Jon Iverson wrote about Bard's wireless system, but I think it worth emphasizing that, although Bard has a USB dongle that will transfer music from your computer to other systems, many audiophiles might be even more thrilled by the Bard One ($850), which inserts between your preamp and power amp and broadcasts to a nearby system, where it plugs into that preamp's line inputs. It's small and unobtrusive and sounded very good at HE2006, I hope to get my mitts on a sample and write about it further.
Southern California's Brooks Berdan, Ltd. continued to affirm the store’s reputation for high-quality sound in its Ayre/Vandersteen room, which had also impressed Wes Phillips in an earlier blog entry. Listening to the Ayre MXR 300W monoblocks ($16,500/pair), K-1x preamp ($7000), C-X5e universal player ($5950), and about-to-be-released power conditioner, connected to each other and the wood-finish Vandersteen Quatro speakers ($10,700/pair) by Ayre's own cabling, I encountered a soundstage whose height and depth had no right to exist in such a small space. But beyond issues of size and depth, listening to a Channel Classics SACD of the Ebony Band Amsterdam performing the music of Silvestre Revueltas enabled me to enter that composer's phantasmagoric universe in a deeper, more all-consuming way that I had ever before experienced. It was as if I was inside Revueltas' head, haunted by the very demons that drove him to write his extraordinary music. To discover myself so immersed in music in the middle of a bustling show was a rare gift.
I'm a guy who loves traditions: I attribute it to growing up in Virginia, a state that reveres tradition, my wife claims it's just OCD. Whatever—I have made it a tradition at every HE Show I can remember to visit Luke Manley's VTL room at the last minute on the last day because it always lets me leave on a high note. Manley did not disappoint this year in the room he shared with dealer Brooks Berdan, the "king of analog."
I joke sometimes at Home Entertainment Shows, as I regard the crowds jostling one another to enter rooms, paw through bins of records, or get the good seats at the musical events, that "these are my people." The thing is, it's true. I do the same things.
And so we say goodbye to the Sheraton Gateway and the City of Angels. Home Entertainment 2006 was a good Show, with some great sounds. I echo Wes Phillips's sentiments below. In talking to people, I had a sense that we were all part of a community of individuals with much the same goals, if not always the same way of reaching them. The Show staff were unfailingly pleasant and efficient. The hotel’s facilities served the needs of both exhibitors and attendees well—and by the last day of the show I actually figured out how to go from my room to the escalators without making at least one wrong turn!
The Moscode 401HR driving the Joseph Audio RM25si loudspeakers were sounding mighty fine. I actually thought they had more moxy than most really expensive systems I heard at the Show, particularly with acoustic music, such as Alison Krauss and Union Station. The top end really sparkled in a most believable way.
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.
Sonneteer/Bardaudio also makes a wireless receiver that houses a 25Wpc stereo amplifier. The Bardthree amp/receiver comes in several varieties, priced $1,225-1,350, and can be used to stream full-bandwidth tunes to another room, or to a set of rear channels in a hard-to-wire spot.
The Immedia room proved an isle of sanity amidst the clamor. As I entered, the folks were playing Analogue Productions’ HQ-180 pressing of Chet. Heard through Joachim Gerhard’s somewhat diminutive, 90 lb Sonics Allegria speakers ($15,000/pair, shown above with Immedia’s Allen Perkins), the trumpet sounded far bigger and lifelike than speakers this size “should” make it sound. Equally impressive were the amazing depth, height, and width of the soundstage. No small part of the credit is due Perkins’ Spiral Groove SGI turntable ($20,000), Immedia RPM tonearm ($2995), Lyra Skala cartridge ($2500, a replacement for Lyra’s Helicon), the Lyra Connoisseur 4-2LSE preamp ($25,000), and Ayre V5XE 150 Wpc amp ($4500).
In the Simaudio/Dynaudio room, the sheer size and weight of the bass commanded equal respect. This was some of the finest low bass extension I have so far encountered at the show. (The bass impact of the new Wilson Watt/Puppy8s also deserves mention). Imagine my surprise when, after my audition, Simaudio’s Costa Kouliisakis told me that he had not yet succeeded in getting the room to deliver all of the deep bass extension the equipment was capable of producing.