11 AM Thursday, my first room at HE2005: I've just spent way over an hour listening to VTL gear in two completely different configurations. The first, in a hotel suite whose dimensions are similar to rooms in many smaller homes or larger apartments, paired the new VTL MB-450 monoblocks, TP6.5 phono preamp, and just upgraded Reference TL-7.5 linestage preamp with the Jadis JD1 Mk.II transport and JS 1 DAC, VPI Aries 3 turntable with JMW 10.5i tonearm and Benz LP cartridge, Wilson Sophia 2s, and Cardas cabling.
Music Direct was showing off two new turntables in the Avid line: the $4500 Volvere and the $7500 Sequel. The Volvere was developed by using the flagship model Acutus as its prototype and removing or downsizing only those elements that had the least effect on sound quality. Like the Acutus, the Volvere has adjustable suspension, adjustable horizontal damping, and a motor mount that keeps the subchassis and platter from dancing closer and further apart from one another(a common problem with many sprung subchassis models).
Gamut makes everything from source components to loudspeakers, so the Gamut room really was the Gamut room. Lars Goller designed the $14,800/pair l-7 three-way floorstanders and I was knocked out by how relaxed and natural acoustic music sounded though them. They looked fabulous, too.
I met Pete Roth, who owns an Ayre system, in, of all places, the Ayre/Vandersteen room, where he was checking out the MX-Rs. Pete says I'm his favorite Stereophile writer, so I'm now Pete's biggest fan. I posted his picture simply to prove to my wife that someone actually does read the stuff I'm always too busy working on to help with the chores.
Front-end in the Lamm room, with a system featuring Lamm tubed electronics driving Wilson Sophia 2 speakers, was this gorgeous turntable from French company Metronome, the Gaia, fitted with a Graham Phantom tonearm and a Lyra Titan cartridge.
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.
I've never owned a set of headphones. Is that what they're called? Or should it be pair of headphones? Headphones? Earphones? I don't even know. I've stayed away from headphones for a couple of reasons: I don't like having things on my head or in my ears, and I actually do enjoy hearing the sounds around me — the banjos on the F train, the buses on Madison Avenue, the sirens around the corner, the construction in our hall. Oh, and the birdies chirping, too.
There are two tiny omnidirection mics on that sweet little thing — Belkin's TuneTalk Stereo ($69.99) — displayed here by Jackie Romulo. You can record stuff directly onto your iPod and play it back later. So, if you're a student at a sleepy lecture or a hack reporter like me, you have an instant cheat sheet.
David Wilson remarked that he debuted the original Wilson WATT (Wilson Audio Tiny Transducer) almost 20 years ago to the day. Today, he showed us the WATT/Puppy 8 ($27,900/pair). Wilson, as always, a polished presenter, also noted that it was appropriate for him to give the new speaker its premier in a city noted for producing sequels, although he promised that, unlike Hollywood sequels, the WATT/Puppies have gotten better with each new chapter.
No, that's not a hearing aid growing out of Michael Fremer's pinna—he's the official HE2006 spokesperson, so he has to keep his phone on 24/7. HE says he hasn't heard any truly balanced stereo soundstaging yet, for some reason.
Wasn't she just in the background of John and Stephen's picture? We posed her next to the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet's Spin and she really lit up. It's an impressive sounding SACD—and the group is playing at HE2006 tomorrow. Did I mention the concert was free?