Credo Audio, Audio Shield, EMM, van den Hul, VPI, Wolf
If you’re like me, when attending audio shows you have your go-to joints, those rooms where the presentation will be engaging, the conversation interesting, and the good vibes effortless. Consistency frames the visit, like a homecoming where nothing has changed, where friends (and their hi-fis) welcome you. At the risk of sounding like a hawker, Credo Audio Switzerlandat Axpona’s Nirvana B ballroomhas become one of my go-to joints.
It’s funny, this “welcome home” feeling has nothing to do with cost, though it can be hefty; it’s all about musicality, which is all too rare. Some megabuck systems translate the grooves or digits into mighty music, some don’t, and that holds equally true for less expensive systems. If you’re an experienced listener, a former musician, or a music lover for life, you know when a system gets closer to the ideal of breathing, flesh and blood music.
Credo Audio Systems’ Michael Kraske and AudioShield’s John McGurk assembled a beautiful sounding system at AXPONA. Speakers were the Michael Kraske-designed Credo Audio Cinema LTM line array loudspeakers ($169,995/pair). The analog front end consisting of VPI Industries Avenger direct-drive turntable ($30,000) with two 12″ gimballed VPI Fatboy tonearms, van den Hul Frog Gold cartridge ($3520), DS Audio W2 cartridge ($4500), and van den Hul The Grail SE phono stage ($18,600). Digital due diligence was found in Wolf Audio Systems’ Alpha 3 SX audio server ($11,095), EMM Labs DA2 V2 D/A processor ($30,000), and EMM Labs NS1 streamer ($4500) via Roon. Amplification comprised EMM Labs PRE Reference stereo preamplifier ($25,000) and EMM Labs MTRX/2 monoblock amplifiers ($85,000/pair). Cabling comprised van den Hul 3T Rock interconnects ($622/1m) and van den Hul 3T The Cumulus speaker cable ($6735/2m).
When I asked Kraske later about his goals for the Cinema LTM loudspeakers, he wrote, “I designed it to connect people to their music, to get the listener as close to the music as possible. I wanted to achieve an extreme dynamic range, very low harmonic and modulation distortions, broad and homogeneous horizontal dispersion behavior, vertical cylindrical radiation behavior, correct acoustic perspective of the soundstage, a clean step and impulse response, linear frequency-response over the entire frequency range and linear and uniform impedance.
“What I had in mind designing all the models of the Credo line,” he continued, “from the EV 350 Ref Bookshelf all the way up to the Cinema LTM was, that there will be no straining with these speakers. In a word, they sound effortless.”
Kraske’s line array Cinema LTM speakers sounded seamless, immense of scale, truly immersive, and exceedingly musical. The entire system breathed in and out like living music, all be it in an incredibly massive soundstage, perhaps larger than life. But what’s better than being submerged in music? From Billie Eilish’s pop electronica (streaming) to Amos Lee’s “Arms of a Woman” (vinyl) and Arron Neville’s “It Feels Like Rain” (vinyl), I felt myself relax, even collapse, into the music.
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