An über system

One-stone Albert's law of relativity looms large also on coin. One girl's windfall is another's daily allowance. One guy's attainable is another's completely out-of-bounds. Today we simply don't bitch over relativity. We exploit it. How so? After 20 years on a beaverish beat, I've developed a personal sense for what's still rational and what's decidedly extreme. Walking through that loaded entry, what would an über system look like? The 'über' qualifier is key. This is about an end-of-the-road affair. It's about SummitFi front-cover glossy style even if it'd never feature there when €10K can go to a single Furutech Project V1 power cord. That's simply not where we're headed. We want to bag 95% of what's possible without sweating the final five. It's what someone like me could happily settle down with to call it a day. To assemble this dream rig, I start with the speakers. Nothing in recent even fainter memory stands as tall as the direct-selling €5'500/pr Qualio IQ. It's a very clever combination of top drivers—Mundorf AMT, SB Acoustics Satori dynamics—with hybrid OB/ported loading à la Carl Marchisotto; top filter parts; and a simple but solid build that doesn't spend on bling but hotrod performance. Various paint and veneer options including custom are part of the ticket.

Next we need the right amp to deliver current control particularly to the 6-inch dipole mid. I run Kinki Studio's EX-B7 monos because I own them but their EX-M7 stereo is all we need. Finally our source. Sonnet's Morpheus 2 to the rescue, the li'l brother to my Pasithea. It too is a USB DAC with variable reference voltage on its R2R ladders. That gives us perfectly non-lossy volume control with very low output impedance. With our key hardware squared away, front to back we're down to €3'500 + €2'798 + €5'500 = €11'798. We blithely assume a PC or laptop in the house so all we still need are cables. For power cords, look no farther than Titan Audio from Belfast. Before we hit our €15K ceiling, we've got another €3'200 in the till. That should easily take care of power delivery and signal cable. For the latter, I'll leave you to your own devices. If you want to tart up your digital feed, add a €399 Singxer SU-2 USB bridge from Definitely install an Audirvana subscription on your laptop. It does all the behind-the-scenes sound optimizing which transforms a lowly consumer PC/laptop into a very credible digital audio transport. If you're heavy on cloud files and light on locals, a $600 LYH Audio SW-8 network switch is brilliant to clean up your Internet router. If you keep your cable spend basic as I recommend, you'll have enough for one or both of my optional accoutrements. Otherwise you'll be €15K-ish. And by the way, both DAC and amp come in silver or black so you get to accessorize across the spread.

From what I've heard, nothing more is needed to enjoy McMansion sound and part the Red Sea. The IQ speakers scale and image like demons. Their 28Hz bass will do even bombast juicy justice. They can go silly loud but more importantly, also sound really good at low levels. The DC-coupled wide bandwidth class AB amp with lateral Exicon Mosfets is a very quick de-fogged type. It won't inject any haze whatsoever into the wide-open quasi widebander Satori which runs 600Hz-8kHz with shallow -6dB/oct. end stops. Included 20W Mundorf resistors insert into the tweeter terminals to trim the folded tweeter's output to taste. The DAC/pre has amazing resolution and purity yet doesn't waste any coin on chassis bling. Meanwhile its remote is a chunky full-metal jacket for lovely tactility. Again, this isn't a beginner's system. This is a pedal-to-the-metal ultra performance proposition for people who care deeply about their sound quality. Some of them won't give this hardware a second thought because it's not remotely expensive enough. Others will doubt that it could possibly perform at the level I claim. Again, Uncle Einstein. I'm simply firm. Against what I've heard over two decades in my own digs, at shows, retail stores or fellow 'philes, this makes a sterling example of dragstrip fun without an Ascot membership. Whether €15K spent on a hifi system rather than booze, meat, cigarettes, vacations and snazzy threads is still on this rather than the far side of sanity I'll leave to your own sensibilities.

I'll just add this. Though Ivette and I never ate out a lot, when Covid shut down the hospitality trade for 2+years, we still noticed significant savings in our account. Priorities. Do we really need a new car? Or does our scuffed-up oldie suffice for many more years? How about watches, cameras, bicycles, exotic boots, motorcycles, designer sneakers, a new smartphone every year? You get the point. It's all very personal. Today was about my personal. The end.

Kinki Studio's website | Qualio Audios website | Sonnet Digital Audio's website