott Walker Audio's room carried a heart-stopping six-figure price tag.

The space, featuring Von Schweikert Ultra 7 speakers ($180,000/pair), wasn't especially small or large. Let's call it a Goldilocks room. Leif Swanson, Von Schweikert's chief designer, said that the brand's products had often been demoed in big expo rooms, which occasionally scared off potential buyers who assumed that the speakers needed a jumbo-sized space to sing. Not so, says the company.

The 7, launched just over a year ago, has a specified sensitivity of 94dB and plays down to 18Hz. It sports no fewer than eight drivers. On the front, we find three 9” ceramic-cone woofers, a 7” ceramic-cone midrange transducer, a beryllium-dome tweeter, and a dual-ribbon super-tweeter that reproduces frequencies up to 60kHz. In the rear is an "ambient array": a horn-loaded magnesium-diaphragm high-frequency driver working in tandem with another super-tweeter. Though the Ultra 7 is completely analog, Von Schweikert has built in a room-correction feature of sorts. Four of the drivers can be independently adjusted in 0.5dB increments, using a set of autoformers with individual signal paths for each level selection.

When I visited, something wasn't right with the Sonorus Audio ATR10 MkII reel-to-reel deck ($29,950). A Yello studio recording I'm very familiar with sounded muffled and closed-in. The gentleman sitting next to me heard it too; we jointly requested a switch to the room's digital front end, consisting of an Aurender W20SE music server ($23,000), an Aurender MC20 Reference master clock ($30,000), and a LampizatOr Horizon DAC ($49,000).

And all was suddenly well. Driven by VAC Master 300 iQ monoblocks ($84,000/pair, above) fed via a VAC Master preamp ($30,000), the Ultra 7s made Sarah McLachlan sound extra heavenly on "Angel." Subtlety and ebullience, power and perspicuity: it was all there, on every recording we heard, from Dire Straits' "You and Your Friend" to "The Carnival is Over," a gorgeous Dead Can Dance song that reminded me of the equally talented Blue Nile (the band). The system reproduced vocalists' every breath in a way that made you believe that if a mouse tip-toed across the studio floor, you'd hear it.

Glotz's picture

But I missed THIS room.. Uggh. This would have been a stellar listen!

Next year...