Across the hall from Linn in 2325 was another Codell Audio room featuring the new Spendor D9 speakers ($9,995US) in this 40th anniversary year for Spendor. This was not the sound of your father's Spendors. While it is an 8 Ohm load with 91dB/W/m efficiency (30 tube Watts will do) it has a special tweeter that is very flat in response. The LPZ, linear pressure zone, is a silk dome tweeter with a metal phase plate on the front that is said to equalize the pressure on the silk dome's front and back side, yielding a very linear response as well as increasing the sensitivity. In the middle of the metal plate is a solid spot that controls the phase as well. There is a lot more transparency than Spendors of even recent vintage — not such a polite sound as before. If you've thought Spenders have a warm, mellow sound, you need to have a listen to this one. It was considerably different than even the D7 which I heard last year, though driven by a different system in a different room.
It was driven very nicely with the new Chord Blu Mk II transport/DAC/preamp ($9,995US) with their proprietary FPGA core with advanced filtering, rather than utilizing an off-the-shelf DAC chip. The analog signal was then sent to a Chord SPM 1200 Mk II power amp with 350 Wpc to drive the Spendors. It's hard to believe this Chord gear that has such unique and appealing style is also used as studio gear in many instances. Harry Belafonte singing "Darlin' Cora" was digitally precise and transparent with all the excellence that Chord's technology can bring. It was a 16-bit/44.1kHz CD upsampled into the Stratosphere (768kHz, actually). Mr. Codell honored me by playing my vintage recording of Shaky Horton wailing on his close-mic'd harmonica. The opening bar typically tears up more modest high-end rigs but the Chord Blu Mk II resolved it precisely and the Spendor's tweeter made it sound like a real harmonica. Yet the tube-friendly Spendor D9 could easily have appealed to the analog and tube loving guy that I am with a different set of gear.
In the adjacent room of this suite Codell had the Chord Mojo (with Poly adaptor for wireless streaming), the brand new Hugo2 DAC and the Dave DACs set up for listening with headphones. The Hugo2 was so good that I couldn't tell how much better (if any) the more expensive Dave might be without the availability of a $5000 headphone. I wanted to try the MoJo for comparison with the Hugo2 since even the MoJo has trickle down FPGA technology from their more expensive models. I had loved the MoJo in a shoot-out of small affordable DACs at a friend's house in Cleveland at Christmas. But I couldn't get within arm's length of it (except to take the photo above) for all the young dudes that were hovering like drones for a chance to hear it. My time was precious. Perhaps another day. This was a good room.
Reinhardt Goerner was holding court in his usual spot in 2326 with a nice view of the rooftop wilderness. And as usual, he was actively displaying the Grandinote Shinai dual mono integrated amplifier ($18,000), this time fronted by the Grandinote Volta server ($18,000), seen below the amplifier here, nested in the beautiful and clever Support Shinai+ ($2500). The Shinai is rated at 37 Watts per channel and is a true dual mono amplifier — right down to requiring separate power cords for each channel. Reinhardt is also importing Weiner Lautsprecher Manufaktur (WLM) speakers from Germany and was here showing the Diva IV ($18,000) with 95dB sensitivity and 8 Ohm resistance — a perfect match for the high quality Watts of the Grandinote amp. The top driver is a coaxial tweeter/midrange unit while the woofer is mounted below it. The speaker is ported out the bottom and on the back by the binding posts is a knob that attenuates the tweeter up to 6dB to accommodate the acoustics of your room. Visually, it is a very classic, elegant looking loudspeaker. Cabling here was by Nordost. Sadly, Reinhardt kept it simple this year and left his fine analog lines back at his office. Nonetheless, it was a very good sounding room... as always.
Son Ideal, a local retailer, in 1325/1327, was actively playing Rega electronics with a handsome Harbeth Super HL5 Plus ($6300) on stands. I thought at first it was Leonard Cohen playing from his posthumous album You Want It Darker but it was U2 singing "One" from the LP Achtung Baby. Similar mindset, smoother voice. The LP was spinning on the Rega RP10 ($8000 with the Rega Alpheta2 cartridge). I love the sound of Harbeth speakers, but with 86dB/W/m efficiency they are not efficient enough for my SET amps and while the veneers are gorgeous, only the Tiger Ebony mostly hides the exposed screw heads on the front baffle — and I'm afraid that's an endangered wood species. For the rest of you, this was a room not to be missed.
Solen Electronique is a parts & kits shop with a wide variety of drivers, capacitors, kits and other stuff for the DIY crowd. Music was playing here from a small stand mounted two-way speaker that was actually a contest winner of a contest sponsored by ScanSpeak, the Danish driver manufacturer. It was a One-of-a-Kind and they were not offering a Show Special price, if indeed it was for sale at all. The rig here was comprised of respectable, but not outrageously priced gear. On the tables on the other side of the room a cute tube powered Bravo Audi Ocean headphone amp caught my eye with its ocean blue chassis, as did some Lepai and Topping minimalist imported amplifiers that offer a step in the right direction at the entry level.