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Owner: Dr. Alann
Digital: Cary Audio CD 306 SACD
Preamp: Cary Audio SLP 05
Amplifier: Cary Audio CAD 805 Anniversary Edition
Speakers: Reimer Tetons GS
Cables: Acoustic Zen Satori speaker cables and Matrix Reference II interconnects
Power Cables: Acoustic Zen Tsunami
Power Conditioner: Richard Gray's Power Company RGPC 600S
Room size: 23" x 15" with a peak ceiling height of 9' 9".
Listener: Michael Lavorgna

Exit 10
A hop, skip and a jump is all it took me to reach my destination for RoadTour #10. It turned out that Dr. Alann lives in my hometown. We initially had struck up a conversation about stereos over our daughters' basketball game. I'm not saying we weren't paying close attention to the on-court action, mind you. I'm as convinced as the next guy that my daughter at 9 years of age is just a hop, skip and a jump away from NC double-A play. Competitive sports start post-kindergarten around these parts and the colleges are scouting players once they begin doing long division.

Okay, I'm kidding. Sorta. I think Dr. Alann and I share in the enjoyment of watching our children's enjoyment. You know, kids having fun. Playing. Besides, there's plenty of time for competitive teeth gnashing once we get into hifis. Okay, I'm kidding again. Sorta.

Reimer Speaker Systems Tetons GS
The Reimer line is designed and hand-made to order by Rick Reimer in Cody, Wyoming. According to the Reimer website, all Rick Reimer's speakers employ 3/4 inch MDF, solid hardwood fronts, internal bracing and hand-laid veneers with an eight-step finishing process and some primo parts including Jensen caps along with point-to-point internal silver wiring and silver solder. There are currently seven models in the lineup plus 3 subwoofers. The Tetons GS stand at the summit.

Weighing in at 185 lbs apiece, the 57" x 14" x 17" Tetons are somewhat imposing, like a pair of mirror-matched great oaks planted in your room with the yellow Kevlar drivers perhaps being viewed as the scars of long lost branches. (Which reminds me of the time I spray-painted some lost tree limb wounds with that black tar paint. A 'tree guy' was kind enough to stop by to give me some free advice: "Never paint trees"
). The rest of the Teton GS specifications are just as imposing as their physical presence: frequency response a claimed in-room 16Hz to 25kHz +/-3dB and efficiency at 96db 1w/1m, with recommended power from 5 to 400 Watts. The Tetons employ drivers from HI-VI and include dual 10" Kevlar paper woofers, dual 6" Kevlar paper midrange drivers and a 6" "isodynamic planar" tweeter in a front-vented cabinet. According to the Reimer website, the crossovers are quasi second-order and cross at 150Hz and 3.5kHz. Binding posts are "gold-plated high copper content" affairs. The only thing unimposing about the Tetons with all this foreplay is their street price of $6800/pr. Unimposing for the trophy brigade and their bragging rights that is.

Today's speaker pair was finished in a custom solid Makore front panel and matching wood veneer body. The grills attach magnetically which is such a sensible option since all listening is done without 'em. How many speakers have you seen with those annoying holes in an otherwise unmarred surface when the grilles come off? In a few concluding words, these speaks are big, solid and hand-made in the US of A.

Cary Audio
Do we really need an overview of Cary Audio? Dennis Had and Cary are one of the true old-time American tube amp builders. Founded in 1989, Cary Audio introduced their first commercial single-ended amp, the CAD 300SE, back in 1991. The 805 Anniversary Edition (AE) monoblocks are the current top of the line in the Cary Classics Series, which includes mainly tube-based electronics. Cary also offers the Designer Series, which makes do without tubes and includes a 600-watt digital amplifier, the Cinema Series for watching moving pictures while you listen in surround mode and the Concept Series for budget offerings.

