Cuttin-Edge, On-the-Spot Reporting

Have You Seen?


I know it’s juvenile, but I know I’m not alone in this. I’m a sucker for bass. Exhibitors know how they can use this little kink to draw in showgoers, but they have to walk a fine line. Sloppy bass doesn’t work. Boomy mid-bass doesn’t work.

The bass has to be tight. While it can certainly be elevated in level compared to reality, and compared to how we’d generally listen at home, it can’t be too loud. If it’s totally over the top, showgoers will know they’re being played and will walk past in disgust.

RCM system

The folks from RCM Audio, the Polish manufacturer and distributor of a whole bunch of super-cool high-end brands, know how this game is played. These guys do bass. Pretty much every track they played had a river of deep low end running right through the middle, out the door, and into the hallway of the Golden Tulip hotel.

Naturally I was drawn in, unable to control myself.

I sat down in front of the Gauder Akustik DARC 200 speakers (€74,000 per pair) and listened to about six tracks, all of which whomped me in the chest. Then—what madness is this?—Roger Adamek of RCM Audio put the strangest piece of music onto the Kuzma XL DC turntable. I was completely turned around by what I learned was a track from Marillion’s Fugazi. This jumpy, snappy slice of pompous, bombastic, charming early-’80s rock opened up a whole world for me to explore. Time to start crate-diving to look for a copy of this great-sounding record.

RCM system

There’s an admirable quickness to the two 9″ woofers in each DARC 200 speaker. I took a closer look at the Kuzma Safir 9 arm and was charmed to note that it was tipped with a DS Audio Master3 cartridge, which fed its signal to the matching Master3 optical phono equalizer. I’m currently reviewing the DS Audio W3 system at home, and it was most edifying having the chance to listen to this €24,000 analog front end, which is the second from the top of the DS Audio line.

Sitting between the Gauder Akustik speakers were two Vitus Audio SM-103 Mk.II monoblock amplifiers. These dense 100W chunks of metal double down to 200W at 4 ohms and—very importantly—come in Titanium Orange, which I know from experience is by far the fastest color. I am the owner of two KTM motorcycles, which are very orange and very fast. While the Vitus Audio amps on display looked smart in their Jet Black finish, I do wish I’d had the chance to see them in orange.

I digress. I’ve heard Vitus Audio amplifiers in a number of rooms, and they seem to consistently sound great. The SM-103 Mk.II retails for €70,000 each. Preamplification was also courtesy of Vitus Audio—the SL-103 line stage (€33,000).

Cables and power distribution were by way of Furutech, including the Nanoflux-NCF and DSS-4.1 speaker cables.

DS Audio

While I was getting the details of the gear in the room, Adamek and I had a chat about the DS Audio stuff, as this product line is of great interest to me. According to Adamek, RCM Audio is working on its own version of an optical phono stage. The optical phono cartridge concept is starting to pick up steam, as there are now six companies that manufacture optical phono stages that are compatible with DS Audio’s cartridges. RCM Audio would make that seven.

As we were finishing up, Adamek asked me if I’d tried DS Audio’s ES-001 record stabilizer. I responded in the negative, and he went on to tell me that this is an absolute must-have accessory. I’ve been resisting the call of this thing, as it seems just a bit too fussy for me to adopt. There’s already enough puttering around with brushes, stylus cleaners, record sleeves, and weights, without me having to calibrate and measure each record’s eccentricity. Adamek said that he’s got it down to ten seconds and that the results are definitely worth the effort. So it looks like maybe I should knuckle under and give it a try.

Who knows—maybe it’ll show up in a future “For the Record” column.

Jason Thorpe
Senior Editor, SoundStage!