Stereophile Show -- Home Entertainment 2007 Hi-Fi and Home
By Rick Becker
here to e-mail reporter.
The VAS room across the hall was a different
experience altogether. What appeared to be a throwback may well be a step into
the future. The VAS stereo control center looked very similar to the high end
of Pioneer's separate components of the 1970s, loaded with such contraband
as tone controls and variable crossover frequencies for bass and treble
controls. Recent rummaging through some back issues of Vintage Guitar
Magazine enlightened me of the importance musicians give to the tone
of their instruments. On rare occasions their recordings sound just the way
they want them to. With the VAS control center, you have the option of
adjusting the recording to make it sound just the way you want it to,
within limitations, of course. At the power end of the chain, a pair of VAS
tube monoblocks whetted my appetite with massive transformers.
Bolzano Villetri was a new
loudspeaker to me. The electronics and the technology behind the
omni-directional loudspeaker, as well as the construction are Russian, but the
physical design itself comes from Italy. Yet another Behold digital
muscle amp powered this $11,400 loudspeaker that sounded very open, as you
would expect from looking at the boxless tweeter section. The finish was quite
striking, looking somewhat like a burl finish, but it may well have been hand
The Totem Acoustics room, as expected, was jammed. I
stood around in a back corner and spotted two samples of the drivers from the
new Tribe III that Vince Bruzzese had shown me in Montreal. I snapped a photo
for you, as promised. Note the extensive machining from solid metal. Nothing
is stamped or forged. Vince is very proud of these drivers and I was hoping to
get another listen to the Tribe, preferably a pair of them this time. But it
was not to be; three models of stand-mounted monitors seemed to be the center
of attention as Vince touted the quality and construction to his spellbound
audience. The large number of warm bodies in this room made it a contender for
the hottest room at the show. While it was less than half of the space Vince
rents for the Montreal show, he brought a lot of decoration to replicate some
of the ambience he normally creates in his two-room audio and video display.
Nonetheless, it cost in the neighborhood of $7500 for union employees to haul
the trappings and audio gear in and out of the room. And that does not include
the cost of the room itself! Keep that in mind when you consider the cost of
admission to the show. The presenters are spending huge bucks to be there for
you (as well as to maintain their ratings in the Stereophile list of
Recommended Components, in some cases). It is a safe assumption that some do
not make their money back, at least in the short run and sometimes not at all.
There are always people who go for broke at these events, never to surface
again. You don't need evidence that Totem will be back. It is one of the
best-known brands in the business and for good reason. On my sweep at the
end of the show I stopped back and was able to finally talk with Vince while
his son, whom I had met earlier, took a turn playing to the crowd. It is
always a pleasure. Amplification seemed to be by Halcro preamplifier and
stereo power amplifier, but a Plinius integrated amplifier was also on the
One of the most intriguing items at the show was the
SUBstage200 Flatmagic Stealth Subwoofer in the Soundmatters room. At
only 4 tall, you can hide it under your sofa, or even better with a
little ingenuity, bolt it to the frame to create spine tingling vibrations
during video explosions, car crashes, or when Bambi meets Godzilla. The 200
watt powered subwoofer goes down to 32Hz. In addition to the upward firing
driver, there are two downward firing passive radiators in this $400 unit.
Phase is continuously variable so you can string multiple subs around the room
and still get it right.
The SUBstage200 from Soundmatters is designed to work with
their SLIMstage40, surround effect powered loudspeaker for beneath your flat
screen TV for $895. You get a reasonably spacious audible effect for those
rooms where you cannot have, a full-blown home theater.
Roy Hall may not be the
wealthiest man in High End audio, but he is certainly a hero to many,
marketing a variety of high value lines that can be afforded by the masses
or at least larger masses than most of the gear seen at the show. The Epos
loudspeaker line is a prime example and Roy had on hand the new M16 floor
stander, a derivative of the M5 model, in a very nice looking real cherry
veneer. The M16 goes for $1600/pr, and it was supplemented with a $1200
subwoofer with a matching cherry veneer. Mate these loudspeakers with the new Music
Hall Trio, a combination CD player, preamp, power amp and headphone amp
all for $999, and announce that you have arrived on the High-End Audio
merry-go-round. Or just sit back with this rig and enjoy the music until we
put the next man or woman on the moon. Hot rod this gear with some modest
tweaks and you've jumped into the middle of the pack. I've never read a
bad review of an Epos loudspeaker, and from what I've heard at shows over
the years, it's easy to understand why.
