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Capital Audiofest (CAF) 2016 Show Report
Capital Audiofest (CAF) 2016 Show Report
Fern & Roby Plus Luminous Audio Technology
Report By Kemper Holt


  Chris Hildebrand's method of relieving stress from his industrial design and manufacturing firm, Tektonics, was to start making furniture. He named the offshoot Fern & Roby after his two grandmothers, and audio equipment followed tables and desks. Chris, and his wife Sara, work with sustainable materials, seen in the Beam speaker ($6500 per pair) made from reclaimed, including nail holes, structural beams, and the cast iron plinth of the Tredegar turntable ($8500) consists of mostly recycled material.



Their new turntable, the Montrose ($4950) continues in that direction having the plinth and platter made from Richlite, a paper and resin material made from mostly recycled cardboard and paper. Included with the buy in is a Fern & Roby Unipivot tonearm, three years in development, and a Denon DL103R cartridge, nice package.



New as well is the "Maverick" Phono Preamplifier ($925) that includes different daughter boards for matching the output of MM and MC cartridges, and jumpers for loading.



The last new introduction are the Rockett DiPole subwoofers ($6500 per pair), which is an open baffle design from the fertile mind of Ralph Hellmer using two drivers firing in opposition to each other increasing efficiency and eliminating any box resonances. Ralph used this technique in his Fifth Row speaker which used three pairs of opposed woofers per channel resulting in superb low bass, quick enough to mate with the wide band full range driver. The pair of Rocketts added a solid foundation to the Beams with good impact and no overhang on a plucked upright bass.



The system I heard on Friday had the Montrose turntable package, Maverick phono stage, F & R Integrated amp used as a line stage, a Sumo "The Nine" amp, Beams and a pair of Rockett subs. I had just come from a mega buck room where The Who's Who's Next was played, the imaging was out of whack. I saw the same album here and had them spin it up. Now I got Roger focused front and center, Pete windmilling, John's rhythmic bass lines, and Keith bashing the skins with more precision than usual. I sat and listened to most of side two, forgetting about the show and immersing myself in the music and memories of 1971, good times. A telltale sign you're having a good time is catching yourself singing along with the music, guilty, "Don't get fooled again, no, no".



I also listened to some "Tango" acoustic guitar on a second front end source, the Tredegar TT, Schroeder Reference SQ arm ($7500), F & R Magnolia cartridge ($4850) in a partnership with Soundsmith's Peter Lederman, and Luminous Audio Technology's superb Arion phono stage ($6800). The nylon strings were rendered with oodles of detail, as I could hear finger movement on them and my toe was a tapping.



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