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Reviewer: Michael Lavorgna
Analog: Rega P3, Denon DL-103 cartridge, Auditorium 23 moving coil step up, Fi Yph phono stage
Digital: Audio Aero Capitole MKII
Preamp: Déjà Vu Audio, Red Wine Audio Lotus Passive PreAmp [in for review]
Amp: Fi 45 Prototype, Fi X, Red Wine Audio Lotus [in for review], Audio Note Signature Kit1 with upgrades [on loan], Fi 2A3 monos with Magnequest Silver output transformers [on loan]
Speakers: Cain & Cain Abby (Normal) and Cain & Cain Bailey, Tonian Acoustics TL-R2 Super Tweeter, Omega Aperiodic 8 [in for review]
Cables: PHY interconnects, Shindo interconnects, Auditorium 23 Speaker Cable, JPS Labs Digital AC Power Cable, Audience PowerChord, ESP Essence Power Cord, and Z-Cable Heavy Thunder V2 on the Blue Circle MR, Audiopath Silver Speaker cable, 8 Wire Silver Interconnects [in for review]
Stands: pARTicular Basis Rack
Powerline conditioning: Blue Circle Music Ring MR800
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks Series II under AA Capitole, Yamamoto Sound Craft PB-10 Ebony Bases under Abbys and Bailey, PS Audio Ultimate Outlets and AudioPrism Quiet Lines. Room damping provided by lots of books.
Room size: 13' w x 14' d x 9' h
Review component retail: Omega Aperiodic 8 $1099 (laminate finishes); $1249 (Macassar Ebony and Teak finishes); Red Wine Audio Lotus Passive Preamp $799; Lotus Stereo Amp $1199; Lotus Platform $225 (Lotus-line available in Macassar Ebony only); Squeezebox 2 Mod $499; Audiopath silver speaker cable $720/8'/pr; 8 Wire Silver Interconnect $290/1m/pr; Skylan Stands $350/pr
Complete system price as reviewed: $5,231 with discount (Red Wine Audio and Omega Speaker Systems are offering a combined $100 discount -- $50 from each company -- for any amp/speaker combo purchased together
I'm not being cute. That's what the Lotus line and the Omega A8s are. They match. Louis Chochos of Omega Speaker Systems and Vinnie Rossi of Red Wine Audio have formed a relationship, which has manifested itself in part by Louis providing the wraps for some of Vinnie's boxes. And the Omega Aperiodic 8s sport the same duds. In terms of looks, fit'n'finish, Louis is a craftsman. The beveled edge, revealing the soft white underbelly of the faux Macassar Ebony veneer, is a handsome and elegant touch. Of course the ultimate promise of any system is inbuilt synergy. No fuss, no muss, plug'n'play simpati-coolness right from the get-go.
I should also point out the reason for the presence of the Red Wine modded SB2 and Audiopath cables. When I initially emailed Louis at Omega inquiring about a review of his just-released Aperiodic 8s, Vinnie responded first. These guys must work close. As it turned out, a fully broken-in pair of A8s would be available right after RMAF. As a matter of fact and just as easily, the entire RMAF system could be sent for review. Was I interested?
|Omega Aperiodic 8
The A8s use custom modified Visaton B200 drivers in an aperiodically vented cabinet. The cabinet is "a 3-layer composite baffle and back; 3/4" Ultralight MDF (for top, bottom, and sides); 6mm Finland Birch ply; an extra layer of phenolic under the veneer and ladder bracing." Louis also uses his "R" Compound on the interior cabinet walls which is a "heavy asphalt/vinyl composite with Talc and crystalline granules" and reportedly "reduces cabinet resonance and standing waves".
|On the subject of the Aperiodic design, Louis elaborates. "The A8 is a sealed enclosure design but with 2 very restrictive vents [from Scan Speak] that are filled with fiberglass. This flattens out the impedance curve and lowers the Q of the system a lot like a fully stuffed sealed enclosure. The aperiodic vents also allow the cabinet volume to increase up to 20% compared to a sealed box and reduce cabinet pressure. The advantages are smoother|
|response with better bass definition and reduced distortion plus more efficient amplifier power transfer. The amplifier sees an easier load."
