Stenheim Alumine FIVE and CH Precision Demo Event at Element Acoustics

Sometimes I forget how passionate music lovers are when it comes to their high-fidelity predilections. But, all one has to do to be reminded is attend an audiophile-oriented demo event in their home town.

Not only is it evident in the attendees, it becomes overwhelming clear as one listens to the manufacturer or distributor supporting the demo.

A case in point was the Stenheim Alumine FIVE and CH Precision Demo Event at Element Acoustics held recently in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Edward Ku.

Hosted by Edward Ku, owner of Element Acoustics, and fronted with Stenheim CEO Jean-Pascal Panchard, and DVL Audio’s David Chan and Lawrence Lock, all the speakers spoke at length about the importance of music first.

Jean-Pascal Panchard.

Panchard and Chan in particular noting that despite the jewel-like sophistication of the hardware on hand, it’s only use was as a slave to the music being played; a point of view I heartily endorse.

Lawrence Lock (left) and David Chan.

The demo was host to more than 40 invited attendees and featured a stunning display of Swiss state-of-the-art hi-fi in the form of a pair of Stenheim Alumine FIVE loudspeakers flanking large racks stacked deep with the latest electronics from CH Precision, a Thales turntable/tonearm combo and a Benz Micro cartridge. Thus, the most democratic country in the world was amply represented with only US-made Nordost cables (Valhalla 2 throughout) allowed to intercede with this Swiss mix.

Separate static displays featured Nagra and darTZeel electronics with Stenheim loudspeakers.

Invitees mingled and sampled excellent food and beverages inside the large listening space which was tile-floored and glassed-in, and on the ground floor of the same building as Rutherford Audio, but thanks to an ample rug laid down between and directly in front of the main demo system, audible reflections were kept to a minimum. The entire list of system components is long and can be found at the end of this article, so I’ll only touch on the sound of the curated components which made up this holistic reproduction chain, which in a few words was neutral, instructive to the recording, scaled to the life-sized and presented without fatigue.

One of the points Panchard was clear about in his discussion of the design ethos behind the development of the FIVEs was chassis/enclosure colorations and Stenheim’s dedication to eliminating them. An approach that speaker manufacturers seem to either embrace or reject. Resonance is something I feel cabinets can be designed to work beautifully with, especially in the timbral reproduction of wood-bodied instruments, but there are many who disagree and want only the pistonic movement of a driver to translate any instruments sonic language, keeping the cabinets as close to inert as possible. As in all high-fidelity endeavours YMMV.

Having lived with a number of CH Precison electronics previously (M1 power amplifier, L1 preamplifier and I1 integrated amplifier) I feel comfortable saying I’m familiar with the atomic-level accuracy of their sound, but this system was certainly designed to ramp-up scale and authority from what I was previously used to. Purity of tone, consistency of harmonics, exquisite micro/macro dynamics all flowed freely through the Stenheims and with all the texture and human inflection I’ve come to expect from the most expertly-curated systems.

The playlist chosen for the event was varied and featured high-resolution solo piano pieces, jazz and light-classical CDs and an exquisite 180-gram pressing This Could Be The One of Canadian jazz vocalist Karin Plato courtesy of Ku’s all-Canadian Arioso Music distribution and production company which is overseen with help from Vancouver Brock House Orchestra conductor Jeffrey Tseng. Of the album, Ku said “I made this vinyl record hoping to have audiences around the world hear Canada sing. We have so many talented independent artists. Hence, we had everything in this record ‘made in Canada,’ from the artist, the band, the recording, mixing, pressing, and testing. It’s all done in Canada.”

This was an afternoon as much about appreciating music as it was about appreciating the gear that makes listening to the music possible and to me, that’s what this hobby should always strive to retain balance with; that as much as hi-fi equipment drives this industry, it’s the music that all that hardware is in service to.

Featured system:

  • Stenheim Alumine FIVE: $76,900 CAD
  • CH Precision D1 transport: $38,000 USD
  • CH Precision C1 DAC: $32,000 USD
  • CH Precision T1 clock: $24,700 USD
  • CH Precision X1 external power supply: $20,500 USD
  • CH Precision P1 phono stage: $31,000 USD
  • CH Precision L1 preamplifier: $34,500 USD
  • CH Precision A1.5 mono (x 2): $39,000 USD
  • Thales TTT Compact II turntable: $14,850 USD
  • Thales Simplicity II tonearm: $9,450 USD
  • Benz Micro Gullwing SHR: $3,570 CAD

All cables were Nordost Valhalla 2.

Element Acoustics

grantray's picture

I've heard almost that exact combo from the above photo at Tone of Music in SF, and it's shockingly good. He was powering the Stenheim TWOs with a pair of mono'd Classic Amps and the HD preamp. It was the first time I'd heard a solid state based system with a level of musicality, clarity, depth and color that I'd happily give up my SET/horn system to have. Lotto money allowing, of course.

barfle's picture

I remember reading the question “Do you buy music to make your equipment sound good, or buy equipment to make your music sound good?”

I hope it’s the latter, but the toys are all fun.