Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 13, 2018

The three best lower-cost systems that I heard at CES were this one ($7,105 total) and others from Chord/Spendor and Music Hall; thanks in no small part to Totem’s founder, Vince Bruzzese, whose extensive traveling has brought him in touch with a treasure chest’s worth of eclectic titles that he searched out on Tidal and then purchased in physical form, this one was hands down the most musically enjoyable.

When I entered the room, a track about LSD by A$AP Rocky was streaming from his album At. Long. Last. ASAP. Beyond the incongruous association of the artist’s cracked voice with the adventures of my youth, the soundstage was wide, the colors saturated and pleasingly rich (if unvarying between selections), and the entire experience lots of fun. Equally compelling, for reasons of sonics and musical uniqueness, were tracks from Iver Kleive, Ljiljana Butler, and, on LP, Alan Toussaint’s The Bright Mississippi. Note to self: If you can, spend more time in Vince’s room at the next show.

These great tracks did a perfect job showcasing Totem’s new Signature One bookshelf loudspeakers ($2,650/pair), VPI’s Cliffwood turntable with Grado Green MM cartridge ($895), Transparent’s near-entry-level cabling, including their MusicLink phono ($250/1.5-meter pair), and Simaudio’s new Moon 240i integrated amplifier with phono stage ($2100) and Moon CD 260D ($3,000). To quote Transparent’s Director of Product Development, Josh Clark, “I think our entry-level cables are our most extraordinary product.”