Fake it till you make it. And I’m not talking about success, I’m talking about arrival, turning up, being there. The Internet makes it easy to obfuscate the methodology behind a story. With the help of Google images, it must be a cinch to fake a travelogue without ever leaving the comfort of your own home. Minimum effort for maximum coverage, all without getting on a plane or train or automobile.
Not me, no Sir. When I do factory tour coverage, know that I was there. In the post-CES hangover, I drove six hours north west of Las Vegas, towards the Pacific.
Astascadero hugs the Pacific Coast Highway about two hours north of Santa Barbara. Running parallel to the 101 is the town’s busy main drag, El Camino Real and at its intersection with Traffic Way sits the unusually grand Carlton Hotel; this fella’s stop for the night. My room has the biggest bed I’ve ever seen and/or slept in.
A two-minute walk north of the Carlton Hotel is the Bru Coffeehouse that, when I stop by to write up some Pass Labs CES coverage, is playing a Morrissey-seeded Pandora station through a small Sonos device. Great coffee, great tunes.
However, I’m not here for flat white appreciation or to sleep in; I am in town to visit Wyred4Sound.
The following morning I awake to fog, which makes the short drive down Traffic Way somewhat nerve wracking. Wyred4Sound’s shop is based in the middle of a residential area. My eyes are firmly peeled for stop signs and a school crossing. Wyred4Sound mainman EJ Sarmento had forewarned me: “Look for the mail box with our logo!”
Wyred4Sound make a range of ICEPower-based amplifiers, ESS Sabre-centric DACs and Linux-loaded music servers. It sounds like the success of the Remedy re-clocker introduced in early 2014 (review here) took the company by surprise.
2007 saw Sarmento start Wyred4Sound in sister-town Paso Robles before moving to the bigger workspace in Atascadero in the middle of 2010 where he now owns two adjacent units. He has his eye on two more.
By 7.30am, each working station is fully operational. I note bays for testing, DAC upgrades and SX-1000 amplifier board layout. Down the middle aisle, a run of mINT integrated amplifiers come to life.
I point to an enormous transformer that is apparently intended for the Ampzilla. Sarmento acquired Ampzilla’s previous owner Spread Spectrum Technologies in 2012.
Expansion through investment in machinery has also been Sarmento’s focus of late. The new Pick-n-Place machine (for surface mount parts) is the first thing to greet visitors. Sarmento dropped a couple hundred thousand bucks so that board building could be brought in-house. He’s clearly passionate about ongoing improvements to build quality. The associated long-term savings won’t hurt either.
The warehouse side of the shop has also seen its fair share of changes in recent months. A sizeable chunk of shelving space had to be surrendered in order to accommodate a new CNC cutter – another large piece of machinery.
Sarmento doesn’t given much away. He’s kinda cagey on the specifics of future plans (as is his wont) but he did let it slip that he’s planning a Reference series of amplifiers that promise a lower noise floor and more power than he’s achieved with previous models. That’s not necessarily big news until you learn that Sarmento’s been busy designing his own Class D modules for the project.
“Anyone can take an ICEPower amp and make it work”, he says.
Having reviewed both Wyred4Sound’s mINT and mAMP monoblocks, I find this somewhat surprising. Srajan Ebaen and agree that Sarmento has the ICEPower competition “in his rear-view mirror” (Ebaen’s words).
Lamenting that he’s been afforded greater recognition via Wyred4SSound’s DAC and pre-amplifiers, I suspect Sarmento is poised to ink his name more deeply into the collective Class D consciousness.
A Reference pre-amplifier is also in the works that’s set to combine the best of the DAC-2 and the STP- SE.
After an hour of chat, Sarmento’s off into a meeting with a client and I have a flight to catch…out of Las Vegas. I’m back on the road the six-hour drive back east, safe in the knowledge that my factory tour article would be no put on. I was there in Atascadero for real and I have the speeding ticket from the CHP to prove it.
Further information: Wyred4Sound