Roy's room was filled with lots of goodies, drawing a busy
crowd, as always. Another intriguing discovery came in the form of a vacuum
tube from EAT (euroaudioteam.com).
From the literature I originally thought the Cool Valve was a $35 accessory
collar for small signal vacuum tubes. Upon reading more closely, I see that
you get a primo, hand-selected and tested Telefunken ECC803S twin triode tube
with gold pins. The sides of the tube are then painted with a vibration
absorbing compound, probably a high-temperature visco-elastic polymer, and a
finned heat-dissipating Cool Damper collar is wrapped about it. This tube is a
substitute for 12AX7, ECC 83 and nine other small signal tubes. This could be very
Just down the hall in room 1505, the door was open and I
walked in, not realizing that there was a line waiting in the hall to view the
Cinepro home theater presentation. My inadvertent intrusion was quickly
corrected. I apologized and moved on, pressed for time, as always. Clean
cup, clean cup, move down, as the March Hare says to Alice.
When I first discovered High End audio back in the early
1990s, Oracle Audio Technologies was primarily known for its beautiful
turntable. That table was a personal favorite back then, but financially out
of reach. Oracle has since diversified and now produces other electronic
components as well. Fresh on the heels of the Montreal show where I had my
first exposure to some of Usher Audio's larger loudspeakers, I had a
follow-up listen to them driven by Oracle's rig, connected with JPS Labs'
finest cables from their Aluminata Series. New from JPS was their
Superconductor Q Phono cable. (I'm having very impressive results with some
of Joe Skubinski's mid-line cables in my reference rig, review in progress).
The music here was very good, for sure, but like in Montreal, it could have
used a much larger room for all the power and loudspeaker that was present.
Seen here are the Oracle Delphi V turntable (Over $12K, with about half of
that being for the ZXY Atmos cartridge), PH 1000 Temple phono stage
($7.5K), CD 1500 player ($5.8K) and SI 1000 integrated amplifier ($9250).
On my sweep at the end of the show I stopped back into this
room and heard the new stand mounted Usher BE-718 monitors playing which will
priced about $2500. Joe shared with me that this new model is built with JPS
Lab's internal wiring, and soon, the rest of the series will have it as
well. In this small room the BE-718 seemed to do just as well as the large
floorstander I had heard the previous day, suggesting that you be careful not
Also fresh in my mind from Montreal was Aurum Acoustics,
perennially one of the Best Rooms at that show. With the identical
single-manufacturer system (aside from the Crystal cables) Derrick Moss went
all out and added significant room treatments, easily surpassing his best
performance at Montreal. The Aurum Acoustics rig is a highly integrated design
whose components do not follow the traditional functional boundaries. The
Integris CDP is a CD player/preamp for $12K, and the Integris Active 300B for
$30K includes the 300B tube amplifier, crossover and the loudspeaker which
includes an active solid state power amplifier for the bass driver. In my
Montreal report I choked at the additional $16K for Crystal Cables, and here,
I would venture to say that room treatments offered a more cost effective
improvement. Regardless, it is hard to argue with the outstanding results
heard here. If nothing else, the Montreal/New York comparison points to the
critical benefits that can be realized by proper set-up and room treatment,
regardless of the cost of your rig. I had an absolutely delightful listen to
the re-mix of the Beatles' "Hey Jude."
In the May Audio room the rig was filled with
exquisitely manufactured gear from Reimyo, including their new CDT-777
compact disc transport ($8500). Finesse is the word here, not hard rock, as
the system played through their diminutive Bravo monitor that featured an
interesting set of isolation devices between the monitor and the stand. A
Combak tuning device is seen on the side of the monitor. In fact, virtually
everything was on a special tuning device. No bad vibrations are allowed in
the May Audio room.
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