In a large suite Azzolina Audio
was showing their $15,000 horn-loaded full-range Gran Sfera. Using the exquisite Galibier Stelvio turntable
as a source, I was impressed by how delicate and detailed the
sound was, and yet by the power as well. Superb stuff if you have the room
(and budget) for it.
Jim Hagerman of Hagerman Technology is a far better man than I — since if
I was based in Hawaii I’d never get around to doing any work. As you can see
from this rack of Hagerman gear, he does get around to working — quite a bit
in fact. At the bottom of the picture is his new
$2500 6H30 based, push-pull power amplifier. At the top is his Chime USB DAC
with tubed output stage. At $1750 it is both affordable and makes great music.
Going from one extreme to another, just down the hall from the "Hang
loose" HagTech was the German based Behold. The idea behind Behold is
simple – get the signal to digital as fast as possible, make all adjustments
to it in the digital domain and keep it digital until the last instant. The
execution of this idea, however, is typically German — thorough, massive and
detail-obsessed. The amplifier pictured here the
BPA768 costs $38,000 and is huge. This picture of the innards does no justice at all to the gorgeous and exacting work
The equally impressive APU768 pre-amplifier ($20,000) has, if
anything, even more detailed guts with gold boards as this crappy picture
shows. The APU768 can interface with your laptop and allows you to customize crossover slopes as well as just
about every other feature in the system. Yes, I know, this stuff is pricey,
but from my time listening I have to say I am very impressed. Enough so, that
if I had a rich friend I’d tell him he had to hear this.
Over in the tw-acustic room, the Raven-AC ($10,000 with 1 motor — shown
here with three motors) was just about as massive
as the Behold gear, but this time in complete service to analog. The sound was
pitch-perfect, detailed and very seductive.
Just down the hall was the room of one my favorite companies — Audio by
Van Alstine. Frank has been around for so long that his stuff is often taken
for granted, which is an absolute sin. Showing the
Ultra 550 power ($2199) and Ultra SL pre-amplifier ($1449) along with the
Ultra Dac ($1599), the sound was musical and detailed.
Flying Mole Electronics makes a line of small, modular, digital amplifiers.
How small? Well, that’s my five year old son, Miles holding one. At $445 for a 100 watts, they offer what just may be the best
sound you can get for the least dollars. Great name as well.
Harbeth, as usual, was making electrical signals sound just like music.
They also showed their thirtieth anniversary model the 7ES3. At $2995, I was more than impressed by the sound and the
Escalante Designs continues to impress me as well. Their Fremont ($18,000) is a weighty (100 pounds a side) two-way that
sounds effortless at any volume level and looks far better than any picture
can express. Sounds great too.
in the Merlin Music Systems/Joule Electra room, we heard the latest version of
the VSM, the VSM-MMX-E. A lead-free design, it sounded even more resolving and
fleshed out than ever before. At $8500 in standard
finish and $10,500 in the piano-black finish seen here, it’s one of the few
10k bargains I know of. And the lovely, luscious Joule Electra VZN-160
amplifier is one of the very few 20k bargains as well.
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