The Rockport Technologies and Absolare room was packed. Standing room only. This was Saturday, the first of two days during which High End was open to the public, and attendance seemed to have more than doubled. Thank heavens the COVID-19 emergency has officially ended because this would have been a superspreader event.
I should admit that I’d never listened to a Rockport Technologies speaker before, so sitting waaaay off to the side for the first couple of tracks was probably a good idea. That way, I could get my bearings. Yet even with my back tight against the right wall, I could tell something extremely good was going on.
For the first few minutes, I sat listening to giant waves of electric bass from a Marcus Miller track snap out into the room. An electric bass generally comes over a stereo system as a single, rounded wave. But listening to the Rockports, I not only got the sense of physical fingers on strings; I also got the sound of a huge bass amp stack with twin 15″ drivers. The impression of a complete performance. Wowsers!
The Weavers’ Reunion at Carnegie Hall – 1963 startled me in a way that no recording has yet done. I’m not sure if it was just Rockport Technologies’ Orion speakers or the electronics or the extremely cool atrium room with the sloped ceiling—or some combination thereof. But this Weavers thing, which incidentally I’d never heard, took my breath away. The Orions lofted a monstrous acoustic above the speakers, where it swirled around and behind my head and shot right through my ears. What the hell!
The Orion, which retails for $133,000 per pair (all prices in USD), is packed with proprietary technology. The 13″ woofer, 7″ midrange, and 1.25″ beryllium tweeter are all designed in-house. Company owner Josh Clark gave me a brief tour of the drivers and the enclosure, and my head began to spin. The cones are formulated from two layers of specialized carbon fiber and associated resin, with a multi-layered foam core. They are incredibly stiff and startlingly light.
In their construction and design, the shells are works of high-tech military-aerospace genius. The inside layer is made from two pieces of cast aluminum bonded together. Outside is a heavy-duty carbon-fiber shell. The space between the two layers is injected with a visco-elastic compound.
Back to listening. I sat back, happy to let Kerem Küçükaslan of Absolare Audio, who was partnering with Rockport, play DJ. We went from one sonic extravaganza to the next. Another highlight was an LP with Harry Belafonte singing “Cotton Fields,” played on a Kuzma Stabi R turntable. The Orions threw a rock-solid, razor-outlined image that was noticeably larger than life but so very, very lifelike.
The Orions felt to me like a stable headquarters for what are obviously well-engineered drivers. There was a sense of grip and precision that just shot out of the speakers. It was like they were launching the sound at me.
I got up to look at the electronics. Dressed in perfectly stitched automotive-quality leather, the Eternum True Balanced preamp and Altius hybrid monoblock amplifiers looked like they belonged in an old-world library. “This is the same leather used in Aston Martin and Bugatti interiors,” said Küçükaslan with obvious pride.
The $85,000 Eternum preamplifier is a two-box affair, and I noted with interest that the tubes protruding from the top were new-old-stock Brimars, which aren’t exactly common these days. When I mentioned this to Küçükaslan, he smiled wryly and said, “I’m a collector.”
Moving over to the $120,000-per-pair Altius monoblocks, I saw RCA black-plate tubes in these 200Wpc chunks of elegance, which were coated in more rich leather from well-maintained cows.
Listening some more, I heard an ability to communicate recorded information in an extremely coherent manner, with astonishing expressiveness and complete control. The nuts and bolts of it? Deep, tight, controlled bass from that woofer, and a lack of grain through the mids and treble, combined with a quickness that took my breath away. Oh yeah, and imaging like I’ve never heard. What a stupendous system!
Senior Editor, SoundStage!