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Home Entertainment 2003 Hi-Fi and Home Theater Event

Friday By Chris Boylan

  In the Kimber Cable room, Ray Kimber himself was showing off his new purist DSD (Direct Stream Digital) recordings made using his "IsoMike" technique.  Featuring local talent from WSU in Ogden, Utah, the musical tracks included opera, orchestral, folk, string and percussion ensembles and solo instrumentalists.  Recorded in the far field (15 or more feet from the performers) with just two omni-directional microphones, these recordings did an excellent job of capturing the ambience and dynamics of the original performance.


DiAural Speakers
DiAural Speakers driven by Krell Amplification sounded sweet
fed by Ray Kimber's own recordings made using DSD.

Avantgarde Acoustic was on hand to show off their Trio 3.0 speakers and Bass Horns.  With an efficiency rating of a whopping 110dB/W/m, the Trios are a natural match for tube amps, and were mated at the show with fine Balanced Audio Technology amplification, with Cardas cables throughout. With vinyl demo material including Dusty Springfield Look of Love and a percussion ensemble, the system sounded smooth with a rock solid center image and plenty of dynamics.


Avantgarde and BAT
Avantgarde Trio 3.0 and bass horns, driven by
Balanced Audio Technology amplification.

In the Pureaudio suite, Dali MegaLine line source loudspeakers were being driven to good effect by the Ming Da 300B/845 monoblock amplifiers.


Dali MegaLine speakers and Ming Da amplification
Dali MegaLine line source loudspeakers
and Ming Da 300B/845 monoblock amplifiers.

In the Faroudja/MartinLogan suite, the images presented by both the Faroudja DLP projector and the Faroudja DILA projector were stunning. Complete home theater system prices were $60,000 with the DLP projector or $90,000 with the DILA projector - a fraction of the $500,000 system they have showcased in the past with Krell, but the video was still outstanding. The audio side (Parasound electronics and amplification driving MartinLogans) was not faring quite as well when I visited the room on Friday with boomy bass, and a hollow center channel. I spoke to one of the MartinLogan folks later and found out that they suspected that the Parasound C1 pre-amplifier/processor had failed, and they were going to swap in a replacement. I'll check it out again tomorrow (Saturday) and see if things are sounding better [editor's note: they were - see Saturday's coverage for details]. Cabling was provided by Transparent Audio, including Super and Plus level audio cables, and a top secret prototype 50 foot DVI cable running the projectors.


Martin Logan Center Channel loudspaker
MartinLogan Theater center channel.

Parasound C1
Parasound's C1 pre-amplifier/processor.

Things were sounding much better in the Hampton Suite which included Manley Labs amplification, Joseph Audio loudspeakers, Orpheus CD transport and DAC, SPJ La Luce turntable and Philips SACD player. Jeff Joseph was our host and DJ, playing about the same selection that he usually plays at these shows including a funny song about a beefy guy who likes to eat ("I'm just 50 pounds of bones, wrapped up in 200 pounds of ham") and an excellent sounding older LP recording of Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong. As usual, the Joseph Audio Pearls really sang, driven by the Manley Neoclassic 250 monoblocks.


Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio and EveAnna Manley of Manley Labs
Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio and EveAnna Manley of Manley Labs.

Across the hall in the Wilson room, Wilson's Maxx loudspeakers were being driven by VTL's new Siegfried amplifier through Transparent Cables, leading to some dynamic toe-tapping fun.


Wilson Maxx speakers and VTL amplification
Wilson Maxx loudspeakers and VTL amplification.

Perhaps the coolest looking amplifier at the show was to be found in the Von Gaylord Audio room (formerly Legend Audio Design). Von Gaylord had on display their brand new Uni amplifiers ($28,000/pr.) which they call "the world's first liquid-cooled 200 Watt mono triode."


Von Gaylord's 200 WPC liquid-cooled triode amplifier
Von Gaylord's 200 WPC liquid-cooled triode amplifier.

With its power tubes immersed in a cylinder of clear liquid dielectric, the Uni amplifier presents a very fluid musical presentation (sorry, couldn't resist).  Actually, the amp was not hooked up for demonstration, but the Von Gaylord amplifiers and loudspeakers that were hooked up were producing some nice sounds as usual.


Von Gaylord Audio's amp and speakers
Von Gaylord amplifier and speakers.

Nearfield Acoustics had a few of their popular Pipedreams speakers on hand, including their brand new Model 9 ($19,500/pr), driven by VAC amps.  John Marks from Stereophile came in bearing a CD of pipe organ music (do people actually listen to pipe organ music for fun?). Anyway, it turns out that the room was highly optimized and phase adjusted around the sweet spot which was the middle chair in the front row.  Guess who was sitting there?  Yup... yours truly.  So once John heard that was the place to be, he gruffly demanded that I move. OK, actually he asked relatively nicely.  And since I was not terribly interested in pipe music, I obliged without too much grumbling.


Nearfield Acoustics Pipe Dreams, Model 9
Pipedreams, Model 9 with VAC amplification

Sunny Umrau from Nearfield made it up to me by indulging my request for Rush 2112 (MFSL recording of course), which I like to use to stress out the dynamics of a loudspeaker as well as gauge its ability to resolve the multiple layers of detail in the mix without strain or congestion.  The small Pipedreams performed admirably without much strain, capturing a good amount of the power of their bigger brothers.

Another nice sounding room was the one that featured Lumenwhite loudspeakers, the stunning looking Vyger Indian Signature turntable, and Ayon tubed amplifiers.


Lumenwhite speakers, Ayon amplification, Vyger Indian Signature turntable
Lumenwhite loudspeakers, Ayon tube amplification
and Vyger Indian Signature turntable

Vyger Indian Signature turntable
Vyger Indian Signature turntable - close-up.

And finally, rounding out the "coolest looking components" list, Gallo's new Nucleus Reference III loudspeakers ($2,600/pr.) break the mold with a very untraditional design. With a minimalist enclosure and a combination of front and side-facing drivers, the new Nucleus looks a bit like that robot from "Mystery Science Theater 3000." But just to prove that beauty is not always skin deep, the new Gallo actually sounded good too, with a nice extended bass and good dynamics.


Gallo Nucleus Reference III
Gallo's new Nucleus Reference III ($2,600).

Continue to Chris Boylan's Saturday/Sunday coverage


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