Audio cabling was used in the rig with the
Wilson Alexandria and VTL monoblocks. The power cords involved were the new
PowerLink MM2 CX which was developed in an effort to make a less expensive
PowerLink MM2. The problem was that while they were less expensive, they
sounded better than the original MM2... so I was told by Bradley
O'Toole of Transparent. However, “less expensive” is nowhere
near cheap — about $2000 going into the VTLs and $1000 going into the source
A Proac floor
standing speaker was sounding very good with Moon
amplifiers and a Wadia
digital front end. An UltraLink
PGX-500 power conditioner with auto shutdown for over and under voltage
protection seemed to be doing its job. Everything was connected with XLO
cabling in their attractive signature purple color. The wood veneer on the
ProAcs was exquisite ( I hope not an endangered species) and the sound was
noticeably more refined and up to date than the traditional ProAc sound I had
come to know over the years.
At the opposite extreme from the Wilson Alexandria was the
cute U Cube speaker designed to be powered with a USB cable from
your laptop. One of the pair has a built in amplifier and a quality cable
connects one speaker to the other. With a single driver it was not only just
as time and phase coherent as the Wilson, but a mere 0.0009375 of the cost at
$150 per pair. With a single driver of decent quality, it has 170 degree dispersion
and concentrates on the all-important midrange. Just lock them in your desk
when you leave work.
Anat III Studio loudspeakers ($70,000) are comprised of the top two sections
of the full bore Anat III and they sounded superb in this modest (but not
small) sized room. They were driven by Jones
Audio monoblocks ($24,000) and a Jones preamp ($12,000) with a Marantz
CD/SACD player. A Silver Circle Pure Power One 5.0 power conditioner cleansed
the system. While I've heard the larger Anat before, this was my first
exposure to Jones Audio from the Seattle, WA area and the combination was among
the very Best Rooms at the show.
The sound was extremely clean and detailed, even at the loud level I heard
Eric Clapton performing. I would not recommend buying these speakers on
anyone's recommendation, however. You need to hear them with ancillary equipment similar to your own, and with your own favorite music. They are
extremely transparent, dynamic and precise. Word is that they require really
good amplification and the Jones amps acquitted themselves very well here. I
thought they were quite handsome and loved the random drilling on the top
plate. I'm sure you're going to hear a lot more about Jones Audio in the
future. It was pleasure to touch base with Dick
Diamond of YG once again.
In one of those “Fooled You” exhibitions the Evolution
S45 integrated tube amp was not really playing the adjacent Audes
floorstanding speakers from Estonia, but rather their wall mounted
counterparts utilizing the same drivers. While the architecture of the S45 was
intriguing the thought of having to change tube was a daunting prospect. This
$16,000 amp comes from Florence, Italy and is conservatively rated at 55 watts
per channel. A CD player from Roksan
contributed to the overall fine sound of this rig that was placed at the
entrance to a large ballroom. A little further into the
ballroom a modest rig connected with GutWire
cabling produced a decent sound from a pair of LSA stand mounted monitors. Long rows of tables filled with LPs
and an expansive display of GutWire cables were prominent in this room.
In this photo you see me giving my blessing to Sonus
Faber's new Futura loudspeaker ($35,000). In past years, as much
as I've always wanted to love the beautifully crafted speakers from Sonus
Faber, I've often been disappointed. What I heard here was a major leap
forward for Sonus Faber. Credit is also due to the Boulder
stereo amplifier, the dCs digital
front end and the Nordost
cabling. Also present was an SME
turntable that some visitors might have heard.
The Futura is a breakthrough design for Sonus Faber where
the metal top and bottom are clamped together by a large metal backbone. The
backbone, top and bottom plates were given a gorgeous chrome finish and the
Sonus Faber name was engraved on the top. The high quality chrome finish is a
rich counterpoint to the high gloss wood veneer on the sides with horizontal
ribs, a carry over from their other high end models. Black cording anchored at
the top and bottom plates forms a string-like grille cloth, another stylistic
carry over. The port material is rather soft which makes it extremely quiet.
Inside, a rod with three different diameters of mass attached to it to absorb
vibrations. I was told this is a technology used in Formula One race cars to
keep them from vibrating. I could use some of those in my old Tracker. They
are looking at adapting this technology to some of their other models where it
is feasible. Quite seriously, this was the finest Sonus Faber I've ever
heard and another of the very Best Rooms
at the show this year. A gracious tip of the hat to the retailer Son-Or-Filtronique
for bringing us this presentation.
was the exposant who brought his
Kronos turntable to the show. And
no, that was not a machinist's error that engraved double “O's”
in his logo. That's a visual cue to the fact that this table has
double platters spinning in opposite directions to counteract the rotational
forces of the platter. Who would have thought? Of course, as you can see in
the photo there is a lot of other high engineering involved with sandwiched
plinths incorporating a phenolic material kind of like carbon fiber, but
using different materials and different glue. And even inside the platters the
same phenolic is used to dampen vibration. The top two plinths are suspended,
kind of like on an SME turntable. An SME
312 arm was used and I didn't catch the cartridge. Sorry. Whatever it was,
this was the finest sounding room with an analog source that I heard at the
show. The supporting cast for the turntable included Audio
Research monoblocks and preamp. The phonostage was a Nagra.
The $30,000 cost of the table includes the arm. And did I say this sounded really,
really good? This room was presented by distributor Fidelio
Audio who brings us those wonderful audiophile grade CDs and LPs
it easily ranks as one the Best Rooms
at the show.
hosted his Raysonic room as usual
and featured the Reference 2 Tube Preamplifier which showed little visual
evidence of being a tube unit. A separate power supply with dual mono
construction is nearly identical to the control center and sat directly under
it. All circuitry is hard wired, helping them achieve a 95dB signal to noise
ratio, but also pushing the price up to $11,500. The Reference 26 fully
balanced tube monoblocks ($16,500) with 180 wpc were intriguing with their
polished circles above each tube and large ovals cut out of the side panels.
Here again is an impressive S/N ratio at 103dB for this Class AB1 push pull
design. These amps, as well as their CD player all have a tasteful intuitive
design and can run either single ended or balanced. With music emanating from
Revolver speakers, this was another of the Best
Rooms at the show.
If it seems like there were a lot of Best Rooms that is
because the level of presentation at the show this year was very high. Also,
because of the economy, a lot of lesser performing products failed to show up.
A third reason may well be that the rooms were quite un-populated on Press Day...
but I frequently encountered loud conversations much to my dismay.
The good news at the Bluebird
Music room is that Jay Rein has
downsized himself in the process of setting a good example for his son, a
Triple-A baseball player. Jay looks like he has been running marathons on a
regular basis. Also downsized in this room was the Peak
Consult Princess XE loudspeaker ($24,000). It was so small, and the
fine wood work was so well disguised in the black finish that I didn't even
recognize it as a Peak Consult. It sure sounded like one, though. Powered by Chord
electronics, including their Red Standard CD player ($14,900) and stung
together with Van den Hul cables, this too checks in as a Best
Room at the show. Toping out at $100K, that's the kind of
performance you can expect to achieve. But for high Fun
Factor at 8% of that cost you can have a purple Short Stack of Chordette
components connected to your iPad
with Bluetooth. That would include the Gem USB/Bluetooth DAC ($800), Scamp
amplifier ($1795) and 2-High stand ($1300), Van den Hul cables and Spendor
A6 loudspeaker ($3695).
here for part 3 of Rick Becker's report.