No stranger to the SF (and PF) band - we have been using EINSTEIN gear as our reference for the last 2+ years - EINSTEIN teamed up with AudioMachina, TechDAS and Bob Graham of Graham Engineering, to deliver the goods. Delivery charge induced. Tips optional. Having said that, if this room were a restaurant establishment, tips would have been ringing at the register quite loudly. Several people I spoke with mentioned this room to have been one of the best sounding at the show. Easy to see why: EINSTEIN brought out the big guns, running The Preamp ($30k), a pair of bi-amped The Poweramp ($30k each) and showing off the latest prototype version of the soon to be released The Phono preamp (exact pricing has not yet been released, however, is rumored to be roughly around $10k for the single input setup - optionally, you can also order it with a dual input which in this case means two completely separate phono amplifier sections, a rare novelty even in these price circles).
EINSTEIN’s electronics fed AudioMachina’s big speaker, The Maestro; source was TechDAS Air Force One with Graham Engineering’s latest Phantom II Supreme tonearm and the all new EINSTEIN The Pickup cartridge. And that’s just for starters in the big room. The secondary suite utilized EINSTEIN’s The Tune integrated amp with The Little Big Phono sourced by TechDAS’ Air Force Two along with AudioMachina’s CRS compact bookshelf loudspeaker. As I could tell, cabling was all EINSTEIN as well, respectively their The Flash and The Thunder interconnects and speaker cables. Judging from observers walking into the SF room mentioning how they heard someone else was using EINSTEIN gear, the sound appeared at once cohesive, dynamic and very open. Given that EINSTEIN distributes both AudioMachina and TechDAS in their native Germany, I wasn’t entirely surprised by their choice of components.
When I had a chance to sample the room for an all too brief moment of mere minutes, I heard much the same qualities - particularly the smaller system played well beyond its apparent means. What stood out the most was the quality of each of the sources: TechDAS obviously has the know-how of decades worth of engineering and manufacturing capabilities, not to mention the obvious financial wherewithal to build such amazing components in first place - an all too often overlooked component of the high-end industry at large. Ideas are plentiful: the means of realizing them into reality quite lacking, most of the time. That EINSTEIN’s big components sounded great was no surprise, what was a surprise is how well the all new The Tune integrated played. Immediately seen and heard as an EINSTEIN component (dynamic realism, extended and open sound), it really mated very well with AudioMachina’s little speakers. The new, The Phono, in development for some 3+ years, shows great signs of taking the crown of their existing The Turntable’s Choice phono stage. Handsomely packaged the all too often heard - “hey, what’s in those cylinder shaped boxes” - should become a mute conversation starter soon enough. Immediately apparent was the dramatically lowered (+6db!) noise floor of this new phono stage, which, seemingly sounds unheard of: the existing TTC already has such a vanishingly low noise floor that I always use my favorite “demo” to unsuspecting fellow ‘philes. Turn up the volume and put your ears next to the tweeter… silence is golden (says AMC Theaters). This could become a new reference phono stage regardless of price and competition.
Bob Graham, always the gentleman was also on hand to discuss the virtues of his latest creation, The Phantom II Supreme tonearm. Affable, to the point and always happy to get into the nitty-gritty of his engineering efforts, his latest arm does in fact mate well with the overall function of these TechDAS ‘tables. While I am not entirely familiar with Bob’s designs - other than the rudimentary - the sound approached a certain effortlessness, drive and punch that is hard to come by with vinyl playback. No doubt in a more closed environment - read: less noisy environment - these qualities would come through even more.
Much to my surprise, AudioMachina doesn’t seem to have too large a following stateside: according to Karl Europe and Asia in particular are his two main business partners. Come to think of it, I don’t ever recall seeing a recent review of their speakers either. Shame, as they did really sound rather great - given that they are manufactured close to Loveland, Colorado to boot, this is even more of a surprise. Then again, nothing surprises me in high end audio these days. Look for a post mortem analysis-paralysis of the show at SF soon - I certainly took copious notes of various conversations and observations. Stay tuned!