Zu Audio goes its own way when it comes to speaker design goals, emphasizing sensitivity and dynamic range. The Utah company's new Essence ($5000/pair) covers almost the entire audioband with a single 10" drive-unit, augmenting this unit's output from the central "whizzer cone" in the top octave with a ribbon supertweeter. Sensitivity is claimed to be in the high 90s! The enclosure is constructed from Baltic birch ply with an outer MDF cladding, and the internal wiring is, of course, Zu's own cable, with cold-forged, solder-less connections to the Cardas binding posts.
Also revealed were two disc player upgrades from Ayre. Both the C-5xe universal player and the CX-7 CD player now have MP (Minimum Phase) appended to their names reflecting a new filtering option that the company says has no pre-echo and only one cycle of post-ringing. On the back of the players is a switch to select between the previous generation "apodizing" filter and the new MP filter.
Kerem Kücükaslan (pronounced something like "Kooshookasslan," shown standing in the center of the photo), former President of the Istanbul HiFi Club, is justifiably proud of his Echole Obsession cables. When I first encountered these cables, mated with Kaiser Kawero speakers from Germany at last year's Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I was mightily impressed with the huge, three-dimensional soundstage that the system achieved in a huge ballroom. Playing a portion of Ivan Fischer's R2D4 recording of Mahler's Symphony 2, this system spoke musical truth.
In addition to Sooloos and Blue Smoke, Qsonix was also demonstrating the latest iteration of their touchscreen music server system. The fully self-contained Q110 package is comprised of the single DAC/HD drive/software box and up to four touchscreens.
Triode Corporation Ltd of Japan had a room full of equipment featuringyou guessed ittriodes! The TRV-4SE($2800)) preamplifier has an S/N ratio of 96dB and has an internal MM phono section, Its frequency response is 10Hz-100kHz. The TRV-4SE uses Mundorf and Nichicon capacitors, kiwame precise resistors, and an exclusive Triode Corpration stepped attenuator.
After years of attending shows where Nordost cabling was successfully paired with Raidho Acoustics speakers, I was surprised to learn that the Raidho Acoustics Ayra C-2 ($24,000) speakers are internally wired with Nordost Valhalla. No wonder the combination is so synergistic. Frankly, even a boom box would sound like a breakthrough product if it were wired with the Nordost Odin I heard in this room. Odin ain't cheapOdin power cables cost $11,000 for a decent length, interconnects $16,000 for 1m, and speaker wire starts at $20,000 for 1m, with the best sound said to come from 4 meter lengths of speaker cable and an investment of $38,000but the sound is as full, complete, neutral, and satisfying as anything I've yet heard. My own experience confirms that single Odin power cable can transform the sound of a system.
Kimber Kable was more than happy to show off the four latest additions to its very full line of cables. First came the 12TC Teflon-insulated speaker cables, which use 24 conductors. Terminated with WBT Nextgen, an 8' pair of 12TC costs $854. Next there's the Cadence Subwoofer cable, which costs $175 for 1 meter with the best terminations Kimber supplies. Finally, complementing Kimber's HD19 1.3 cable, which costs $239 for 4 meters are the new HD09 1.3 (5 meters for $159) and HD29 1.3 (5 meters for $557). Other lengths are, of course, available. The display in the Venetian may have been static, but the very live demo Kimber Kable was conducting simultaneously at The Alexis Park was reportedly producing great sound.
Innovation comes from surprising places. Esoteric has always focused on pushing the state of the art with their flagship and pricey digital players (the financially squeemish can skip to another post now), but they've also begun to accommodate digital media wherever it may be found.
Richard Rives, famous for tuning rooms around the world is now distributing audiophile products. Among those is the new Navison Audio Reference 228 CD Player which sports the latest Philips CD-Pro2M transport and 24 bit Delta Sigma DAC technology.