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AXPONA 2022: VTL, Stenheim, Wadax & Nordost

  • 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.

    Further information: Stenheim | VTL | Wadax | Nordost

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

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