The CAD 805 AE monoblocks run class A single-ended 50 or 70 watts per channel depending on output tube and are 80 pound powerhouses. Output tubes can be either 845s or 211s which the 805s' circuit handles with a flick of that green jewel-bedecked switch. Dr. Alann has opted for a NOS pair of GE 211s and their associated 70 watts. Driving that glass behemoth is a little number called the Western Electric 300B while a pair of 6SN7s handles input duties. The other matching green-jeweled feedback level switch allows the owner to dial negative feedback in (up to 10dB) or completely out (0dB). And with a big nod to our hifi heritage, Dennis Had mounts a 1629 Cat Eye tube upfront as output level indicator. If that cat's eye ever blinks shut while you're playing your tunes, you've reached full power. And in this system, you've then more than likely also been rendered unconscious. The original 805 appeared in 1992 and the AE version is the fifth iteration. According to Dennis Had, "The new design for the
Anniversary Edition came about with the goal to take those years of practical field experience and put everything in the kitchen sink - including the ability to switch from the 211 to the 845 output tube." According to Stereophile's John Atkinson, the 805 is one of the 100 greatest hifi products of the past 40 years (circa 2002).

The SLP 05 twin chassis remote-controlled preamp is finished in the same Jaguar (yes the car company) Anthracite Black clear- coated steel chassis and silver anodized aluminum front panel as the 805 AEs, making for a visual guide to aural pairing. The SLP 05 employs eight 6SN7s (yes 8) with a pair hanging out to drive that front-mounted headphone jack. Dr. Alann uses a quad of NOS Sylvania 6SN7Ws in the line stage section. Any math whiz kids may have noticed this 6SN7 stock-taking has come up 2 short - that's coz one pair is used solely for the balanced circuit which remains unused in this system. That second chassis houses the SLP 05's tube-rectified power supply (5AR4). And those nice blue-glow meters on the front panel of the power supply indicate B+ plate voltage (210 VDC) along with the plate current (60 ma.). According to Art Dudley, the SLP 05 is "at least the equal of the best of the competition that I've heard so far. A shade better, even, in some regards."

The CD 306 SACD (funny name, no?) is the one product from Cary that occupies a home in two Cary series - it's at once a Classic and a Designer. Maybe that 'CD' places it as the classic while the 'SACD' allows it to be a designer as well? While I poke fun, the 306 is a serious piece of digital technology. From the Cary website: "The CD 306 SACD can also upsample a CD disk from 44.1kHz to 96, 192, 384, 512 or 768kHz to release all the information available in your CD disk library. This is the 3rd generation of the CD 306 player and it has achieved a clear technological improvement over the previous generation, with the ability to process signals as high as 768kHz and to play SACD disks. It will take an external digital signal and play it back at 44.1kHz or let you choose digital upsampling rates of 96kHz or 192kHz."

In terms of system building, Cary recommends this exact paring on their website - CAD 805 AE > SLP 05 > CD 306 SACD. I have to admit, I appreciate the in-built synergy that comes with the system approach.

Acoustic Zen
Speaking of synergy, this system uses all Acoustic Zen cables from the interconnects to speaker cable to power cords. The Matrix Reference IIs and the Satori are "zero crystal copper cables employing Teflon air-tube insulation". According to the Acoustic Zen website, the Tsunami power cord "outreaches others in its price range and accomplishes sonic enhancements that rival expensive cords as well as our own top-of-the-line cord." Now that's an interesting admission from any manufacturer especially considering the Tsunami costs $350/6' while the top-of-line Acoustic Zen Absolute is $2488/6'.

Richard Gray's Power Company
The RGPC 600S power conditioner stores power and boosts current when your system needs it. Or so the story goes. Offering power conditioning and surge protection, the very handsome 600S contains "a 6,000-watt parallel choke" and six commercial-grade Hubbell outlets. While the ins and outs of power conditioning and the parallel versus series approach can most likely be a fascinating subject, I'll leave that discussion for another day. Suffice it to say that Dr. Alann's system sounded very powerful. One tidbit worth noting - Richard McCarthy, a partner with Richard Gray in their Power Company, used to work in sales for the Oreck vacuum cleaner company. Clean power? Badaboom.

No Contest
Dr. Alann is Vice Chairman, Chief, Division of Cardiac Anesthesia and Associate Professor of Anesthesiology at a prominent NJ-based University hospital. We chatted a bit about work and one factoid that stuck in my brain (a rare event) was that there's a surgeon on staff who does 750+ hearts a year. And it struck me - I'd never thought about hearts in terms of a per-year count before. I guess that's because I've always thought about hearts from a patient's perspective. As in, there's only one per lifetime that counts - ours. I know it sounds selfish but that's just the way some things go. Thankfully, there are also people like Dr. Alann who think about others.

