Anthony Gallo has long had a reputation for wresting top dollar performance from small packages, but we've always wondered if he secretly hankered to go big. Anthony Gallo Acoustics' $15,000/pair Reference 5LS certainly answered that question.
Many of the best-sounding rooms at the show employed Ayre's $16,500/pair 300W MX-R monoblock amplifiers. Yes, they look small enough to be class-D amplifiers, but they're pure analog. How'd they do it? The entire enclosure is the heatsink and Ayre's Charlie Hansen designed a special low-rise transformer, used in pairs, to keep the chassis so compact.
Redpoint's Peter Clark says, "Your heart doesn't beat in ones and zeroes—it's analog." That's why he builds turntables, 'tables machined from solid billets of aircraft aluminum and configures the platter, motor, and tonearm platforms on separate support pods on a common platform.
After admiring the Redpoint Model A's blueness, we turned our beady gaze to ModWright's blue $3995 LS-36.5 line stage preamplifier. It employs 6H30 tubes, with a 5AR4 tube rectifier. "We've added a phase inversion switch and balanced inputs and outputs," distributor Frank L. Kraus said.
TBI's Jan Plummer is so proud and punched up about his $400/pair Majestic Diamond 1 single driver loudspeakers that he seems to shimmer—as if he's transporting between this plane of existence and another one.
Behold bills itself as "true digital audio" since it maintains audio as a digital signal up to the amplifier stage. The 600Wpc BPA768 (US price TBD) incorporates 768kHz/24-bit signal processing, a switch-mode power supply, an analog output stage, and an integrated power conditioner.
We were once again impressed by how un-hi-fi the sound in the deHavilland room was, this time in conjunction with a pair of Tannoy Prestiges. The $10,000/pair 50W deHavilland GM-70 single-ended triode is pure class-A, with zero negative feedback. The GM-70's directly-heated triode vacuum tube is said to be the largest output triode available today. We found the sound sweet, but surprisingly detailed and dynamic. Fit'n'finish were superb.
At CES 2006, Jon Iverson and I were impressed by Studio Electric's $8500 Type One modules, even though the mating $3500 XLR woofer modules weren't operating. This year Studio Electric was showing off a pair of the $15,500/pair Type Two towers, which were pure art deco chromed metal work.
No, that's not another Vandersteen sock—it's the carbon fiber plinth of the Vandersteen 5As in Audio Research's room. "Richard [Vandersteen] isn't really offering the 5s in carbon fiber," Audio Research's Terry Dorn told us. "He just wanted to explore the material, so he did these."
"Recent advances in solid-state output devices and other components have opened up design possibilities never previously available," Audio Research's Terry Dorn explained. "And that led to our developing the Hybrid Drive HD220 stereo power amplifier ($8995)."
This man is electric. More than electric, this man is electricity. The strongest, purest current snaps through him and charges the entire room. We crowd around, unable to fully maintain his flow, but also unable to withdraw. John Atkinson and I settle in closest, occupying the front row. JA follows securely along, constant flickers of acknowledgement and wonder emerge, illuminated moments of understanding and interest. At the same time, however, running in the opposite direction, I feel almost as though I'm being rude too deeply occupied at scribbling these notes, my pen powered by his words and ideas, moving faster across the page than I want it to go, I can't even look up to meet his eyes. And his eyes, these ice blue darts, they're the blue of a glowing front panel. The man is plugged in.
In my opinion, the relation between speaker size and performance tends to be a curvilinear one: performance improves with size up to a point (assuming good design), but when speakers are really big they’re often disappointing, sounding merely "impressive" but not natural. I’m always delighted, therefore, to find an exception to this rule, and that was the case with the PBN Audio Montana Master Reference speakers at the outboarding THE Show at the San Tropez Resort. These speakers are 84" tall, weigh 500 lbs, and feature two 18” subwoofers, two 10" woofers, two 5.25" midrange units, and one 1.125" tweeter. Demoed by PBN President/Designer Peter Noerbaek and Vice-President Patty Noerbaek, these speakers, driven by PBN's own amplifiers, sounded impressive and natural. The price is $65,000/pair, but you do get a lot of speaker for the money. Peter Noerbaek says they sold four pairs last year—to people with baronial homes, I’m sure.
Canadian manufacturer Simaudio is on a roll, with product introductions at just about every CES and Home Entertainment Show. This time, it was the Moon P5.3 preamplifier ($3500), with numerous "trickle-down" design features from the flagship Moon P7 and P8, and the Moon W5.3 amplifier (150Wpc, $4800). I managed to catch VP Marketing Lionel Goodfield with a less-serious-than-usual expression by telling him to imagine that they got a letter from Best Buy, saying that they want to carry the high-end Simaudio brand in all their stores and will pay full retail price just to have this privilege. :-)