Florida Audio Expo-Enjoy The Music's by Maurice Jeffries

Leif S

Industry Expert
Feb 14, 2015
The Audio Company Suite: Primus Inter Pares

My overall Best of Show choice went to the Audio Company room. For sheer musical thrills, spine-tingling dynamic expressiveness and scaling, and world-class "suspension of disbelief" realism, few rooms rivaled, yet alone sonically approached, the Marietta-based wizard's stupefying setup. A few other rooms might have rivaled the Audio Company suite in one or more areas, but on balance, this system bellowed, growled, whispered, and trumpeted in no uncertain terms that is was indisputably first amongst equals, with every other system at the show sounding just a little less equal overall.

The sheer quantity (and quality) of upper-crust goodies on display made clear that this was not your typical high-end set-up. Indeed, I would argue that the Audio Company suite (which included a selection of the best of the best from firms like VAC Amplifiers, Von Schweikert Audio, Kronos Audio, and MasterBuilt cables) represents the next level in audio reproduction, what I'll simply call the "ultra-high-end". Undeterred by cost constraints, and buoyed by impressive advances in engineering capacity (think CNC machining, CAD software and increased reliance on exotic driver materials and construction techniques), this segment of the high-end shows no signs of abating, although out-of-control trade wars and the coronavirus pandemic might dampen the proliferation of some brands to the farthest corners of the globe, at least in the short term.
In its sheer audacity, this system challenges conventional notions of cost, design complexity, product execution, scaling, and yes, achievable sonic performance. With such products and systems, design objectives define the design and engineering choices, those coarse and discreet engineering choices, in turn, defining product scale, configuration, and execution, with each of the above metrics ultimately defining system costs. The nose-bleed price structure is, in no uncertain terms, simply and purely a function of the system's intended sonic impact: the reproduction of music in a dedicated home listening space that replicates, to the extent that current engineering permits, the real thing.

The net result: a system the approaches, and likely surpasses the $1,500,000 mark. For those intent on counting, here goes: the Von Schweikert ULTRA 11 loudspeakers ($325,000 the pair), Von Schweikert V12XS Shockwave subwoofer ($11,500 each x2), the VAC Statement 452iQ mono power amplifiers (four at $75,000 per amp), VAC Statement Phono Stage ($80,000), VAC Statement Line Stage ($80,000), Esoteric Grandioso P1x Digital Transport ($50,000), Esoteric Grandioso D1x mono-block DACs ($50,000 the pair), Esoteric Grandioso G1 Master Clock ($26,000), Aurender W20SE Streamer/Renderer ($22,000), Kronos Pro Turntable with Black Beauty tonearm and Ultracap power supply ($51,000), Airtight Opus 1 cartridge ($16,000), Critical Mass Maxxum Audio Rack ($6150 utilizing 12 separate rack components here at a whopping $75,000), Critical Mass Maxxum Amp rack ($10,150/each), and a loom of gorgeous MasterBuilt cables (estimated price is ~$500,000).

The selections I heard over the weekend redefined for me what reproduced sound at an audio show can deliver. Whether it was Ella Fitzgerald's intimately up-close and achingly personal rendition of Black Coffee, or Julie London's "in the room" believable take on Cry Me a River, both from Analogue Production′s delightful Sounds of Female Vocals LP, the Audio Company team delivered the musical goods like nobody's business.
VAC's new Statement 452iQ mono power amplifiers represent a demonstrable improvement over their class-leading predecessors, sounding more dynamically expressive, hauntingly quiet, dimensionally holographic, and shockingly realistic regardless of chosen musical genre. When driving the ULTRA 11 towers, the VAC Statement 452iQs deliver the most satisfying natural and musically engaging sounds that I have ever heard. Classical works project with an impact and degree of dynamic composure that rivals the best horn systems, but with no cupped-hands colorations, while more intimate fare scales to rival the immediacy, focus, and clarity that one typically associates with the best compact speaker designs, along with a small speaker's superb overall coherence.

How do the 11s, 7-foot tall monoliths that I liked but didn't love when I heard them at their AXPONA reveal a few years back, deliver such superb low-level detailing, air, bloom, dynamic expressiveness, and class-defining (re-defining?) coherence? For one, the Audio Company team and their show partners are now old hands at setting this system up in less than ideal exhibition spaces. Von Schweikert Audio's Leif Swanson confided that the team spent two days setting up the room, not to mention spending a small fortune to ship all the goodies and bodies necessary to pull off this musical sleight of hand.

Second, the 11's line-array design minimizes the extent to which quirky room interactions plague overall sonics. All things being equal, line arrays propagate sound into a given listening space largely free of sound-degrading environmental factors such as room reflections or temperature refractions. While no line array neutralizes the listening room perfectly or completely, the ULTRA 11s do so as well as any modern representative of the breed that I have heard, and with far greater dynamic elasticity, transparency, and inter-driver sonic coherence than I have observed from any other high-end speaker system.

Third, as I have made clear, all the other supporting cast members, the cabling, the DACs (dual-mono masterpieces), the racks, the sources, all the over-the-top accessories, each about as far from equal sonically compared to just about every other rival on the market, make sonic comparisons with lesser gear an almost total apples to oranges exercise, if not plain unfair.

As I said above, primus inter pares hands down, with nothing else that I heard at the show sounding quite as equal or quite as convincingly musical.


VIP/Donor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
Midwest fly over state..
..well done Damon, Leif and Kevin. They may as well retire the trophy :)
Likes: Leif S

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