THE Show Newport 2012 • Best of Show

Dealer Audio Image set up a system so ambitious and involved that we were surprised they weren't local to Southern California, located instead to the north in Oakland. Scaena Spiritus 3.6 line-source speakers along with a Trifecta subwoofer system ($130,000) were front and center. VAC Statement 450 monoblocks ($78,000/pair) and Signature Mk2a preamp ($19,500) were the main electronics, with an Audio Research Reference Phono 2 used for analog playback via the again-impressive Kronos turntable ($28,000) fitted with a 12" Graham Phantom II Supreme tonearm ($6000) and Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement cartridge ($15,000). Digital, which we didn't hear, was courtesy of an Audio Research Reference CD8 CD player ($9995) or a combination of AMR DP-777 DAC ($5000) and Bryston BDP-1 music-file player ($2200). MIT MA-X and MA-X2 cables totaling over $100,000 were also in use, as was an Audience Adept Response aR-12 TSS power conditioner ($10,000).

We're used to hearing Scaena speakers at CES, where they are often set up in one of the two-tiered rooms of the Venetian, the line-source towers in front of the sub arrays and a few feet higher. The rooms in Newport were a bit more permitting of such a speaker system and the ways it taxes a room, but the results were similarly effective to those at CES: a deep, wide soundscape coupled with mammoth bandwidth and dynamic capabilities. Sunny Umrao of Scaena calls the Trifecta a "harmonic-reinforcement system," presumably because of the way it conveys the ambience that subwoofers can.

The highlight of our all-analog listening here was from "a $5 album," as Louis Desjardins, the designer of the dual-platter Kronos turntable, announced. It was an extroverted Aretha Franklin cut, replete with a scorching string section -- an oxymoron, we admit. More than any other piece of music we heard in Newport, we'll remember this one.

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