Wynn Audio with Thales, Kalista, Vimberg, Karan Acoustics: Stereo with Style

It's showtime again! With a business and showroom in Toronto, Wynn Wong's Wynn Audio is a next-generation dealer and distributor for a number of luxe European high-design high-end brands, a few of which had new product introductions at AXPONA. Wynn's preferred equipment leans toward striking and colorful rather than gaudy or blingy.

Swiss analog manufacturer Thales has launched a new brand, X-Quisite. Here, the X-Quisite Fire MC cartridge ($11,400) with gold coils was introduced in the active setup. Its patented design uses a single piece of ceramic—they call it monobloc-ceramic—for the cantilever and coil body construction. Besides the ceramic's material properties, this approach also minimizes cantilever vibration by removing the joint—the point of highest load, according to Thales—that's found in most stylus-cantilever assemblies made of other materials. The body is finished in a special heat-treated titanium for a cool-looking iridescent effect. The Swiss-made cartridge was fitted to a bright teal Thales Simplicity II tonearm on a Thales TTT-Compact II turntable (above).

Visitors were welcomed by an active-but-silent demo in a display case outside Wynn's large Utopia C exhibit room at the Renaissance Schaumberg: a Thales Slim II turntable with Simplicity II tonearm (below) moving back and forth in a special record's grooves to show how the headshell shifts to maintain the correct the correct angle/tangency as the stylus tracks across the record side. This results in more precise tracking for playback—the reported tracking error is specified at a maximum of 0.006°. In the active system, LP playback sounded silky-smooth and steady.

On the digital side, Wynn debuted the shiny, new Kalista DreamPlay X CD/SACD transport (pictured at the top) and network streamer with wired (LAN/Ethernet) or wireless (Wi-Fi with antenna) connectivity. It has no DAC onboard but a second "DreamPlay XC" version with an onboard DAC and digital preamp is coming soon, Wynn said. Both ship with a large, vertical outboard power supply that looks more like a computer. The proprietary streaming platform is Audirvana-ready and offers optional upsampling for PCM up to 24/192 over AES3 and S/PDIF, and DSD 256 playback over HDMI/i2S output. Control is via an included remote or the round touchscreen on front. I only toyed with it a little, but its interface seemed intuitive and elegant, with rotary dial effects in digital. Alas, high design often comes with high pricing: The DreamPlay X retails for a cool $68,800.

The French company Métronome Technologie that makes Métronome modern-styled components also manufactures their high-design high-end Kalista brand's products. On static display in a case was another Kalista debut: their first turntable, which will retail for $54,000.

Silver-woven wires from Netherlands-based Crystal Cable graced another display case—in this uh, case, the new Crystal Cable Art Series cables, which are replacing the Dream Series. The active demo system also featured that new Art Series cabling that contains a new conductive material called Infinite Crystal Silver (iCS). As always, they look as pretty as jewelry—and it seems they sound pretty damn good too.

Karan Acoustics supplied the system's amplification: a LineA preamplifier ($41,000) and a pair of PowerA monoblocks ($106,000) outputting a mighty 2100W into 8 ohms; it comes with Critical Mass Systems' Center Stage footers. This much power needs some grounding (especially in hotel conditions). A new flagship from Sweden, the Entreq Olympus Hero ground box ($18,000), filled that niche. It looks like a basic wooden box but...There are 10 binding posts on the back to connect individual components for grounding. Its job is to provide some power conditioning—as in removal of noise—but without interfering with or adding possible sonic effects to other components. And inside? It's rather mysterious but Wynn told me there are a mix of metals inside: copper, silver, gold, and tungsten.

Finally, at the end of the active system's chain were lime-green Vimberg Mino D speakers—D stands for the diamond tweeter upgrade. (John Atkinson reviewed the same Vimberg Mino speakers, except with the regular ceramic tweeter.) Vimberg is a sub-brand under the Tidal loudspeaker marque; their products are made in Germany. I always remember the Vimberg cabinets' leaning-back slope. But they sounded anything but laid-back on some punchy jazz cornet and sax tracks. More expansive soundstaging sprung to life on a couple of cuts from my Portishead Roseland NYC Live LP. A fine demo that is bound to get even better with some settling in as the show goes on.