Anthony Gallo has long had a reputation for wresting top dollar performance from small packages, but we've always wondered if he secretly hankered to go big. Anthony Gallo Acoustics' $15,000/pair Reference 5LS certainly answered that question.
I’m not fond of using earplugs, so I haven’t really investigated listening to music with in-the-ear-canal type earphones. However, I've read reports from the likes of Wes Phillips and John Atkinson, extolling the virtues of these type of earphones, so when I saw the sign at the Shure booth that they had some new models in this series, I thought I'd give them a listen. The ones I tried were the top-of-the-line SE530 ($449.99), which are described as "triple TruAcoustic microspeakers," with a separate tweeter and two woofers. I listened to "Nessun Dorma" sung by Pavarotti—the source was an iPod—and was quite blown away with the effortless ease and natural quality of the sound. Maybe there is something to earphone listening after all...
One of my favorite records—which I selected as a Record To Die For a few years ago—is Sure Thing, songs by Jerome Kern sung by Sylvia McNair, accompanied by Andre Previn on the piano, with David Finck on string bass. When I walked into the Siltech room, they were playing another recording by Sylvia McNair, with accompaniment by Previn and Finck, this one songs by Harold Arlen, a recording that I have somehow missed getting. The recording sounded quite lovely through Siltech's new speakers (still in prototype form), and I commented on it to the gentleman doing the demo. "I engineered that recording," he said. It turns out that John Newton (left), president of Siltech America, engineered not only Sylvia McNair's Harold Arlen's CD but also her Jerome Kern album. We chatted about the recordings, not the technical but the musical aspects, which served as a most welcome reminder of the interest in music that at a fundamental level forms the basis of this hobby. On the right of picture is yours truly (not Sylvia).
Canadian manufacturer Simaudio is on a roll, with product introductions at just about every CES and Home Entertainment Show. This time, it was the Moon P5.3 preamplifier ($3500), with numerous "trickle-down" design features from the flagship Moon P7 and P8, and the Moon W5.3 amplifier (150Wpc, $4800). I managed to catch VP Marketing Lionel Goodfield with a less-serious-than-usual expression by telling him to imagine that they got a letter from Best Buy, saying that they want to carry the high-end Simaudio brand in all their stores and will pay full retail price just to have this privilege. :-)
We were once again impressed by how un-hi-fi the sound in the deHavilland room was, this time in conjunction with a pair of Tannoy Prestiges. The $10,000/pair 50W deHavilland GM-70 single-ended triode is pure class-A, with zero negative feedback. The GM-70's directly-heated triode vacuum tube is said to be the largest output triode available today. We found the sound sweet, but surprisingly detailed and dynamic. Fit'n'finish were superb.
No, that's not another Vandersteen sock—it's the carbon fiber plinth of the Vandersteen 5As in Audio Research's room. "Richard [Vandersteen] isn't really offering the 5s in carbon fiber," Audio Research's Terry Dorn told us. "He just wanted to explore the material, so he did these."
Many of the best-sounding rooms at the show employed Ayre's $16,500/pair 300W MX-R monoblock amplifiers. Yes, they look small enough to be class-D amplifiers, but they're pure analog. How'd they do it? The entire enclosure is the heatsink and Ayre's Charlie Hansen designed a special low-rise transformer, used in pairs, to keep the chassis so compact.
Covering a Show as large and as geographically diffuse as the CES invariably leads to moments of writer brainfade. I auditioned Sonus Faber's new Elipsa loudspeaker in the Sumiko suite at the Venetian on Tuesday evening just before the Show closed but had run out of space on my camera's memory card. Back in my hotel room Thursday evening, after the Show had closed until January 2008, I found my note to myself on my PDA reminding me that I needed to take the Elipsa's photo for this report. So words will have to suffice, I am afraid, as well as a link to Sonus Faber's website.
The Sooloos display comes with a built-in CD slot for loading your music onto the server. The $4400 Control:One touch-screen display/controller is pretty slick. The CD ripper is in the base—unobtrusively located, might we add? Once the disc is ripped, all of All Media Guide's metadata is automatically entered, so you could, for example, locate any recording in your collection with Phil Lesh playing bass. Oh wait—maybe we should have used an example with somebody who changed bands more frequently.
At CES 2006, Jon Iverson and I were impressed by Studio Electric's $8500 Type One modules, even though the mating $3500 XLR woofer modules weren't operating. This year Studio Electric was showing off a pair of the $15,500/pair Type Two towers, which were pure art deco chromed metal work.
As regular magazine readers may know, I have not succumbed to the blandishments of surround-sound in my own listening room. But I still look at Shows for that convincingly magic experience. Listening to Ray Kimber's four-channel Isomike recordings in his 35th-floor room at the Venetian was indeed magic, though that was due in large part to his DSD-encoded masters capturing the appropriate spatial information. But across the hall, TAD was showing off a surround system comprising five of its Reference One speakers ($60,000/pair), driven by Pass Labs amps with a variety of commercial recordings, from two-channel to multichannel on SACD.
As Wes Phillips reported a day or so ago, The folks at PS Audio have been extremely busy of late. There have all new designs for power-line conditioners, some of them descendants of the highly-successful Power Plant active devices, others passive filter designs. An impressive couple of demonstrations by Paul McGowan showed how a competing power-line conditioner was unable to cope with a power surge that was handled with aplomb by the PS Audio product, and, similarly, a competitor’s product (with the name taped over to protect the innocent) did almost nothing to power line noise that was effectively filtered by the PS Audio product. The loving couple in the picture are PS's Terri and Paul McGowan.