As is his wont, Steve Norber of PranaFidelity was once again cheerfully and seemingly effortlessly bringing great sound to the RMAF Atrium. This year, he elected to demonstrate his Fifty90 stand mount loudspeakers ($3,950). Preamplification was from the purna/ca, which is available as a single-ended line stage for $4,500, balanced for $5,950, single-ended with a phono stage for $8,500, or balanced with a phono stage for $9,950. The phono stage accommodates both moving magnet and moving coil cartiges, and has multiple loading options. Amplification was the purna/ma amplifier ($8,950). The sources were a Technics RS 1500 reel to reel with a Charles King outboard tape head preamp, a Kuzma turntable with a Denon DL103 mounted on a Kuzma 4-Point tonearm, a ModWright modified OPPO CD player, and an Exogal Comet DAC with DSD ($2,229).
Norber’s oft-stated goal is to remove barriers between the listener and the music and create an experience that feels musically right. With these goals in mind, he demonstrated how the Fifty90 loudspeakers’ tuning can be tweaked with small toggle switches on the back to suit the listener’s taste or to suit the room or even the recording. With just a flip of a switch, the treble can be brought to the forefront, the bass can be goosed, or one can opt for a more flat, neutral sound.
I had a chance to listen to this system with multiple sources and multiple tunings, and I gotta say, no matter the source or the toggle position, the Fifty90s sounded great. In combination with the Purna components, the sound was dynamic, rich, and lacking in any kind of graininess. The Fifty90s were easily the best speakers under 5k I heard over the course of the weekend. It seems like every time I listen to a PranaFidelity room at a show, I walk out thinking, “Wow, that was surprisingly good.” It’s really well past time I started giving Mr. Norber more credit, and stopped being surprised.