Tampa Spotlights Old Friends in New Settings

It's always nice to encounter fine old friends in new contexts. In this case, it was an all-but-the-speakers system from Germany's AVM, whose MA8.2 monoblocks ($31,990/pair) were the first amplifiers I reviewed for Stereophile. AVM's PA8.2 modular preamp ($18,785) with phono, DAC, tone input card, and tubed output card is no stranger to Stereophile either—it was reviewed by Michael Fremer in our December 2018 issue.

Complete with AVM's MP6.2 media player ($9995) and R5.3 turntable ($7750) with Hana cartridge ($1500—precise model not identified), Raidho D2.1 speakers, Shunyata cabling and power conditioner, and Stillpoints equipment rack, this system delivered Tony Bennett's classic "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" with great beauty and a touch of warmth. Dire Strait's "The Man's Too Strong" sounded solid and all-of-one-piece from top to bottom, and dynamics were excellent. I also enjoyed "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress," which displayed lovely warmth in the version included on the Burmester II sampler. (The sonics on the remastered MQA version, which received a "Record of the Month" nod from John Atkinson, reach an entirely different level.) The system only wanted for a bigger soundstage which, to tell the truth, is very hard to achieve in such a confined space.

AVM's smaller system, tucked away in the second half of their suite, included their CS8.2 all-in-one ($14,995), Raidho D1.2 speakers, and Shunyata cabling and power. Highs were very fine, but low-bass pitches were hard to pinpoint.

I was also treated to a peek at AVM's just-introduced A8.3 integrated amp ($17,390). While AVM has heretofore made both tube and solid-state versions of their products, this new class-AB, 225Wpc into 8 ohms baby, which includes a 32-bit DAC that accepts DSD via USB, has a removeable tube line stage that enables you to experience the best of both worlds. Its DAC section, too, is removeable and upgradable. Very, very intriguing.

Angel City Audio's system was headlined by their ACA Seraphim Prime speakers ($25,000/pair). Fed by Melody M845 monoblocks ($8999/pair), Melody P2688 preamp ($9399), and a NFS Onyx OC103 DAC, the system's very fine midrange was its strong suit. I really enjoyed Peggy Lee's "Fever," which sounded as new played from a PC equipped with JRiver. I also got off on a 24/96 file of Daft Punk's "Lose Yourself to Dance" and a vintage Big Band Recording (whose title I missed) from 1967. I thought the tweeter a little hot, but that could have been due to the electronics or the unlisted cabling or the phase of the moon.

My thanks to Anders Ertzeid of Hegel for playing me a "Red Book" file of one of his favorite cuts, DubXanne's version of The Police's "Spirits in a Material World." This track, as well as the oft-heard "No Sanctuary Here" and Anette Askvik's "Liberty"—someone spontaneously commented behind me, "It used to be"—displayed his Hegel system's excellent bass depth and clarity, as well as its pleasing warmth.

In addition to excellent Dynaudio Contour 60 speakers ($10,000/pair), the handsome Hegel system included Hegel's H590 "ultimate" integrated amplifier ($11,000) which decodes PCM to 384, DSD to 256, and MQA. Also included in the room, and presumably playing at other times, were Hegel's H360 integrated amplifier ($7000), P30 preamp ($6000), HD30 DAC ($5000), two H30 power amps ($17,000/each), and a C55 five-channel power amp ($8000).

Save for some booming bass, the system from Soundfield Audio, who helped sponsor the Florida Audio Expo, sounded really fine. On Hugh Masekela's "Abangoma" (The Healers), as well as a track from Esperanza Spalding, I really enjoyed the system's highs and midrange. Given how well the Soundfield Audio CTA1 fully active Hypex NCore-powered four-way cardioid/planar horn speakers ($16,000/pair) sounded, I really look forward to hearing them again. Also heard: an HP laptop computer feeding a NAD M51 DAC ($2000) via USB and VAC Signature Mk IIa SE preamp ($26,000).

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress" .......... Renee Fleming :-) .......