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.
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.
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?
California manufacturer Channel Islands Audio brought two new products to the show: the $895 PLC•1 passive preamp with remote and the $4,500/pr D•400 class-D power amps. Also in the room were the Von Schweikert Audio VR-5SE speakers ($18-22k depending on finish). Sound in the modest hotel room was surprisingly spacious and well-balanced. Left to right in the photo: Albert Von Schweikert, CIA's Dusty Vawter and Greg Schug.
Also in the Belkin room, I had the pleasure of chatting with Dr. Bruce Edgar who had furnished the room with his Edgarhorn Titan II loudspeakers ($16,000). Dr. Edgar is an experimental physicist. And also a mind reader. I sat beside him, facing the system with its outrageous array of silvery PureAV interconnects and speaker cables jutting out like all sorts of tentacles and arms and legs, thinking: "Any other cables would make this system look ugly," when Dr. Edgar said to me: "Any other cables would make this system look ugly, don't you think?"