I first heard the battery-powered amplification from Veloce at the 2009 SSI; this year the Philadelphia-based company was sharing a room with YG Acoustics, whose 3-way Kipod speakers ($38,500/pair) were being driven by the V6 mono 180W amplifiers ($12,500/pair) via Kubala-Sosna Emotion cables. A V.Y.G.R. Baltic M turntable, fitted with a 12" SME 312 tonearm and Air Tight PC-1 cartridge fed Veloce's new LP-1 transformer-based phono module ($3000) and the Veloce Platino LS-1 tube preamp.
The Multi Electronique suite was home to a tasteful, sedate display of Focal loudspeakers and Simaudio electronics, fed by an iMac computer running iTunes: just like home, except these guys had WAV files instead of the AIFFs that I prefer. The music selection was superb, and included the young jazz singer Melody Gardot, whom I hadn't heard before today, and the always interesting Dee Dee Bridgewater. Even without the luxury of an "audiophile" setupwhich is to say, these musical furnishings were arranged in the manner of a normal person's homethe sound of the Focal Chorus 826W ($3795/pair), Moon 3.3 DPX D/A converter ($4000), and Moon 3.3 amplifier ($4000) was utterly charming, and I left my comfy red seat with only the greatest reluctance.
The arrangement of Totem's new Tribe 5 wall-mounted speaker in on of their rooms at SSI raised my eyebrows. I asked Totem's main man Vince Bruzzese what gives? "We must reach out to non-audiophiles!" he said, adding that this was one of the impetuses behind the launch of the "skins" that Art Dudley wrote about above. "By arranging these speakers in an unconventional manner but showing that they can still play music, we reduce the fear non-audiophiles have." (My apologies if my paraphrase didn't capture the passion with which Vince spoke.) But the Trentemoller track I listened to, played on Chord CD transport, DAC, and amplifier, didn't sound any the worse for the unusual speaker setup.
The Luxman L-509u ($10,000) is rated to deliver 120Wpc into 8 ohms, and comes equipped with tone and balance controls, a front-panel headphone jack, MM/MC phono stage, and all kinds of rad buttons, knobs, and meters. No remote, though. You’re gonna have to get up and play with this sweet thing.
I got to see and to hear the legendary Platine Verdier turntable in the Excel Stereo suite, and though language differences and crowd noise confounded my efforts to learn either its current price or the name of the curious birdsong-and-fiddle record being played, I was delighted to see it in use with a proper (12") tonearm and Ortofon SPU pickup head. Seems I didn't leave civilization behind after all!
Coming soon to a salon near you: a 45Wpc integrated amp that even a schoolteacher can afford. Advanced Acoustics, whose products are designed in France and manufactured in China, showed a prototype of their forthcoming MAP-101, which sounded decent driving a nondescript pair of tiny tabletop speakers. And if that sounds like darning with faint praise, consider that Advanced's MAP-101 is intended to sell for only $649. Alors!
I started my day the right way: listening to a good LP of acoustic music. In one of three Coup de Foudre rooms I listened to Skip James's final album on a system comprising the new Brinkmann DD turntable (price TBD) with an EMT TSD 15 fineline phono cartridge ($1800), Auditorium 23 step-up transformer ($995), Leben RS30 EQ moving-magnet phono preamp ($2595), Leben CS300 XS integrated amplifier ($3495), and DeVore Fidelity 3XL loudspeakers ($3700/pair without stands), the latter of which were capable of allowing the music to sound surprisingly, delightfully big. Cables were all by Auditorium 23, and the source and amplification components were supported by a typically beautiful Sapele rack from the Box Furniture company.
Grant Fidelity purchasing manager, Rachel Zhang, explained that her company wants to bring “a self-servicing, consumer electronics distribution model to high-end audio.” All of Grant Fidelity’s products are available factory-direct; and, instead of the traditional dealer network, Grant Fidelity utilizes private, home-based demonstrators. The goal is to make available more affordable products for a younger and more varied audience, Zhang said.
Because I have a review pair at home, I was eager to hear how the new Wilson Sasha loudspeakers ($26,995/pair) would sound under show conditions, in the largest Coup de Foudre room. Driven by a Brinkmann Oasis turntable ($13,700), Brinkmann 10.5 tonearm ($6300), Brinkmann EMT cartridge ($4300), VTL TL5.5 preamp ($8000 with phono), Berkeley Alpha D/A converter (45700), Pathos Adrenaline amplifiers (price unknown!), and all Transparent Audio cabling, the Sashas were just as colorful, dramatic, and involving today as they've been for the past several weeks in my own listening room. Of course today's performance owed a great deal to the quality of the recordings made by master recordist Peter McGrath of Wilson Audio (left), whose sessions with Cuban-born pianist Jorge Luis Prats were nothing short of sensational. On the right, making sure I didn't miss the VTL preamp, is VTL's Luke Manley.
Following Michel Plante's speech at the opening night reception, the Give Band played a great set of world-musicinfluenced rock that, thankfully, was not too loud. (The FoH mixer must have been an audiophile.) The band's CD AudioPhylanthrope, recorded and mastered at the world-famous Guy St-Onge's studio, was launched at SSI as the Show's reference recording. The Give Band are performing at 9pm tonight (Friday, when the Show closes) in the Lounge Stereo Plus on SSI's lower floor, so if you are at the Show, you still have a chance to check them out.
SSI 2010 also marks the North American debut of the active-suspension, self-powered DSPeaker Servo loudspeaker ($3500/pair), designed and manufactured in Finland and distributed in the US by Simplifi Audio. Lead designer Toni Liitola explained that the use of Active Suspension Compliance Management works to tame acoustical and mechanical non-linearities of the driver/enclosure system, while DSP-based waveform shaping enables a “transient-perfect sound.” The Servo uses Seas drivers made to DSPeaker’s specifications; internal amplifiers are made in-house. In addition, the speaker’s built-in Anti-Mode room correction eliminates room resonance, allowing the speaker to be placed almost anywhere in a room. In support of his claims, Liitola was happy to share several waterfall plots and step-response graphs.
Faithful readers of these show report blogs may recall that last year I missed the TorontoMontreal train I was scheduled to take, and had to wait two hours for the next one. This year, I was determined that history was not going to repeat itself, and I ended up getting to the train station nearly an hour before the train's departure. Maybe next year I'll find a happy compromise. . .
The Antique Sound Lab AQ 1001 Mk.II integrated amplifier ($1995) did a fine job of driving Reference 3A’s Grand Veena loudspeakers to concert hall levels. The AQ 1001 Mk.II is rated to deliver 50W in pentode mode and 25W in triode mode, and offers manual bias adjustment for each tube. The latest incarnation of this long-standing design incorporates new output transformers with no negative feedback and a choke-regulated power supply for “a faster and more dynamic sound,” Reference 3A’s Tash Goka told me.
Shows like SSI are about the cutting edge in audio, with the latest and (purportedly) greatest on display and demonstration. Given this, I always get a kick out of spotting a piece of equipment that just does not seem to belong in such august company. This Sanyo JCX 2600K stereo receiver is from another eracirca 19781981 according to the ever-helpful Google search. Looks like it's in great shape. I spotted it on a shelf in an area of the show where they were setting up racks of LPs for sale. What was it doing there? I have no idea. Wonder how it compares sonically with the latest-and-greatest?