|Ridge Street Audio Sason LTD/SI:|
Wow! What can I say about these beautifully crafted speakers? They completely disappear with wall to wall soundstaging and naturally precise imaging. They are oh so smooth, detailed, and utterly nonfatiguing. They were about the only speaker at the show that I could just relax and listen to hours on end. You just emotionally connect with the music through these transducers. I had Robert of RSA play Somewhere Over The Rainbow/It's A Wonderful World by "IZ" a Hawaiian singer who lost his battle with obesity at a young age. It almost brought me to tears.
They were being riven by all Fi gear including their 20 watt(?) SET amps, DAC, and transformer volume control. All RSA wiring too. I would have loved to hear the Sasons with more power, like the 100 watt Atmasphere MA-1 amps. I had the pleasure of meeting Rhythmace4218 who already owns a pair driven by MA-1. He confided the MA-1 will give the Sasons real bass impact which surpasses a highly respected 300 watt solid state amp.
The upgraded SI version is 5 inches shorter than the standard version because they moved the Xover into the base stands. The stands are now necessarily taller to keep the same overall height. IMHO, the SI version looks much better because they look more proportioned. The older version looked a little pot bellied with the wider base and shorter stands. Just awesome aesthetics.
Let me just add that Robert and Steve are first class acts. They are genuine music guys who are down to earth and easy to talk to. Kudos to both of you.
Podium 0.5 Speakers:
I must admit I was sadly disappointed with the sound of the their flagship P1 speakers at the '97 RMAF. It's treble was very grainy and irritating, and the presentation just didn't seemed right. This year their smallest speaker produced some of the best sound at the show. It was hooked up to some very expensive electronics (Art Audio Jota 22 watts? at $18k, Esoteric digital, Memory player, etc). But the synergy was there in spades. The presentation was similar to the Sason's, but slighty cooler sound with wonderful imaging and staging. Because they are crossoverless, the have a very coherent sound - as coherent as the Sasons. Piano and vocals sounded natural as one can hope for. Bass was very tuneful - stand up bass was in your room real, but lacked the deep extension of cones. But what do you expect from a panel speaker? But there was one quality that bothered me. The treble was still ever so slightly grainy and irritating. I'm not sure if I could listen to these for hours on end if the music contained a lot of treble energy. These speakers can still draw you into the music like the Sasons. Overall, these were my second favorite. And the price is still reasonable at $6k (but going up to $8k in couple of months) in terms of performance, but not really in terms of aesthetics and build quality. The Sasons take top honor for that IMO. Peter, the dealer/distributor for these speakers, was a real gent.
Sorry, these were the only two speakers that really stood out in the end for me. I heard the mega expensive speakers from Acapella and Lansche (both using ion tweeters), YG acoustics, Hansen, etc. None of them could emotionally draw me into the music like the Sason and Podium.