Jeffrey Catalano’s High Water Sound

Jeffrey Catalano’s High Water Sound provided my very favorite musical experience of the 2010 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. Along one wall of the room, there were stacks and stacks of vinyl records, an obvious sign of something good about to happen.

Catalano had positioned two systems, facing one another, with seats in between. If we wanted to listen to one system, we turned our seats to face it. When ready to listen to the other system, we simply turned our seats around. The first system: TW-Acustic Black Night turntable ($40,000) equipped with a TW-Acustic 10.5 tonearm ($5500) and Ortofon Cadenza Black phono cartridge ($2300), Aspara Acoustics HL1 loudspeakers ($13,500/pair), 25Wpc Thoress Systems 845 amplifier ($14,000), and TW-Acustic Raven phono preamp ($9000). Speaker cables were Stealth Audio’s Dream; interconnects were Stealth Audio’s Sakra. The gear was supported by Silent Running Audio’s Ohio XL platforms and Craz rack.

The second system: TW-Acustic Raven 2 ($7500), Dynavector 507 Mk2 LE tonearm ($5750), Dynavector XV1s mono phono cartridge ($5750), Miyabi 47 phono cartridge ($4500), Horning Hybrid Eufrodite Zigma Ultimate loudspeakers ($22,000/pair), 12Wpc Telstar 211 ($28,000), Tron Electric Mono Phono Seven Reference ($9500), Tron Electric Stereo Seven ($9500), and Tron Electric Line Seven ($10,500). Again, cables were Stealth Audio’s Dream and interconnects were Stealth Audio’s Sakra. The system utilized SRA’s Ohio XL platforms and Scuttle rack.

I was impressed by the fine delicacy and gentle touch of the first system, and I could have listened to it for a much longer time. Moving to the second system, however, brought a more immediate sound, a sound that was eager to pull the listener into the music, with bigger images on a bigger soundstage, and with no real sacrifice of that delicacy I previously noted. At times, I wondered if the system traded some detail for body, but I didn’t really care; I was too taken by the music’s blood and guts to care.

We listened to a track from Lokai’s excellent Transition. Lokai is Florian Kmet and Stefan Nmeth playing guitars and electronics, making music out of nothing, it seems. I heard beautiful chimes, wood blocks, and trickling water, and the system grabbed onto a jagged, awkward rhythm and grabbed again onto a sweet melody, and the system seemed to make a certain sense of the composition, all with a gentle, but powerful hand.

I was pondering this while other listeners complimented the system’s resolving abilities. Then Jeffrey Catalano jumped up and said, “Now I’ll show you where that music came from!” And he cued up a record and handed me the sleeve and it was Edgar Varese in mono, Robert Craft conducting woodwinds, brass, and percussion—“I got that for one dollar on St. Marks Place”—created directly on magnetic tape by the composer for the Brussels World’s Fair, and the room quickly, quickly filled up with swirling, pounding music, so much living, jumping sound and music, that I almost started to think to myself, “There is no music like this anymore, there is no music like this anymore,” but then I remembered that we had just heard Lokai.

And with that Jeffrey Catalano had brought together two seemingly disparate musical entities, bonding, through hi-fi and sound, a 51-year old live acoustic performance and a 1-year old electronic recording, acting as a sort of time traveler, librarian, and teacher, and creating my favorite musical experience of the 2010 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. Awesome, awesome stuff.

alan m. kafton/audioexcellenceaz's picture

Stephen....Jeff's was one of my "audio oasis" rooms....totally effortless, totally musical and enjoyable. You looked a bit shell-shocked when I sat next to you (that's what shows do), and then Jeff cued up Herman's Hermits "Something Tells Me I'm Into Something Good" in glorious mono. I think that nicely sums up his room, and presentation.:--}

Louis Dorio / Ortofon's picture

Hey Stephen,The cartridge is called Cadenza Black.Great article!Louis/Ortofon

Stephen Mejias's picture

Hi Louis.
Thanks for the correction. I've now changed the text.

Ramon Sena's picture

Reinhardt Thoress amplifiers are simply beautiful rich and detailed as any, needless to say hallmarks in SET contemporary development. He is of the old school of Kondo-san and Imai-san ( Audio Tekne) and others who wound transformers till the sun came up. That is the true art of audio and is sorely missed in much of the audio world today!Ramon SenaSanta Fe Audio Society