by Rafe Arnott
The Fern & Roby Audio room (here paired with Voxativ) was one that I was looking forward to hearing when I arrived in Denver at the Rocky Mountain Audio Festival on Thursday. Unfortunately, a number of technical difficulties that were first explained as the cartridge, and then the tonearm kept me from hearing this manufacturer until late Saturday afternoon (after three attempts to hear it). Then finally, the Montrose turntable was playing music. I’m not sure what exactly the problem was, but I’ll admit that the wait seemed to be worth it to hear what this “designer turntable” was capable of when it came to making tunes sing and not just sit there and look pretty.
The Fern & Roby Montrose ‘table ($3,500 USD) outfitted with the Soundsmith Dogwood Moving-Iron cartridge ($3,850 USD) was a very pretty sight indeed, and when paired with the Voxativ 9.87 loudspeaker system ($39,900 USD), and T211 integrated amplifier, ($17, 900 USD) Ampeggio speaker cable ($5,375 for 3.5 meters), and interconnects ($3,570 for 1.5 meters) it was an engaging combination.
This was an interesting match-up, and one that showed off Fern & Roby’s chops because having heard the 105 dB-efficient Voxativ 9.87 gear a number of times, I find that it is very dependent on being fed the right signal to get the most out of their proprietary wood cones and inert enclosures.
Totaldac is a digital front end that is able to wrest the very best out of Voxativ’s designs for a digital source and it would seem that Fern & Roby were up to the task in Denver when it comes to an analog one. The sound was full bodied, rich, and warm without a trace of breakup in the higher registers. There where satisfying mids rendered and ample bottom end thanks in part to the Soundsmith Dogwood and its ability to to produce a smooth, tonally-balanced high-to-low without becoming syrupy.