Yesterday, we published a photo—see http://blog.stereophile.com/he2006/060106dryeye—of audiophiles listening to a CD-R of the provisional master of "Shenandoah" from my new recording of Cantus' There Lies the Home album, due for release in July, on the new Wilson WATT/Puppy 8s. You can see in that picture Wilson's Peter McGrath about to shoot a photo. This is what he captured. But what is Mikey Fremer holding in his hand?
Wes Phillips went gaga over the Moscode HR410 amplifier in the current (June) issue of Stereophile and at HE2006, I was equally impressed by the amplifier driving Joseph RM25XL Special Edition speakers ($4199/pair). Source was a Yamaha SACD player and a Placette Active Line Stage. I listened to SACDs of a Mahler symphony (from the Michael Tilson-Thomas cycle with the SFSO) and "Swing Live" on Chesky (for which I had been present at the sessions) and the sound was vivid without being over-hyped. Moscode's Gage Rommel showed me a mockup of the forthcoming Moscode preamplifier. This is still having its feature set argued over, including whether it should have a Bluetooth link with the remote so an LCD screen on the latter could mirror the preamp's front-panel display.
Front-end in the Lamm room, with a system featuring Lamm tubed electronics driving Wilson Sophia 2 speakers, was this gorgeous turntable from French company Metronome, the Gaia, fitted with a Graham Phantom tonearm and a Lyra Titan cartridge.
One of the great demos at the show is a comparison between two identical systems and rooms, with one major difference: one has been treated with Real Traps and RPG acoustic treatment products and one left au natural. The display was hosted by dealer Ultimate Audio Video and acoustics consultants Rives Audio and the difference was not subtle. As Stephen pointed out, the treated room was much easier to listen to, with a more open soundstage and less confused imaging. Rives Audio treated the room with RPG's products and Real Traps Corner Mondo Traps and Tri-Corner Bass Traps. Richard Rives Bird commented that after being set up, both rooms were within 3dB of flat in the bottom end, so the company's PARC equalizer was not even needed.
The live music portion of HE 2006 opened Friday with a performance from the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, who have a new album out on Telarc. Fred Manteghian, Stephen Mejias and myself, all guitarists, sat in the front row and decided we all need to practice harder. Much harder.
Music Direct was showing off two new turntables in the Avid line: the $4500 Volvere and the $7500 Sequel. The Volvere was developed by using the flagship model Acutus as its prototype and removing or downsizing only those elements that had the least effect on sound quality. Like the Acutus, the Volvere has adjustable suspension, adjustable horizontal damping, and a motor mount that keeps the subchassis and platter from dancing closer and further apart from one another(a common problem with many sprung subchassis models).
We still haven't learned the price of Peak Consult's InCognito X two-way floorstanders, but we're starting to believe Per Kristoffersen when he says he set out "to build the best two-way loudspeaker in the world,"
Continuum has continued to refine its flagship Caliburn turntable system ($99,950). Chief among the changes are the Cobra tonearm's new shape, said to result in greater rigidity, and the Castellon stand's magnetic suspension. The Continuum system sure made a 50-year-old Moods of Gene Ammons LP sound fresh and present.
Jim Thiel's CS3.7 was announced at CES 2006 and even shown—sort of. It wasn't a working model and it was packed with new technological, um, wrinkles, such as its 4.5" aluminum midrange ring with an "undulating, radially ribbed contour." Not to mention the 3.7's new, ribbed 10" woofer and passive radiator, which resemble hubcaps of the "spinner" variety.
Gamut was driving the L-7s with its $6000 CD3 and $9800 DI 150 180Wpc integrated amplifier. The CD 3uses Burr Brown's PCM 1792 converter and upsamples the signal to 24-bits/192kHz. I didn't get many details about the DI 150, but it does have balanced and single-ended inputs and balanced preamp output. The line in Gamut's product literature that I loved was: "Life is a process of constant discovery and refinement. For this reason, we reserve the right to change without advance notice." Me too.
Gamut makes everything from source components to loudspeakers, so the Gamut room really was the Gamut room. Lars Goller designed the $14,800/pair l-7 three-way floorstanders and I was knocked out by how relaxed and natural acoustic music sounded though them. They looked fabulous, too.
They're so small, you'd almost have to bet they're class-D, but the $16,500/pair 300W MX-Rs are linear all the way. The tiny brutes were fed by Ayre's C-5xe universal player ($5950) and K-1x preamplifier ($8600 with phono section), and Ayre cables. The system, which included Vandersteen Quatro Wood speakers, sounded far more detailed and lithe than the MX-Rs did at CES. MAybe it's the smaller room, or maybe it's those Quatros. Heck, it could even be that Ayre's Charlie Hansen can't leave a good thing alone either.
Richard Vandersteen can't leave a good thing alone. He got to tinkering with his Quatro ($6995/pair, reviewed by Mikey Fremer in the forthcoming July issue of Stereophile) by replacing the fabric shells with wood, reinforcing the speaker's base with X material, and replacing the tweeter with the model from his 5 Signature. The result is a small, floorstanding loudspeaker with huge sound. The Quatro Woods run $10,000/pair.