Hegel provided a great demonstration on the effects of jitter. Using a Logitech Squeezebox Touch ($299) as a source we listened to a track first through the onboard DAC in Hegel’s entry-level 70Wpc A70 integrated amplifier ($2000) and then through their outboard HD10 DAC ($1200). Speakers were the B&W 802 Diamonds ($15,000/pair).
I confess. Ever since I heard Evolution Acoustics loudspeakers at T.H.E. Show Las Vegas some years back, I have lusted after a pair. In fact, one of the big excitements on my trip to China a few months backstory forthcoming sometime before the Twelfth of Neverwas visiting the same Aurum Cantus factory that manufactures Evolution's tweeter. The combination of Evolution Acoustics MMtwo loudspeakers ($35,000/pair), darTZeel NHB-458 monoblocks ($135,000/pair), and darTZeel NHB-18 NS reference preamplifier with MC phono section ($29,000) earned my personal best of the show for the systems I auditioned at CES and T.H.E. Show 2010.
At one end of the 11th floor sat the large, imposing Galibier Design Suite. It was dominated by several eye-catching products: Daedalus Audio loudspeakers, which replaced the scheduled and, from distant memory, fine Green Mountain Audio Calypso HD speakers ($14,900/pair) because the Daedalus babies were able to put out enough bass to fill the room; and Adona Master Reference stands (price not supplied) which supported the Galibier Design Stelvio-II turntable ($27,500) with its Durand Taiea tonearm ($7900) and Dynavector XV1s cartridge ($5250), and Atma-sphere MP-1 preamp ($15,000) and M-60 amplifiers ($13/600/pair). Equally important were Marigo Labs' VXi Mystery Feet ($779/set of 3), Analog 1 interconnects ($2000/pair), and Analog 1 SC speaker cable ($2000/pair).
Making its debut was a platter that screamed for Michael Fremer: Kodo's The Beat MagDrive turntable ($24,000). Alas, the widely lamented "where is Michael Fremer" was starring in an opera entitled Home Remodeling Can't be Accomplished with Remote Control, and was back in New York.
Sam Laufer of Laufer Teknik was showing the German Physiks HRS-120 loudspeaker in high gloss finish ($33,500/pair). Helping this omnidirectional design sing were Abis Shuhgetsu monoblock amps (price to be determined), The Memory Player source and preamp ($22,500), Paul Kaplan cabling including speaker cables ($1995), Halcyonics Active Isolation Platform ($11,500), five LessLoss BlackBodys ($959 each), and the wonderful Stein Music Harmonizers (two A and two B units plus 12 stones for $4900) with their new matching stands (price not supplied). You can see one of the Stein Music Harmonizers, aka that little black box with the blue light that doesn't have to be on for the box to be working, peeking out from behind the loudspeaker.
Selah Audio, a North Carolina speaker manufacturer that sells its products direct on the net, was showing the Verita sealed box loudspeaker ($2000/pair, or $2650 with the veneer displayed at the show). A sealed box with 84dB sensitivity and a frequency range of 60Hz20kHz, it combines the excellent RAAL ribbon tweeter from Serbia's Aleksandar Rasisavijevic with a ScanSpeak woofer.
Craig Oxford and William Carpenter, CEO of Consensus Biotechnology and Consensus Biolabs of Little Rock, happily introduced me to the successors to Pipe Dreams loudspeakers, the HighEmotion Audio Pyra Bella 7 monitors ($6000/pair), Bella Basso 28 subs ($4000/pair, with 2 pairs in use), and Passare XOL crossover ($3000). (I did not audition the second system with the HighEmotion Audio Festune Bass Module). The HighEmotion speakers, which employ "a substantial amount of new technology", are the result of years of research into brain imagining technology, and "the emotional responses to music, auditory system function, physics, and electrical engineering."
I was delighted to discover that AudioPrism, originators of the infamous green pen (aka the AudioPrism CD Stoplight), is still in business. For newbies who do not know about the green pen, Collett and those who reviewed it shook skeptics to the core when they declared that painting the edge of CDs with the green pen lowered digital edge and improved data retrieval. The backlash was tremendous. Then Krell began bathing its CD tray in green light, some people found that green-tinted CD-Rs and then black discs sounded better, CD mats with green undersides made a demonstrable improvement in sound, and the skepticism was transferred to the next tweak on the horizon.
Audio Physic is celebrating their 25th anniversary with the special edition Virgo 25 ($12,500/pair-$14,000/pair, depending on finish), “a miniature version” of the company’s top-of-the-line Cardeus. Partnered with the Virgo 25 at the time I visited was the Trigon CD II CD player ($4000), Trigon Dialog preamplifier ($9000), and Trigon Monolog monoblocks ($18,000/pair). Also on display was the Trigon Energy integrated amplifier ($5000). Supporting the gear was a Creaktiv Trend-Line 1-3 audio rack ($1300) and Creaktiv amp stands ($1000 each).
Acoustic Sounds’ Chad Kassem provided a wonderful demo of some of his fine Analogue Productions releases, including Jimmy Lee Robinson’s All My Life and Elvis’ 24 Karat Hitsall sounding absolutely seductive and enveloping with an extremely liquid and relaxed soundthrough a system featuring a Clearaudio Concept turntable ($1400), which Kassem was particularly fond of“for the price, this ‘table is hard to beat”and Sony’s SS-AR1 loudspeakers, seen here.
Dynaudio’s Mike Manousselis pulled me into his room with the familiar sounds of the XX. On display here were T+A’s more affordable R-Series components, less flashy than the V-Series, but no less elegant: G1260 R turntable ($3250 with tonearm; $3600 with arm and cartridge; $4300 with built-in phono), PA1260 R integrated amplifier ($5000), CD1260 R CD player ($3800), and MP1260 R DAC streaming client ($4200, providing internet radio, two USB inputs, and wired or wireless streaming abilities).
It was awesome to see the limited edition Dynaudio Sapphire, cloaked in a stunning clear blue piano lacquer over a veneer of bird’s eye maple. The sound was just as fine: cymbals and horns had a natural bite, without edge or glare, blooming and blooming and blooming into the room.
In addition to the Cartright cartridge setup tool, Soundsmith was showing the new EZ-Mount cartridge screws ($29.99, review to come from Michael Fremer), which allow for easy cartridge installation; Soundsmith’s new top-of-the-line Sussurro Paua moving-iron cartridge ($3499), inspired by Frank Schroder; the special edition, VPI-branded Zephyr high-output cartridge ($999), designed for use with VPI and other unipivot tonearms; and the neat, little “Intuitive” tool ($49.99), designed to make simple, precise adjustments of tracking force and azimuth to VPI tonearms!
If the Soundsmith room had been a van, it would have been rocking. (Hee-haw.) Seriously, there was a party going on in here and Peter Ledermann was the master of ceremonies, cueing up one record while a second was playing. But before I could take a seat, I was mesmerized by this awesome-looking device, the Soundsmith Cartright ($899.95, due early 2011), which resembles some sort of old-school, psychedelic Electro-Harmonix stomp box, but promises to simplify cartridge setup.