Tenor Amps and Hansen Speakers
It was a case of Johnny Hartmann the third time over. In the room shared by Hansen and Tenor Audio, my third encounter with Hartmann's vocalism at CES 2010 came via a CD transfer of a 1964 recording. Happily, the CD retained much of the vocal richness of the two Hartmann LPs I had heard earlier in the show.
The speakers were something else: the brand-new, 650 lb, 10-driver, three-way Hansen The Grand Master ($239,000/pair). Bearing an uncanny resemblance to an extraterrestrial, the speaker's cabinet is a specially molded Hansen composite matrix. Composed of three different layers, each of which contains up to 23 ingredients that are hand-applied, the purportedly inert cabinet's shape is intended to completely eliminate diffractions. The Grand Master boasts a specified 90dB sensitivity, and its response is claimed to extend from an amazingly flat 15Hz up to at least 23kHz.
Hansen CEO Lars Hansen tells me that The Grand Master can easily fill an 80 x 120 room. In the much smaller room Hansen was sharing with Tenor Audiothe largest room CES could provide at the time he applied for onethe speaker was "just coasting" with minimal effort.
Helping the Hansen along for the ride, as it were, were none-too-shabby hybrid electronics from Tenor Audio. We're talking the Line 1 Power 1 Ultimate Reference preamp ($75,000 Canadian), Phono 1 Ultimate Reference phono stage ($50,000 Canadian), and 350 M monoblocks ($100,000/pair Canadian). Throw in top-of-the-line Kubala-Sosna cabling, a four-piece dCS Scarlatti stack ($80,000), Harmonic Resolution Stands, da Vinci Audio labs turntable and tone arm ($40,000), and an Airtight PC-1 moving-coil cartridge ($6000), and you have a system whose total cost is beyond my mathematical capabilities.
This system threw a huge soundstage, truly astounding in its depth, and situated quite a distance behind the speakers. (Think major disappearing act, which is not so easy for such an imposing speaker to do). I found the sound of the midrange somewhat covered, as was the sound of the midrange of one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, soprano Maria Callas. Though the midrange was somewhat hooded, it also spunded extremely musical and inviting. And when it came to reproducing the sound of bossa nova miracle Rosa Passos' voice, the sound was knock-down gorgeous.