I met Pete Roth, who owns an Ayre system, in, of all places, the Ayre/Vandersteen room, where he was checking out the MX-Rs. Pete says I'm his favorite Stereophile writer, so I'm now Pete's biggest fan. I posted his picture simply to prove to my wife that someone actually does read the stuff I'm always too busy working on to help with the chores.
Those who’ve admired the sound of the speakers from TAD, but could not get past the prices, will be interested in the new line from Pioneer, which use trickle-down versions of the TAD drivers and cabinets just slightly less elaborate in resonance-damping characteristics, and much lower prices ($6000 for the S-1EX pair on demo). Designer Andrew Jones is obviously pleased by the sound, as well he might be.
David Wilson seems excited about his new Series 8 Watt/Puppy speaker system, and, having heard the demo, I can appreciate why. The company gets bonus points for listing the music used on a poster outside the door of the dem room.
A CD player that combines the transport from a Sony PlayStation, an output section using rare New Old Stock tubes, and no remote control? That’s the DynaStation II CD player ($6000), said to have a cult following in Germany, and now imported by Avatar Acoustics. You can have it somewhat cheaper if you want less esoteric tubes, or pay more if you want even more esoteric ones. The system with Ascendo System E speakers, using the DynaStation II as the source, sounded really good, though.
The rebirth of Reference Recordings is one of the feel-good stories of audio. Here’s RR’s Marcia Martin, holding up two of their new releases, from pianist Joel Fan and from Keith Lockhart conducting the Utah Symphony in works by Bernstein.
My final audition before attending the warm, "family affair" Classics Records press conference took place in Elliot Midwood's Acoustic Image room, which displayed gear he sells at his store in Studio City, CA. Once I spyed the same ESP Concert Grand SI speakers ($40,000/pair ) that drove John Marks into ecstasy in April, I had to listen. Amplification came complements of Wavestream Kinetic V8 monoblocks, which output 250–300W in triode mode ($35,000). Also on hand were the fabled Messenger preamp and the Lector four-chassis CD Drive and DAC ($9000).
11 AM Thursday, my first room at HE2005: I've just spent way over an hour listening to VTL gear in two completely different configurations. The first, in a hotel suite whose dimensions are similar to rooms in many smaller homes or larger apartments, paired the new VTL MB-450 monoblocks, TP6.5 phono preamp, and just upgraded Reference TL-7.5 linestage preamp with the Jadis JD1 Mk.II transport and JS 1 DAC, VPI Aries 3 turntable with JMW 10.5i tonearm and Benz LP cartridge, Wilson Sophia 2s, and Cardas cabling.
I've never owned a set of headphones. Is that what they're called? Or should it be pair of headphones? Headphones? Earphones? I don't even know. I've stayed away from headphones for a couple of reasons: I don't like having things on my head or in my ears, and I actually do enjoy hearing the sounds around me — the banjos on the F train, the buses on Madison Avenue, the sirens around the corner, the construction in our hall. Oh, and the birdies chirping, too.
After experiencing Shure's Push-to-Hear control switch, I was in a headphone kind of mood, so I walked on over to HeadRoom's aptly named Headphone Heaven. I imagine that this heavenly set-up will serve as a much-needed respite for many weary showgoers. I found smiling faces, comfy lounge chairs, happy flowers, and lots of sunshine. Everything in the room begged, "Try Me!"
Also in the Belkin room, I had the pleasure of chatting with Dr. Bruce Edgar who had furnished the room with his Edgarhorn Titan II loudspeakers ($16,000). Dr. Edgar is an experimental physicist. And also a mind reader. I sat beside him, facing the system with its outrageous array of silvery PureAV interconnects and speaker cables jutting out like all sorts of tentacles and arms and legs, thinking: "Any other cables would make this system look ugly," when Dr. Edgar said to me: "Any other cables would make this system look ugly, don't you think?"
There are two tiny omnidirection mics on that sweet little thing — Belkin's TuneTalk Stereo ($69.99) — displayed here by Jackie Romulo. You can record stuff directly onto your iPod and play it back later. So, if you're a student at a sleepy lecture or a hack reporter like me, you have an instant cheat sheet.
HE2006's official keynote address was delivered by Gary Sasaki, president of DIGDIA, a company that helps companies understand the ways that digital entertainment creates growth opportunities for savvy businesspeople.