In another room, a
Polk home theater rig for $1199 included a one-box amplifier/DVD player and a
single loudspeaker mounted beneath the flat screen TV. A separate powered
subwoofer is optional. The unit is said to provide a three dimensional sound
field even when it is not surrounded by walls.
from North Creek Audio near Old
Forge, New York, in the Adirondack Mountains had a presentation that was less
than obvious. His in-wall ribbon loudspeaker was mounted on a wood panel that
sat atop a subwoofer not of his manufacture. This high quality ribbon driver
is marketed to home theater installers and intended for new construction,
although with considerably more effort it can be mounted in existing walls.
Obviously, he was not about to tear out the hotel walls to prove his point.
The simulated wall mounted speakers threw a creditable soundscape behind the
wall and the music was certainly very good. With a frequency response down to
only 180Hz, it is designed to be used with dual subwoofers. George also makes
a floor standing model with built-in woofer that can be positioned out in the
room, as well as a small monitor designed to be placed close to the front
wall, seen beside his in-wall ribbon.
another Coup de foudre room I
found Morel loudspeakers used
effectively in a surround sound home theater setting. The Parasound
electronics were completely hidden inside a BDI
console with smoked glass. Clean looking as well as clean sounding.
The next Coup de foudre
room was an unlikely assortment of Naim
CD player, Shindo preamplifier, VTL
power amplifier and Avalon Indra
loudspeakers. This was not your ordinary cup of tea, but it sure worked.
Declaring "Clean cup, move down" I proceeded to the next
Coup de foudre room
where a Shindo Laboratory
Aurieges preamplifier with separate power supply fed one of their Montille
power amplifiers with EL34 tubes. The source was a Clearaudio
Performance turntable and the Audio Physics
loudspeakers were the Tempo VI model with side firing woofers on each side of
the cabinets. The Tempos list at $5600 in several finishes but were $6200 in
the extra-cost finish shown here.
A rare appearance of a Simon
Yorke turntable ($8995) was a delight. A Graham
Slee Reflex phonostage with variable cartridge loading sat on the shelf below
along with a 47Labs unit. The
digital front end (playing) was an Audio
Research CD player and the preamplifier and stereo power amplifier
were also by Audio Research. The loudspeakers were the stand mounted Harbeth Super HL5 ($5300) that were very easy to listen to.
had an all-mbl room, as usual, but chose to
present their electronics with the silver faces rather than the often seen
gloss black. I like them both, but the black finish is decidedly more formal
looking and would be a stunning combination with the aforementioned KEF Muons
for a "Knock em Dead" presentation. The loudspeaker was their
Radialstrahler 116 ($27,000?) in rosewood with a high gloss finish that
gorgeous, assuming that you've become accustomed to the exposed drivers with
the screen hoodie at the top. Over the years I've come to accept it, and it
is a small price to pay for what is probably the best omni-directional sound
in High End audio. The 116 is quite inefficient at 83dB/W/m, so plan on a high
current solid-state muscle amp. The music was a little bland when I was there,
but from experience, I suspect it was the music and not the rig. MBL gear is
Another rare opportunity (for me, anyway) came when I heard
the Thiel 3.7 loudspeaker ($15,000). In the distant past I was
never very fond of Thiel loudspeakers, but from what I heard in Montreal,
they've come a very long way in developing a loudspeaker with creative
style, more reasonable size and far superior musical presentation. Equally
surprising was that the rig was mostly B&K
electronics, except for a Moon Super
Novacd player. It has also been a long time since I've seen or heard
anything from B&K and they too seem to have moved far up the R&D
curve. Good show, gentlemen! And pardon me for neglecting to take a photo
loudspeakers are imported to Canada once again, only now they are sourced in
China. The real wood veneer had burnished edges on some models, which is
typical of many Chinese furniture factories. The display was silent, so
that's all I can say.
pitted their CD player against their turntable with their own Oracle cartridge
($8000?). The loudspeaker looked like a Final
1000i ($10,000), the flagship of the Dutch electrostatic line,
reviewed by Dick Olsher. I heard only the analog playback, and didn't settle
into the sweet spot for a critical listening experience. The Oracle Delphi
turntable received an award from editor Steven R. Rochlin and you can find the
review within Superior Audio.
On a cocktail table in a dim room was a trio of Quad
retro styled amplifiers based on the almost 50 year-old original including the
Quad Classic monoblock (15 watts, $1750 each), the Quad II-forty monoblocks
(40 watts, $2340 each), and soon there will be a Quad II-eighty monoblock (80
watts, $6500 each), all made in China.
In the Bluebird Audio
room Jay Rein had a beautiful
stack of Chord electronics worth
about $51,000 including their top of the line RED Reference CD player at
$29,500. It was finished in black with chrome pillars, which interlock with
the preamplifier and power amplifier to form their own rack. It was simply
stunning to look at. This is one of the few sets of electronic components that
have the performance and beauty to dance with KEF's Muon. In this room,
however, the electronic pillar of wealth drove a relatively modest Neat
Momentum 4i loudspeaker ($6000/pr). The sound was excellent and threw a much
wider soundscape than you would expect to hear in a small room. The rig here
totaled more than $65,000. For those of you who question why the Red Reference
CD player has blue lights, I'm told this is the way they come to North
America. Red light is available on special order. Seriously.
At the other end of the high-end spectrum Bluebird showed an
entire rig that cost less than the modest loudspeakers in the previous room.
Billed as the Ultimate Budget System, it included an Exposure
2010S CD player and 2010S integrated amplifier. Neat
Motive 2 loudspeakers, a small floorstanding two-way with a bottom firing port
for $2195, really got down and boogied in a system that cost a little more
than $5200 including the Chord
is a company that I've watch grow over the past decade from producing
admirable small floorstanding loudspeakers to their ultimate Appassionata
loudspeaker shown here. Looking similar to a Wilson Maxx, it is more organic
in its form, being finished in wood and incorporating Accuton ceramic drivers.
It is certainly a more inviting loudspeaker than the Wilson in appearance
but then, I'm a tree-hugging kind of guy. Nowadays, Summum is more like a
custom tailor, building very high-end loudspeakers for your specific rig and
your specific listening room. Like Wilson, they deliver it and set it up to
perfection, tweaking the crossover to meet your personal listening preference.
The $60,000 loudspeaker shown here was bi-amplified with Summum's own
preamplifier and monoblocks. The electronics were about $27,000 according to Jean-Marc
Charette. But don't be misled; they continue to offer a spectrum
of models from stand mounted monitor on up all featuring very fine
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