My first foray into boutique audio was with the Cain & Cain Super Abby speakers. The design of the Abby was invented in 1934, by a German named Paul Voigt, and a system with a pair of these, back in the 1930′s or 1940′s would have been as cool as could be. The design is known as a quarter wavelength pipe (known as a Voigt Pipe) and from the looks, was probably inspired by the pipe organ. These speakers had bass that went down to about 50hz, which was perfect for lighter music such as Norah Jones and still made classic rock, like Pink Floyd, sound good. The 95dB-sensitive Fostex drivers were constructed from thin paper, highly detailed and a dream match with the sweet sound of a tube or tube-like solid-state amp. The rear-firing tweeters had adjustable volume control for fine tuning.
I read that Nelson Pass had paired his new First Watt F3 amplifier with a pair of Abbys, so I bought one of Nelson’s F3s. To finish off the system I added the Modwright SWL 9.0 hybrid tube preamp, a pair of Audio Magic silver speaker cables, a BPT power conditioner and my Denon 2900 CD player.. Unfortunately I never took a picture of the system with the First Watt F3, but the synergy of that system was fantastic.
The Super Abbys were much easier to use than the Zu Druids and I was able to get good sound from this setup, just with proper positioning (positioning in these pictures shows what not to do). These were magnificent speakers…both the way they looked and sounded. Terry Cain passed away in 2006, shortly after these were made. Terry’s apprentice soldiered on with the company for an additional 5 years after his passing, but the recession of 2009 finally caught up with the company and speakers built in the Cain & Cain shop are no longer available.
I had a hard time selling these, because I had disposed of the plywood crate in which they were shipped (NEVER throw away your original boxes and packing material, if you can help it). After several months I slashed the price to fire sale level and ended up selling them to Doug in Vancouver, BC (now a good friend of mine). The interesting thing was that Doug had mentioned he might need some help loading the speakers, because he was disabled. Turns out that Doug lives in a wheelchair…he was so excited about the Abbys, he and two members of his family came across the border to pick up the speakers. They still sit in his small apartment, in nearly the same condition as when they came out of the crate, which is something I know makes Terry Cain very happy.
My Hitachi rear-projection TV had a really nice picture, but it took up a lot of space and you can see from the side view how deep it was. A tap on the plastic back or side would sound like a big kettle drum. I never noticed the TV enclosure interfering much with my sound, but a big drum next to your speaker can’t be a good thing.
These pictures show the beginnings of my Red Wine Audio system, just a few months before I purchased the Zu Druids. The Red Wine 30.2 amplifier was 30 watts per channel. Having sold the Modwright preamp and purchased a Denon 5900 disc player that was highly modified by Empirical audio I was using a small passive preamp while trying to figure out what to go with long-term.
I had read about Red Wine’s upcoming Isabella preamp…a tube preamp with internal DAC. It would be 6 months of brutal anticipation waiting for the release this unit, which along with the Druids would be the cornerstone of my 2009 system.