The Son or Filtronique
room had a lot of conversations going on, but it was evident this was one of
the Best Rooms at the show. The
system here had a dCs digital
front end feeding Audio Research
preamp and monoblocks that powered the Verity
Audio speakers. This room adds to the buzz that Audio Research is
coming back very strong after subsisting in the shadows for some years. dCS
and Verity have been there all along. The finish on the Verity was both subtle
and rich with a vague blue-ish stain on Birdseye maple veneer that really came
to life in the flash photo. I suggest you put a couple of small spotlights on
these in your listening room when entertaining to show them off at night. I
also noted wood blocks used as vibration absorbing footers under the Audio
Research gear. Tube gear, especially, benefits from some kind footer like
this, yet it is bewildering how seldom such footers are used at shows. On
silent display was a stack of black components from Wadia,
YBA and Naim.
YBA seems to be making a come-back in North America, too, perhaps more from a lifestyle direction than the YBA we knew back in
the ‘90s when they had more reference level gear. Also on silent display,
but should have been shown in a modest rig was a Magnum
Dynalab 209 hybrid receiver that works on both electricity and soy
based petroleum. You awake? Hybrid refers to the 6922 tube input and bipolar
solid state output, which is rated at 125 wpc and doubles down to 250 wpc at 4
Ohms. Half of the output is Class A; the upper half is Class A/B.
With a signal to noise ration of 115dB, this is a
substantial piece of gear for someone who wants high quality, but also wants
to keep it simple. Out back, it features two balanced inputs as well as
several single ended ones, including a surround sound processor loop. Outputs
include a line level preamp output plus two coaxial and one USB digital outs.
So this unit can either stand alone or form the hub of a more complex rig. The
MD 209 also has an IEC receptacle for the use of serious power cords. I also
want to mention their ST-2
half-wave FM whip antenna. While I use one from their competitor, this design
is excellent for either indoor or outdoor use. Surprisingly, I discovered that
in my location, it worked far better when angled about 15 degrees across the
expanse of glass in my window, rather than vertically aligned with the window
frame. Décor be damned!
Drifting into a room full of tables filled with LPs and
accessories on silent display I discovered Gutwire's
new 4 Bar power conditioner ($1000) shown here over their more substantial 6
Bar model ($3200). Gutwire is perhaps best known for their power cables
featuring separate housings for each conductor with a boondoggle weave and
charcoal as an absorber of RFI and EMI. They also make digital, interconnect
and speaker cables. This Canadian company has recently expanded into the
China/Hong Kong market.
On the other side of this large room were set up some rigs on
active display. Listening conditions is this room were not optimal, but I did
get to hear the Audes Orpheus
loudspeaker (88dB/W/m efficiency, 6 Ohm load) from Poland. I've commented very
favorably on their less expensive models in previous years and it was nice to
see them back again with a more upscale speaker. A large side-firing woofer
was barely visible on what appeared to be merely a sleek, two-way design. I
was quoted $18K CDN and $16K US, one of the few instances where there was much
of a difference in price between US and Canadian prices. It was powered by a Mastersound Evolution 845 integrated amplifier, a parallel
single-ended Class A design with zero negative feedback that puts out 55 wpc.
While not widely known in
, this Italian company makes a wide array of amplifiers and manufactures their
own output transformers. This rig deserved a more hospitable environment, for
In another open and very public space was a lifestyle rig from Sonneteer
that perhaps points the way to wider acceptance of high end products. While
shown in bright red, a table full of remote controls had a color for every décor.
audio combined for a very nice sounding rig. The Elac speaker FS 249 here
($6300 CDN) looks like it uses Swarovski Crystal woofers, but they are
actually the aluminum and paper sandwich crystal cones developed by this
German company. The Heil-like ribbon tweeter, although actually very long,
appears to be a more compact design due to the use of origami techniques that
are said to produce superior performance. The folds in the tweeter are
performed by hand while the final gluing is done with robotics. The highly
regarded Cambridge 840 CD player was shown with a Plexiglas top for visitors
to view the internal workings. Unfortunately I missed the photo-op.
Playing back music files from a computer that displayed the mix
levels and VU meters that were obstructively mesmerizing, I heard the new Thiel
2.5SE speaker ($9800 CDN) powered by Moon electronics that sounded better than any Thiel I've heard
before — and there have been many. I also noted the extended feet used on this
model to improve stability in the presence of show attendees and children in
the home, a nice touch.
I had bumped into Tash Goka
of Divergent Audio Technologies several times during the show, but
he was not present when I visited his room, unfortunately. Their Reference
3A Grand Veena speaker ($7995) was being driven by a modest Antique
Sound Lab AQ 1001 integrated amplifier ($1995), but there was also
an Arion Audio MK 1000 monoblock
($3900) class D sitting on an amp stand behind each speaker that others might
have heard. The Arion is rated at 500 watts and doubles down to 1000 watts at
4 Ohms with a Signal to Noise ration of 116 dB. Arion is a sister company to
the well known speaker company Analysis Audio in New Jersey, whose speakers
undoubtedly benefit from such a powerful brick. Arion uses an American made
digital power supply, not the more commonly used ICE switch-mode model. I
expect the Arions were driven by an Antique Sound Lab Flora EX DT preamplifier
($3500) at the side of the room. This combo would have probably tipped the
room into the Best Rooms category, but with the smaller integrated amp it was
"merely" very good. An emm labs
CD player was the source.
is a Quebec speaker manufacturer that I recognized for their natural plywood finish giving
it a contemporary look. I heard their Reference 3 Voies, a three way speaker
with external crossover and dedicated cable between the crossover and binding
posts on the back for $20K. From the literature in French, it looks like this
model is best heard at a distance of 12 to 25 feet, not possible in the hotel
room, which may explain why it didn't live up to its price point, but it
showed excellent promise. Two smaller models are priced at $10K and $5K. All
have significant upcharge for piano black or metallic polyester finishes.
Much more to come so check back for part 3!
Click here for part 3.