Nobuko, dear friend and graphic design mistress of this site -- without whom you'd have content and layout but no style -- is also a very keen-eared, opinionated lady audiophile who'd give manufacturers the fantods if she ever got into reviewing (translated: She doesn't pull punches). She owns truly High-End components: Art Audio, ATC, Bel Canto, Nagra, Krell, Hamilton Audio and Wilson Audio.

Though her position as Senior VP and Creative Director of a major ad agency in Chicago would likely allow her to, N. doesn't squander audio funds in pursuit of snobbery. She does though, reluctantly, shell out her shekels when performance -- and more importantly, performance that integrates with her finely tuned system to align with her very specific priorities -- warrants it. She's selected Omega and Statement Extreme NBS wiring as her cables of choice. On occasion, she reminds me how she wishes there was a more affordable cable that does what Walter Fields' cables do.

Visiting CEDIA 2002 in Minneapolis to scout for a new processor, part of her agenda was a visit with Walter. She had only met him long-distance and over the phone discussing cable needs over the years. She in particular looked forward to hearing his personal reference system, to understand what aural context creates the foundation for Walter's unusual designs.

Unbeknownst to me, she had also arranged for this reporter to join said adventure, explaining -- apparently -- that despite being one of those dreaded, fickle and dangerous audio reviewers, I'm actually quite harmless and pleasant in civilian life. Oh really? However she sold this tainted ticket, Walter graciously accepted it. What follows is a short story of our meeting. It came about spontaneously, sans prior history, mutual exposure or the kind of background insights that, naturally, array expectant fence posts in anticipation of something particular. All I had was a sense. This would turn out to be one of those unique, unpremeditated opportunities life sometimes presents us with. "Out of the Blue" could have been another fitting title. But "Xtreme Audio" is catchier - and just as fitting as you shall see.

Before I describe the sound here -- so different as to be initially disconcerting -- let's take a look at Walter's rig through my nonprofessional digital camera lens.

First off, his space is vast - 66 ft total length counting the openly adjoining kitchen and hallway - Walter's designed the house such that the sound room allows the unmitigated propagation of a true 30Hz wave. The speakers, amps, front-end, cables and active power conditioner are his own designs. More about those in a moment.

Nothing But Signal
The speaker system consists of two narrow-waisted 90Hz extension 2-way floorstanders that use an upfiring JBL compression tweeter mounted on the outward-angled top baffle. A hidden JBL midrange compression driver is mounted inside the waist. It vents into the room through quasi-horn, quasi slot-loading via the rectangular air rim surrounding the tweeter baffle.
At 120Hz, the twin subwoofers located at the far end of the room -- behind the listener --house one 15" woofer each. Those are mounted atop an inner cabinet firing upwards into a down-facing dispersion lens, to then vent out the bottom of the second "over box" that's slightly larger to leave a narrow rectangular air rim, just like the main speaker.
The gleaming amps are 100-watt p/p tube designs with two Svetlana 3CX 300AI ceramic-metal, forced-air cooled transmitter tubes with solid copper anodes and driven by a unique power-factor-corrected switch mode supply. In keeping with our Xtreme theme, not even the terminals are stock issue.

For an appreciation of subwoofer size, I placed a CD cover on one ( see stand-alone image of the subwoofer). At 115dB sensitivity, this combined Thor/Siren system weighs in at 1000 lbs and, with the NBS/Shields amplifiers, would cost a cool $100,000 to replicate. The third image down on the right shows the layout of the room, as viewed from behind the fully customized CD player (only the drawer and laser assembly were retained). You see the precisely situated listening chair with one of the woofer cabs to its left. The kitchen/three-story stairway hall opens behind the partial rear wall/arch. This arrangement extends the longitudinal wall-to-wall axis of the high-ceiling listening room to the previously mentioned 66 feet total length.

All cabling was NBS Black Label, Walter's new top-line and rather exclusive non-alcoholic offering. Of immediate note? The differently sized hot/return legs on the speaker cable, and an equivalent scheme on the power cords. Before we ask him about certain design philosophies of his, let's dip into the sound. Do, however, reflect on the fact that our designer's been single, vegetarian and celibate for over twenty years. Assuming that such intense discipline and single-minded focus extends to his approach of audio should expand your appreciation for my brief -- and utterly shy-of-the-mark -- verbal descriptions.