A CD player that combines the transport from a Sony PlayStation, an output section using rare New Old Stock tubes, and no remote control? That’s the DynaStation II CD player ($6000), said to have a cult following in Germany, and now imported by Avatar Acoustics. You can have it somewhat cheaper if you want less esoteric tubes, or pay more if you want even more esoteric ones. The system with Ascendo System E speakers, using the DynaStation II as the source, sounded really good, though.
David Wilson seems excited about his new Series 8 Watt/Puppy speaker system, and, having heard the demo, I can appreciate why. The company gets bonus points for listing the music used on a poster outside the door of the dem room.
My final audition before attending the warm, "family affair" Classics Records press conference took place in Elliot Midwood's Acoustic Image room, which displayed gear he sells at his store in Studio City, CA. Once I spyed the same ESP Concert Grand SI speakers ($40,000/pair ) that drove John Marks into ecstasy in April, I had to listen. Amplification came complements of Wavestream Kinetic V8 monoblocks, which output 250–300W in triode mode ($35,000). Also on hand were the fabled Messenger preamp and the Lector four-chassis CD Drive and DAC ($9000).
Flying Mole Electronics is the whimsical name of a company that makes some compact, relatively inexpensive, and, from what I heard in their room, very good-sounding audio electronics. How compact? Well, just look at the picture of their CA-S3 integrated amp, with a CD box next to it for scale. The amplifier is described as "proprietary bi-phase PWM," with an output of 20Wpc, and sells for $850. The larger—but still compact—CA-S10 ($1500) puts out 100Wpc. Both are claimed to have a tube-like sound. The little CA-S3 did a good job driving both a custom system based on JBL components and a more conventional bookshelf-sized speaker from Von Schweikert.
For me, the highlight of HE2006 so far was sitting on the podium next to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's senior intellectual property attorney Fred Von Lohmann as he analyzed the threat restrictive digital rights management (DRM) poses to innovation of precisely the sort so beloved by us audiophiles.
Gamut was driving the L-7s with its $6000 CD3 and $9800 DI 150 180Wpc integrated amplifier. The CD 3uses Burr Brown's PCM 1792 converter and upsamples the signal to 24-bits/192kHz. I didn't get many details about the DI 150, but it does have balanced and single-ended inputs and balanced preamp output. The line in Gamut's product literature that I loved was: "Life is a process of constant discovery and refinement. For this reason, we reserve the right to change without advance notice." Me too.
The Black Swan loudspeaker ($30,000/pair) from Canadian manufacturer Gershman Acoustics is unusual in that it uses a separate enclosure for its woofer section, flanked by extensions of the satellite's side-panels. The speaker's finish was excellent and the sound, with the speakers driven by McCormack universal player and electronics via Magnan cable, was equally excellent, even taking the the small size of the hotel room into consideration.
And so we say goodbye to the Sheraton Gateway and the City of Angels. Home Entertainment 2006 was a good Show, with some great sounds. I echo Wes Phillips's sentiments below. In talking to people, I had a sense that we were all part of a community of individuals with much the same goals, if not always the same way of reaching them. The Show staff were unfailingly pleasant and efficient. The hotel’s facilities served the needs of both exhibitors and attendees well—and by the last day of the show I actually figured out how to go from my room to the escalators without making at least one wrong turn!