The Best-Laid Plans...

Perhaps you've experienced something similar. I recently invited members of the Bay Area Audiophile Society to hear my system. Many of them had visited our house before, but only to attend demos of other equipment that had been brought in specifically for the event. Now I finally had the chance to let BAAS members hear my system whole and complete.

Wouldn't you know it: for the only time in three years, my right-channel interconnect decided to make only half a connection, throwing off the timbral balance and pushing everything over to the left. Because I was sitting way to the left to begin with, I didn't fully grasp the problem until more than half the visitors had left my house wondering why I thought my system was anything special.

Well, a similar disaster happened to the Scaena room shortly before I entered the room. Given the positive critical response to the assembled components, I expected great things from George Bischoff's Scaena Model 3 loudspeaker system ($44,000 complete with woofers, electronic crossover, and subwoofer amp), ASR Emitter One 150Wpc integrated amplifier, Nova Physics Memory Player with tube-DAC output, Audience Adept Response Power Conditioner, and Silversmith Palladium cables. After having to wait several minutes for my Harmonia Mundi CD of Schubert's "Arpeggione Sonata" to rip to the Memory Player’s hard drive—pause for new pet peeve: exhibitors who only make a hard drive option available for playback limit visitors’ ability to play their own music—and doing my best to ignore the intrusive bass from the adjacent mbl room, I heard a very clear, focused presentation. While I noted fine overtones on the piano, there was nothing about the sound itself that put it in a class above "excellent hi-fi."

It was only later, when I encountered Jeff of Silversmith in the hallway, that I learned that the cause of my dissatisfaction was a cable that had been plugged into the wrong receptacle. I was only able to return to the Scaena room for a few minutes, but what I heard sounded dramatically more natural and less "hi-fi" than on my previous visit. I wish I could have stayed longer, because there were indications of greatness in that room.

Scaena's line-source speakers are based on a ribbon tweeter and a ceramic-cone midrange module that can be stacked 12, 15, or 18 high. This module was acoustically inert when subject to John Atkinson's standard knuckle-rap test.