26
Jun
11

A system for all seasons

A system for all Seasons

I am a strong advocate of ‘the room make’d the system’. Conventional wisdom would suggest the speakers should fire down the length of the room. Conventional wisdom also advocates balancing the reflective surfaces – the walls on the left and right should be similar so as to achieve the ideal staging capability. Finally conventional wisdom dictates speakers should not be placed close to a wall or god forbid, a corner. If this system is anything to go by, conventional it isn’t so let’s sod conventional wisdom!

The setup of this system defies rationale, one speaker is placed close to a corner of the room, and one speaker had sidewall while the other don’t. Finally, it fires down the shorter side of the room. But the darn thing is, it works. My concerns withered away in no time.

Here we have a system supplied by Audio Note Singapore. We start with the most distinctive component, the Avantgarde Uno Picco loudspeaker. Resplendent with a large flared horn, it is a surprise to note this speaker is one of the smaller models in the range. Here it positively dominates the smallish living room, which nary had any sort of room treatment, and sound superb to boot. The soundstage is nicely proportioned to the room size and displayed commendable scale and dimensionality. It is indeed a trait of Avantgarde loudspeakers as I have come to know, to exhibit strong adaptability to its habitat. It did not whimper a protest despite having one speaker being placed close to a room corner, which is a big no no. Perhaps the arrangement of a independently powered woofer system in each speaker enable the speaker to be tuned independently left and right enabling the corner speaker to be tuned to avoid exciting the room’s resonant nodes.

The Air Tight amplifiers stood resplendent on Monaco Modular amplifier stands from GrandPrix Audio, each of the large 211 tubes delivers a stately 22 watts more than enough for the 106 dB sensitivity of the Uno Piccos. I was suitably impressed with the dynamics and control the Air Tight ATM-211 SETs had over the Avantgardes. The preamp is Air Tight’s finest, the Air Tight ATE-2001 reference preamp with built-in phono stage and step-up transformer. It comes with a beefy power supply in a separate casing so it comes as a two-chassis preamplifier.

This system offers two sources – the digital source in the form of Reimyo flagship CD player – the CDT –777 transport and DAP-999EX DAC plus an analogue source courtesy of TW Acustic from Germany. Lets start with the CD player.

Reimyo for those who are not familiar with this Japanese manufacturer is a small specialist high-end company. Reimyo products also have the infusion of tuning devices from Harmonix so it is already ‘tuned’ by the designer to its best before leaving the factory. The two box player is dedicated to just the playback of CDs – no SACD or DVD-A. You can do a better job just serving one master instead of many. This optimises the CD playback as compared when it would need to compromise between CD and SACD. The transport is a serious piece of gear though it doesn’t look it. I am quite taken aback by the outrigger chassis support, which seems like an aftermarket accessory but is actually part of the design. It adds stability and that helps the data extraction from the CD to a much better degree than if you would employ after market solutions.

The analogue front end is one elaborate device. TW Acustic Raven AC was once the top model in TW line up but lately has been eclipsed by an even higher end model, the Raven Black Nite. One of the advantages of the open architecture design is it enables mounting more than one arm, in this case, two. Two arms mean you can mount two different cartridges to suit the kind of music you are listening to.

The primary arm here is the famous Triplanar with a Transfiguration Orpheus L cartridge while the secondary tonearm is a 12-inch Reed L. The Triplanar has been around for almost thirty years and now in its ‘VII’ incarnation offers the peak of its evolutionary design started by the late Herb Papier. The Triplanar refers to the arm’s three independent planes of movement, offers a sturdy platform for low compliance cartridges, such as top end moving coil cartridges like the Transfiguration Orpheus L.

The Reed L, on the other hand, has a somewhat different approach to arm design. This finely crafted tonearm boasts a wooded arm tube – made from a certain Red Cedar (Thuja plicata), which obviously is chosen for its unique sonic character it imbues the arm. The gold plating on the arm posts and counterweight exudes a sense of luxury like a well-made Swiss watch. A dial on top of the arm post allows user to make fine adjustments to the VTA as the arm is playing a record. Nice. It mates with an Air Tight PC-1 Supreme cartridge. This beautiful gold plated cartridge is both visually and sonically well match with the Reed tonearm.

Initially the owner of this setup bought the TW turntable with the Triplanar tonearm and the Transfiguration cartridge. Later, Audio Note Singapore brought in the Reed tonearm and the shop had the latest Air Tight PC-1 cartridge mounted on it. When he heard the combination he immediately fell in love with the new arm and cartridge for its musical and warmer tone and just have to get it. The Raven AC allows for two arms to be mounted so instead of trading in the Triplanar, he decided to keep it and mount the second arm on the turntable instead. It’s nice to have the means to get what you like!

The system would not whimper if not for the cables. All the audio cables are from Harmonix (digital, interconnects and speaker cables) while premium Shunyata power cables connect to a passive line conditioner from Audience aR12p. As the name implies it comes with 12 outlets. It is interesting to note each of the 12 outlets is isolated from each other so there is no worry should you plug a digital product to the conditioner. The run out cable is from Audience and terminates at the conditioner end via a twist lock mechanism. I was told the internal of the Audience is damped with bitumous pads, which improved the sound quality.

So how does the system sound?

I had a short listen on the Reimyo CD combo and was blown away with its very musical and engaging character. As mentioned, the lack of room treatment and the limitations imposed by the speaker placement are marginal compromises at best and in no way detract from the enjoyment of this setup. Nice one!

This article is contributed by Terence Wong from MOD AV magazine.

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