Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2013 • Best of Show

The Rocky Mountain Audio Fest has proved the combination of Wavelength Audio and Vaughn Loudspeakers to be both synergistic and musically significant -- we've named past systems Best of Show with regularity. However, even with that success in mind, we were not ready for the combination this time around: Vaughn speakers and Wavelength electronics playing high-rez digital files with a MacBook as source, AudioQuest cables connecting it all.

The 8 watts of the limited-edition, all-silver, 300B-based Wavelength Napoleon mono amplifiers ($30,000/pair) drove Vaughn Triode Plasma speakers ($15,000/pair), with their astonishing plasma tweeters. The preamp was the analog, digital and networked Wavelength Europa ($7500), with digital-to-analog conversion handled by the Wavelength Crimson + Denominator DAC ($9000). Interconnects were AudioQuest Sky ($2900/meter pair) and speaker cables were AudioQuest Redwood ($8800/eight-foot pair), with an AudioQuest Diamond USB cable ($699/meter-and-a-half length) connecting the MacBook Pro Retina 15 with 4-terabyte library and the Wavelength DAC.

This was a system that sounded immediately right, especially the treble region, the combination of the Wavelength tubes and the Vaughn plasma tweeter revealing all in a pure and extended way. The midrange was just as adept, sounding utterly coherent and whole, probably because the Vaughn speakers' Fostex drivers covered a very wide frequency range. The bass of the Vaughn speakers is self-powered, so the 300Bs were left to do what they do best: produce midrange splendor.

Even in very good setups, high-rez digital files are normally easy to recognize as, well, digital. Here, the airy naturalness was so overwhelming that digital transcended itself, sounding like a hybrid of the easy resolution of analog and the resounding dynamics and linear bass of digital.

Again, even earlier success between Wavelength and Vaughn was no preparation for the sound of this system.

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