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Reviewer: Jeff Day
Listening Panel, Technical Advisors, Set-Up & Fine Tuning Artists (otherwise known as friends): Terry and Leslie Cain, Stephæn Harrell, Pete Riggle and Bill Van Winkle
Licorice Disc Toys: Garrard 301, Cain & Cain plinth, Denon 103 phono cartridge, Origin Live Silver tonearm [on loan from Origin Live for the Garrard Project], SME 3012 vintage tonearm [on loan from Jonathan Halpern of Shindo USA for the Garrard Project], Pete Riggle Audio VTAF (Vertical Tracking Angle on the Fly), Auditorium 23 moving coil step-up transformer [this review], Monolithic Sound phono stage [on loan from Stephaen Harrell for the Garrard Project], Tom Evans Audio Design Groove Plus phono stage [in for review]
FM Source: Vintage early 1960s Scott 370 FM vacuum tube tuner supported by Yamamoto ebony audio bases from Venus HiFi and juiced up by the Magnum Dynalab ST-2 Vertical Omnidirectional FM Antenna
Digital Sources: Meridian 508.20 CD player used as a transport with the Audio Logic 2400 vacuum tube DAC
Preamplifiers: Tom Evans Audio Design Vibe, Tom Evans Audio Design Vibe Series 7 with Pulse power supply [in for review]
Integrated Amplifiers: Almarro A205A EL84 single-ended pentode; Sonic Impact Class T digital
Amplifiers: Fi 2A3 single-ended triode monoblocks; Tom Evans Audio Design Linear A power amplifier [in for review]
Speakers: Avantgarde Duo 2.0, Omega Super 3 & matching Skylan Stands
Cables: Nirvana S-X interconnects between DAC and preamplifier; Nirvana S-L interconnects between preamplifier and amplifiers; Nirvana S-L speaker cables between amplifiers and speakers; a custom Nirvana wiring harness to connect the Duos midrange and tweeter horns and woofer module; Nirvana Transmission Digital Interface [on loan]; Cardas Neutral Reference digital cable; Auditorium 23 speaker cable [this review]
Stands: Atlantis Video Reference equipment rack, Billy Bags 2-shelf rack
Power Line Conditioning: none
Room size: 15' x 25' x 8', short-wall setup
Review Component Retail: $880 for 2.5 meters of Auditorium 23 LS speaker cables | $975 for moving coil step-up transformer for Denon 103; $1,375 for SPU version

Keith Aschenbrenner of Auditorium 23
Auditorium 23 is a HiFi import-export, retail sales and research & development business in Germany. It was established in 1980 and is owned and operated by Keith Aschenbrenner. Keith is largely unknown in the USA HiFi scene, except among those in the audio underground who are knowledgeable about the early history of the SET movement in France and Germany; or those hip to the glories of single-ended triode amplifiers, Platine Verdier turntables or the magnificent & historic Siemens Klangfilm loudspeakers (which have made a few select appearances at US HiFi shows in the last couple of years). At home, Keith has achieved the status of cultural audio icon over the years. His admirers refer to him as the Tube Apostle of Germany for his trials, tribulations and ultimate success in introducing fellow German HiFi and music lovers to the glories of the combination of vinyl playback, singled-ended-triode (SET) amplification and high- sensitivity loudspeakers, all built using the best principles of classic designs. I get the impression that Keith is a little uncomfortable with the domestic notoriety bestowed upon him, preferring instead to modestly play it down by viewing himself first and foremost as an audio everyman and music lover - just like you and me.

A History Lesson
Keith was born in 1950, a time when listening to music on the radio was more common than the 'square eye' stare of television watching is today. Towards the end of the 1950s, Keith's father bought a large Grundig Stereophonie console and listened enthusiastically to his quickly growing collection of classical records. Like most youngsters of the time, Keith started his own record collection with albums of the Beatles, Stones, Pretty Things, Jimmy Hendrix and other upstart musical overachievers of the day. As you might predict, this created the usual parent-child HiFi friction as Keith spun his small but treasured collection of records on his father's system. Dear old dad was not particularly happy to watch Keith abuse his beloved and expensive gear by playing kid's music on it instead of the serious classical music it deserved.

Keith wasn't about to give up listening to his favorite music, however. Following the maxim of European rock sensation Pretty Things -- "It's my life and I do what I want" -- Keith set out to earn the money to buy his own HiFi rig so he could spin those licorice discs with abandon. Keith worked hard after school at the Frankfurt main cemetery for 1.47DM/hour in order to earn enough money for his first system, an Uher Report 4000, which would cost him nearly 700DM - a lot of money at the time especially for a youngster. Over the years and as Keith's income increased, he went the usual way of audio hobbyists, buying and selling audio gear and tweaking his system until he felt like he had achieved his goals.

Keith started his Auditorium 23 HiFi business in 1980 as his love for music and HiFi continued to blossom, following the not unusual course of transforming a hobby into a profession. You're probably curious about where the name Auditorium 23 came from and what it means. Keith explained. "We wanted to be a HiFi auditorium that functioned like a music auditorium: A place where we could gather people before a small stage and set up equipment as a way to introduce them to it; a place where people could sit, relax and hear musical performances while enjoying a cup of coffee."

Where I live in Washington State, there is a small auditorium that hosts musical events. It is notable for allowing music lovers to gather in a comfy and intimate setting before a small stage to be up close and personal with the performers for the full musical experience. Keith had the same thing in mind - but instead of musicians on the stage, he used enthusiast HiFi gear as a way to introduce people to the musical fun of the hobby while they relaxed with a cuppa java. What an awesome concept! Can you imagine Starbucks collaborating with local HiFi shops while customers sip a cup of Joe? Keith thought of it first. Keith says the name Auditorium 23 comes from a contraction of his business address -- Gabelsberger Strasse 23 -- and the music auditorium listening concept: Auditorium 23, a name that reveals a lot about Keith's musical focus and his desire to entice music lovers who have not yet been infected with the HiFi hobby bug. Very cool!