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
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
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.