Stereophile: Fern & Roby Audio / Modwright Instruments

An analysis of Fern & Roby Audio and Modwright Instruments' equipment as seen at Capital Audiofest 2021

Stereophile: Fern & Roby Audio / Modwright Instruments

I walked into the unassuming Fern & Roby Audio/Modwright Instruments room and spied, sitting in a chair with Leica camera in hand, Twittering Machines’ editor/CEO, Michael Lavorgna. Michael and I go back to the days of Quartz glass, Coke in bottles, and 6Moons.com, from whence we both came. Michael smiled and directed me toward the Fern & Roby beer coasters, beige cork jobs each with an illustrated tube (and noted tube type).

When you drink too much [editor's note: or just enough], the tube glow will light your way.

The Fern & Roby Audio system boasted owner/designer Christopher Hildebrand’s new The Raven III loudspeaker ($8500/pr). Source components included Fern & Roby Montrose Turntable with Unipivot Tonearm ($7500), Sculpture A’s A.3P Ebony cartridge ($4535) and Mini Nano SUT ($995), and a Modwright PH9.OX Phono Stage ($3850). Modwright Instruments KWH 225i Integrated Amplifier drove The Raven III loudspeaker (94dB/W/m into 8 ohms) via a 3m pair of Black Cat Cable Graceline II speaker cables ($3595/pr). Black Cat Cable Silverstar 88 RCA one-meter interconnects ($888/pr), Silverstar Power Cables ($875), and Fern & Roby Audio Ash Equipment Rack ($5650), were also included in the system.

What most impressed about this smallish rig, with its muted colors and natural wood finish, was the size and scale of its soundstage and its holographic images. Billie Eilish singing “Things I Once Enjoyed” (from Happier Than Ever) sounded intimate, detailed, and warm, projected within a massive stage and with excellent and dynamics. It filled the room. When what sounds like a keyboard (helicopter?) kicked into its solo, it had a holographic, floating effect that gave me shudders. Bob Marley’s “Is This Love” (from Legends) is a song I always associated with waiting for nachos at my local. The Fern & Roby Audio System again floated instruments and voices in an immense stage in a small hotel room. I slid the tubed beer coasters into my pocket and left this buzz-worthy listening room.