From an owner's perspective, whether we're talking about hearts or hifis, my motto holds. There's only one that matters - yours (or mine, or Dr. Alann's in this case). And if you think that 70 watts of WE 300B-driven NOS GE 211s pumping music through a pair of full range wooden monoliths sounds like fun... well, you'd be correct. Dynamics, slam and a cavernous stage flow freely at Dr. Alann's. Mino Cinelu solo and with Kenny Baron, Dire Straights, Yo Yo Ma's Obrigado Brazil - Live in Concert, even some careful crooners like Sarah McLaughlin, Patricia Barber and Norah Jones were given a mighty presence and near earth-shaking power. Yet the trinkle twinkle of bells and whistles came through that ribbon tweeter soft and clear. But in toto, this is visceral music making make no bones about it. Did I say dy-no-mite?

I brought over a few CDs and one in particular was admittedly for the fun-effects factor. Engleskyts [FXCD 136] by Anne-Lise Bernsten and Nils Henrik Asheim was recorded in the Abbey Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Weissenau, Germany. Based on Norwegian religious folk songs, Ms. Bernsten's vocals and Asheim's improvisations on the 1787 Holzhey pipe organ resound throughout this ancient place with somber force. A system capable of reproducing notes that travel through that organ's longest pipes at volumes bordering on the hair-raising is a rare treat for yours truly. When a system can play this loud and low, there's an added element of suspense, a nervous excitement at the possibility that the music may cause some unexpected physical phenomena. A sonic poltergeist.

I also had the opportunity to hear this rig through a series of system-building stages. Essentially, these consisted of the introduction of the Cary preamp, the Acoustic Zen cables and the Cary SACD player. And each new piece brought further refinement. The system synergy thing kicked into high gear once that last piece of Cary took up residence.

The story behind a system is often informative and this one is no exception. It turns out that Dr. Alann's brother is an audio dealer for -- you guessed it -- Cary, Reimer and Acoustic Zen. After spending his childhood being alternately entertained and assaulted by his brother's love of high-volume psychedelic stereo sounds in their shared room, today's system can in some ways be looked at as a harkening back to fond memories of youth. Yes, even fraternal song torture can turn warm and fuzzy with time. In any case, today's system came highly recommended from music-loving brother to music-loving brother. But this exact pairing was new to both brothers so Dr. Alann did some research. And he discovered that PFO's David Clark owns the Reimer Tetons and had reviewed a bunch of Cary gear including the SLP 05 and CD 306 SACD. So he called David Clark up. Yup, he was told to ring him up just like in the old movies. Pennsylvania 6-5000. And Dave Clark was kind, generous with his time and experience and very helpful. Just like in the old movies.

Dr. Al also came over to my place to hear my single-driver SoloVox. This was his first encounter with what for all intents and purposes is the antithesis of his system. And he came away intrigued but happy. Happy with his system and its more physical ways. But there were no value judgments attached. Viva la difference. Live and let listen. Which got me thinking. Maybe there are hifi types just like blood types that make one system suitable for some but anemic to others. If we look at the near-infinite array of hifi options as evidence, we may be onto something. Perhaps hifi types are even broader and more difficult to determine than A, B, O and AB positive or negative. Maybe we haven't even scratched the surface of what makes us gravitate to the sounds we enjoy in our listening lairs. I dare say it could be complicated beyond the scope of a few quippy posts on your favorite forum. And I have a sneaking suspicion that our hearts may be involved but this is one test we can't prick, poke, prepare or measure for.

All I know for sure is that the sign of a healthy hifi lies in the length of time you spend listening to it and the amount of music you just have to have to play through it - discovering the new, and new ways to appreciate the old. It's not whether you win or lose. It's all in the playing. Like my 9-year old daughter. Before the major league talent scouts find her...
Acoustic Zen website
Cary Audio website
Reimer Speaker website
Richard Gray's Power Company website