I got a chance to listen to a 5.1 setup of small HM series monitors ($1699 each) from Adam Professional Audio, the same speakers that the recording had been mixed on. Even amidst the hustle and bustle of the CEDIA floor, they made a good showing. Even more impressive were the new Tensor series, all of which use ART (Advanced Ribbon Technology, inspired by the old Oskar Heil ribbons) HF and MF drivers, along with active Hexacone woofers in substantial cabinets. The larger Beta and Alpha models have additional cone midrange drivers. All are also available in fully active versions and the line runs from $8199 for a semi-active Gamma to $24,999 for a fully active Alpha. Klaus Heinz proudly explained his design philosophies, but the show floor was no place to really appreciate the speakers' performance. These look really promising.
McIntosh has introduced a turntable. It has the classic black and blue faceplate, which looked a tad bizarre to these eyes. The platter is "polished, fully-balanced green tint," meaning glass, we presume. The tonearm and cartridge are custom-made by McIntosh. An isolated speed stabilizer drives the precision motor.
Billed as the "world's first audiophile music server," the MS250 contains a 400GB hard disk and a CD ripper/player, as well as "a custom sound card specifically designed for the MS250 using four Crystal CS4398, 120dB dynamic-range, 24-bit, stereo DACs, plus properly implemented power supplies and output filters, just like an Arcam CD player."
Peachtree Audio, which is distributed by Signal Path, introduced a tasty little 50Wpc digital integrated amp, the Decco ($799). That little window in the front has a 6922 tube behind it, feeding, presumably, a class-D power amp. The Decco has two analog inputs and three digital inputs: USB, Toslink, and S/PDIF coaxial. It decodes MP3, FLAC, AIF, and WAV and even has a slot in the rear to accommodate a Sonos ZP80 WiFi media player. It is also compatible (but lacks slots for) Apple TV and other music servers. There's a preamp output, in case you want to go for more power.
Look at the picture and tell me that those don’t look like speakers! They are, of course, but they are not intended to be driven by audio signals directly. What subwoofer manufacturer Bag End was demonstrating is a small, active bass trap, the E-Trap, and they are driven by the bass frequencies in the room. Each of these small boxes contains a driver, two microphones, and some pretty snazzy electronics that let the driver cancel the energy at the frequency (or two) of your room’s major mode. Sure, acoustic treatment is generally best, but that can get awfully cumbersome below 100Hz. Adjustments allow you to select frequencies between 20Hz and 65Hz and adjust the amplitude and shape of the cancellation. For critical success, you need to experiment with placement (although that is almost always at a room boundary) and, at the moment, have access to some nice FFT software. Bag End's James Wischmeyer promises that, eventually, some simpler setup software will be provided. Mebbe, but I asked to try one ASAP.
Continuing with European speakers, on static exhibit at the Klipsch Group complex was one of the most cleanly and beautifully simple speaker designs I've seen in a while. It was Jamo's S60, the largest in a new "S" line that, so far, includes a tiny bookshelf, a small center channel, and a subwoofer. These looked like many European small designs, almost too small to be effective. But the graceful three-way S60 sports a dome tweeter, a vertically arrayed pair of 4" midrange units, and a side-firing 8" woofer. Everything fit and matched, and the materials and textures just screamed quality. I just had to find out the price. It's only $450/pair! For that money and their graceful appearance, this speaker is a bargain even unheard!
Joe Harley was striding around the Denver Convention Center. When we shook hands, he glanced around and said, "Let's go somewhere private." We ducked into an empty demo room and he pulled a few records out of his bag. "Nobody else knows about this, I'm giving you the exclusive."
I finally got a chance to look at, but not yet hear, Bryston's first venture into a source component, the BCD-1 CD player. James Tanner gave me a tour of the innards which were even more impressive than the beautifully carved front panel and sturdy disc tray. He said that, while they used a Philips transport, all the control electronics were replaced by discrete Bryston-designed drivers and DACs and that separate transformer windings powered separate power supplies for the transport and audio electronics, with multiple isolated and regulated supplies for individual circuits and channels. That allows the class-A output stages to function best. In addition to the analog outputs, transformer-coupled S/PDIF and AES/EBU digital outputs are provided.
Canton's Frank Göbl is a busy little beaver. He wondered what it would be like to put the components of Canton's successful Ergo line into new specially designed cabinets that could bring the prices down by 30%. "Cost efficiencies have enabled us to do this without sacrificing sound quality or beauty," said Canto USA president Paul Madsen.
A beaming Gregg Dunn hailed me over to the Cary booth and said, "I know what you are looking for!" He was right. In his hands, he was holding the new Cary Cinema 11V, the video-input/processor that mates with the Cinema 11 (now 11A) audio-only pre-pro that I found to be a really wonderful performer in my July column. What the 11V adds is a useful array of video (and audio!) inputs and outputs but, most significantly for audiophiles, it strips the hi-def audio content from HDMI inputs and pipes it through a proprietary digital connection to the 11A. Add an RS232 connection and the two are linked to work as one, although they can function independently. Specs are decidedly cutting edge, with six HDMI 1.3 inputs and capability for 1080p video at 120Hz!
Thiel was showing honest-to-God production samples of its CS3.7 ($9900/pair), which has a few cosmetic flourishes I hadn't noticed the times I spotted prototypes at earlier Shows. I could be wrong, but that aluminum cowling looks better-integrated with the body than I recall.
Don't get me wrong, I heard some very good two-channel sound at CEDIA—Thiel and Wisdom Audio leap to mind—but arriving at the Edge Electronics/PBN Montana room at T.H.E. Show was a breath of fresh air. Why? The Denver Convention Center is a noisy place and even the "rooms" are merely shells set up within that vast space. The Denver Athletic Club is both solidly built and quiet.
Once again, I was treated to a demonstration of Eminent Technology's $12,900 TRW-17 rotary woofer and once again I was baffled by its seeming lack of practicality, while being amazed at its creative approach to producing the lowest notes.