TAVES 2013 Report Part 2
I've always been intrigued by the concept of the air-bearing turntable and linear-tracking arm, and if I were more into playing LPs and wanted a turntable/arm combo that was better than my aging and not-fully-up-to-date Linn, I would probably start by looking at products that follow these design principles. Bergmann has two products in this category which were on demo at TAVES: the $22,000 Sindre the $13,000 Magne. (The one in the photo is the Sindre.) Considering the technology, and the fact that both are turntable/arm combinations, the prices don't seem out of line.
The Bergmann turntable/arm combos are made in Denmark, and, perhaps coincidentally, the speakers in the system were also Danish: the rather diminutive stand-mounted Raidho D1s. The sound was simply superb, making me think that the Raidho D1 is probably the best speaker of its size that I've heard. Alas, a pair of Raidho D1s will set you back $28,000.
In a less exalted price range than the TechDAS Air Force One and the Bergmann turntables was the new TD-209 from Thorens ($1499). Love that red!
Tash Goka, who, along with his wife, Diane Koebel (respectively, right and left in the photo), handles Canadian distribution of Copland, Antique Sound Lab, and various accessories, is also a speaker designer, being responsible for the revamping of the Reference 3A line. The top of this line, seen in the photo, is the very fine-sounding Nefes ($10,000/pair). Also making its debut at TAVES was the Copland CTA405-A integrated amplifier ($5990). This is a tube-based unit, which uses KT120s rather than the KT88s used previously. Tash told me that KT120s draw greater current than KT88s, which required a new, higher-capacity transformer. I've been thinking of swapping the KT88s in my McIntosh MC250 for KT120swhich, some people have told me should be OKbut was somehow reluctant to do so. Based on what Tash told me, my reluctance was justified. Thanks, Tash!
The Gershman Black Swan loudspeaker ($45,000/pair) has been around for a number of years (the earliest reference I could find to it in Stereophile was June, 2006), but it continues to evolve. According to Ofra Gershman (on the right in the photo, with her husband Eli, the designer of the speakers, on the left), there have been some recent changes in the drivers and associated tweaking of the crossover. A brief listen suggested that these are the best-sounding Black Swans so far.
One of the ways you can tell that you're in a room that is demming Joseph Audio speakers is that the speakers are set up diagonally rather than parallel to any wall. (Of course, you could also look at the brand name on the speaker, but that's cheating.) This worked well for the Joseph Audio Pearl 3s ($31,500/pair) driven by an Accustic Arts integrated amplifier ($6900) at TAVES. Jeff Joseph played an LP called Essential Elvis, which had a previously unreleased cut of "There Will Be Peace in the Valley." I have never been a real Elvis fan, but listening to this beautifully sung, deeply felt performance pretty well turned me into one.
Nordost had some new products at TAVES, and, as is their usual practice, did A/B comparisons to demonstrate their effectiveness. (Ariel Bitran reported on one of these demos here) The demo I attended compared the original Valhalla 1 speaker cable with the new Valhalla 2, playing the same piece of music, keeping everything (including volume) the same, just switching cables. The comparison was actually A/B/A, with "A" being Valhalla 1. The Valhalla 1 is my reference speaker cable, so I'm pretty familiar with its sonic characteristics, among which I would include superb clarity and transparency. However, switching from Valhalla 1 to Valhalla 2, and, especially, switching back to Valhalla 1, made Valhalla 1 seem almost muffled, Valhalla 2 revealing fine detail that was only suggested by Valhalla 1.
What's the cost of this improvement? Don't ask . . . I did ask, and was told that the 4m demo length pair of Valhalla 1 costs $12,200 and Valhalla 2 of the same length is $17,850!