Fidelis, distributors of Harbeth loudspeakers and other products, was playing the classic BBC style Harbeth Super HL5 ($4995/pair), Perreaux Prisma 350 350Wpc stereo power amplifier ($8995), Wadax Pre1 preamplifier/DAC ($19,995), Sound Science MV Diamond digital server ($4500 w/iPad), and Pyon Sound Muzika Ultima turntable ($18,995). Bringing out the best this equipment can offer were the excellent Echole Obsession cables that are poised to make a major impression in the U.S. market. Four Stein boxes (little black boxes with the blue light on silver stands), which I discussed in the TweekGeek report below, were the icing on the cake, adding air and ease to the presentation.
Audioquest's Joe Harley showed off a system using Ayre electronics and Vienna Acoustics speakers, whose lovely midrange and easy-on-the-ears presentation was made possible by Audioquest Sky interconnects, Meteor Flat Rock Series speaker cable, Energy 100 power cords, and the new top-of-the-line Diamond USB cable (the latter shown in the photo with Harley). All of these cables, including the USB, utilize Audioquest's DBS dielectric bias system to keep the cables at peak capability 24 hours a day. (A FireWire cable is in development).
Last spring's Axpona show in Jacksonville gave me a first opportunity to audition some of Grant Fidelity's bargain-priced Chinese imports. I really liked what I heard. Despite cries of foul from a few of those posting comments to the blog who depicted Grant as the cause of the entire high-end slowdown in the US, and me as a conspirator in the eventual collapse of Western Civilization, the word is clearly out. Grant's room at RMAF was mobbed, so mobbed by attendees who were eager to chat away while the music played that nothing short of blowing a police whistle would have quieted them down. (A few systems at RMAF sounded like police whistles, but that's another story).
Oh my, did Muddy Waters' Folk Singer sound good. I hadn't heard this audiophile classic in many a year, and my time in Mike Garner of TweekGeek.com's room convinced me that it was time for an extended revisit. Garner achieved gorgeous clarity and marvelous quiet on this recording. As I wrote in my notes, "A very special moment."
Doshi Audio of Virginia was proudly displaying their handcrafted Jhor monoblock amplifiers ($18,995/pair) and Alaap V2.1 full-function preamplifier ($14,995). Partnered with the oft-encountered Wilson Audio Sasha, and Transparent XL series cabling, the system excelled in midrange strength as it threw an exciting soundstage. Although lacking ultimate bass control, the system rendered take-no-prisoners rock in accurately brash and brazen fashion.
Applause rang out after Silverman's performances. Among the most appreciative were those in the standing room section in heaven, aka the mezzanine balcony. Notice Roy Hall (third from left), who really socks it to Mikey Fremer in the "Manufacturers Comments" section of the November issue, among the admirers. On the second night, Gary Koh of Genesis was spied in rapt attention.
DSPeakers are active designs with built-in Anti-Mode room correction. We listened to the smaller Servo 300 speaker ($3500) with a Resolution Audio CD player, and, just as in Montreal, I was surprised by the small system’s big sound and bold bass. Also on display were DSPeaker’s standalone Anti-Mode correction units, the 8033 C ($350) optimized for home theater applications and the two-input 8033 S ($450) for stereo systems.
The newest Zu loudspeaker is the Omen. I don’t know much about it. The product literature says: “Omen is the right loudspeaker for every concert fanatic, music junky, skater fool, and snowboarding dirtbag; splitting your cash between your lifestyle outside and your lifestyle inside just got a whole lot louder!” So, Zu has a specific audience in mind. At just $999/pair it is also Zu’s most affordable speaker.
Philip Bamberg's Bamberg Audio was playing the Series 5 TMW ($8800/pair) and displaying the Steries 2 TMM ($4800/pair) when I entered. The 5 is a 3-way design with a 375W active woofer, parametric EQ, and separate monitor. It is said to descend flat to 25Hz, and down to 18Hz 6dB.
Lest anyone think that we at Stereophile don't pay attention when manufacturers speak, take a look at Stephen Mejias, virtually mesmerized by Luke Manley's energetic and ever-enlightening prose. Also pictured, Steven Rochlin of Enjoythe Music, Peter McGrath of Wilson Audio, and the empty chair and scattered detritus of the photographer-in-action.
James Harrell’s Jumping Cactus Loudspeakers are high-efficiency designs (94dB) with isolated aluminum enclosures. The speaker’s front panels are finished in Bubinga wood, while the aluminum portions feature a nice satin black power coat. All three drive units are from Eminence. That’s a 10” paper cone woofer, a 6” paper cone midrange unit, and a 1” phenolic dome tweeter. The midrange and tweeter are secured atop the woofer enclosure via Velcro, and can be angled or moved back and forth. A passive Butterworth 1st order crossover is in its own enclosure and is velcro’ed onto the back of the speaker.
Here we see the Vitus Audio SIA-025 integrated amplifier ($20,000; 100Wpc running class-A/B) and SCD-010 CD player ($20,000) and Amphion’s Krypton 3 loudspeakers ($20,900/pair). Amphion is now distributed in North America by VMAX Services. This system was very easy to listen to. Even at low volumes, there was no lack of drama, scale, or drive. It was a pleasure catching up with VMAX’s Richard Kohlruss and meeting Vitus’ Hans-Ole Vitus, who tells me he’s got a new phono preamp that Michael Fremer will love.
Zu did an outstanding job of transforming their drab hotel room into a comfortable, swanky listening environment, utilizing Flor modular carpeting tiles, a nice lounge seat, and some sweet-looking gear: Zu’s Soul Superfly ($2600/pair), a 16 ohm loudspeaker with a claimed efficiency of 101dB, in dazzling green finish, looks right at home with Luxman’s SQ-38u integrated amplifier ($6000) and D-38u CD player ($4000) and a Peachtree Nova D/A integrated amplifier ($1199). At the time I listened, Zu was using Channel D’s Pure Music front-end software ($129) for iTunes as a source, and there was an easy, laidback feel to the music.
Since my earliest visits to the Stereophile Show, well before I began writing for the magazine, I have always left Jeff Joseph's speaker displays with a smile on my face. This show was no different. Displaying the lovely Joseph Audio Pulsar ($7,000/pair) with not-yet-released-or-priced Pulsar stands, the combo with Ayre electronics (including the QB-9 USB DAC$2750) and Cardas Clear cabling was a joy.