by Eric Shook
When The Audio Company of Marietta, Georgia decides to demonstrate what they do, they pull out all of the stops, and bring their A-game. Becoming darlings of the audio show circuit for consistently producings best-in-show sound, they also have a knack for creating systems that pluck the “audio eye-candy” strings that generates buzz from press, exhibitors, and show attendees.
The Audio Company was showing a slew of new products for 2018. Starting with the VAC Statement 450i iQ Integrated Amplifier ($150,000 USD); an ultimate performance, cost-no-object, tube integrated amplifier. Unusual is its vertical form factor, which has practical reasoning as it allows placement of circuit elements in the most direct routing. The Statement 450i iQ shares DNA with the previous Statement separate components. Conceptually the 450i builds upon the Statement 450S iQ power amplifier, Statement Line Stage, and includes a phono stage with multiple inputs and adjustable loading. Power is dual mono throughout, with six main power transformers for the left and right power amplifier, line stage, and phono stage.
VAC’s patented iQ Continuous Stable Automatic Bias system keeps the KT88 output tubes set at the intended operating point at all times.
Also new for 2018, was the new Von Schweikert Ultra 9 Loudspeakers ($200,000 pr USD) a scaled down version of the Ultra 11 loudspeaker, famously on tour for 2017 with The Audio Company at almost every audio show in the USA. Every speaker in the Von Schweikert Ultra Line come with MasterBuilt Ultra Internal Wiring standard. Individual signal path connections are shielded and damped point-to-point. Exotic ceramic woofers and midranges, Beryllium tweeters, compound woven subwoofers and ribbon super tweeters. Hand built crossover networks with more point-to-point isolated architectures. Aktive Cabinet Vibration Control 2.0 — eliminates cabinet resonances with advanced material construction. Each speaker is time and phase aligned and includes an adjustable bi-polar drivers (more drivers on rear) for increasing the scale of sound. Each Ultra 9 Loudspeaker houses one self-amplified 15” subwoofer, extending frequency response down to 10Hz at the low end, and up to 45kHz at the high end.
As per usual, an Esoteric stacks of electronics handled the digital. Esoteric’s Grandioso P1 transport ($38,000 USD), fed into two Grandioso D1 monoblock DACs ($19,000 ea USD), and one G-01 rubidium clock ($20,000 USD). Dual monoblock DACs — just let that idea simmer on you for a moment. Finishing out the digital, an N-01 network streamer. All wer perched on Critical Mass Olympus rack systems, six component spaces total, the racks totaled out to $61,500 USD.
For all of my time listening with The Audio Company, we used analog equipment. A simple, and yet dramatically complex Kronos Pro turntable (with SCPS-1 power supply $51,500 USD), outfitted with my favorite cartridge, the Airtight Opus 1 ($15,000 USD). MasterBuilt cables throughout contained the signal, while Acoustics Sciences Corp Tube Traps stood guard for frequencies that might get out of hand.
Universally, this system performed flawlessly, and in the typical character I’ve come to associate with The Audio Company’s previous audio show efforts. As far as audiophile wonders-of-the-world go, these exhibits from the boys down in Georgia, are some of my favourite.