The Soundstage Room: Vandersteen, TechDAS, Playback Designs, Kondo, Pure Power, and Cardas

April 9, 2023 0 By JohnValbyNation

Next up was another great-sounding room (it felt so good to be back!). Hosted by Mark Elias, owner of retailer Soundstage Fine Audio, this room boasted some high-grade gear, starting with Vandersteen’s new, dark, and handsome KĒNTO Carbon speakers ($49,000/pair), which Vandersteen representative Brad O’Toole seemed rightly proud of, as well as of the company’s 150Wpc solid state, zero feedback M5-HPA High-Pass monoblocks ($21,500/pair), which were powering the KĒNTO’s higher-frequency drivers. (The KĒNTO’s bass drivers are powered by onboard amplifiers.) Across music tracks that included a bass-heavy techno thing and a cover of the Bill Withers classic “Aint’ No Sunshine” by the group Vocalpoint—both streamed from a USB key via a Playback Designs MPD8 Dream DAC ($26,900)—and the song “Imagination” by Rosemary Clooney played on a phono front-end that included the TechDas Airforce 3 Premium ($43,000), a Glanz 124S tonearm ($9000), a Kondo cartridge ($11,000), the Kondo Heritage M7 preamp with built-in phono stage ($60,000) connected to a Kondo sfz step-up transformer ($12,000), the system served up sound that was weighty, with luxurious vocals and a sense of intimacy that felt almost risqué in these Covid-distanced times. Also in the system was a Playback Designs I.F. streamer ($4500) and a 3000+ Pure Power line conditioner with 6 regular outlets and 4 twist-lockable proprietary ones ($8000). Cardas Clear cabled everything together.

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