One of the most overachieving series of electronics available to the public today are the result of the efforts of Klaus Bunge and his Odyssey line of products. But Klaus has a secret...
As the USA importer of several revered German electronics brands, most notably Symphonic Line, for the past 20-odd years, he somehow managed to convince Symphonic Line to allow him to use the same circuits, literally their boards, used in their stellar line of electronics. Odyssey is in Indianapolis, IN, just 150 odd miles from my home in northern Indiana, where these over-achieving electronics are built from his own sourced parts, employ his own tweaks and modifications, populating bespoke chassis', all sold at factory-direct pricing.
Just to give you a sense of what we are talking about, a side by side comparison of the Symphonic Line RG-1 Mk IV stereo amplifier to the Odyssey Khartago reveals virtually identical specifications; output, bandwidth (up to 400kHz), current capability, damping factor, slew rates, etc. While the German models sells for nearly $8000, the Khartago sells for under $1000! And just wait until you hear the Khartago ($1,995/pr.), or better yet, the Stratos ($2,700/pr.), or Stratos Extreme ($3,400/pr.) monos!
And don't forget the Tempest preamplifier, a solid-state unit with a phono stage, also built on Symphonic Line boards ($1,950), or the tube based Candela ($1,650) preamp. You'll excuse me for having said more often than I can count that Odyssey amplification is the absolute best buy, the biggest bang for the buck, available to audiophiles today! Period.
That said, Klaus also produces several loudspeakers, including a pretty damn good little two-way floor stander, in beautiful wood finished cabinets, the Kismet Beryllium Reference ($4,200/pr.) The system at CAF this year was sourced by a VPI Avenger Reference "Magnetic Drive" table with the JMW Reference 3D arm ($20,000), fitted with a van den Hul Colibri ($8,000), feeding the Candela preamp. A pair of the Khartago monoblocks ($1,995/pr.) driving the Kismet's, using an entire loom of Magnan cables. I owe an apology to the young man sitting in the cat-bird seat in the Montrose Room (named for the late guitarist Ronnie, perhaps?) when I entered, as Klaus quietly but firmly evicted him in lieu of putting my butt in that seat. He then proceeded to wow the room with side one of the Mobile Fidelity UD1S pressing of Santana's Abraxas.
All who know me or have been following my work over the decades know that I find the proof to be in the listening, not the spec sheet. While this system was obviously a bit lacking in the lowest octave and a half, in comparison to the abilities of more full range loudspeakers, what it did with midbass pitch definition and punch, midrange tone color and texture, treble extension, sparkle and air, not to mention image locations and size, as well as soundstage spread and dimension, was exceptional!
The folks from Benchmark and Martin-Logan teamed up to do something just a little different, and entirely enchanting, in the Jackson Room! I'm not clear what sources were used, but by using three DAC3-HGC DACs ($2,195 ea.), to feed five Benchmark AHB2 amps (which I reviewed back in November of 2015), each configured as a monoblock ($2,995 ea.), they drove three Martin-Logan Impression ESL 11A's ($9,995/pr.) across the front, and a pair of ESL X's ($4,000/pr.) for rears. Supported by a pair of Martin-Logan Balanced Force 210 subs, ($2,995 ea.) everything was connected with Benchmark cables.
The resultant sound was extremely clean and fast, surprisingly dynamic, and the space, as you'd expect with good multi-channel, was get-up-and-walk-around through. Well done!
It is no secret why Dan Wright, of ModWright Instruments, and Lou Hinkley, of Daedalus Audio, have been showing together for almost as long as anyone can recall. The pairing just works, as was evidenced by the sound achieved in the Rudolph Room!
Lou was introducing a new product, his Apollo 11 ($22,800) full range floor stander. A three-way system featuring one 10" woofer, two 5" midranges, and two 1" soft dome tweeters, arranged in a mid-tweeter-tweeter-mid array, is unique to my experience. It is said to offer a reliably stable 6 Ohm impedance, with an efficiency of 96dB/W/m.
Dan is a full-on valve lover, and his work reflects that passion. The source I listened to was the OPPO UPD-205 player/DAC ($1,399) with the full ModWright tube modification featuring a total redesign and replacement of the op-amp based stock analog stage with a fully balanced, pure Class A, tube/transformer coupled analog stage employing 6922 driver tubes, and an external tube rectified power supply ($2,499 for the modifications). In play also was the OPPO Sonica DAC ($799), also with the similar full ModWright treatment ($2,499).
