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Home Entertainment 2001

Home Entertainment 2001

Show Report

All the Vermeers in New York:
A Fractured View of
The Home Entertainment 2001 Show

by Clark Johnsen


But no problem here: If a room happens to be oops on my
first pass, chances are about even it will be better on my
return. Actually my proclivity for polarity has become so well
known that when I step into a room, then turn to leave, some
exhibitors will say, Clark! The polarity must be wrong! Not
wishing to offend, I often seat myself and ask whether there
might be a polarity switch. "Humor me," I say. More than
occasionally, others in the audience learn what I listen for,
a pleasurable reward.

And exactly that, happens in the first room I visit
critically, which sounds seriously good already: Art Audio
electronics, Soliloquy loudspeakers (the 6.5s), Gill Audio DAC,
Acoustic Zen cabling and Sound Applications AC filter. But
the first cut offered is oops, so I do the Humor Me bit and
omigosh! It sounds spectacular. This could ruin me for the
rest of the Show! Here is totally natural (and all-tube except
for digital chips), full-range sound with tone and staging and
the deepest and most defined bass ever heard in such environs.
The next cut however also proves to be oops, and both subsequent
ones as well (remember: 50/50), so back-and-forth we go. Lest
anyone think this be too weird, I am with my buddies-in-listening
Kwame Ofori-Asante and Bill Gaw who often make the correct call
ahead of me! (I refer to Kwame as "my better ears"; if we should
ever disagree... well, I'd agree with him.)

So I ask how they achieve such unusual bass and after some
hesitation they attribute it to the superb horizontal isolation
afforded by Aurios feet, which are under everything, even the
speakers. Which seems all wrong, speakers being loose as a goose,
you touch them and they shimmy! But no, under the speakers is
the most important place to have Aurios, I am told. Otherwise
the room gets bass-overloaded. Hmm! Well, thanks for that
intelligence; perhaps I can use it later. Like, back home!

The next room happens to sound even better in the bass,
and without benefit of Aurios, although the midrange is less
clear, but still not too shoddy overall! Impact Technology's
patented subwoofer design requires only 3/8 inch sidewalls and
weighs only 50 pounds, power amp included. Very, very impressive
at $2000 each. The tall, handsome main cabinets contain
side-facing Airfoil transducers series-crossed with six-inch
dynamic drivers below for the bass transition. The entire system
retails for a cool $35,000. (A $22,000 version is in the works,
Mark Conti says.) The towers are driven here by ever-reliable
Plinius electronics. Later I shall send many friends up to
hear this.

Naim, the biggest name in audio that still remains
unfamiliar to most US audiophiles (in their native UK Naim
command a larger market share than Sony), showed for the first
time in many years, in conjunction with their surprise appearance
at CES. In the UK Naim appeal to a general market, while over
here they go high-end, although their small integrated amp
produces excellent, perhaps unbeatable sound for the price.
What really distinguishes Naim, for my money, is their topline
CD player. Granted, at $12,000 or so it better be good, but
in fact it wins the competition (except I have not heard every
player) for the unit least susceptible to all the tweaks I
advocate. In other words, Naim alone seem to have addressed
the problems discussed in my columns for many yearsand devised
solutions. Needless to say, I'm impressed. Unfortunately today
their local retailer's suite is occupied by so many other brands,
one can't get a handle on Naim's sound. No matter, their man
in America Chris Koster, who has gained a nearly unrivaled
reputation for customer dedication, invites me to Chicago for
a personal listen.

Now down to the Madison Room for a violin recital by Arturo
Delmoni. The artist is introduced by none other than his
producer, the estimable (or is that, inestimable?) John Marks,
who takes the opportunity also to recommend a couple rooms to
audition. In the event Arturo, a fine musician whom I've several
times heard in concert in Boston, must compete with intrusive
kitchen noise from right behind the Madison Room. He visibly
frowns but kicks the intensity up a notch or two every few
minutes until we lucky hundred are transported to a place beyond
worldly interference, where Johann Bach rules the musical ages
from his throne on high. Would that any recording, played under
any circumstances, take us there.



Here I am in the Lamhorn and Tenor Audio room, recommended
to us concertgoers by John Marks, but I didn't need that to
reacquaint myself with Bob Lamarre, a great guy from Northern
Canada and a bona fide mechanical engineer. His horn-back-loaded
speakers employ AERs -- the American Lowther -- and have always
sounded good at CES. We briefly recall the moment two years
ago when I first showed him the CD destaticizing trick, whereupon
we had become buddies. So I feel free to tell him his sound
sucks. Room problems, he replies. Yeah, yeah, but ... I heard
a place where they overcame it. Just across the hall, actually,
why don't you go over there and... push their speakers? You'll
see what I mean: Surprise, they move! Then you can go downstairs
and get some of those Aurios they use, to try yourself. Please!

Later Kwame and I, still hunting together, return to the
Lamhorn room. How's it sound now? I ask Bob. Oh, better, he
smiles. We seat ourselves and within ten seconds I turn to
Kwame and shrug, and he returns a broad grin. Heading out I
go, Bob, this isn't better. He goes, OK, much better. We trade
speculations and resolve to figure this out later... after all,
it has to be something! And wouldn't a mechanical engineer
want to know?


Click here for the next page of this report.


Click here to see a
complete listing of show exhibitors.

Click here to see our 1999 show coverage.


Copyright 2001 Clark Johnsen













































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