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AK Fest 2008
AK Fest 2008
Because Music Matters

Report By Luther Ward
Page 2

Off to the side was the Shanling MC30 music center ($994.99). This is a great product for the iPod generation.

I spent some time with Christopher in the Lauritsen Akustics room showing Fried (pronounced freed) speakers. The larger Studio 7 ($6800) and the smaller Compact 7 ($1700) both were equally impressive. You don't have to have large speakers for good bottom end.

Audiokarma Member Rick Flynn was spinning some vinyl. The NOSValves VRD 45-45 and a Juicy Music Blueberry lending a hand.

NOS Valves too was pushing some vinyl through his VRD 45-45 ST amp ($2199). The dual AR5 rectified amp can run a wide range of tubes: KT88, 6550, EL34, 350B, and 6L6GC. The amp had no problem bringing Craig's custom "Franken-Scala" speakers to life.

A quick trip up the stairs to the 4th floor brought me to the first of the Prime Media / Zentara Cables / Audio Space rooms. This one was showing an Audio Space Reference 3.1 amp ($3390), Usher Reference 1.5 amp ($2520) on static display, Cambridge Azur 840C CDP ($1499), Audio Space DAC-1US ($3000) and a pair of Usher BE-718 "Tiny Dancer" speakers ($2795).

On to Audio Space's second room and a beautiful pair of Usher 8571 speakers ($8800). Another room spinning vinyl via a Sheu turntable. They were running a Audio Space Reference 2 preamp ($9900), Reference 3 mono block amps ($7800 each). These can run 300B-845 for 25w or 300B-805 for 50w.

Here is a good shot of one of the Reference 3 amps that shows the tube layout.

In their second room, they were showing their Reference 3.1 integrated 300B ($3990). Along with a CDP320 CD HDCD ($880) and Galaxy 34 integrated amplifier ($1690).

I had a nice time talking with George in the Jaton room. It was educational. Their Lyra speakers ($1600) are more than just a black box. Granted a very pretty piano black box, but its their construction that is space age. I don't know the material they were made of but it must be some man made material as it is dense yet light. Their amps are modular which lends itself to upgrades. The Operetta comes in 2 channel ($1000) and has plug in modules ($200 each) that let you add up to a total of 5 channels.

Darrel and Diana Hawthorne of Hawthorne Audio had an oasis amid the crowds. Not just because Diana can cook some killer cookies but the relaxed atmosphere in their room. They provide drivers and parts for both commercial builders and the DIY community. In addition to selling their own open baffle speakers. Darrel and Diana are a wealth of knowledge and give it freely to anyone who asked.

You just have to like Albert with Manley Labs. I suspect he has forgotten more music than I know. Besides if EveAnna hires you, you must be cool. Anyway, he brought out the Manley Shrimp premap ($1880) and a pair of their Snapper mono blocks ($4250 pair). We listened to a wide range of music via the Bel Canto CDP.

Audio Dimensions is a local audio shop that brought a nice mix of gear that included the Rogue Audio Cronus integrated ($1795) amplifier and a Esoteric VRDS SACD X-01 ($13000).

The MC-1 ($850) is a two-way planar speaker that can be mounted on the wall or used with the optional stands ($200).

On to the Superior Sight and Sound / Esoteric / Bel Canto rooms. Steven handles some great lines and I knew to expect something special. I wasn't disappointed with the Esoteric X-05 SACD ($6000), DV-50 Universal Audio/Video Player ($5500), Esoteric P-05 SACD/CD VRDS Transport ($7000), D-05 dual mono 32 bit DAC ($7000), BAT VK-42SE preamp ($6500), BAT VK-250 amplifier ($6500).

Steven's second room sported this really nice pair of Dali Helicon 400 speakers ($6300) with a compliment of Bel Canto.

The first thing I noticed when I walked into the Audio Note room was the beautiful wood on the AN-E speakers ($16000). Then I was more impressed when I found out they had the hemp cone silver voice coils with an external crossovers.

The Audio Note Conqueror mono block amplifiers blended seamlessly.

Just next door was another Audiokarma Member's room Army / Retro Stereo. Scott and Greg hauled some weight into their room. The Pioneer Spec 1 and Spec 2 amps alone were serious.

The classic Infinity RS 2.5 speakers were a joy to listen to.

Followed by yet another Audiokarma Members room - Comos. Dan's setup transplanted from his home consisted of Rogue M120 mono blocks pushing a pair of JBL 250Ti piano black speakers and a pair of Yamaha NS1000 speakers. They were both good but together they were great.

Which brings us to the Gear Swap. From vintage audio to boxes of vinyl, you could find it all here.

Whiplash Audio gave you many options to let loose of some cash. Some of these included the Persius ($2700), the Rockets ($1500) and the Reference ($1800). There was even a Mini Rocket ($500).

A favorite of this self confessed vinyl lover was the LP Swap. I'm glad I wasn't around when they were bringing all this in. There was a LOT of vinyl here.

After tearing myself away from the vinyl, I headed next door to the DIY guru Audiokarma Member's room - Pakprotector. From the DIY turntable to the 4E27 PP amps, Douglas knows his way around the DIY world. There was a lot of iron in that room. I would say 300-400 pounds if you count the amps and their power supplies.

Classic Audio Reproductions / Atma-Sphere Music Systems brought out something unique. John Wolff showed for the first time his prototype speakers that were fitted with field coil drivers. I asked about pricing and it wasn't available. I would guess something over $30K, as the fixed magnet version is around $18500. I sure did love those big horns. There is something magical about big horn being driven by tubes. In this instance by large Atma-Sphere mono blocks.

Douglas with ASi Teknologies was showing their turn key Digital System One ($3995). This includes an ASi modified Oppo Dv-980H universal player, an ASi modified Panasonic SA-XR57 digital receiver, and a pair of ASi modified Silverline Audio Prelude speakers.

Ridgestreet Audio / Ultra Fi was my last stop. After a long day I ended with another exhibitor with something special to show me. Steve's Sason speaker ($8575) cabinets are granite. The execution was flawless and the sound superb. The Sason's stands serve dual duty, as they also house the crossovers. Larry's Ultra Fi Monaco SET 845 stereo amplifier ($6250) complimented the Sasons.

Leaving Ridgestreet Audio I met up with the gang from McIntosh for dinner at the hotel. Plenty of food and conversation to go around and some talk outside of audio. Then we all headed into see the Laith A-Saadi Trio absolutely rocked the house. With an acoustic start that filled the room with everything from blues to the Beatles, Laith showed his skill with a guitar. After the break during the three hour concert, Laith picked up his Strat and really took it up a notch. By the end of the evening, the crowd was on it's feet and I'm pretty sure we kept a few guest up wondering what was going on downstairs.

After a whirlwind weekend running on diet coke and little sleep, I flew back to Texas with some new friends, some new gear and a lot of new memories. Yes, I'll be there next year. Hopefully I'll see you there. Be sure to stop me and say hi.

Luther Ward
Wardsweb LLC


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