SimpliFi's Tim Ryan was demming the Gradient Revolution speakers and Bladelius amplification he had shown at the New York Show, but now with two pairs of dipole woofers. But pride of place in his room was the DSPeaker Anti-Mode 2.0 Dual Core processor from the VLSI company ($1099) shown in the photo. Tim was using the fully remote-controlled DSPeaker box as a D/A preampit has a volume control, shown on the front panelbut it can do so much more: digital-domain parametric equalization; digital room correction up to a user-selectable upper limit of 80Hz to 500Hz; it can even be used as a two-way digital-domain crossover with fully adjustable slopes and crossover frequencies. Kal Rubinson is scheduled to receive a sample for review forthwith.
The German AVM company has been around for a long time, but its products are new to the USA. AVM's Udo Besser was instrumental in bringing Burmester products to the US and now intends to do the same for AVM. Shown in my photo is the PA8 modular preamp (starting at $10,000), which can have various options, including a tubed output stage, added. Also on show was the ML8 Music Library, which has either 2TB of hard-drive storage or 600GB of solid-state storage, the CD8 CD player, and the 450Wpc SA8 amplifier.
The AVM electronics were being used to bi-amp the midrange and treble units of the enormous Legacy Helix speakers ($48,000/pair), which use 750W ICE-powered 15" subwoofers and a digital-domain crossover with room correction, like its smaller and less expensive cousin, the Whisper XD. The big speakers lack the Whisper's unique cardioid woofers, however. The classic Radka Toneef performance of Jimmy Webb's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" sounded suitably delicate, but the bass on Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" sounded ponderous, due, I think, to the sub-optimal acoustics of the air-wall ballroom.
TAD premiered its new E1 floorstander ($29,800/pair) at the 2012 CES in January, but THE Show Newport Beach was the new speaker's first public outing. Trickling down the technology from TAD's massive Reference One (now being used for monitoring at London's famed AIR Studio) and Compact Reference CR 1, the E1 still uses a coaxial drive-unit with a beryllium-dome tweeter for the treble and midrange, but with the midrange cone now magnesium rather than beryllium.
John McDonald’s Audience company has developed a range of speakers using a proprietary 3” cone driver to cover the complete audio range. The flagship Clairaudient 16+16 ($72,000/pair) made its debut at the Newport Beach Show. Each Clairaudient 16+16 uses 16 of the latest-generation drivers firing to the front and another 16 to the back, and is specified to be flat to 30Hz.
This diminutive floorstander was one of my best sounds at April’s New York Show, and the same speakers at the Newport Beach Show sounded equally fine, driven again by Pass Labs electronics via Kimber Kables, despite the air-walled ballroom in which they were set-up: a huge, superbly defined soundstage, uncolored mids that worked magic on vocals and on Cookie Marenco’s solo violin recording (see next story), and overall a somewhat sweet balance. I am working on a review of this speaker, to be published in the fall.
Blue Coast Records’ Cookie Marenco, one of the more gifted recording engineers around, is a firm advocate for DSD and SACD. But in the Sony room at THE Show, she demonstrated a disturbingly audible difference between one of her recordings of a solo violin in San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral played from SACD via a Meitner DAC and from the original DSD file played back via a PC running Foobar, a USB link, and the new $1000 Mytek DAC. Yes, the converters are different, but the Meitner is no sonic slouch. Even so, the file had more of a luminous halo around the solo instrument and that space was better integrated with the direct sound. Huh?!?! This isn't PCM. A DSD bitstream is a DSD bitstream is a DSD bitstream!
Back in June 2010, I reviewed the DACPort USB D/A headphone amplifier and was very impressed by what I heard. CEntrance has since expanded their range of products, and at THE Show had a booth outside the Hilton's groundfloor ballrooms where they demmed a cute Audiophile Desktop system ($2000), which combines the MasterClass 2504 2-way coaxial speakers, the DACmini PX desktop amplifier and DAC, and a travel case.
BSG Technologies' Larry Alan Kay, many years ago the publisher of Fi magazine, spent THE Show eagerly A/B-ing the effect of his Signal Completion Stage ($3995). This all-analog processor is claimed to undo the effect of all the deleterious phase shifts that have occurred during the making of a recording, restoring what Kay calls "the geography of the recorded sound."
Not a high-tech accordion being held by Wisdom Audio’s Jon Herron in retailer Digital Ear’s room, but one of the four magnetic planar modules used in each LS4 floor-standing on-wall speaker ($80,000/pair) seen in the background. The module’s central strip handles frequencies above 750Hz; the side panels cover the range from 80Hz to 750Hz. “So much magnetic energy driving so little mass” explained Herron, results in high sensitivity and very high power handling despite the fact that the backwave from the diaphragm is absorbed rather than allowing it to reinforce the frontal radiation as with a conventional panel speaker.
Canadian speaker manufacturer Totem had a rather schizophrenic room, in which they had no fewer than three complete systems being demmed, one based on MBL electronics, the second on McIntosh electronics, and the third on Cary electronics. Totem’s Vince Bruzzese is shown here operating what I felt to be the best-sounding system, featuring a C31 CD player ($9200) and C51 300Wpc integrated amplifier ($11,100) from MBL’s Corona series driving the Earth speaker from Totem’s Element range ($9000/pair) via Clarus cables. The Earth uses the same tweeter and Torrent Technology woofer as the other Element designs, coupled to a passive radiator. There is no crossover in the woofer’s path, leading to an almost preternaturally clear midrange, but with big, almost too big bass.
In the fourth of the Sunny’s Audio roomssee Jason Serinus’s stories earlier in this reportwas a jewel of an affordable system, being operated here by Peachtree’s David Solomon. Peachtree’s new decco65 D/A integrated amplifier ($899), which uses a 24-bit ESS Sabre DAC and offers 65Wpc into 8 ohms, drove Dynaudio DM2/6 bookshelf speakers, the system being completed with an Apple TV and cables to give a total cost of $2000. All you need add to get music is a PC.
. . .is a $4295 D/A integrated amplifier with a tubed line stage and solid-state output stage that offers 440Wpc into 8 ohms and 650Wpc into 4 ohms. Hooked up with Straightwire cable to a pair of Dynaudio Confidence C1 speakers and fed by a MacBook in the fourth of the Sunny’s Audio rooms, this system rocked hard on a surprisingly successful reggae treatment of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” (I am always amazed by the new music I discover at shows, thanks to the perverse taste of exhibitors!)