The stock Visaton B200 drivers have a reported midrange peak and in addition to this baffle solution, Louis modifies the driver to help tame this rise. "I chose to modify the back wave of the B200. It's basically damping of the cast frame of the driver. I heard a need for this in listening. The damping reduces peakiness in the critical midrange. I try to response-shape by mechanical methods only. I have tried electronic components in the past but they always took the life out of the sound."
According to the Omega website, the A8s are 6-ohms/95dB. Since there's no crossover, this an easy load to drive. Recommended minimum power is 2 watts. Now that's a sexy number. Frequency response is a claimed 52Hz - 18kHz, with in-room lows down to 45Hz. Warranty is 10-year parts and labor for workmanship and defects. The A8s are 11" w x 14.5" d x 20" h and weigh in at 35lb/ea. Binding posts are Cardas multi-ways.
Sitting 12" high and mimicking the width and depth of the Omegas, these Skylan mass-loading stands are made for the Omega Aperiodic 8. They come with flat and spiked feet and a front spacer to give the low-rider speakers some adjustable backward tilt. The four square legs are hollow and allow for sand fill. The stands require some simple assembly and I was very impressed by the judicious use of quality materials for the price of admission. Once assembled and seated under the A8s, I found the Skylan stands a handsome and seamless part of the speaker system.
Red Wine Audio Lotus
The Lotus amp is another incarnation of Vinnie's Tripath mod. The amp sits at 8.5 lbs and 6.5" w x 9.5" d x 4.5" h and incorporates all the upgrades of the Custom Clari-T I reviewed back in May and then some - all Cardas jacks and posts, BlackGate and Auricaps and a 12V/5Ah SLA battery for up to 15 hours of play time. Battery charging starts when you flip the rear switch in the off position. Recharge time is "overnight". The Lotus amp is rated at 6wpc into 8 ohms, 10wpc into 4 ohms (at 0.04% THD+N) and is available with user-optioned gain, another new and very user-friendly feature. Just let Vinnie know the preamp or source you intend as its mate and Vinnie will set the gain accordingly. As I'd come to learn in my initial dealings with Vinnie, he is all about service. If I was favorably impressed at his genuine concern for the customer when he started up, I am favorably astounded that he seems to have improved and enhanced in the intervening months. There are rumors circulating that Vinnie has a twin brother sharing duties. I can see why.
Thinking beyond the chip-amp box, the Lotus power amp sports a "classic style stainless steel 12V battery gauge with polished gold bezel, 'crescent moon' pointer and incandescent backlighting". Has Vinnie added a little glow to the Lotus as a nod to the tuboholics in the house; another clever Vinnie-ism like the Red Wine/Rossi pun but this time visual?
The Lotus passive preamp is what its name suggests. Using the DacT precision stepped attenuator and input selector switch, the same Cardas jacks as found on the Lotus amp and gold-plated knobs for source and volume control, the passive pre also shares the same dimensions as the Lotus amp, further enhancing the visual pairing. My only complaint (and it's very minor) relates to the passive's weight or more precisely, the lack thereof. At 8.5lbs and sitting on the protective disks on top of the Lotus platform, the pre slides very easily. Even when adjusting volume or changing source components, you cause unintended movement. A less Neanderthal touch or perhaps some additional weight inside the box would solve this really picky point. The passive pre comes with two inputs and two outputs, or one input and three outputs. Your choice, same price.
The Lotus platform contains 33 layers of laminations and is 2.5 inches thick by 19 inches wide and 13.5 deep and weighs 15 lbs. The platform is guaranteed flat for life! No warping, no wobbling atop the triple cone feet with standard 1/4 x 20 threaded inserts and matching discs.