Wanna know what US$150K+ buys you in loudspeaker land? The Stenheim Reference Ultime Two at US$153,000 provides one answer. Made in Switzerland, this floorstander’s d’Appolito design accommodates a pair of 12″ bass drivers, a pair of 6.5″ midrange drivers and a 1″ tweeter in an off-set symmetrical layout where each driver set enjoys its own internally sealed enclosure. Nominal impedance is rated 4 Ohms, sensitivity at a pleasingly high 95dB. But get this: each speaker weighs 231kg!
And owners of loudspeakers like the Stenheim won’t be driving them with a Rega Elicit MK5. They’ll be sourcing price/performance-comparable amplifiers. At AXPONA 2022, the Reference Ultime Two were juiced by a pair of VTL S-400 Reference Stereo Amplifier Series II (US$37,500/each), running in bi-amped mode and fronted by VTL’s TL7.5 Reference Line Pre-amplifier Series II (US$30,000/each).
The big-ticket items didn’t end there. Handling D/A conversion in this system was Wadax’s opulent-looking Atlantis Reference DAC (US$145,000). This was fed by Wadax’s equally opulent-looking Atlantis Reference Server (US$59,000) over the Spanish company’s Akasa Optical system link (US$17,495).
Before we hit the checkout, we need to factor in the cable connections supplied by Nordost. Too numerous to list individually, the range tops out with the Odin 2 Power Cord at US$20,499 but drops to US$239 for the QKORE Wire Premium.
I did the math. This Stenheim/VTL/Wadax/Nordost system rings the register at just under half a million dollars. It isn’t for me (or probably you) but that doesn’t mean it isn’t for someone. That ‘someone’ will likely house this setup in a large, purpose-built, acoustically-sorted listening room in order to optimise the hardware’s performance. This in turn means our ‘someone’ will live in a house large enough to accommodate such a listening room. Probably a very large house and not a one-bedroom apartment in the city or a three-bedroom family home in the suburbs.