Preamplification was by the new Ambrose ONE, a Class A, balanced tube preamplifier with external dual mono power supply ($12,000), and a pair of Ambrose A30, Class A, 30-Watt monos ($16,000/pr.) provided the muscle. All cabling was Diamond or Silver series products from WyWires.
Sound in the room was full bodied, relaxed, yet detailed. Imaging and staging were precise and accurate, and remained so over a wider area of the room than one would normally expect. Once again, job well done, guys.
Coincidentally, the CanJam room was directly across the hall from the Rudolph room, and one of the most stirring looking, and versatile, devices on exhibit was the brand new ModWright HA300 ($7,900). Not content to merely build another headphone amplifier (ModWright already has a home run in the Tryst), the HA300 is actually an integrated amp that can be used to drive headphones. It is an 8 Watt pure Class A, SET 300B design with zero feedback, featuring RCA, XLR, and mini stereo inputs, includes an RCA pass-through (to allow the selected input to feed another amp or preamp from the same source), has XLR, 1/4", and IEM (or second XLR) out options, and has binding posts for driving speakers via 8 Ohm taps! Like all ModWright gear, it is made in the USA, and the HA300 features hand-wound Electraprint transformers. It comes in custom automotive paint colors, and in the shown dazzling red, was outta sight!
The Adams Room (John, or John Quincy?) housed the talents of two gifted equipment designers whom I've had the pleasure of knowing for some time. I met Doug Hurlburt, the designer of Dynamic Sounds Associates electronics, in the mid-1990's, when I was living in Southern Maryland, and belonged to a select listening group to which we were both members. I've watched the development of his products, the PhonoONE, Phono II, the Pre I, and most recently, the Amp I. Though I've auditioned and reviewed the PhonoONE and DSA Pre I, and use the Phono II as one of my current reference phono stages, this was my first time hearing the Amp I, which first drew great press attention at RMAF 2016. Doug gave me a look inside the Amp I, and I have to say, they looked every bit as impressive on the inside!
I ran into David MacPherson at his first showing of his striking looking, and musically captivating, Model One loudspeakers at T.H.E. Show 2006 in Las Vegas. David has continued to impress with several products over the years, and this new FSX floor standing three-way ($11,500) may be the most musically stirring speaker he's shown yet.
Using the VPI Avenger Reference "Magnetic Drive" table, fitted with no less than three 12" metal 3D printed arms ($30,000 with arms), they had the ability to use different carts, which included the Ortofon MC A95 ($6,500) and Cadenza Mono ($1,280), as well as the Miyajima Laboratories Mandrake ($5,995) and the Zero-Mono ($1,995), according to the music selected.
Digital sources (via Tweek Geek) were either an AURALiC Aries wireless streamer ($1,595) with the SBooster power supply ($450), or the Aqua HiFi La Diva CD Transport ($8,500) and Formula DAC ($14,000).
The electronics chain started with the Phono II ($13,500) phono stage, feeding a Pre I linestage ($16,500), which handed the LP or Digital playback to a pair of 125 Wpc, Class A Amp I's ($25,000/pr.), driving the beautiful Studio Electric FSX loudspeakers ($11,500/pr.) Employing a copolymer 6.5" low frequency driver mated to 8" passive radiator (mounted to the outward facing side of both speaker cabinets), a similarly voiced copolymer 6.5" midrange, and a 1" soft dome, these new speakers looked as sharp and powerful as they sounded. I'm sorry to say that I didn't get a shot including the FSX, but there are great shots and descriptions at the Studio Electric website.
Everything sat on Kanso Audio furniture, and all cabling was Tweek Geek Dark Energy, while the Dark Matter Power Conditioner ($7,495), Stillpoints Aperture Acoustic Room Treatments ($795), and the Stein Harmonizer Room Treatments ($2,995+) contributed to power and room taming.
Given my restrictive schedule, I didn't have a lot of time in this room, so I didn't get to hear all the cartridges, but what I did hear was big, bold, and focused, with alarmingly good transients, honest instrumental bloom, in excellently recreated space.