Pacific Audio Fest 2022 Show
Regardless, walking into 1351 found my old friend Dan Wright, of ModWright Instruments, in the room and listening to one of my favorites, Neil Young's Live At Massey Hall: 1971. I've had the pleasure of knowing Dan for more than two decades, and I have had the pleasure of watching his fledgling modification shop burgeon into a full line of exceptional products, many of which I have had the pleasure of reviewing.
The analog front-end here was the SME Model 15A table, bundled with 309 Tonearm ($15,500), and fitted with the Ortofon Cadenza Black Cartridge ($2879). The phono stage was the ModWright PH9.0X ($4750), which is an upgrade from the standard PH 9.0, featuring fully balanced XLR outputs, as well as the RCA outputs, is transformer coupled using expensive gapped Lundahl output transformers that are direct-coupled, using no capacitors, and offers "on-the-fly" cartridge loading.
Digital was provided by a Cambridge CXN V2 Network Player sporting the full ModWright Tube Modification ($1500 for the mod). This modification includes the replacement of its stock power supply with one of ModWright Instruments' own design, and the entire stock solid-state analog stage is replaced with ModWright's own all-tube-based analog stage including its own power supply. The result is a fully balanced design, in to out, with both XLR and RCA outs, all contained in one box and using no outboard supply or umbilical.
Amplification was from the ModWright KWH225i Hybrid Integrated ($9750), representing the culmination of years of ModWright's explorations in building an integrated Class A/B operational tube preamp and solid-state amplifier design, that offers its first 25W in Class A. The loudspeakers were the Revel Performa F228Be ($11,000/pr.), featuring an exceptionally open and extended 1-inch beryllium tweeter.
All cabling and power conditioning was from Cardas, including the Clear series speaker cables ($5250/2.5 M), Interconnects ($2250/1M), and the High-Speed Digital USB 2 ($550/2M), and included the Nautilus Power Strip ($1500), Clear Cygnus 2M ($570/2M), Clear Beyond ($1425/2M), and Clear ($1150/3M) power cords. Equipment support was provided by an HY-4 component stand ($2499).
But the star here was Dan's brand-new Analog Bridge (projected pricing to start at $2900), making its World Premiere! The Analog Bridge is essentially a buffered gain stage you insert between any source and your linestage or preamplifier, your solid-state preamp and amplifier, or a passive attenuator and amplifier, to impart a "different" flavor to your system's sonic envelope. It offers two selectable RCA inputs and two RCA outputs, with fully balanced XLR inputs and outputs available as an added cost option. If the balanced module is installed, it may be engaged via a rear toggle switch.
Because the new ModWright Analog Bridge uses two separate circuits employing 6922 or 6SN7 tubes, with either set selectable from the front panel switch, as well as its 5AR4 tube rectified power supply, this affords you not only the two front panel accessible selectable options, but with the myriad of tube rolling options for both gain tubes and the rectifier, a vast number of tuning options may be explored.
During my demonstration, switching between having the Bridge engaged or off, it was glaringly apparent that when switched out of the circuit, staging fell in upon itself, with much less dimensionality, and treble got white-ish, becoming somewhat more tishy sounding. It was a compelling demonstration of an exciting new product. Oh, and thanks for the new ModWright Tee-Shirt, Dan. It will be seen in an upcoming episode.
I have to admit to having been looking forward to making my way into 1360, as the partners in this room have all earned my respect over time. And I always look forward to spending some time with audio-bud Fred Ainsley, of Lampizat0r North America, who greeted me as I walked in and took a prime seat.
As mentioned, the players in this room were all well-known to me, and particularly well-accomplished. The source here was the Lampizat0r GulfStream music server ($7,000), which I had never heard before. The DAC was the superb Lampizat0r Pacific ($25,950), and Kevin Hayes' stupefyingly superb Valve Amplification Company's Statement 450i iQ Integrated amplifier ($150,000), which I reviewed for another journal in the spring of 2020. It had the pleasurable task of driving Lou Hinkley's new Daedalus Apollo 11 v.3 loudspeakers (starting at $27,500/pr.).
Cabling here was all Alex Sventitsky's WyWires, featuring the flagship Diamond Series Interconnects ($4,495), speaker cables ($7,999), digital cable ($1,699), and power cords ($2,295), as well as some Platinum Series power cords ($999) and the WyWires / Daedalus Power Broker AC Distribution system ($2,495).
This new Apollo V.3 took the established Apollo sound I was familiar with to a new pinnacle, and is also markedly different looking than the V.2 iteration. The new Apollo has one less driver. Instead of having two midrange divers and two different tweeters in an M-T-T-M concentric array above the 10" woofer, the V.3 model had just one enhanced midrange in a T-M-T concentric array on its slightly angled front baffle.
String tone was pure and gorgeous sounding, with very authentic textures, and the aggregate audio spectrum was presented with excellent coherence. This system offered undeniable neutrality, a remarkably dynamic impression of speed and gradation, and instrumental differentiation and specificity were very good, even at lower volume levels. While bass energy was very fleet sounding, with backing vocals presented with clarity, focus, and sized very realistically, I noted just a slight degree of constraint to dynamic scaling.