The Canadian Gershman Black Swan speaker ($30,000/pair), which mounts the tweeter and midrange unit in a separate A-frame enclosure to prevent their performance being affected by vibrations from the woofer, made its debut at HE2006 last May, and I was looking forward to hearing what it could do at CES.
I couldn't resist posting this photo, not of a product, but of photos of a product, just to get Mikey Fremer all riled up about the fact that the Continuum Caliburn turntable, for which he forked out mucho dinero, is no longer the Big Dog of LP playback.
I got an email from Stereophile columnist John Marks Wednesday night, urging me to visit the room at the Venetian featuring speakers from retailer On Track Audio. I always do what I am told by my writers, so I looked in Thursday afternoon. There I auditioned the Directorate loudspeaker system, designed by mastering engineer Bill Roberts. All four cabinets are sealed boxes and are finished in exquisitely in-laid veneers, the work of On Track's Jim Carnes, who looks understandably pleased with his work in my photo. The sound with Belles amplification, and Kimber Kable, was very promising, I thought.
Whenever I have caught up with Ken Kessler (left) at audio shows in the past two years, he has uncharacteristically grumbled about all the work he was doing writing and compiling McIntosh...For the Love of Music. "Every time I interview someone connected with the iconic Binghampton audio company, they tell me about two more people I didn't know existed whom I should interview."
While John Atkinson awaits a review sample of Parasound's just-released JC 2 two-channel analog preamp ($4000), photographed here (second from top) with Parasound president Richard Schram by Kalman Rubinson, I took the opportunity to discuss its genesis with Richard.
I looked into the Cary Audio Design room in the Venetian Towers to catch up with designer Dennis Had to find out what the North Carolina company had been up to since I visited them a year ago. But he was out, so I settled back to enjoy some fine music on Dynaudio Confidence C4 speakers—favorites of mine since I reviewed them in September 2003—driven by the 10th-Anniversary Edition of Cary's CAD805 single-ended triode monoblock, perhaps the finest-sounding of its breed. Source was the CAD-306 SACD player, back in production after some manufacturing problems with its Sony-sourced chipset. Nice. Very nice.
BAT introduced the two-chassis, $18,500 REX preamplifier at CES. The 18-tube preamplifier incorporates vacuum-tube rectifiers, C-multipliers, oil capacitors, and shunt regulators to filter the power supply's DC voltages. The control module incorporates a 140-step volume control that uses a 16-bit digital control with Vishay bulk-metal–foil resistors as pass-through devices. Each input to the preamplifier can be adjusted individually.
VTL introduced a new phono preamplifier at CES, the $6500 TP-6.5 Signature Phono Stage, as well as an upgraded MB-450 Signature monoblock amplifier. Using the single-chassis configuration of the TL-6.5 line preamplifier, VTL's phono preamplifier follows its hybrid design approach, using a low-noise J-FET to drive high-current 12AU7 tubes. It features switchable, five-corner, passive RIAA filtering. Gain, cartridge load impedance, phase, muting, rumble filter, and power on/off can be switched by remote.
Modern Audio Consultants’ Richard Gerberg showed me a new $6000/pair loudspeaker from English company ProAc, the two-way D28. The 60 lb floorstander, designed by ProAc founder Stewart Tyler , includes a 1" silk-dome tweeter and a 6.5" bass/midbass driver. I was able to audition the loudspeakers driven by a new $3000 Sugden 21 SE CD player, a $4000 Sugden 21SC integrated amplifer, and ProAc speaker cable. The D28’s sound was smooth, detailed, and musical. I particulary enjoyed playing Jamie Cullen’s Twenty Something album. Richard told me that the album had been recorded and edited using ProAc loudspeakers. Perhaps that was one reason the D28s sounded so good!
I’m not fond of using earplugs, so I haven’t really investigated listening to music with in-the-ear-canal type earphones. However, I've read reports from the likes of Wes Phillips and John Atkinson, extolling the virtues of these type of earphones, so when I saw the sign at the Shure booth that they had some new models in this series, I thought I'd give them a listen. The ones I tried were the top-of-the-line SE530 ($449.99), which are described as "triple TruAcoustic microspeakers," with a separate tweeter and two woofers. I listened to "Nessun Dorma" sung by Pavarotti—the source was an iPod—and was quite blown away with the effortless ease and natural quality of the sound. Maybe there is something to earphone listening after all...
Press conferences can sometimes be tedious affairs, with the presenter going on-and-on about his company's past accomplishments, and how even greater things are coming in the future. But this description did not apply to the press conference for Usher Audio Technology at this year’s CES. This was more like an informal party for friends than the prototypical press conference. People stood around and chatted for a while, and then Atul Kanagat of MusikMatters, Usher’s North American distributor, talked briefly about how Usher’s line of high-value/high-performance loudspeakers is intended to bring more music lovers into the hobby. We then listened to some music through some very-nice-sounding Usher speakers. Pictured are PR consultant Jonathan Scull (whose name should be familiar to Stereophile readers, Usher chief engineer Joe D’Appolito (whose name should be familiar to students of speaker design), Tsai Lien-Shui (President of Usher), and Atul Kanagat.
As Wes Phillips reported a day or so ago, The folks at PS Audio have been extremely busy of late. There have all new designs for power-line conditioners, some of them descendants of the highly-successful Power Plant active devices, others passive filter designs. An impressive couple of demonstrations by Paul McGowan showed how a competing power-line conditioner was unable to cope with a power surge that was handled with aplomb by the PS Audio product, and, similarly, a competitor’s product (with the name taped over to protect the innocent) did almost nothing to power line noise that was effectively filtered by the PS Audio product. The loving couple in the picture are PS's Terri and Paul McGowan.
One of my favorite records—which I selected as a Record To Die For a few years ago—is Sure Thing, songs by Jerome Kern sung by Sylvia McNair, accompanied by Andre Previn on the piano, with David Finck on string bass. When I walked into the Siltech room, they were playing another recording by Sylvia McNair, with accompaniment by Previn and Finck, this one songs by Harold Arlen, a recording that I have somehow missed getting. The recording sounded quite lovely through Siltech's new speakers (still in prototype form), and I commented on it to the gentleman doing the demo. "I engineered that recording," he said. It turns out that John Newton (left), president of Siltech America, engineered not only Sylvia McNair's Harold Arlen's CD but also her Jerome Kern album. We chatted about the recordings, not the technical but the musical aspects, which served as a most welcome reminder of the interest in music that at a fundamental level forms the basis of this hobby. On the right of picture is yours truly (not Sylvia).
"Check this out!" Boulder's Richard Maez palmed the remote that accompanies Boulder's 865 integrated amp and 810 preamplifier. "It really fits in your hand—and unlike most remotes, it fits whether you're using your right or your left hand."
The 150Wpc Boulder 865 integrated amplifier (approximately $10,000) is only four days old, so we tiptoed into the room in order not to wake it up. Richard Maez (seen here at the back of the photo) was elated that the 865 had actually made it to the show, but he was even happier to run down the details.