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Stereophile Show -- Home Entertainment 2007 Hi-Fi and Home Theater Event
Stereophile Show - PRIMEDIA Home Entertainment 2007 Audiophile and Videophile Event
Report By Rick Becker
Click here to e-mail reporter.

Audioengine captured my attention, probably with a pre-show press release, and I entered to find a very modest rig and two models of very small black monitors on stands. Suspecting Stealth technology, I asked them to switch over to the very smallest pair, the new A2 with a 2.5” Kevlar woofer and silk dome tweeter all in a gloss black cabinet for $199/pr. I stuck my hand in the photo to give you a reference to their size. While the sound was not world class, it sounded extraordinarily good for its size. A lot of people could have paid for them with the cash in their wallet, and the bass response caused me to look around for the proverbial phantom sub. (The actual front ported, downward firing sub with an 8” driver will be available later this summer for $399). These little grenades deserve a closer look if small size is of the essence. It is targeted as a desktop computer speaker, but it is a small stretch to see these sold in a five-pack for surround sound application in a small room.

The Gamut room was stimulating some buzz among my friends, and I was not surprised. The sound in New York was very good, indeed, with their Phi 7 loudspeaker ($6K) driven by their CD player ($6K) and 180 wpc integrated amplifier ($11K). The Phi is their lower cost series of loudspeakers with a stylistic grove running across the top and down each side near the face of the loudspeaker. The floorstanding Phi 7 was sonically similar to the $16K L7 floorstander I heard at Montreal earlier, which I commented sound very similar to my reference Kharmas. For an extra $10K, you get a more refined sound with the L7, as you would expect, but the Phi 7 is certainly a contender at its price. I enjoyed a blues song on a Dali compilation CD sung by a German singer at my stay, here. A new integrated amplifier will be joining the line at the end of June, the Si 100 with 120 wpc.

Sjofn HiFi had a definite Scandinavian ring to the name and with my penchant for blondes (although not exclusive) I entered the room to find what might have been a descendant of my old multi-faceted Sonab loudspeakers. Defying conventional ratios of length, width and height, this near-cube shaped loudspeaker with a thin slot running across the bottom of the face was designed to play against a wall and presumably in the corner for bass reinforcement. The flat black finish suggested “home theater” use, but it did very nicely with music, too. Pony up $1850 for this two-way that accepts banana plugs only.

Tron, from England, made an appearance courtesy of High Water Sound in a room full of gear that was quite unfamiliar to those outside major (and I do mean major) audiophile Mecca's. An Aspara Acoustics horn loaded loudspeaker (also from England) with its horn aligned for vertical dispersion required only a few watts from the Tron tube monoblocks. Two turntables were interesting, but little information was lying about. The one of the left featured triple motors and belt drive. It was a German TW Acoustic Raven AC priced at $15K for the basic table (going up, soon) and about $35K as shown with a Miyabi cartridge on a Graham Phantom tonearm. TW has become sought after for their incredibly accurate motors that they also make in sizes for turntable brands other than their own. Boston Audio Designs Mat 1 carbon graphite turntable mats graced the platters of both turntables. I published a rave review of the Mat 1 when it first came out, and my editor has since concurred.

Weiss, from Switzerland, best known for its digital gear in this country, premiered a complete system of Weiss gear, including a pair of loudspeakers with ceramic mid/woofer and tweeter mounted on Inovaudio stands. The Calliope loudspeakers will ship by the end of the month and will be priced at under $30K/pr with a subwoofer that was not shown here. The well known $15.7K Jason CD transport and $13.5K Medea DAC fed the new Weiss Castor power amplifiers capable of 600 watts in Class D, priced at under $20K/pr. Weiss also introduced their own cable lineup here, the Chiron series. The sound, as you might expect, was very precise and neutral, but unlike the watch industry in Switzerland, the cosmetics were quite understated.

I remember reading about Studio Electric gear — probably in a West Coast show, or CES report — and it was a real treat to see it in person. Looking like a blend of Art Deco and Flash Gordon, the Type Three loudspeakers cannot be ignored, and this is clearly intentional. A smallish hybrid power amplifier ($6500) on the floor had a similar appeal. It is a dual mono design with three separate power supplies, one for the tube front end. It puts out a whopping 400 wpc, and for a little more money you can get it as an integrated amplifier. Input sensitivity is a low 1 Volt. The sound was quite respectable, although a lot of the cost inevitably devoted to the cosmetics. One look at these in person, and you will know if you want them, as they rank very high on the “Look at Me” axis. At $6500/pr the loudspeakers are not expensive for this kind of “Wow” factor. Shown in natural maple, other wood finishes are available for this 3-way design with side-firing woofer. I fantasized about the glow of my tube amplifiers in the chrome ball that houses the midrange driver.

Meridian displayed a mid-priced surround sound home theater set up for $20K that included active loudspeakers with built-in digital amplifiers. The one electronic box rig actually incorporated a second box with a Faroudja scaler, but not the plasma screen. I had the pleasure, once again, of meeting Tom Norton who pointed out that the Meridian unit would not accept SACD inputs. To advanced audiophiles, that may be important, but this unit seems to be aimed at someone who is primarily interested in high quality audio and video for a home theater. On that count, it delivers quite nicely, and represents an upscale step in the trend toward one-box solutions for people who want to keep it simple.

The FLK Marketing & Distribution room was composed of an unusual amalgamation of brands that fit together very well, both visually and acoustically.

The silver Redpoint turntable with Tri-Planar tonearm blended very well with the mat silver finish on the new ModWright 36.5 preamp and separate phono stage I saw earlier in Montreal. Even the brushed aluminum and wood stand provided a visual link to the Rethm Saadhana silver and wood loudspeaker. The Rethm goes for $8K and with 98dB/W/m efficiency it is easily driven by low-powered tube amplifiers. Only the Art Audio PX-25 power amplifier with its polished stainless steel chassis deviated from the matte silver look, but it certainly played with the light of the tubes very nicely. The Rethm, being a two-way horn loaded configuration with the back half of the loudspeaker containing a solid state powered woofer, sounded quite good, but I was told it worked even better with another unnamed amplifier that better matched the impedance of the internal amplifier for the woofer. The center section of the top tube lifts off to reveal controls for dialing in the sound. The front part of the loudspeaker and the rear do not actually touch each other, though it certainly looks to be of a whole. I had an interesting chat with Peter Clark and as much as he raved about the beauty of his silver Redpoint turntable, I had to confess that it was kind of like a silver Ferrari, and I really preferred it in red, as it had been shown in previous years. Other finishes are available to suit your own taste, as well as different levels of performance with commensurate pricing. They put on some Reggae vinyl at my request and the system really rocked, getting down to the 32Hz limit of the loudspeaker.

 

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