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!
HE2006 had DJs Ming & FS, the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet and jazz from the Anthony Wilson Nonet, alto saxophonist, Zane Musa, John Heard and Company on Friday; jazz from guitarist Chris Standring and singer Melora Hardin, along with the incomparable Dr. John doing his Dr. John thing on Saturday; and my own trio doing jazz on Sunday. But classical music enthusiasts were not forgotten at the Show: Sunday saw the Arroyo String Quartet, joined by soprano Kathleen Winters for Mozart's sublime Exultate Jubilate, perform a fine set. A treat for the ears!
Over at the other end of the Nagra/Verity Audio/Silversmith/Sonic Euphoria room, there was a far more modest system set up: Ayre C-5xe universal player, Sonic Euphoria PLC ($1295), Audio Silver Night Mk.III monoblocks ($9300/pair, 18Wpc), and Verity Fidelity Encore loudspeakers ($11,994/pair), all connected by Silversmith's silver cables.
Former Stereophile scribe (now PR person) Jonathan Scull (left), blogger Stephen Mejias (center), and surround-sound maven Kal Rubinson—plus webmaster Jon Iverson, Ultimate AV's Fred Mantegian, and your humble servant, taking the picture&151;were having a good
time, about to go out to dinner. Then, in the cab on the way to the restaurant,
Jonathan realized that he had left his new digital camera back at the Sheraton,
on the table that you see in the picture. A frantic call to the Sheraton,
asking them to look for the camera, was to no avail. Then, after dinner, when we
got back to the hotel, as we got out of the cab, we were spotted by Maureen
Jenson, Editor of Home Theater magazine, who called out to Jonathan: "Did you get your camera?" It turns out that Maureen found the camera, and had passed it on to one of the Stereophile staff to return to Jonathan. Disaster averted!
Wes Phillips went gaga over the Moscode HR410 amplifier in the current (June) issue of Stereophile and at HE2006, I was equally impressed by the amplifier driving Joseph RM25XL Special Edition speakers ($4199/pair). Source was a Yamaha SACD player and a Placette Active Line Stage. I listened to SACDs of a Mahler symphony (from the Michael Tilson-Thomas cycle with the SFSO) and "Swing Live" on Chesky (for which I had been present at the sessions) and the sound was vivid without being over-hyped. Moscode's Gage Rommel showed me a mockup of the forthcoming Moscode preamplifier. This is still having its feature set argued over, including whether it should have a Bluetooth link with the remote so an LCD screen on the latter could mirror the preamp's front-panel display.
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?
After lunch, I wandered into the Joseph Audio room. I had initially encountered Jeff Joseph on Wednesday afternoon as he was attempting to cart four huge boxes of equipment into the hotel by stacking them one atop the other on a flimsy two-wheel luggage cart. Needless to say, upon encountering a small hump at the hotel threshold, the poor thing began to bend under the weight, unceremoniously depositing Jeff's boxes on the floor. Like someone kicking a mule whose hind legs have collapsed under it, Jeff attempted to wrestle with the beast, trying to convince it to perform its intended duty. The man may have the wherewithal to produce uncommon speakers that have received three "Best Sound at the Show" honors, but he seems to share a common human failing with yours truly—an occasional refusal to acknowledge the obvious.
"Joseph and Cardas must be stopped! Don’t let them win best sound again! Give someone else a chance!" That was the bit of tongue-in-cheek "reverse psychology" stated on buttons handed out by Jeff Joseph. The upgraded speakers at the show were the RM7XL ($2299/pair) and the RM22XL ($3199/pair).
Unexpected amusement greeted me in the small Covenant Audio & Aaudio Imports room. As soon as I entered, an overgrown post-adolescent seated himself in the sweet spot, took one look at the visually stunning Wavac HE-833v1.3 tube monoblocks ($69,000/pair), Wavac PR-T1 tube preamp (a mere $30K), Acapella High Violin MK 888 horn speakers ($48,000/pair—where do they get these names?), and Accustic Arts Drive and DAC ($12,800 together), all held together and powered by assorted cables and power products from PranaWire, Stealth and Isoclean, and blurted out, "This looks like super-high end."
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.
Shanling is known for the striking industrial design of their tube electronics. Seen in the Music Hall room, the new A500 integrated amp ($6499) maintains the striking looks, but it's solid-state. Lots of nice blue lights, though.
Ask the Editors: the view from the stage. The questions this year did not include the usual ones about which exhibits people liked the most, recommendations about tweaks, and why Stereophile doesn’t do blind testing in all reviews. Instead, there were questions about things like intellectual property rights, the future of various audio formats, and whether multichannel represents a worthwhile enhancement of the music-listening experience. Very polite and friendly.
In the Show's ongoing HE Luminaries series, Jim Thiel, founder of Thiel Audio, talked to John Atkinson about his ideas on speaker design, and the evolution of his speakers through the years, including the new CS3.7, which made its debut at HE2006.
Guitarist Anthony Wilson, whose new album with his 9-piece band, "The Power of Nine" was featured in the May Stereophile, turned in a blistering set of hard-blowing jazz Friday afternoon at Home Entertainment 2006, courtesy of AudioQuest, Audio Research, and Vandersteen.