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WCES 1997 Show Report

WCES 1997 High-End Audio Equipment



  Those of you who know me just know i like ta start BIG. Y e a h...  Big woofers, big speakers, big amplifiers.  After all, how DO they do it???  Volume, volume volume.  Well, a few months back i was most fortunate in seein' what was to become a statement product.  One so big, so beautiful, so... so... so KILLER that i just knew it was going to among the first pieces of equipment i'd hunt down at the show.  From the same folks who keep  getting great reviews, it's none other than Platinum Audio who had plans.  Plans for a statement product that would make Wilson X-1's cry for mommy and other horn speakers green with envy.  Well, what was before my very eyes but their new, very sensitive, and amazing to my ears horn speaker.


Air Pulse 3.1 speaker.
Platinum Audio Air Pulse 3.1


The Platinum Audio Air Pulse 3.1 (pictured above) uses two very impressive 12 inch woofers which have four inch voice coils. The unique midrange design consists of two monstrous, huge, Godzilla-sized 360 degree radial horns.  The cabinet structure for these speakers was chosen after many long hours of careful design and engineering.  This careful design enables a very smooth midrange response with great control of the dispersion pattern in all 360 degrees.  As with the midrange, the tweeters also radiate into every corner of the room.  Now i gotta tell ya, i PERSONALLY was at the factory the day the tweeters arrived. Have ya ever seen a tweeter that weighed about 10+ pounds(4+ kg)?!?!?!  i could go on but unfortunately few will acquire such a "cost no object" design :-{(+ .  Why can't we all be Bill Gates'???  No pricing has been set yet but expect it to be in the neighborhood of, oh, say, $80,000.


Audio Research LS9


Well, it looks as though we consumers are in for a great future. For it's Audio Research that's taken note from their customers and now offers a new solid-state, remote control preamplifier.  The AR LS3 has been well received for quite some time.  Well, now enter it's predecessor, the LS9.  Not only does it offer a 70 step digital volume control, FULLY balanced input to output line stage, but also comes with a remote control too!  In fact, two pairs of balanced inputs are included as standard.  Frequency response is stated at .2Hz to 30kHz with less than .005% distortion at 2 Volts output.  The LS9 is capable of 14 volts output to drive even the most insensitive amplifier on long cable run to achieve maximum volume level from your amplifier.  With six inputs and four outputs available on the the rear, there's plenty of room for all your toys.  Now hold on tight because it's not only better then the LS3 it's replacing, it's also less money.  At $1,995 you may want to give this unit a careful audition for your solid-state preamplifier needs.

From the famous speaker manufactures known for their patented infinite slope technology (as well as the best stash of M&M's at the WCES show) come a classy new mini-monitor.  The model shown is the RM7si Signature. It retails for $1699/pair. It differs from the standard RM7si in that it features a metal cone woofer and an upgraded silk dome tweeter.  The Infinite Slope crossover keeps the woofer from operating where it would ring, so you get the clarity and dynamics of the metal cone without the resonant stuff.

Most manufactures use a 18dB crossover, but not Joseph Audio.  With their patented technology, this speaker uses a 120dB/octave crossover which helps to reduce ringing which can occur in speakers with lower quality crossovers.  As ya can see in the picture below, there's a vent below the woofer which was computer optimized to yield the best performance.  Frequency response is stated at 42Hz to 20kHz with a sensitivity of 86dB/W/m.


Joseph Audio RM7Si


In the great tradition of Audio Note, they have released a new product at a major show.  This time they actually showed a few transports.  One of which is based on the famous in the UK Teac.  Also new is their TT1 turntable which uses a suspended sub chassis for isolation.  The three point floating sub chassis was derived from the award winning Systemdek IIX.  With a glass platter and felt mat rounding off the table's design.  Of course what good is a turntable without a tone-arm.  So Audio Note has come out with TWO new ones to choose from.

The first one consists of the "bang for the buck" Rega Research RB250 but has been rewired with Audio Notes own AN-A copper Litz construction wire.  Their second offering is a culmination of various ideas between Rega and Audio Note.  The acclaimed Rega RB300 was rewired, though this time A.N. used the  AN-A1 silver wire internally, and AN-V 99.99% pure silver 15 strand Litz for the lead out wire.  BOTH the turntable and arms may prove to be "giant killers" for their price range.


