At last year's SSI, the show management asked exhibitors to assemble systems that are "entry level" in a high-performance audio context, costing less than $5000. (We can argueand some people didabout whether <$5000 is a realistic figure for "entry level," but, audiophiles being the way they are, you're going to get an argument regardless of the figure.) In any case, relatively few exhibitors followed through with this last year. At SSI 2014, show management made more of a concerted effort to persuade exhibitors to participate, and indeed there were a lot more of the little blue "$5000 System" signs throughout the show.
Now, that's a real speaker! Unless you examine it, or read the literature on the Tannoy Canterbury GR ($30,000/pair), you might think that you're looking at a speaker made more than a half-century ago: a very substantial floorstander that's wide as well as deep, making no concession to modern speaker design ideas like keeping as narrow a front baffle as possible.
With Bam Bam and Pebbles as product names, I thought I was merely stating the obvious in a previous show report when I suggested that the designer of Tri-Art Audio products must be a Flintstones fan. I mentioned this to the Tri-Art people at SSI 2014, asking whether they were paying royalties for using these names, and was told that they never thought of any connection with the Flintstones: Bam Bam is a reference to the use of bamboo in their products. (I still don't know how "Pebbles" comes into it.)
No audio show would be complete without a new or revised speaker model from Gershman Acoustics. At SSI 2014, the new offering from Gershman was the Avant Garde R-1 ($8000/pair), replacing the previous R-44. It's a fairly unobtrusive tapered-toward-the-top floorstander, and was sounding lively and open with Audio Flight electronics. Gershman has also moved into component supports with their Levitation Vibration Control devices that use opposing magnets. As you can see in the photo, they now have a version of these devices for cables.
Resonessence Lab, based in Kelowna, BC, is a company making cutting-edge digital equipment. The top of the line is the Invicta Mirus ($4995), a D/A converter that uses 8 DACs per channel, and handles DSD64/128, DXD, and claims THD of 0.0002% (114dB). In true trickle-down fashion, it has been joined by the Invicta ($599), still with the same DSD/DXD capability, and THD only a slightly less impressive 0.00032%. Their latest product is the Herus headphone DAC ($350), this one with THD a whopping 0.003% THD. They're shown right-to-left in the photo.
The "Swiss Army Knife" metaphor has been applied to many audio products, but the metaphor has never been more apt than referring to the new Cocktail Audio X30 ($1899). Made in Korea and imported to North America by Audio Plus/Plurison, the X30 is described as an "all-in-one HD music server/network streamer/CD storage." However, that doesn't describe all of its capabilities. If you look at the connections in the back (bottom of the picture), you'll see speaker connections, so it's also an amplifier. (I'm not sure, but I think the number in the model designation indicates the watts per channel.)
The 2014 SSI witnessed the official North American introduction of Naim Audio's mighty Statement amplifier (which John Atkinson previewed in his coverage of the 2014 CES). I experienced this behemoth at the unveiling party thrown for it by distributor Plurison Audio, and was struck not so much by its undeniable power but by its very nuanced performance on subtler materialsuch as the classic "Helplessly Hoping" by Crosby, Stills, and Nash. During the chorus, when David Crosby's low harmony was the last to enter ("They are three together. . ."), the audible tension and release were palpableand very impressive. The Statement is something that neither I nor the vast majority of you will ever enjoy at home, but . . .wow.
Distributor Plurison Audio used SSI 2014 as an opportunity to demonstrate the newest and most affordable amplifier/digital processor from Devialet: the model D-110 ($6495), which was introduced at the 2013 CEDIA show. The combination of Devialet D-110 and Focal Aria 926 loudspeakers ($3495/pair) was in pleasant contrast to its (stylistically) cool surroundings: The sound was pleasantly inviting and, forgive me, surprisingly organic for digital playback and the company's proprietary ADH technology, which combines class-D current dumpers with a high-quality class-A voltage amplifier. Nice.
Bring me the head of anyone who says the Harbeth Monitor 40.1loudspeaker isn't a great rock 'n' roll loudspeaker! As Montreal retailer Son Idéal provedproved, I tell youthe biggest Harbeths are very satisfying on the classic album Led Zeppelin III, especially with the assistance of a Rega RP10 record player with Rega Apheta cartridge; Rega Aria phono preamp; Rega Saturn-R CD player; and Pathos T.T. integrated amplifier.