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.
Here we see John Atkinson caressing the relatively compact Vivid B1 loudspeaker ($15,000/pair). With the help of a second rear-mounted mid-woofer, the B1 produces a sound far larger than its modest proportions. On A Higher Note’s Philip O’Hanlon tells us that women, in particular, have been fond of this speaker.
“If you don’t mind, ladies and gentleman, I’m going to play you something you don’t ordinarily hear at an audiophile show,” states On A Higher Note’s Philip O’Hanlon, as he moves across the floor and inserts a disc into the lovely Luxman D-06 SACD/CD player ($8500).
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.
As last year, Totem Acoustics had by far the show's most aesthetically sophisticated exhibit: a trippy mix of shapes and textures both organic and industrial, in which lights, flowers, textiles, and scents shared senses with the sound. The latter, also in typical Totem form, was exceptionally involvingespecially the Beatles' "Within You, Without You," Insane Clown Posse's "Ain't Yo Bidness," and "lua" by Dudu (no relation) Salinas. At SSI Totem also introduced a product that's still in concept stage, called Totem Skin: a removable sock-style cover that transformed cabinetry into artliterally. Among the company's goals for this show, according to the Totem rep with whom I spoke, was to gauge consumer response to the Skins, and the reaction so far is positive.
As Art mentioned, Totem always does an outstanding job of transforming a simple room into an environment, and at SSI 2010, they surpassed all of their previous efforts. Here’s a look at a row of Totem Tribe on-walls, dressed in new skins. As loudspeakers are often viewed as the most personal component of any system, it makes fine sense to offer the option of truly personalizing them with art. I can imagine buyers selecting fabrics that match their furnishings, or using their favorite artwork, or even creating their own designs.
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.
Next door to Cabasse, Samuel and Jean-Pierre of L'Atelier-Audio had somewhat less Englishand my command of French is virtually non-existent. But I had no trouble understanding the music played through their Ocellia Calliope 30 Twin Signature loudspeakers (exhibited in pre-production form, price TBD), driven by their Quaero 300B push-pull amps ($15,000/pair) and Quaero Signature preamp ($9000). As with all Ocellia loudspeakers, the very efficient Calliope 30 Twins use high-sensitivity drivers from the French company Phy, and the exquisitely beautiful cabinets are built with intentionally very thin walls, braced in a manner not unlike a guitar or violin, and equipped with an adjustable port/open baffle system for matching the loudspeaker to the volume of air in the listening room. The performance was lovely, insofar as I could tell in such an unavoidably setting, and I've requested a pair for review.
Of one room I can honestly say: The sound pulled me in. A succession of convincingly deep, tactile drumbeats caught my ear, and I followed the thwacks to Cabasse, where the Sphère ($150,000/pair, more or less, and reviewed by Michael Fremer a year or so back) held court, driven by Cabasse's own Bel Canto-sourced amps; the Cabasse outboard digital crossover; and McIntosh's C2300 preamp and MCD500 SACD/CD player. No less impressive was Christophe Cabasse himself (left), who patiently led me through the Sphère's impressive technical backgroundin English, I'm thankful to say. Monsieur Cabasse also reminded me that his company celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, having been founded by Georges Cabasse (père) all the way back in 1960.
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.
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.
Like Art Dudley below, I started my first day at SSI at the Coup de Foudre room featuring DeVore speakers and Leben amplification. And like Art, I was impressed by the sound, listening to LPs of Skip James and Gil Scott-Heron. (John and Jonathan never play audiophile favorites.) And note the judicious use of the hotel's bed heads, usually hanging on the wall, in front of the window alcove to tame the room acoustics. Good Show sound benefits from the prepared mindor something.
I walked into the Reference 3A room to be greeted by an impressive orchestral piece. I heard massed strings and scintillating cymbal crashes and booming percussion, all presented with great impact, drama, and scale. Speakers were the Reference 3A Grand Veena ($7995/pair), rated at 89dB efficiency and utilizing five “seamlessly integrated drivers,” including a Murata Exciter for the highest frequencies. Designer Tash Goka explained that the angle of the Grand Veena’s front baffle and the precise positioning of the speaker’s drivers work together to achieve a coherent phase response.
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. . .
Hathor Acoustik takes its name from the Ancient Egyptian goddess said to have the ability to “cure humanity with her song,” explained designer Luc Allair (right). Salon Son & Image 2010 presents the debut of Hathor’s Reference loudspeaker ($20,000 CAN). Partnered with an elegant, all-Naim system, including CDX2 player, NAC 252 preamp, and NAP 250 amplifier, the Hathors produced a warm, inviting sound, marked by an especially wide and deep soundstage and fleshy, well-focused images.