DVD CD Rom drive
Sony DVD CD Rom Drive


With most people seeing DVD players, what some forget or may not know about is that there is also DVD CD Rom drives for your computer too!  No pricing nor final setup has been written in stone.  After talks with four different computer manufactures, they all know it will be available and are hard at work integrating the technology to your computer.  As you can see in the picture above, dual laser systems are employed for flexible applications.  Once the DVD signal is computer based, full integration with your home theater may be fully controlled from a wireless keypad. Once the hardware and subsequent software is available, then the sky just may be the limit.  Image the possibilities!!!  Who knows, a DVD based CD transport may again move forward the quality of our CD transports too!  Stay tuned as the story unfolds in the computer industry.


Joly Speaker
Joly (Brain Nerve Stimulator)


Ok, all joking aside, it seems this year they had a selection of more "normal" looking speakers.  After the show i needed to fax information and right next to me faxing was one of their show spokespersons was holding a "Learn English and Grammar" book.  It's seems to me they're trying folks!  Can YOU fluently speak Taiwanese?  ANYWAY, kinda felt compassionate for them because sometimes good intentions can be overcast by the feelings/ideas of different cultural experiences.  And NO, my brain nerve is still as wacky as usual even after auditioning the Joly speakers %-) .  Too bad too 'cause my brain nerve could use some stimulation.

Seems ta me that manufactures are "getting it".  The economy is bad.  After the holiday season, ALL electronic retailers friends i have said this was a very disappointing season.  The industry is listening my friends and i saw more "bang for the buck" this year than last year.  For instance, take a lookey at this here VAC model 25.1 amplifier.


VAC 25.1 amplifier
VAC Model 25.1


It's got some beefy power and output transformers.  Six EL84/6BQ5 tubes per channel are used to deliver 35+ watts.  No operator adjustments are required so for those who want tubes yet can't be troubled with biasing maintenance this amp just may be what the doctor ordered.  At $1890 it's seated in the hot spot with other $2,000 amplifiers.  Maybe one day we'll see a $2,000 amplifier "shoot-out".  Ya just never know.


Alon Adriana


The first moment i saw these speakers my mind had a vision of hands holding a speaker.  Fitted in "to die for" solid cherry wood wrap around side panels these speakers are solid.  A double layered cabinet utilizing cherry outer wall combined with inner construction of MDF, double layer extensional damping and to top all THAT off they add steel bracing to severely reduce cabinet ringing.  Alon claims the frequency response is 35Hz to 25kHz (no tolerance given) by using two 5 1/4" woofers (one front, one rear firing), and one Phalanx tweedy-bird.  The Adriana also features precise time and phase alignment.  But at $10,000 per pair...

A bit down from the price stratosphere is a company i wasn't at all familiar with called Ryan.  Said to be in business for many years.  Something like over ten or some such, but recently changed ownership and now offers a totally new speaker lineup too.  By this late time of the day i was tired of hearing about tens of thousand dollar components and then low and behold i'm in the Ryan room diggin' up the tunes and tappin' my feet.ired of hearing chick lounge lizard/piano bar music i prodded the dude found in every demo room...  Ya know, the one who's the "keeper of all the music that's gonna be played in our room" dude.  Well, he let me play my own music and i was pleasantly surprised.  Not just to be able to enjoy my own, er, um, uniquely styled music, but at also the way these speakers reproduced music.


Ryan Model 83 speaker
Ryan Model 83



As tube yummies gain steam more tube designs are coming out of the woodworks.  For instance, take E.A.R. for instance.  Their units are designed by none other than Tim de Paravicini who's famous for MANY studio equipment modifications in the "audiophile" world.  E.A.R.'s new toy was a push-pull power amplifier that uses zero overall negative feedback and EL519 output tubes.  This unit is called the E.A.R. 861 and is self biasing for the timid and to insure proper biasing as the tubes age.  Thirty-two watts per channel output (bridgeable) and included balanced and unbalanced input cables.  Priced at $6,495 they've got a lot of competition, yet Tim's designs are legendary.

Last on this page, though certainly NOT least is a GREAT bang for the buck" in my humble opinion.  Leave it to Unison Research to come up with an integrated unit that uses one EL34 output tube per channel, an ECC82 for driver, and an ECC83 for pre-amplification.  Twelve watts of output is achieved with the one EL34 per channel.  The preamplifier section had an aux/phono, tuner, AV, and CD input.  Using an Alps volume pot and wrapped in wood like other Unison units, this has GOTTA be a great deal for a wee bit of pentode tube sound at only $1,700. If ya desire a modest bedroom music reproduction system this just might be what the doctor ordered.















































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