HE 2007 had, as expected, some very expensive equipment being demonstrated, but there were also some modest-priced and still very–good-sounding systems. One of these was the system in the DCM room, based on the DCM TFE 200, a substantial floor-standing speaker priced at just $1000/pair. With a Jolida CD player and integrated amp, the total price for the system was under $3000—and that was including $200's worth of cables from Esoteric Audio. The Man in Black is Al Congdon of DCM.
Remember the name: Salagar Sonics. It's the name of a new American speaker company, whose first product, the Salagar S210 ($7500/pair), still in prototype form, made a strong impression at HE 2007. It's an active two-way—digital crossover; the amp uses the latest B&O ICE module—with a Scanspeak AirCirc tweeter and a 10" Peerless VIFA mid-bass driver, in an unusually-shaped (and highly inert) enclosure. I thought these speakers sounded terrific: lively, low in coloration, and with excellent imaging.
They were a hit at last year's Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, so I asked Bob Cordell (resting his dogs in the photo), Peter "PJay" Smith, and Darren Kuzma to give a repeat performance of their seminars on amplifier and loudspeaker performance at HE2007. These ran throughout the Show, and I kept being stopped in the corridor by audiophiles who would say something like "Now I know what tube amplifier clipping sounds like" or "Now I know what is meant by 'dynamic range.'" I was reminded by something I had been told years ago, perhaps by Jon Iverson: that the only difference between an audiophile and an ordinary person is that the audiophile had a mentor who showed them how to listen. Bob's, PJay's, and Darren's efforts will create many, many audiophiles.
Masataka Tsuda designs and manufactures both Concert Fidelity and Silicon Arts components. What's the diff? Concert Fidelity is his tube line; Silicon Arts Design represents his thinking on—you guessed it—solid-state.
The Audioengine team is also looking at alternative cabinet materials. On display was a prototype A5 housed in lovely, sustainable bamboo. While the electronics remain the same, the bamboo models will incorporate added dampening.
Krell Industries' new Modulare Duo loudspeaker system was the one active exhibit in their suite, playing music from an excellent sampler of audiophile favorites. Todd Eichenbaum, shown standing next to the $35,000/pair, 300 lb system, explained that the separate woofer and satellite units were made of machined billet aluminum, as with Krell's original LAT-1 speaker system, but the Modulare’s drivers and passive crossover circuitry have been designed for higher current handling. The low-frequency cabinet contains three 8" aluminum-cone woofers, while the satellite section marries a 1" ScanSpeak ring-radiator tweeter, and a 6.5" aluminum-cone midrange driver.
We trucked across the hall to the treated room which contained several sets of RPG Variscreen free-standing variable acoustics screen ($700/each), a Modex Plate ($1000)—which offers broadband low frequency absorbtion from 50–500Hz—and two Rives Audio Sub-PARC crossover/EQs ($4500/each). The system also boasted an extra pair of VAC Alphas—Richard Rives explained that he was using the Sub-PARCs as crossovers, bypassing their digital woofer amps to kep the signals equivalent from top to bottom.
Indeed, there were nice things from Sweden in the Sjofn HiFi room. I didn't get a taste of the snittar (Swedish finger sandwiches), but I was very impressed by the powerful bass and deep, wide soundstage created by the diminutive Guru loudspeakers. As Wes mentioned, the Gurus were designed with the room in mind, and are meant to be placed near room boundaries.
I never miss the John Atkinson Trio's performances. I like to watch my friends play music and it's a great chance to bond with my fellow audiophiles for an hour or so. But this year wasn't like other years—the boys just flat-out smoked! Allen Perkins of Immedia, already one of my favorite drummers, has been studying with Peter Erskine for a few years and he has burned away any clutter (not that there was much) and is now even more purely him than ever. Bob Reina's regular gigging with Attention Screen has focused his strengths and, I suspect, freed him from having to express everything he has to say every time out. He's playing freer, looser, and tighter than ever. And JA (photographed here by Bob Deutsch), I suspect he's been woodshedding. With editing Stereophile, producing records, and measuring every component we review, where does he find the time?
Signals-SuperFi's Chris Sommovigo poses with the new Continuum Criterion turntable and Copperhead Tonearm ($51,500). Well, he is the importer, after all. However, he is also the designer and manufacturer of Stereovox cables, and he had new AC cables, speaker cables, and interconnects to tout— Dragon AC ($3500), Dragon speaker ($11,000/pair), and Dragon interconnect (tbd). Why didn't he pose with his stuff?
I encountered the same difficulty while talking with Red Wine Audio's Vinnie Rossi that I'd experienced the day before when chatting with Audio Advancements' Hart Huschens. Happy customers kept frigging interrupting us. "Vinnie! Vinnie!" they'd announce again and again.
The Pathos InPower monoblock amplifier ($13,500/pair) is a hybrid design offering 80W (at 0.4% THD, 5Hz–60kHz, ±3dB. It features some of the most beautiful industrial design I saw at the show. Designer Gianni Borinato describes it as a balanced, double INPOL power amplifier, with a zero-feedback, hand-matched. MOSFET output stage biased to run in class-A. The point-to-point wiring uses silver wire. Two triode tubes in the input stage are wired in opposite phase to form a double triode that is claimed to minimize distortion. The design proved its merit by driving the Focal 1037 Be loudspeakers with speed, dynamics, and excellent imaging. The room was a favorite among the Stereophile writers at the Show.