Tuesday was spent at The Show at the Alexis Park and St. Tropez. Again, like with the high-end audio at CES, the rooms were spread out all over the place producing much muscle fatigue, but probably better sonics as no-one was fighting the noise in the next room. Also, the free luncheon was much better than that provided by the CES.
Many more of the disc sellers were here than at CES, and they also had a better system of charging the damn state sales tax as it was included in their prices. Unhappily, the purchase prices were little better than what one could get off of their web sites. I guess they have to make a profit, and at least they weren't gouging the buyers like the Nevada natives.
Evolution Acoustics loudspeakers costing $38,000 and wiring with DarTZeel preamp at $26,000 and amplifier at $20,000. The speakers were large for the room and overloaded them at times but with voice the system sounded very clean and real.
Seen here is the ModWright preamplifier and Art Audio 300B amplifier with NSR Sonic Research D3 Concerto Sonata speakers. Unhappily I don't think this room had been adequately set up before my arrival as the sound was not up to the best and I am familiar with the excellent sound of the Modwright and Art Audio equipment. Such are the show conditions.
The DEQX room wins my award for the newest and best high-end audio technology at the show. I spent close to 45 minutes discussing this system for digital preamp-active crossover- speaker correction-room correction and digital amplification system. The units are modular, being able to accommodate up to two speakers per box, with four crossover frequencies and amplifiers. The crossovers can be set for up to 120dB slopes, but they recommend 60 to 90, all phase correct of course. Through a laptop and microphone one can place the speaker in the correct position in room, run the program and within a few minutes have each speaker set up with phase perfect high slope alignments. Then one can adjust the frequency curve with a digital equalizer to one’s tastes, and store multiple different corrections for the different digital and analog inputs.
Each unit is set for two channels with up to three outputs to their amplifiers per channel for $5500. So one can run as many speakers as one wishes simply by adding units and chassis. Unhappily the units don't do any decoding except for two channel PCM, so one still needs a pre-processor for multi-channel sources with the extra D/A and A/D conversion. The amplifier chassis can include 4 modules for bi-amping two speakers or quad amping one for $4000. Of course one can multiply the chassis and module to fit your speakers and room.
While the room and speakers didn't quite prove the effectiveness of the concept, the next one below surely did.
I almost bypassed this room as it was off to the side all alone with the unfamiliar and somewhat misleading names of Sonicweld and Sooloos. What Sonicweld has done is take the DEQX system, built an aluminum cabinet speaker called the Pulserod and Subpulse subwoofer, nice cabinetry for the DEQX electronics and combined them with the Sooloos computer program for storage of data, and produced an integrated system that only needs source components be they analog or digital. The sound was phenomenal but the price, at $99,990 was also. That price does include transport from Utah of the equipment and manufacturer for setup in your listening room, so maybe it's a good deal after all. Wonder what they'd charge for a 7.1 system? Oh well!! Of course, that price doesn't include the microphone.
The Strain Gauge by Soundsmith room was one of the best sounding at the show. Their StrainGauge cartridge with matching RIAA preamplifier at $6000 sounded excellent as did their less expensive moving iron cartridge at $2200, all through their MOSFET based amplifiers in matching wood cabinets. The preamplifier also had bigger brothers with multiple inputs, remote control, etc. for up to $15000. If my Kondo IO-j cartridge bites the dust this will be a place I'll look for replacement.
The Reference 3A room was running their $5500 Episode loudspeaker ($6000 for high-gloss coated piano finishes), Antique Sound Labs Cadenza DT amplifiers using 6SN7& input tubes into EL34 drivers with 845 push-pull outputs. Sound was excellent. Unhappily they weren't running the Episode's bigger brothers that The Absolute Sound is so enamored with.
Another excellent sounding room consisting of Harbeth 4.1 speaker at $11,00 per pair driven by the DNM Design $10,000 3D preamplifier. While the speakers looked old-fashioned and boxy compared to the sexy ones in other rooms and the preamplifiers and amplifiers were in two small black chassis each, the sound was superb and captured my attention for more than a few minutes. I guess good sound doesn't need beautiful window dressing. Plus all of the cost can go into the sound rather than the esthetics.
The VMPS room is always one of my favorites as their Super Tower 2 aR's were my first truly high-end speakers, bought back in 1982 from Clark Johnsen formerly of the Listening Studio. He is still a great friend and writer for Positive Feedback. Brian Cheney, the owner of VMPS gave an excellent demo of his three channel system, consisting of three of his Constant Directivity RM 30 planar magnetic speakers for $8900 the pair and two of his new Larger amplified Subwoofers at $4500 per pair. Brian's speakers have always been excellent value for the money and these are no exception. You may note that he had them set up as a three channel system deriving the center channel from the left and right which did an excellent job of filling out the gap that usually occurs in two channel recordings. Unhappily he was having trouble with one of his amplifiers, so the sound was a little unbalance left to right.
Maxhorn speakers with Feastrex D5 Monster Alnico drivers with Art Audio 300B amplifiers driven by 2A3 tubes. I am quite familiar with the amps as a friend in Maine has them and they sound wonderful there, and were being used at several other rooms at the show. Joe Fratus, owner of Art Audio was his usual jovial and conversant self.
One of the last suites visited but with the best sound of the show in my estimation was the ANJ International Limited, previously known as Kondo Audio, before the untimely death at last year's show of its founder, Hiroyasu Kondo. Of course I could be a little prejudiced as Steve Klein, their American distributor at Sounds Of Silence, is a good friend, and I use their IO-J cartridge, but others have also commented at the Audio Asylum on the great sound of this room. Unhappily their equipment is out of my price range, but if you can afford it, there is no better that I've heard.
Well that's it for my 100th column. While the shows go on for two more days, me feet and ears have had it for at least a year and probably more. Guess I'll just have to hit the slots for the next two days. Wish me luck. Maybe if it is good, I'll be able to afford some of the equipment I lust after.