A Chance Encounter with Audio Consulting of Switzerland's all-battery Powered Components

 

Originally, I planned my trip for the 2012 High-End show back February . I called Clement Perry (CP), to schedule flight and hotel arrangements. That’s when he asked if I wanted to join him on a stop in Geneva, Switzerland to hear Serge Schmidlin's all battery powered setup. Schmidlin is the owner of Audio Consulting of Switzerland, a brand of uber-expensive electronics. I hesitated for very short minute and said “Yes! What the hell!” This couldn't be nearly as eventful as the trip we took last year to over five countries in six days. Talk about being worn out!

I recalled in my early years a first chance encounter with Audio Consulting silver interconnects. They were great sounding cables that had become my reference for quite of number of years. So, I actually looked forward to meeting the folks behind these battery powered components CP speaks so highly of. Our flight from Newark was non-eventful and took all of 8 hours before touching down at Geneva Int Airport. Schmidlin picked us up was waiting while CP and I made our way through customs. Our arrival was early morning, so Schmidlin wisely took CP and I to a nearby restaurant for breakfast.

Getting there however would prove to be circus act for me. Unfortunately (for me, not CP), Schmidlin drives an Audi TT two-seater equipped with only a buddy rear seat. I may be slender, but trying to contort 6’1” frame in the back was no easy task. Though the restaurant and Schmidlin's home was only minutes away, with my body all twisted up in that back seat, it felt like eternity. Once out, I couldn’t wait to unravel and stretch my back and legs out. What I discovered about Schmidlin is he's very unassuming and extremely dedicated to his craft of designing the world's finest electronics. I felt fortunate having the opportunity to see him and hear his products.



Wow! The room was full of exotic electronics and loudspeakers. CP looked at me and gave me that "I know what you're thinking" smile. These eye-popping sight of battery-driven components consisted of some quite unusual looking products but the Rubanoide Dvaijnoy (90k) loudspeakers: a dipole transducer with a high sensitivity rating of 103 db literally took my breath away! The low-end section featured the Rubabass (60k), a unique dipole ribbon bass driver with a reported frequency response that ranges from 200 Hz to 15 Hz (with startling sensitivity of 96 dB). The Rubabass proved sonically invisible giving that added low end extension without ever causing attention to itself. 

The Mipa 30 watt (24k) amplifier and dedicated Mipa bass (20k) amplifier were used to power the system with Mozart and Verdi sculptures as their constant admirers. The Silver Rock Meteor AVC (26k) preamplifier and the new and beautifully built reference R-evolution “Stealth” turntable (150k) completed this awe inspiring system.

The Stealth consists of two elaborate designs where its innards (34 cm diameter), are made out of a heavy and vibration treated cylinder. The latter is made of wood, sand and bronze bell (bronze from the cow’s bell makers in the Swiss Alps). It’s a direct drive, motor with a eight Kg shaft and a two Kg wooden platter. This is one of few turntable that uses wood as platter. The outer ring is made out of one single CNC milled donut of 80 cm, single piece of American walnut wood that’s been dried for 20 years after cutting. After CNC milling there’s intense labor by Swiss artisans  that require a full four days. Finally, after more than 10 layers of special bees-wax is applied only then is the Stealth near completion. Schmidlin tells me the inner and outer parts have no mechanical connection, thus avoiding mechanical feedback loops typical of the platter-cartridge-arm-platter type. The Stealth uses a powerful direct drive motor with two separate battery power supplies. Incredibly, it only consumes one watt when rotating and uses only sophisticated electronic parts and a silver wire MC step up transformer.

The Stealth is large. So large in fact, it comes equipped with the same Accurion/Halcyonic Vario 60 active vibration control system specifically designed for electron microscopes. I am quite aware of their ability to lower noises at the lowest frequency levels as CP has been using them under his Behold amplifiers to great success. For digital sourced Schmidlin used an Apple Imac laptop with the USB DAC (25k). As expected, all Audio Consulting of Switzerland Silver series cables were used throughout (see video here).

Schmidlin, a perfectionist, employees all handmade battery powered electronics and hand wound custom transformers that take up to a whole week to produce. We listened to the system all afternoon and the sound was captivating. It had a purity that was remarkable and the naturalness of the timbre was second to none. The system was completely devoid of any electronic haze or noise whatsoever. This made the listening experience sort of weird to me because I never heard a system so devoid of artifacts. In my short listening session (which was hours long but still felt short considering how good it was), Audio Consulting of Switzerland has achieved something truly remarkable but unfortunately the level of expenditure here is reserved for the rare few who can afford these state of art components. There is Konstantin Gregg-Saada of Algorythme: the U.S. arm of Audio-Consulting located in Nashville, TN (I'm told CP is heading to Nashville in the next week and should have a report of that trip and his impressions here in Switzerland as well).

In the end, I thanked Serge Schmidlin for allowing me to hear such a wonderful sounding setup and for his generous hospitality...all except for being scrunched in the back seat of his car.