Wes Phillips already described his reaction to the new Nagra CDT CD transport and CDC CD player/control center. As can be seen from this photo, a hidden benefit of the player is that it has two sets of analog outputs: one pair on the side to go with Nagra own's PL-L and PL-P preamps and another on the rear panel, to be used with conventional preamps.
My final visit of the Show's first public day was to Jay Rein's Bluebird Music, Ltd. room. Tucked into a small niche in a space otherwise dominated by Chord electronics and Neat loudspeakers (which Jay considers an ideal match for Chord) sat an unobtrusive Exposure system consisting of the Exposure 2010S CD player and integrated amp ($1250 each) connected to diminutive NEAT Acoustics Motive 2 loudspeakers ($1995/pair) by entry-level Kubala-Sosna speaker cables. Rein and CA dealer Michael Silver of Audio High then proceeded to blow my mind with budget magic. As was the case with the new, even lower-priced Denon system I described yesterday, the system's evenly balanced, full-range sound blew me away. Now I understand why Stereophile has heaped praise on Exposure Electronics. I'd love to hear this stuff powered by after-market power cables and a power conditioner of some sort. Stuff that sounds this good can only sound better when given the opportunity to demonstrate its full potential.
VTL announced a major upgrade to their TL-7.5 Reference Linestage Preamplifier (current gain technology, with dramatically lower noise floor), which is now the TL-7.5 Series II. They also have an upgraded version of the MB-450 monoblocks and a new 250Wpc MB-185. Pictured: VTL’s Bea Lam with the system that featured the TL-7.5/MB-450 combo driving Wilson Sophia 2s. Lovely sound.
McIntosh kept the lights low in their room to show off the new C220 vacuum tube preamp. Who can resist the alluring glow of green tubes? Retail is $3,300 for the C220 which also features an ingenious headphone mute feature and electronic level adjustment for each of eight source inputs.
Yesterday, we published a photo—see http://blog.stereophile.com/he2006/060106dryeye—of audiophiles listening to a CD-R of the provisional master of "Shenandoah" from my new recording of Cantus' There Lies the Home album, due for release in July, on the new Wilson WATT/Puppy 8s. You can see in that picture Wilson's Peter McGrath about to shoot a photo. This is what he captured. But what is Mikey Fremer holding in his hand?
Onkyo teamed up with guitar manufacturer Takemine to produce a loudspeaker that sings like a musical instrument. Takemine's acoustic voicing technology, combined with Onkyo's innovation in driver design, made our LAGQ Spin sound vibrantly alive.
Saturday’s first taste of the real thing for this writer came in the form of midrange truth. The location was the third floor Santa Cruz room put together by Optimal Enchantment, a Santa Monica-based high-end retailer whose 25 plus-year history in the business perhaps grants it the right to so audacious a name. The amps were Audio Research REF 610 monoblocks, each of whose twenty glowing 6550 output tubes help account for their 600W output and $40,000/pair price tag. Speakers were an industry given, the Vandersteen 5As, the cable Audioquest, and the turntable a Basis Debut Signature ($10,900) outfitted with a Transfiguration Orpheus cartridge ($5,000) and Basis Vector Model 3 tonearm ($3750).
John Atkinson and I were musing yesterday about modern tribes, riffing off the concept writer Corey Doctorow proposed in Eastern Standard Tribe, that you choose your tribe these days based upon shared passions and shared goals. In that sense, the HE shows are a gathering of our tribe and the high point of all of them is meeting (and recognizing) fellow tribe members.
Information travels by jungle telegram at these shows, so by Sunday, I'd heard that I had to hear Nagra's set-up about 50 times. As a result, when I walked into the Nagra/Verity Audio/Silversmith/Audion/Sonic Euphoria room, I was startled to see, not one, but two systems—and the pricier of the two was off in the room's corner with its back to a curved bank of windows, leaving the $35,000/pair Verity Sarastros firing into the room at a more acute angle than I'd ever attempt. It sounded good, though. In fact, it sounded fantastic!
I met Pete Roth, who owns an Ayre system, in, of all places, the Ayre/Vandersteen room, where he was checking out the MX-Rs. Pete says I'm his favorite Stereophile writer, so I'm now Pete's biggest fan. I posted his picture simply to prove to my wife that someone actually does read the stuff I'm always too busy working on to help with the chores.
I always enjoy Ray Kimber's IsoMike demos more than almost any other HE Show demo. It's not the room full of pedigreed high-end gear, although he always has that. This time he demoed with four B&W 800d loudspeakers, two pairs of Pass Labs X350.5 power amplifiers, Genex Audio GX9000/DSD-BNC interface, and four channels of EMM Labs DAC8 MkIV DSD feeding EMM Labs Switchman (four channels worth, natch), not to mention a whole bunch of Kimber KableD-60, Kimber Select KS-3038, and Word Clock D-60 cables. Nor is it the meticulously recorded music that Ray has captured with his IsoMike process.
Red Dragon's Leviathan Series monoblock amplifiers deliver 500W into 8 ohms for $5995/pair. Driving Acoustic Zen Adagio loudspeakers, they sure sounded sweet—and powerful! They're packed with cool stuff, such as Neutrik silver XLR inputs and Cardas solid-copper binding posts, not to mention ERS paper, which is "employed at key locations to absorb and diffuse unwanted EMI."