The Soundstage Room: Vandersteen, TechDAS, Playback Designs, Kondo, Pure Power, and Cardas

Next up was another great-sounding room (it felt so good to be back!). Hosted by Mark Elias, owner of retailer Soundstage Fine Audio, this room boasted some high-grade gear, starting with Vandersteen’s new, dark, and handsome KĒNTO Carbon speakers ($49,000/pair), which Vandersteen representative Brad O’Toole seemed rightly proud of, as well as of the company’s 150Wpc solid state, zero feedback M5-HPA High-Pass monoblocks ($21,500/pair), which were powering the KĒNTO's higher-frequency drivers. (The KĒNTO's bass drivers are powered by onboard amplifiers.) Across music tracks that included a bass-heavy techno thing and a cover of the Bill Withers classic “Aint’ No Sunshine” by the group Vocalpoint—both streamed from a USB key via a Playback Designs MPD8 Dream DAC ($26,900)—and the song “Imagination” by Rosemary Clooney played on a phono front-end that included the TechDas Airforce 3 Premium ($43,000), a Glanz 124S tonearm ($9000), a Kondo cartridge ($11,000), the Kondo Heritage M7 preamp with built-in phono stage ($60,000) connected to a Kondo sfz step-up transformer ($12,000), the system served up sound that was weighty, with luxurious vocals and a sense of intimacy that felt almost risqué in these Covid-distanced times. Also in the system was a Playback Designs I.F. streamer ($4500) and a 3000+ Pure Power line conditioner with 6 regular outlets and 4 twist-lockable proprietary ones ($8000). Cardas Clear cabled everything together.

MatthewT's picture

But I'm starting to agree with those who howl about prices. Please try to visit rooms that cost less than a new car.

shawnwes's picture

So this one was the price of a decent condo as well. Sad truth is most people can only afford NIB "entry level" systems now or buy second hand. We were discussing the latest version prices of my nice little B&W N805s. They've increased 300% in the 20 years since the Stereophile review. About the same as Vancouver real estate. Salaries, not so much. I'll keep my N805s & have matched them with stacked subs. Works for me.

rschryer's picture

Can$21,500 / pair

Ortofan's picture

... USB key used as the source for digital playback?
What was its price?