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.
Todd Eichenbaum, design engineer at Krell, walked me through the design of their new amplifier, the $10,500, 300Wpc 302. The power supply employs a 3kVA toroidal transformer, built-in power conditioning, a current-mirror input stage, a push-pull driver stage, and low negative feedback (8dB) around the output stage. It was paired with the $10,000 Evolution 222 stereo preamplifier.
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).
AIX Records' Mark Waldrep, see here with Mona Waldrep, was promoting their latest DVD-Video and DVD-Audio, surround-sound release, Ernest Ranglin, Order of Distinction. Featured performers included Robbie Krieger from the Doors, Phil Chen and Laurence Juber from Paul McCartney's Wings group, and Elan Atias from the Caars. Mark reminded me that his website, Itrax.com, will go operational in June, providing one of the only sites where high-quality, lossless-compressed, surround-sound music files will be available for purchase and downloading.
Krell’s new Krell IPOD Dock (KID) only costs $1200, but offers balanced outputs, signal conditioning with bass and treble adjustments, all digital control lines, diverse outputs (2 balanced, 2 RCA, and S Video) with optical isolation. The auxillary input allows one to attach a Zune or Creative Digital Zen MP3 player. The Krell KID received much attention from press and public alike.
There were a lot of turntables, and a lot of vinyl at the show, not just on demo, but for sale as well. LP vendors like Acoustic Sounds and Music Direct were doing brisk business in their booths in the Ballroom.
That's pronounced sheeYEUfn (like that helps) and it's from Norse mythology—Sjöfn inspired passion through her singing. Guru Pro Audio head of R & D, Ingvar Öhman is clearly passionate about his loudspeaker, which he likened to "VWs that perform like Ferraris." The Gurus($1800/pair) are small, designed to be placed near the room boundaries, and were pretty impressive.
Andrew Watson proudly discussed the latest iteration of KEF's reference floorstanding speaker, the $20,000/pair 207 Mark 2. This new version features a new UNI-Q array that no longer needs the hypertweeter found in the Mark 1 version. The new tweeter has a vented magnetic assembly to provide more air volume behind the dome to smooth the sonic response. The manufacturer has to drill through the magnet assembly, thereby reducing its sensitivity. As a result, two additional neodymium rings were added to the usal magnet. The new tweeter's design has the voice-coil former touching the dome at two points to lend additional support and prevent breakup at high frequencies.
Ian McArthur of Audio Plus, North American distributor of the French Focal speakers, is looking casual and relaxed. And why shouldn’t he be? He's leaning on the Electra 1037 Be ($11,000/pair), which has a review coming out by Michael Fremer, a review that —if this is not telling tales out of school —may have people running to their Focal dealers. The sound of the speakers at the Show (Mikey's actual review samples, so they were well broken-in), with Pathos electronics, was one of those that made me stop as I was walking along the corridor to check out what was playing.
I'd seen the Bolzano Villetri TorreBV HF 3005 ($11,400/pair) at last year's CEDIA Expo, but I was felled by bugs in the spinach and BV was hobbled by a display area in the corridor in front of the convention center's main space.
"Now that's real room lock," I exclaimed, listening to the deep pedal organ notes from John Mark’s recording of James Bustard playing Herbert Howell’s Master Tallis’ Testament, recorded at the Church of St. Stevens in Providence, Rhode Island. Tierry Budge's new loudspeaker, the floorstanding, two-way, Pearlized White, $18,990/pair speaker played the pipe organ pedal chords with thunder and power when driven by the VTL S-400 amplifier and the new dCS digital front-end on one of the Sound By Singer rooms. The speaker's large enclosure holds both an external 12" woofer and an internal 12" driver, which allows Budge to rate the speaker's response down to an impressive 18Hz. Budge claims the internal 12" minimizes group delay, reducing the driver's rise time from its nominal 500ms to 55ms. The tweeter is soft-dome, ring radiator made by Scan Speak.
Wandering around HE 2007 with my camera, I'm always watching for interesting-looking products to take pictures of. As soon as I caught a glimpse of the Scaena Iso-Linear Array speakers, I knew I had another subject. It’s available in several colors, including pewter/titanium (real metal), but, personally, I wouldn’t consider anything but the red that was on display. And it's not all just looks, either: this is a serious design, with multiple mid-tweeter modules and subwoofers with digitally controlled active bass management. The speaker is available in various heights, the price for the version shown at HE 2007 was $44,000/pair.
Sure, now he’s smiling. But when Zvox Audio’s Tom Hannaher introduced their new model 425 all-in-one-box surround sound system at a press conference on the first day of the show, he was most distressed about the fact that while the prototype unit had worked fine before he brought it to the room that the press conference was in, in the press conference room it would not make a sound at all. I was going to suggest that he take it back to the original room to see if it worked there, but I restrained myself, thinking that he probably would not appreciate the humor in my suggestion. As it turned out, my facetious suggestion was more correct I realized. On the second day of the show, back in the original room, they plugged in the 425 prior to opening it up to see if they could see anything amiss —and, lo and behold, it worked perfectly. Gremlins, I guess. I had a listen to it myself, and found the sound surprisingly full and natural for a product of this type.