VAC/Von Schweikert/Kronos/Esoteric/Aurender/Hana/Ultra Q

When I walked into the Potomac room, a large VAC/Von Schweikert system was playing vintage Steely Dan tunes (Gaucho era) via vinyl into the sprawling space—what's not to love? While one exhibitor poked me in the ribs for criticizing their choice of Michael Jackson's Thriller at last year's event, the Yacht Rock flowing out of the mighty Potomac room suited me perfectly. And it sounded fantastic.

This big rig included a Kronos Pro turntable with Black Beauty tonearm and Ultra Cap power supply ($51,000) running a Hana Umami Red cartridge (3900). An Esoteric K1 Grandioso CD/SACD player ($31,000), Esoteric N-01 XD streamer, Esoteric G-01 clock ($20,000), and Aurender W20SE music server performed digital duties. VAC amplification included the VAC Statement phono preamplifier ($80,000), VAC Statement line preamplifier ($80,000), and four, eight-KT88-tubes-apiece VAC Statement 452 iQ Musicbloc mono/stereo power amplifiers ($75,000/each), driving a baby blue pair of Von Schweikert Ultra 7 loudspeakers ($180,000/pair) as well as a pair of Von Schweikert Shockwave 12 subwoofers ($30,000 each). Nine Critical Mass Ultra Q racks held all this muscular gear erect and ready for duty.

Kevin Hayes, President of VAC, was on hand to educate me re the details, such as the vertical arrangement of the 225Wpc 452 iQ amps; how their stacked strata of internal components allowed for shorter cable lengths, and enabled the amp's unusual, innate tube cooling system.

More Yacht Rock ushered forth with a room-filling, immersive presentation, skull shattering dynamics, and precise imaging, while earthquake-worthy classical selections were equally impressive.

Anton's picture

When it was fresh, Steely Dan's music was most often played in hazy rooms by the kids who drank and took drugs.

Now, people wearing Thurston Howell III hats sip daiquiris to it.

Ah, well, father time wounds all heels....I even hear 'Honky Tonk Women' and "Brown Sugar" on elevators.

Thank you for the show coverage, I can at least buy a vicarious thrill these days!

rschryer's picture

...sip daiquiris to it."

So funny, and oh so true.

Steely Dan is an anomaly. Is it cool? Is it uncool? It's both!

Anton's picture

Nowadays, most people think that's simply an HBO Max reference.

It used to mean something, man!

Back in the day, if the cops ever searched someone's domicile and found Aja, the owner could get arrested for possession.

I think owning that album is still grounds for a warrant in Idaho.


Anyway, and I drift...

I am a Jackson Browne fan.

I have him set as a favorite artist on that there Serious Radio.

I tell you, that guy is many things to many people.

If his alert pops up and is identified as being played on Yacht Rock Channel, I know it will be "Somebody's Baby."

If the alert pops for "Red, White, and Booze" channel, I know it wil be "Redneck friend."

If his name alerts to "Bridge Channel," it's gonna be that damnable "Load Out/Stay."

Classic Vinyl is usually "Runnin' On Empty."

Deep Tracks seems fixated on "The Pretender."

I think for the whole spectrum of Sirius/XM, it would make you think he's only got a five song ouvre.


More drift. I am so old, I saw Michael McDonald stand on a riser and shout the word "PEG!" ten times during a Steely Dan concert. It was great.


Cheers, my virtual audio brother.

rschryer's picture

...a great sense of humor.

"I think owning that album is still grounds for a warrant in Idaho." That there is comic gold, brother Anton.

I admit I don't know much about Jackson Browne (he's got more than five songs? ;-)) but you've inspired me to check him out.

brucewcca's picture

I've seen references to "Yacht Rock" on the Stereophile site. You do realize that there is no such thing... don't you? Yacht Rock is something that contemporary music writers made up to describe an era that they don't seem to understand, or are perhaps they are just pissed that they missed it. There was a lot going on musically in the 70s, brilliant, terrible and everything in between. "Yacht Rock", "Arena Rock" - its lazy writing, "get off of my lawn" in reverse. Can't you do better given the wealth of subject matter there is to work with?

DougM's picture

This writer is a useless and obnoxious snob, a perfect fit for the majority of Stereophile's readership, who are also snobs unworthy of any attention by anyone that isn't equally vile and disgusting

rschryer's picture

...that Stereophile writers regularly give glowing reviews to Steely Dan (re-)releases, right?

Calling the majority of Stereophile readers obnoxious makes you obnoxious, Doug.

ken mac's picture

Robert, my friend. Now THIS is comedic gold.

David Harper's picture

Every Steely Dan song sounds the same.

Anton's picture

You know how you can tell banjo songs apart?

They have different names.

Bah dump bump.

I think we all have our "same song again and again" acts.

I can't tell Bad Company songs apart. Same with Styx and KISS.

But, you have to cut me some slack, there is likely a lot of 'state dependent' memory involved.

ken mac's picture

You're the best. Thank you.

ken mac's picture

Always have, always will. Alex Halberstadt and I compare Dan notes on a regular basis.
No marigolds in the promised land/There's a hole in the ground/Where they used to grow/Any man left on the Rio Grande/Is the king of the world/As far as I know