Reviewer: Stephæn Harrell
Source: Analogue - Nottingham Analogue Studio Space Deck; NAS Space Arm; Dynavector 17D2MKII; Dynavector 20xl; AT OC9; Walker Audio Precision Motor Controller

Digital: Audience-modded Sony DVP-NS900V; secondary: Sony CE-775
Preamp/Integrated: Herron Audio VTSP-1A; Herron Audio VTPH-1MC; secondary: PSE Studio SL
Amp: Art Audio PX-25; secondary: Wright Sound Company WPA 3.5 monoblocks
Speakers: Cain & Cain Company Studio Series Intermediate Ben; REL Strata III; Sound Dynamics RTS-3 [alt.]
Cables: TG Audio Lab custom copper; Analysis Plus; Audience
Stands: Wall-mounted maple shelving; Cain & Cain amp stand; Neuance
Isolation: T.G. Audio Pointy Things; Acoustic Dreams Dead Ball Isolators
Powerline conditioning: BPT 3.5 Signature; T.G. Audio Lab power cords; secondary: Brick Wall PW8R15AUD
Sundry accessories: VPI 16.5 record cleaner; Shun Mook Valve Resonators
Room size: 25' x 16' x 9' - ASC Tube Traps and Sound Planks; Echo Busters absorbers; secondary: Argent RoomLens system
Review component pricing:

The Porsche Boxster is styled after the 550 Spyder, with similar body lines, mid-engine roadster configuration, low weight, excellent agility and a high level of driving pleasure. Porsche celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the legendary Porsche 550 Spyder by launching a powerful Boxster S special edition bearing the name "50 Years of the 550 Spyder".

The fantasy²
It's October and I'm headed out to the VSAC Vacuum State of Art Conference. As I pull out the driveway, I notice a new car in the neighbor's garage. And it's not your run-of-the-mill passenger vehicle, that's for certain. I stop. I gawk. I drool.

Imagine it's your birthday (I did!). It happens to fall on a Saturday this time 'round, and as you amble out of the garage to do your customary chores in the yard, you set eyes on a brand new Porsche Boxster. No, not on the street. No, not in your neighbor's drive. Not in your neighbor's garage. That's right. For those of you who need it spelled out, it's your driveway - and you don't have rich relatives or affluent guests visiting. And, to erase any degree of doubt, not only does it have a big red bow around it, the personalized license plates have your initials on them.

Would you be disappointed? After all, it's not the ultimate.

Ah, the Porsche Carrera GT. Sure, it's astonishing. Most fantasies are; but does it make the Boxster a compromise? I have an idea that only a handful of humanoids would even permit such a thought to cross their minds. Aside from the whole gift horse thang -- and while the Boxster (which retails for something around $60,000) isn't really meant to compete with the $440,000 Carrera GT -- the Boxster is certainly no slouch. No, it's really more of a bargain than a compromise. Be it adequate to say that I'd be thrilled with the lesser rig, but -- bargain or not -- neither one is going to cross the threshold of my garage anytime soon. For one thing, cars that cost more than my current stereo system have always represented unfamiliar territory to me.

One of the most uncompromising vehicles ever created for the road, this Porsche offers breathtaking performance: From 0 to 124 mph (200 km/h) in just 9.9 seconds en route to a top track speed of 205 mph (330 km/h).

A trip, too
After dabbing the drool from my chin, I steered my more modest means of mobility towards the highway and wondered: "What if I had to start from scratch and had only a fraction of the change compared to my current system's value?" It's been a long journey. The costs have been distributed over two decades to become more do-able than if I had to start over. What if my budget was -- as it might be for many 'real-world' people pondering the plunge --a tenth of what many audiophools have invested? What would I buy, and why? Would it be a compromise or a bargain? In other words, could I buy a thrill for $2,500?

These thoughts stayed with me for the six-hour drive to VSAC. It was October, the sun was out, the leaves were beginning to metamorphose and I could still see whispers of the first snow as I drove over Snoqualmie Pass. The weather in Silverdale was beautiful - and, believe it or don't, on this weekend, that was not a euphemism for the liquid sunshine for which Western Washington is famous. The conference, hosted by Doc Bottlehead aka Dan Schmalle is a must-go-if-you-can kinda deal. Though some call it a regional event, there were people from all over the world. As neighbor and fellow-moon-unit Jeff Day properly noted in his coverage of the event, "VSAC could be appropriately titled 'The Peoples' Show... It's a juicy jeans & sandals affair rather than arid swords & sandals spectacle, the focus on equipment-building hobbyists, live music, and real-world HiFi folks, the kind who are deep into vacuum tube audio and who, as a group, have way more fun than can be had at any other audio show!"

The Show
Unlike CES or other major trade shows, VSAC does not sprawl across more than one wing of the three floors of the modest Silverdale Inn. Still, there's plenty to see over the course of three days. I saw most of it. Twice. And, some of it, three times. Not that I didn't eavesdrop on the spendy stuff, too, I was, after all, on a quest for components that would attend to the $2,500 query. I had just escaped from a room with 6K+ worth of speakers doing their best to please, but all I could think was that it would take more than several doses of Viagra® for me to get excited about them. I worked my way down the hall, looking for a room that would offer some sonic salve.

The real trip
Moving on from room to room, I encountered Louis Chochos, President of Omega Speaker Systems. Glancing at his (relatively) diminutive line-up, the first thing that came to mind was that this room was alive with music. After listening for a bit to the petite Super 3s that retail for $529, I asked to hear the Grande 6s, which can be had for only $170 more. Not that there was anything wrong with the 3's - in fact, Bill VanWinkle, neighbor and blind piano tuner and restorer, bought a pair of them on first listen. His reference speaker, you may ask? The Cain & Cain Company Studio Ben double horns. Hah! Now there's a compliment for the relatively miniscule Super 3s.
But I, straight away, preferred the sound of the Grande 6s, especially for their ability to convey male vocals and their significant clout in the bass. How practical of me, as there will probably not be a subwoofer in the $2500 system. Upon some further reflection, I figured that they were the smallest speakers in the Omega line that would be appropriate the size of my room, yet not overwhelm the more 'real-world' listening situation of a budding audiophool. Louis indicated that he'd be happy to send a pair for review and I was ready to give them a long-term spin.

If they could sound engaging in a tiny hotel room, they stood a fair chance of sounding even better in my space. So far, so good. I immediately began calculating the potential cost of our system built around the speakers. So far, we've committed $1,000 of our practical (but still imaginary) budget to some very promising speakers. It didn't hurt my confidence any that as reported by Jeff Day, the room of the Two Bald Guys (Harry and Kent) just down the hall "had a super-fine system" composed of an Audio Note CD player, an integrated Sun Audio SV-2A3 amplifier and the Omega Super 3 loudspeakers. Said Jeff, "This simple and inexpensive rig had a synergy that just had to be heard to be believed. At less than $5000 for the system, this combination of kit put to shame many much more expensive setups."

And, he was right. But, let's just say that Jeff has a different threshold for inexpensive. He, for example, would think nothing of spending what I consider to be very long green an a new (or better yet, vintage ) guitar. Believe me, I've watched him do it more than once. 'Course, he plays guitar much better than I, thanks to instruction from John La Chappelle (the 82-year old legend who taught Larry Coryell and Pat Metheny). Getting back to my idea of the 'real-world', I'd already established a budget of half that amount. And, just in case you're beginning to wonder, when all was said and done, I got there, and had a lot more fun on the rest of the journey. Stay tuned.