The Immedia room proved an isle of sanity amidst the clamor. As I entered, the folks were playing Analogue Productions’ HQ-180 pressing of Chet. Heard through Joachim Gerhard’s somewhat diminutive, 90 lb Sonics Allegria speakers ($15,000/pair, shown above with Immedia’s Allen Perkins), the trumpet sounded far bigger and lifelike than speakers this size “should” make it sound. Equally impressive were the amazing depth, height, and width of the soundstage. No small part of the credit is due Perkins’ Spiral Groove SGI turntable ($20,000), Immedia RPM tonearm ($2995), Lyra Skala cartridge ($2500, a replacement for Lyra’s Helicon), the Lyra Connoisseur 4-2LSE preamp ($25,000), and Ayre V5XE 150 Wpc amp ($4500).
Sonneteer/Bardaudio also makes a wireless receiver that houses a 25Wpc stereo amplifier. The Bardthree amp/receiver comes in several varieties, priced $1,225-1,350, and can be used to stream full-bandwidth tunes to another room, or to a set of rear channels in a hard-to-wire spot.
Direct-marketer Aperion Audio was demonstrating its new $750/pair 533-T tower loudspeaker, built around two 5.25" mid/bass drivers and a 1" silk-dome tweeter. Aperion's cabinets employ 1" MDF and internal bracing, so they're extremely rigid. Aperion not only offers 30-day in-home auditions, but they pay return shipping if you choose not to buy—and they even offer a one year trade-up policy that refunds 100% of the cost of a speaker if you buy a better speaker from them.
Ping Gong, AAA Audio's energetic director, shyly told me he had brought "something special" to the show. Knowing AAA's penchant for high-value, low-cost hi-fi, I expected something modest, but impressive. What he had brought was just flat-out impressive.
For me, the highlight of HE2006 so far was sitting on the podium next to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's senior intellectual property attorney Fred Von Lohmann as he analyzed the threat restrictive digital rights management (DRM) poses to innovation of precisely the sort so beloved by us audiophiles.
Bob Reina stopped me in the halls and asked, "Have you heard the water-cooled triodes?" Huh? Turns out the $59,000/pair Von Gaylord Audio Uni Signature Editions monoblock power amplifiers use exterior transmission-grade tubes submerged in an oil coolant, I presume and you can really see the thermal motion of the coolant, so I'm guessing the tubes run hot.
VTL announced a major upgrade to their TL-7.5 Reference Linestage Preamplifier (current gain technology, with dramatically lower noise floor), which is now the TL-7.5 Series II. They also have an upgraded version of the MB-450 monoblocks and a new 250Wpc MB-185. Pictured: VTL’s Bea Lam with the system that featured the TL-7.5/MB-450 combo driving Wilson Sophia 2s. Lovely sound.