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?
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.
The program of seminars and workshops has been an important part of the Home Entertainment Show since its inception in 1987. For the past few years, Sunday afternoon has been the time for Stereophile Senior Editor Michael Fremer's guide to getting the best from LP playback. At this year's action-packed session, he showed a packed house to how to mount and align a phono cartridge on a VPI turntable, aided with close-up video help from Dave of Show contractor Moorea Marketing.
Well, few people have. In a stunning collaborative effort, Rives Audio, RPG, Modex, Talon, VAC, Wadia, XLO, and Silent Running set up two rooms designed to demonstrate that even the best audio components need a little help from intelligently applied digital EQ and room treatment. Two rooms, almost mirror images of one another, with essentially the same system—only one room used EQ and treatment and the other didn't.
Here's the system rundown: Wadia 581i disc player ($9450), 100Wpc VAC Alpha integrated amplifier ($10,000), Talon Thunderhawk loudspeakers ($25,000/pair), XLO Signature 2 interconnects ($00/m). XLO Signature 2 speaker cable ($2700/2m), XLO Argentum XP3 power conditioner ($600), and Silent Running Craz Reference isoRACK ($6000, as configured here).
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.
Lukas Lipinski was happy to present his L-707 speakers ($4990/pair) on special stands which discreetly house the 300Wpc L-301 monoblocks ($6000/pair). Keeping the amps close to the speakers allows for shorter cable runs, and, of course, is a clever space-saving idea. The amps slide vertically into the stands and are held in place by small screws on the back panel. The amps' glass front panel bears the Lipinski logo and can be illuminated.
Several of Stereophile's editors were excited about the compact and inexpensive Audioengine 5 amplified speakers ($349/pair), which were bringing forth some sweet sounds playing files directly from a laptop. New to the Audioengine line is the tiny 2 (seen here, $199/pair), which offered a sound surprisingly similar to that of its bigger brother. The music was clean and clear, and conveyed an emotion that belied the speaker's size. Like the A5, the A2 keeps all of its electronics in the left speaker but, unlike the A5, it uses a front slot port for bass performance.
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.
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.