In another large, difficult ballroom, beautifully finished LumenWhite Artisan loudspeakers ($45,000/pair) were mated to the 250W, class-A Ayon Orthos 2 monoblock power amplifiers. The source was Ayon’s CD5S ($11,380), which combines a tube preamp with a tube DAC and transport. Cables were the Swiss-made Vovox. The system created a large sound to match the large room, with big-hearted bass.
In the Audioengine room, I heard a familiar sound: Fun, exciting, clean, and physical, with tight, lovely bass. The company was using their A5 loudspeakers, which I enjoyed a few months back, to play music via a MacBook Pro running plain old iTunes through an HRT Music Streamer II.
A gentle, relaxed sound with well-focused images was coming from the Gini Systems/Audio Space room: Audio Space LS3/5a monitors ($1790/pair), Reference 3.1 300B integrated amplifier with tubed moving-magnet phono stage ($4290), DAC-US1 D/A converter ($2500), and CDP320 player ($800).
Widea Lab is a young Korean company. The company says they’ve got some strong candidates for US distribution and will also be selling via Amazon. Their first product, the Aurender (short for Audio Renderer; $5700), is a digital music server utilizing a customized Linux OS, linear power supply, and storage for over 5000 lossless and uncompressed CDs.
Brodmann Acoustics was demonstrating their pretty little Festival Series loudspeakers. The Austrian company has a background in piano manufacturing as well as sound engineering, and the FS speakers ($3990/pair) have an interesting design:
I noted generous scale, midrange detail, full body, and an overall effortlessness to the presentation of this system: Wilson Sophia loudspeakers, Pass Labs amplification, and the new Light Harmonic Da Vinci 384K USB DAC ($15,000 [NOTE: The actual retail price ended up at $20k-ed.]).
I noted deep silences, good spatial effects, good low-end impact, and a fine sense of scale in this room occupied by Salk Sound and Van Alstine: Salk Sound Soundscape loudspeakers ($12,000/pair) and 300Wpc Van Alstine hybrid amplifier ($3000).
There was a jovial, festive vibe in Philip O’Hanlon’s On A Higher Note room, featuring Luxman amplification and source components, Vivid loudspeakers, and music courtesy show attendee, Raymond.
As I walked into the room, O’Hanlon explained that Raymond had been knocking everyone’s socks off with his vinyl selections.
“As much as I like the music I brought, I’m also kinda sick of it,” O’Hanlon chuckled. “What’s next, Raymond?”
Raymond dug through his bag of vinyl and handed O’Hanlon a record. The charming host took that record and placed it on Luxman’s PD-171 belt-drive turntable ($6200, including tonearm and dustcover), the first turntable to come from the Japanese company in 28 years.
The attractive Fritz Speakers Carbon 7 ($1750/pair) were matched with ModWright KWA 100SE power amplifier ($3995), ModWright LS 100 tube preamplifier ($3495), Esoteric SA60 universal disc player ($4995), Zesto Audio Andros PS1 MM/MC phono stage ($3900), and Thorens TD 309 turntable ($1900). WyWires provided the speaker cables ($1299), interconnects ($849-$1299), and power cords ($329). Room treatment was by GIK Acoustics and ASC. Steve Blinn Designs contributed the equipment rack ($1899). Billie Holiday’s Songs for Distingué Lovers (priceless) provided the mood.
I walked into the Margules room and was welcomed by Peter Frampton’s funny cover of Soundgarden’s late grunge-era hit, “Black Hole Sun,” with all the fuzzy, phasey, talk boxy effects you might expect from Frampton held perfectly in check, well-focused within the wide soundstage.
Through a system built on all-Linn electronics (Akurate DS: $6990; Akurate Kontrol: $6500; Akurate 2200 power amp: $5200), Tannoy Definition DC8 loudspeakers ($3600/pair, in lovely Espresso Walnut finish), and MIT cables, we listened to a series of short excerpts of hi-res demo material, from female vocals to a familiar drum solo off the good, ol' Sheffield Track & Drum Record.
Made in Sweden and now represented in the US by SimpliFi Audio, the DLS Flatbox on-wall loudspeakers come in five sizes (Mini, far right: $249 each; Midi, center: $349 each; Slim Large; Large; and XL, far left: $499 each), can be hung horizontally or vertically, and are available in variations of white and black cabinets and grilles. There are also three subwoofers, including the Flatsub8 ($799), used in the room. Partnered with Resolution Audio’s Opus 21 system and inexpensive DNM cables, the speakers threw a surprisingly wide stage, despite being mounted on temporary plywood walls. As we went up the line, I noted greater bass extension, but the Midi version seemed best balanced with the room and subwoofer.