Continuing with European speakers, on static exhibit at the Klipsch Group complex was one of the most cleanly and beautifully simple speaker designs I've seen in a while. It was Jamo's S60, the largest in a new "S" line that, so far, includes a tiny bookshelf, a small center channel, and a subwoofer. These looked like many European small designs, almost too small to be effective. But the graceful three-way S60 sports a dome tweeter, a vertically arrayed pair of 4" midrange units, and a side-firing 8" woofer. Everything fit and matched, and the materials and textures just screamed quality. I just had to find out the price. It's only $450/pair! For that money and their graceful appearance, this speaker is a bargain even unheard!
Linn was showing its new reference standard digital player, the Klimax DS, which it is dubbing "the first authentic hi-fi product to stream digital music over a standard home network." Not impressed? How about this: it is capable of utilizing Linn's 24/96 downloads and, according to Rikke Ravnborg, director of marketing, is sonically superior to Linn's long-term digital reference, the CD-12.
Parasound's Richard Schram was delighted to show off the San Francisco company's Model 2100 preamplifier. This $600 preamp is designed for the guy who has a multichannel system—possibly even an expensive one—who feels let down when he listens to his two-channel music.
There was a lot to see in the Lenbrook Group rooms and I was pleased to see that the anticipated T-175 multichannel pre-pro was ready for prime-time. However, the unit that caught my eye was a little stereo unit, the T-715. This trim, $499 beauty has a 25Wpc amp, a CD player, an AM-FM tuner, and a subwoofer output in addition to the usual audio line-level inputs and outputs and headphone jack. It also sports a USB input for playback of MP3s or of anything streaming off the Internet. It's just about the size of a shoebox. Add a pair of small speakers, like PSB's $279/pair Alpha B1s, and you have an ideal and compact second system.
Similar to the MPC line level terminations are MIT's Multipole In-Wall termination systems, shown here by Kent Loughlin. The five-way binding posts fit into an ordinary on-wall quad box and come in three configurations: 11 pole, 15 pole, and 21 pole network. No soldering required.
ReQuest is betting there's a music server in your future, and they're working hard at eliminating any objections you might have about it. In addition to showing off their new S-series components ("S" for "serious sound"), the company introduced a host of widgets, added functions, new remotes, and the Echo, a daily-updated backup drive for your music library.
Peachtree Audio, which is distributed by Signal Path, introduced a tasty little 50Wpc digital integrated amp, the Decco ($799). That little window in the front has a 6922 tube behind it, feeding, presumably, a class-D power amp. The Decco has two analog inputs and three digital inputs: USB, Toslink, and S/PDIF coaxial. It decodes MP3, FLAC, AIF, and WAV and even has a slot in the rear to accommodate a Sonos ZP80 WiFi media player. It is also compatible (but lacks slots for) Apple TV and other music servers. There's a preamp output, in case you want to go for more power.
I finally got a chance to look at, but not yet hear, Bryston's first venture into a source component, the BCD-1 CD player. James Tanner gave me a tour of the innards which were even more impressive than the beautifully carved front panel and sturdy disc tray. He said that, while they used a Philips transport, all the control electronics were replaced by discrete Bryston-designed drivers and DACs and that separate transformer windings powered separate power supplies for the transport and audio electronics, with multiple isolated and regulated supplies for individual circuits and channels. That allows the class-A output stages to function best. In addition to the analog outputs, transformer-coupled S/PDIF and AES/EBU digital outputs are provided.
We get a kick out of Paul Barton, so we wandered into PSB's room to see what's new. He was talking to a good-looking man of a certain age (ours, approximately), to whom he introduced us: it was Vance Dickason, the man who wrote the book on designing DIY loudspeakers: The Loudspeaker Design Cookbook.
Joe Harley was striding around the Denver Convention Center. When we shook hands, he glanced around and said, "Let's go somewhere private." We ducked into an empty demo room and he pulled a few records out of his bag. "Nobody else knows about this, I'm giving you the exclusive."
Look at the picture and tell me that those don’t look like speakers! They are, of course, but they are not intended to be driven by audio signals directly. What subwoofer manufacturer Bag End was demonstrating is a small, active bass trap, the E-Trap, and they are driven by the bass frequencies in the room. Each of these small boxes contains a driver, two microphones, and some pretty snazzy electronics that let the driver cancel the energy at the frequency (or two) of your room’s major mode. Sure, acoustic treatment is generally best, but that can get awfully cumbersome below 100Hz. Adjustments allow you to select frequencies between 20Hz and 65Hz and adjust the amplitude and shape of the cancellation. For critical success, you need to experiment with placement (although that is almost always at a room boundary) and, at the moment, have access to some nice FFT software. Bag End's James Wischmeyer promises that, eventually, some simpler setup software will be provided. Mebbe, but I asked to try one ASAP.
Pioneer showed a number of interesting new products in two-channel electronics and speakers. but pride of place was ceded to their new flagship A/V receiver, the SC-09TX. This is almost, but not quite, a pair of separates with the 10-channel, ICE-powered class-D amp confined to a chassis separated from the rest of the digital and line-level electronics. The main 7 channels are rated at 200W, operated simultaneously. I thought it notable that the amplifier chassis is configured to be under the main chassis and that indicates that we’ve reached a point where the efficiency of class-D amps allows the power-hungry DSP and video processing to breathe out the top. Fans help, too. Every conceivable input and output is provided including 6 HDMI inputs and two HDMI outputs, accommodations for XM, Sirius, and iPod input, and a talented EtherNet link. I show you the back panel to impress you with the connectivity and the distinct chassis for the power amp. The front panel sports a 4" LCD for control and video previewing.
I decided that since Stereophile only had two show bloggers this year, I would avoid writing about weird custom-install products and home-theater systems. However, rules, as they say, are made to be broken.