HE2006's official keynote address was delivered by Gary Sasaki, president of DIGDIA, a company that helps companies understand the ways that digital entertainment creates growth opportunities for savvy businesspeople.
After experiencing Shure's Push-to-Hear control switch, I was in a headphone kind of mood, so I walked on over to HeadRoom's aptly named Headphone Heaven. I imagine that this heavenly set-up will serve as a much-needed respite for many weary showgoers. I found smiling faces, comfy lounge chairs, happy flowers, and lots of sunshine. Everything in the room begged, "Try Me!"
While the focus of HE2006 was clearly on consumer equipment, two recording engineers stopped me in the halls to show off a hot professional recording device from Sound Devices. Todd Garfinkle from M•A Recordings first alerted me to the two channel version of the portable recorder, which retails for around $2,400. About the size of a small book, it sports pro inputs and the ability to save to a flash card or host computer.
Horns’n’triodes go together like...well, horses and carriages—and those who view both horn loudspeakers and tube electronics as antiquated technology might say that the simile is particularly apt. Although I would not want to argue that the way to sonic bliss is obtainable only by pairing horn loudspeakers with triode tube amplifiers, the combination can be magical, as was the case with the Acapella Audio Arts speakers and Wavac Audio Lab electronics on demo at HE 2006.
We still haven't learned the price of Peak Consult's InCognito X two-way floorstanders, but we're starting to believe Per Kristoffersen when he says he set out "to build the best two-way loudspeaker in the world,"
David Wilson remarked that he debuted the original Wilson WATT (Wilson Audio Tiny Transducer) almost 20 years ago to the day. Today, he showed us the WATT/Puppy 8 ($27,900/pair). Wilson, as always, a polished presenter, also noted that it was appropriate for him to give the new speaker its premier in a city noted for producing sequels, although he promised that, unlike Hollywood sequels, the WATT/Puppies have gotten better with each new chapter.
Former Stereophile scribe (now PR person) Jonathan Scull (left), blogger Stephen Mejias (center), and surround-sound maven Kal Rubinson—plus webmaster Jon Iverson, Ultimate AV's Fred Mantegian, and your humble servant, taking the picture&151;were having a good
time, about to go out to dinner. Then, in the cab on the way to the restaurant,
Jonathan realized that he had left his new digital camera back at the Sheraton,
on the table that you see in the picture. A frantic call to the Sheraton,
asking them to look for the camera, was to no avail. Then, after dinner, when we
got back to the hotel, as we got out of the cab, we were spotted by Maureen
Jenson, Editor of Home Theater magazine, who called out to Jonathan: "Did you get your camera?" It turns out that Maureen found the camera, and had passed it on to one of the Stereophile staff to return to Jonathan. Disaster averted!
In the Show's ongoing HE Luminaries series, Jim Thiel, founder of Thiel Audio, talked to John Atkinson about his ideas on speaker design, and the evolution of his speakers through the years, including the new CS3.7, which made its debut at HE2006.
After lunch, I wandered into the Joseph Audio room. I had initially encountered Jeff Joseph on Wednesday afternoon as he was attempting to cart four huge boxes of equipment into the hotel by stacking them one atop the other on a flimsy two-wheel luggage cart. Needless to say, upon encountering a small hump at the hotel threshold, the poor thing began to bend under the weight, unceremoniously depositing Jeff's boxes on the floor. Like someone kicking a mule whose hind legs have collapsed under it, Jeff attempted to wrestle with the beast, trying to convince it to perform its intended duty. The man may have the wherewithal to produce uncommon speakers that have received three "Best Sound at the Show" honors, but he seems to share a common human failing with yours truly—an occasional refusal to acknowledge the obvious.
Other Stereophile writers, most specifically Jason Victor Serinus, have mentioned how good the Immedia room sounded and they are absolutely right: It sounded wonderful. I heard it twice and both times I was tremendously impressed with how relaxed and natural it sounded at moderate loudness levels. Many demonstrations rely on loudness to generate excitement, but Immedia's Allen Perkins let his system just bloom naturally.
The live music portion of HE 2006 opened Friday with a performance from the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, who have a new album out on Telarc. Fred Manteghian, Stephen Mejias and myself, all guitarists, sat in the front row and decided we all need to practice harder. Much harder.