The 2001 Products of the Year Joint Accessories
ELAC CARA 2.0 room acoustics computer program (review) ($49.95; reviewed by Kalman Rubinson, Vol.24 No.9, September 2001)
Stax SR-007 Omega II headphone system ($6140-$6265; reviewed by Jonathan Scull, Vol.24 No.7, July 2001)
Runners-Up (in alphabetical order):
Alpha-Core Micro-Purl interconnect ($78-$127/m; reviewed by Brian Damkroger, Vol.24 No.10, October 2001)
Mondial MAGIC ground isolator ($99; reviewed by Donald A. Scott & Chip Stern, Vol.15 No.2 & Vol.24 No.6, February 1992 & June 2001)
PS Audio Lab Cable AC Cord (review) ($600; reviewed by Robert Deutsch & Michael Fremer, Vol.23 No.12 & Vol.24 No.7, December 2000 & July 2001)
RME DigiCheck digital audio analysis program (review) (Free with RME Digi96/8 Pro computer soundcard; reviewed by John Atkinson, Vol.24 No.11, November 2001)
The 2001 Accessory competition ended in another face-off. RPG Diffuser System's Room Optimizer program has always been good to Kal Rubinson, but it's really effective only for rectangular rooms. That's where ELAC's CARA (Computer Aided Room Acoustics) comes in. One must model the room completely in three dimensions and define the reflectivity of all surfaces—a considerable effort, says the effortless Kal, but you can then take a fascinating virtual tour of your room! (Hey, Kal, who's that hiding behind the couch?) Then you build models of your speakers—dimensions, radiation characteristics, and details, right down to the height of the floor spikes.
Kal built three models of increasing detail before hitting the Go button. There's a function for calculating the effect of reflections at every boundary from each source at every possible position. Roll out that Cray supercomputer—even with a relatively sparse description of Kal's room, an 800MHz Pentium III took 48 hours to run CARA. Several simplified runs will tell you which arrangements deserve further investigation. Then you can limit the range of positions for listener and speakers while adding more details. "The results were illuminating," said Kal. "What more can one ask? The predictions are accurate, the results satisfying. I intend to use CARA for all my acoustic planning."
Winner number two, garnering the same number of votes, was Stax's System II Earspeakers and their "energizers." You might wonder what J-10 uses during those late nights while writing for Stereophile. He was prompted to try the top-of-the-line Stax SR-007 electrostatic headphones and two energizers, one solid-state, one tubed. The 'phones are supremely comfortable, as they should be at the price, and you can tailor the sound with your choice of energizer: the SRM-717, a contemporary solid-state design, or the classically simple two-stage SRM-007t direct-drive (transformerless) tube driver/energizer. The 007t was a bit more colorful, with softer and rounder bass, said J-10, and not as extended at top and bottom. The SRM-717, too, displayed "a full tonal palette," with tighter bass and a more extended presentation, but with a bit less sweetness up top. Nice midrange, though, and a bit more body and palpability than the tubed version. With either energizer, J-10 found the SR-007 'phones to be "an outstanding choice for those who want clean, clear, fast, revealing sound." Make him choose? Sure, he'll take the tubes...but it's a near thing, he says; a matter of taste.