By Rafe Arnott
Doug White runs a bricks and mortar establishment out of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania called The Voice That Is which, for those in the know, is named after the classic 1964 Johnny Hartman vocal jazz LP that came out on the Impulse label. And like Hartman, White is a class act who knows great sound when he hears it, and consistently goes above and beyond the call to holistically curate sound systems not only for his many customers, but for shows like AXPONA.
This was certainly not my first go-round with White or his show cohort Bob Clarke of Profundo Audio who often handles the Transfiguration cartridge set-up, and LP playback duties.
Clarke and White are two of the most affable/enjoyable people to spend time with at a show and go out of their way not only on the analog side, but the digital too in making sure they play a steady stream of rare grooves and little-known albums for show goers. This isn’t the place to come and listen if you want the usual fare, this is for the adventurous who want to be sonically wowed and emotionally impressed by music.
The system in Chicago at the Renaissance Schaumburg consisted of a pair of TIDAL Audio Piano G2 Ebony Macassar gloss loudspeakers ($39,000 USD), TIDAL Audio Impulse Dual-Mono Amplifiers ($35,200 USD), TIDAL Audio Preos Preamplifier w/DAC & Phono-stage ($32,900 USD) with TIDAL Audio Reference cables knitting it all together. An Antipodes DX Generation 3 music server (starting at $7,750 USD) was serving up computer audio, and a TW Acustic Raven AC-1 turntable, with 10.5 tonearm, and Transfiguration Proteus cartridge ($6,000 USD) had a firm grip on the album side.
TIDAL gear always lays a huge foundation on the bottom end for tracks to build upon throughout playback – listening to a TIDAL-based system feels like high-rise building is being sonically constructed around you when this German manufacturer’s equipment is at the helm.
Big, extended baselines, punchy, warm – but uncoloured – midrange, and an extended top end are all hallmarks of this gear, but it’s the large, completely open window that the system presents for listeners to step through into the recording that creates an emotional connection for me.
I’ve often seen many people in White’s room with their eyes closed, as they silently sway to whatever track is being played… and these aren’t the sit-and-run variety of audiophiles, these are individuals who sit-and-stay for extended sessions, because this is a sound that gets inside your head, and makes it difficult to leave.
Rooms like this are what make these trade shows memorable for reviewers, and newbies alike. Thanks to White and Clarke for creating another sonic memory to cherish.