Many years ago, in a conversation I was having with Peter Walker of Quad, I asked him if there was a speaker he'd wished he'd designed. "PJ" thought for a moment, then said he admired the Beveridge electrostatic, where a flat panel fires into a waveguide, thus allowing the panel to overcome its Achilles' Heel: the very limited horizontal dispersion resulting from its width.
Having hosted an AudioKinesis speaker demo at my home for the Bay Area Audiophile Society (BAAS), I feel confident saying that Duke LeJeune is one of the dearest men in the business. Here he demonstrates his new 92dB-sensitivity, 16 ohm impedance, 170 lb Dream Maker ($9000/pair), whose "controlled-pattern, offset bipole configuration" is designed to control the relative level of reverberant energy density in the room. If that sounds like gobbledegook, the vivid presentation of the AudioKinesis/AtmaSphere combo, which was admirably clear in the higher frequencies, whet my appetite for more extended listening in the future.
In a room tuned with the amazing Acoustic System Acoustic Resonators to sound good with the glass window exposed, Darren and Bonnie Censullo of Avatar Acoustics displayed a system distinguished by the kind of openness and air that some people would kill for. Products included the Abbington Music Research AMR CD-77 and AMR AM-77 ($8500 each, both outfitted with NOS tubes), Acoustic System Tango Speaker ($13,500/pair), Current Cable Powercord and interconnects, and a host of Acoustic Resonators. If you look closely, you may see one of the diminutive resonators ($200–$2200) on the rear window. This is one system I hope to revisit if time allows. I’d love to hear some of these products in my own listening room, which is far bigger than the hotel suites into which most systems were shoeboxed.
Walking to the Kimber dem, I heard the familiar sounds of the Beatles' "Come Together" coming from the open door of the Usher room. I had to go in. A pair of the Taiwanese manufacturer's Dancer Be-718 two-ways ($2795/pair) was playing the song, fed by the LP release of Love on an Oracle tonearm/turntable fitted with a Zyx Atmos cartridge, which in turn was feeding the Oracle Temple phono stage, Oracle DAC 1000 preamp, and Usher's R.15 amplifiers. Cabling was all JPS Aluminata. Considering the large room, the relatively small Dancers appeared to have no problem filling it with sound. This is a speaker that deserves review coverage in Stereophile, I feel.
I was impressed by the extremely full-range presentation of the VMPS RMD-60 loudspeaker ($9950/pair) paired with the VMPS Very Solid Subwoofer ($1850)—especially with the system's admirable bass control. Part of the credit goes to Bybee special-effect Golden Goddess AC cables and speaker bullets, Bolder Cable interconnects and cables, the rest to the Eastern Electric M156 monoblocks (160W into 8 ohms, $7000/pair, based on the EL 156 pentode tube), and Bolder's Statement Level Modded Squeezebox 3 ($1300). If The Bolder Cable Company’s display sounded this good with brand-new amps that were not yet broken in, I look forward to hearing it again once everything is fully ready to strut its stuff.
Nelson Pass is up to good again. Following the wonderful sound of Ella and Billy I heard in the corridor, I discovered Nelson's prototype open-baffle speaker system. It sports both a Lowther PM6A full-range driver and a pair of SEAS W26 10" woofers. The 40"-high open baffle, which at this stage of the game is not intended to be a final design statement, has no side panels, only a central brace in the rear. The system was bi-amped, with the Lowther driver fed using a 60Hz, 6dB/octave high-pass filter feeding a First Watt F3 7Wpc JFET amplifier. The woofers were driven by a Pass Labs XA30.5 fed by a 12dB/octave active crossover. No equalization was employed. That the sound was so good was especially amazing, considering that the digital front end was pieced together at the last minute after the originally intended computer drive arrived minus its charger chord. I look forward to hearing the finished product.
Walter Liederman and Danny Richie next showed me the mammoth LS9 (named for its nine planar magnetic drivers). Priced at an unbelievable $6000/pair considering their size and complexity, the LS9s were coupled with Al Stiefel's fine Red Rock Audio 50Wpc Renaissance Monoblock amplifiers ($39,750/pair), Red Rock prototype preamplifier, Abbingdon Music Research CD-77 player ($8500), Grand Prix Audio Monaco turntable ($19,500), and Red Rock Audio cables. Components were supported by the Monaco Modular Isolation Rack ($4750) and Monaco Amplifier Isolation System ($1499). Grand Prix designer Alvin Lloyd says of these plexiglass shelf stands, "I will argue that our stands are the most efficient and highest-performing isolation products in the industry."