Bob Reina stopped me in the halls and asked, "Have you heard the water-cooled triodes?" Huh? Turns out the $59,000/pair Von Gaylord Audio Uni Signature Editions monoblock power amplifiers use exterior transmission-grade tubes submerged in an oil coolant, I presume and you can really see the thermal motion of the coolant, so I'm guessing the tubes run hot.
McIntosh kept the lights low in their room to show off the new C220 vacuum tube preamp. Who can resist the alluring glow of green tubes? Retail is $3,300 for the C220 which also features an ingenious headphone mute feature and electronic level adjustment for each of eight source inputs.
My final audition before attending the warm, "family affair" Classics Records press conference took place in Elliot Midwood's Acoustic Image room, which displayed gear he sells at his store in Studio City, CA. Once I spyed the same ESP Concert Grand SI speakers ($40,000/pair ) that drove John Marks into ecstasy in April, I had to listen. Amplification came complements of Wavestream Kinetic V8 monoblocks, which output 250–300W in triode mode ($35,000). Also on hand were the fabled Messenger preamp and the Lector four-chassis CD Drive and DAC ($9000).
The live music portion of HE 2006 opened Friday with a performance from the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, who have a new album out on Telarc. Fred Manteghian, Stephen Mejias and myself, all guitarists, sat in the front row and decided we all need to practice harder. Much harder.
Continuum has continued to refine its flagship Caliburn turntable system ($99,950). Chief among the changes are the Cobra tonearm's new shape, said to result in greater rigidity, and the Castellon stand's magnetic suspension. The Continuum system sure made a 50-year-old Moods of Gene Ammons LP sound fresh and present.
Gamut was driving the L-7s with its $6000 CD3 and $9800 DI 150 180Wpc integrated amplifier. The CD 3uses Burr Brown's PCM 1792 converter and upsamples the signal to 24-bits/192kHz. I didn't get many details about the DI 150, but it does have balanced and single-ended inputs and balanced preamp output. The line in Gamut's product literature that I loved was: "Life is a process of constant discovery and refinement. For this reason, we reserve the right to change without advance notice." Me too.
Richard Vandersteen can't leave a good thing alone. He got to tinkering with his Quatro ($6995/pair, reviewed by Mikey Fremer in the forthcoming July issue of Stereophile) by replacing the fabric shells with wood, reinforcing the speaker's base with X material, and replacing the tweeter with the model from his 5 Signature. The result is a small, floorstanding loudspeaker with huge sound. The Quatro Woods run $10,000/pair.
David Wilson seems excited about his new Series 8 Watt/Puppy speaker system, and, having heard the demo, I can appreciate why. The company gets bonus points for listing the music used on a poster outside the door of the dem room.
The rebirth of Reference Recordings is one of the feel-good stories of audio. Here’s RR’s Marcia Martin, holding up two of their new releases, from pianist Joel Fan and from Keith Lockhart conducting the Utah Symphony in works by Bernstein.
One of the great demos at the show is a comparison between two identical systems and rooms, with one major difference: one has been treated with Real Traps and RPG acoustic treatment products and one left au natural. The display was hosted by dealer Ultimate Audio Video and acoustics consultants Rives Audio and the difference was not subtle. As Stephen pointed out, the treated room was much easier to listen to, with a more open soundstage and less confused imaging. Rives Audio treated the room with RPG's products and Real Traps Corner Mondo Traps and Tri-Corner Bass Traps. Richard Rives Bird commented that after being set up, both rooms were within 3dB of flat in the bottom end, so the company's PARC equalizer was not even needed.
We still haven't learned the price of Peak Consult's InCognito X two-way floorstanders, but we're starting to believe Per Kristoffersen when he says he set out "to build the best two-way loudspeaker in the world,"
Jim Thiel's CS3.7 was announced at CES 2006 and even shown—sort of. It wasn't a working model and it was packed with new technological, um, wrinkles, such as its 4.5" aluminum midrange ring with an "undulating, radially ribbed contour." Not to mention the 3.7's new, ribbed 10" woofer and passive radiator, which resemble hubcaps of the "spinner" variety.
They're so small, you'd almost have to bet they're class-D, but the $16,500/pair 300W MX-Rs are linear all the way. The tiny brutes were fed by Ayre's C-5xe universal player ($5950) and K-1x preamplifier ($8600 with phono section), and Ayre cables. The system, which included Vandersteen Quatro Wood speakers, sounded far more detailed and lithe than the MX-Rs did at CES. MAybe it's the smaller room, or maybe it's those Quatros. Heck, it could even be that Ayre's Charlie Hansen can't leave a good thing alone either.
Those who’ve admired the sound of the speakers from TAD, but could not get past the prices, will be interested in the new line from Pioneer, which use trickle-down versions of the TAD drivers and cabinets just slightly less elaborate in resonance-damping characteristics, and much lower prices ($6000 for the S-1EX pair on demo). Designer Andrew Jones is obviously pleased by the sound, as well he might be.