Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2012 • Best of Show

It's predictable: expensive audio gear -- especially big speakers -- stuffed into a small room is a recipe for a mediocre sonic stew. However, the system that included products from Analog Domain, Göebel High End and Stahl-Tek was an exception, producing sound whose promise seemed nearly limitless while never intensifying the room's own issues. This is an indirect way of saying that we liked what we heard but would love to hear this gear in a better room.

The Göebel Epoque Reference speakers are unusual not just because of their price -- $170,000 per pair. One of their drivers -- the rectangular bending-wave panel in the center -- covers most of the audible range: 180Hz to 30kHz. It is augmented on the low end by four 7" aluminum-cone woofers, which are coupled to eight 7" passive radiators. If you're doing the math, you have realized that the same woofers and passive radiators that appear on the front of the speaker are also around back.

The Göebel speakers are relatively insensitive, at 86dB/W/m, but this is nothing that the Analog Domain Artemis monoblocks ($130,000/pair) can't handle. They deliver a whopping 1000 watts into 8 ohms. The company makes two more powerful amps as well. A Stahl-Tek digital rig consisting of Opus transport (top, $37,000), Opus server (second from top, price to be determined), Opus Prime DAC (third shelf, $40,000) and ABC computer bridge ($3500) acted as source. The preamp --  a single-input prototype of Analog Domain's forthcoming preamp -- is hiding behind the transport. All cabling was from Purist Audio.

There is something special about the Göebel speaker, likely due to its unusual wideband driver and the crossover's inherent lack of intrusion on the musical signal. Digital sounded as resolved and easygoing as great analog, the highs remaining pure, the lows resolving to the very depths of the recording -- impressive stuff in a less-than-ideal room.

Oliver Göebel, the designer of the speaker line that bears his name.

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