The Frederick room this year pushed Greg Takesh's GT Audio Works GTA 3R Planar/Ribbon loudspeakers ($12,000/pr) to the top of the best sounding, yet least known about category. In combination with Steve Rabitz' Sound Insight SI 600 Open Baffle subwoofers ($17,000/pr) featuring six 12" woofers per channel driven by a servo amplifier the room really sang, on the weekend that is. If you listened Friday you got about 60% of what this system was capable of dishing out. They worked on the room before daybreak early Saturday morning adding room treatments and re-positioning the speakers with superb results.
Greg builds each 3R to customer's finish requests, here finished in an automobile gray paint, I prefer the Sapelle wood finish on my GTA 2.5s, but Greg can finish them however you want. Taking out the powered cone woofers he had in the GTA 2.5s gave Greg the room to extend the full range planar and ribbon tweeter to 72" long, the planar is 10" wide allowing it to reach 40 Hz driven full range without any crossover in front of it, and the true ribbon at 0.5" wide with only a single capacitor in the path. The secret sauce is Greg's use of neodymium magnets allowing the 3R to achieve a 92dB/W/m sensitivity, and it lets the speaker deliver tremendous dynamics with little effort, 60 Watts were used here and it could get easily very loud on peaks.
Speaking of "only" 60 Watts driving the 3Rs, Steve brought a Pass Labs suite of kit to Rockville, Pass Labs XS Preamp ($38,000), Pass Labs XS Phono Preamp ($45,000), and Pass Labs XA 60.8 monoblock amplifiers ($13,500/pr). A Vu Jade Audio Tube DAC ($9,995) handled digital, an Acoustic Signature Triple X turntable ($5,995), TA 1000 tonearm ($1,995), and Dynavector XX2 cartridge ($1,950) delivered vinyl playback.
The King of affordable cabling, Triode Wire Labs' Pete Grzybowski had TWL cables doing everything. Pete's legendary power cords were plugged into all the equipment, using The Silver Statement ($1,199) High Power Digital American ($699) and Digital American ($499) where appropriate. The best buy American Speaker Cables ($699) Spirit interconnects ($349/pr) and Spirit Split Power and Data USB cable ($329) connected the signal paths. Kanso Harmoni 3ST/5S equipment racks ($11,368) supported the gear.
Sunday I spent 90 minutes here listening to all my music and letting Steve play cuts he thought really let the system shine. The system checked off all the audiophile boxes, electrostatic like transparency combined with huge dynamics, completely disappearing speakers, voices perfect focus/size/height, and room pressurizing bass with ease. A jazz album, The Alternate Blues, with Dizzy, Clark, Freddie, and Oscar sounded like I was at a club, the trumpet had startling dynamics and proper bite, piano clear and real sounding, drum kit impact was palpable yet delicate brush work easily heard, I just closed my eyes and let the music take me there. Eva Cassidy's "Ain't No Sunshine" showcased her beautiful voice, and let me hear the vocal intonations and phrasing that makes her a joy to listen to. The only other room I enjoyed more was across the Atrium and was valued at $1,500,000 USD. I heard all my favorites and really wanted to relax and let the tunes wash over me, or pummel me if they had low end sock because this room delivered it all.
The pairing of a planar speaker with an Open Baffle subwoofer is the perfect idea and carried out to perfection here. Without boxes, there is no boxy coloration, and the OB bass is stupendous. The bass never got "caught out", no boom or room overloading, upright bass plucks sounded real, string and the wood body resonating with no overhang just tight real sounding bass, and with twelve 12" woofers plenty of impact and the ability to pressurize the room when called upon. If you like what planars do for music, you need to get to Greg's or Steve's place in NY and audition this system, and you will be very pleased you made the trip. In an after show discovery one of the woofer towers had a wiring snafu which slightly diminished the impact, so it could have been even better, next year should be great.