I love listening to my favorite artists in the great music halls of the world. Places that are built for performances and full-spectrum listening that evoke deep immersion and emotional connection.
I want that in my lounge room every time I listen to music or watch a movie. And, I want it without re-building a version of the Opera House, Carnegie Hall or the Melbourne Recital Centre in my lounge room.
The choice of processor, amplifiers and speakers is absolutely crucial. And, this time around, the choice had to be right as I wanted to buy my speakers and amplifiers to keep me musically satisfied for the rest of my life (I'm 61).
Having invested in a range of VAF Signature speakers over the past 5 years, I followed a suggestion from Philip Vafiadis that I might like to listen to Holton Precision Audio amplifiers. In one visit to Holton’s exhibition at the International HiFi Show in Melbourne, I experienced the simple clarity of music that defies comparison with any other amplifier. You see, I was connected definitively with the music - leaving the source instruments and natural voices as the only viable comparators. And, I could not fault what I was hearing. In short, I had my speakers and I had now found my source for amplifiers. I am eternally grateful to Philip Vafiadis for pointing me in Anthony Holton's direction.
With a passion for music and for movies - I needed 14 channels of amplification.
For music: I chose two 2-channel Holton Cube amplifiers, which I bi-amped, one to each of the front speakers - VAF Signature i93 that are accompanied by two Gravitas sub woofers. My goodness - how crystal clear, natural and engaging is the sound. Adele is singing just for me and my wife, right there in our lounge room. The accompanying piano and orchestral backing are live and precise. The stage presence appears as perfect. In the next performance, Paul Simon’s layering and integration of Africa into each of his tracks on Graceland is reproduced magnificently - evoking the land itself. Then, Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty” is sublime, bringing live performances into the lounge room transparently, epitomizing the skills of Anthony Holton and Philip Vafiadis to design pieces of audio mastery that do not stand in the way of the artist. Browne’s version of “Stay” makes me want to stay just a little bit longer in a simulated reality verging on perfect reproduction.
For movies: I added a third Holton Cube, bi-amped to drive the centre channel - a VAF Signature i93CC. A Holton Quad Cube amplifier drives four VAF Signature i66 (beautifully modified to reduce their physical size) as surround speakers. A second Holton Quad Cube amplifier drives four VAF i91 height speakers mounted in the ceiling.
I wanted an immersive sound stage and it’s the best I’ve ever experienced to take me deep into the story. Every carriage on the train in the Polar Express rattles through the room, steam blasting our feet as it pulls up to collect each child then jolts back hard with each carriage coupling pulling forward on departure. It’s pure immersive magic.
“The Police, Certifiable” blu-ray, live concert in Buenos Aires, puts you in the crowd and on the stage, bringing to centre stage the dynamics of Stewart Copeland’s drumming and percussion in “wrapped around your finger”. The artist is again delivering a complexity of rhythm and sound untainted by the audio system. Imagine, if you can, pouring your heart and energy into building a system of such quality that it disappears and you never notice the system. It is remarkable from the Holton and Vafiadis teams.
My favourite live play is Roy Orbison's Black and White Night blu-ray backed by a parade of stars. All that was missing from a real world experience in the room was the smoke. Thankfully neither Holton or Vafiadis deliver on that.
My processor is the Anthem 11.2 channel AVM60 (which doesn't do smoke either). It comes with Anthem Room Correction to optimise the listening experience without re-creating my room. Impressive.
This combination gets me as near to perfection as I can imagine getting. I can always change the processor as technology evolves a better "brain" for the system. But, I'm sold for life on Holton Audio for my power amplifiers and VAF Research for my signature speakers.
I'm also sold on the absolute integrity of Anthony Holton, Philip Vafiadis and Simon Wilde (GM at VAF, who brought the pieces together). They deliver on their promises enabling me to buy with deep trust. I commend them and their work to your attention.
- The 2 channel "Holton Cube" amplifiers are Dual Mono Block amplifiers with a nominal power rating of 150 watts into 8 ohms and 260 watts into 4 ohms.
- The 4 channel "Holton Quad Cube" amplifiers are quad mono block amplifiers with similar power ratings.