Although I was only able to stay long enough to snap a few photos and hear moderator Ken Kessler’s (Hi-Fi News) downer of an introduction, Friday evening’s post-show panel included, from left to right, HiFi Plus editor Alan Sircom, recording engineer Peter McGrath of Wilson Audio Specialties, Kathy Gornick of Thiel Audio, Michael Fremer of Stereophile and AnalogPlanet.com, Roy Hall of Music Hall and "why don’t you join me for a shot," and Kessler himself. Dan D’Agostino of D’Agostino, Inc., founder of and former designer at Krell, turned up after I had shot my photo.
John Atkinson adds: Kessler’s thesis was the high-end audio industry is dying by its own hand; that if it is to continue to exist, let alone thrive, high-end audio has to emulate the example of the luxury watch, pen, and car industries...
Gingko Audio demmed a more than chump change system, some of whose components' names showed that imagination is alive and well in the high-end. Playing a VPI Traveler turntable ($1400) with Grado Prestige Gold ($200), Gingko Audio Cloud 9T ($349), and Gingko Audio dust cover ($279); Jolida Fusion preamp ($1500), Wells Audio Innamorata amplifier ($6000), Music Culture Technologies MC501A USB CD player ($3995), Gingko Audo ClaraVu 7 full-range loudspeakers ($6990/pair), DanaCable Black Max 88 speaker cables ($2995), and Gingko Audio Platformula rack ($2995), bass sounded decent, but a recording of Gustav Mahler's Symphony 5 that the exhibitor chose otherwise sounded bright and glassy.
As familiar as I may be with the Playback Designs/Evolution Acoustics set-ups that Blue Light Audio's Jonathan Tinn brings to showsone of these, with darTZeel electronics and much bigger Evolution Acoustics loudspeakers, received my Best of Show at T.H.E. Show Las Vegas a few years backI constantly find myself amazed by the quality of the sound. This time, with Playback Design's MPS-3 DSD-capable high-resolution CD player with USB input ($8500); an Ampex ATR-102 open-reel recorder, restored by ATR Services, Inc of York, PA, playing 15ips master tapes sourced from ATR and Puget Sound Studios; and B.M.C. Audio's AMP CS2 integrated stereo amplifier ($8400) driving Evolution Acoustics' MMMicroOne 2-way monitor loudspeakers with stands ($2500/pair), the sound of a Shelby Lynne demo safety copy of her new album, provided by ATR Services, blew me away with its solid bass, powerful slam, and great depth. True, there was a bit of an edge on Lynne's voice, but it may have been room-induced, and sure didn't stop me from writing "OMG" in my notes.
Scores of DIYers are familiar with Madisound, a company that distributes raw drivers, passive crossover parts, and speaker building supplies, some in kit form. On display were the SEAS of Norway A26 loudspeaker kit with a 10" SEAS A26RE4 woofer and the T35C002 1.5" dome tweeterover 1 million sold, I was toldand the Scan-Speak Nada, with a 7" Illuminator woofer and 1" Beryllium dome tweeter.
When I entered Vienna Acoustics' room, their new Beethoven Baby Grand Symphony Edition (SE) ($4,500/pair), set to ship in November, was playing everything but Beethoven. Thanks to Boulder Electronics' 865 integrated amplifier ($12,500) and 1021 CD/Net DAC ($26,000), the latter streaming music from a Macbook Pro; IsoTek's Sigmas power mains filter network ($3,000); and Analysis Plus Silver Opal cabling, Jack McDuff's tenor sax filled the room with lovely, warm sound. The untreated room was not the kindest to the speaker's bass response, but everything above sounded great.
In a second Audio Alternative room, I was again treated to that old, familiar Boz Scaggs classic, “Thanks to You.” I had just come from the Fidelis AV room, where I had heard the song presented with impressive speed, precision, and clarity, the sound still fresh in my mind. So, I was surprised to hear something different.
Mike Hopkins of Aperion Audio has reason to smile. The Aperion Verus Grand ($1798/pair), a three-way tower loudspeaker with a frequency response of 45Hz22kHz, 6 ohms impedance, and 92dB sensitivity, was being fed by a Marantz SA 1153 SACD player and PM 1153 integrated amplifier via Straight Wire cabling, and delivering a very nice, complete presentation of Belinda Carlisle's cover of "Hallelujah."
Odyssey Audio products are proudly handmade in the US and sold factory-direct. The system I heard consisted of Odyssey’s Kismet Reference loudspeakers ($3500/pair), Stratos stereo amplifier ($1400), Candela preamp ($1500), Suspiro MC/MM phono stage ($1200), Groneberg cables, and a 15-year-old VPI turntable.
At the center of SVS loudspeaker demo were its prototype, hand-built Ultra Series Ultra Towers ($1999/pair), with a rated response of 28Hz22kHz (±3dB). Due November 20, the speaker's trapezoidal cabinet, which has no parallel lines, was blasting raucous, sinfully compressed, ridiculously tipped up rock courtesy of Classé's CA-2300 amplifier and CP-800 preamp. Once the energy shifted, I enjoyed the lovely touch of sanity delivered by cellist Antonio Lysy (from Antonio Lysy At the Broad on Yarlung Records playing Piazzola's "Oblivion" on a fabulous CD that is also available in hi-res download format from Linn. And when the Ultra Series is released, it will also include the SVS Ultra Bookshelf ($999/pair), SVS Ultra Center ($699), and SVS Ultra Surround ($1199/pair).
In the AudioQuest room, I was treated to a course on the Powers of Network Attached Storage. It wasn’t really a course and it wasn’t really called that, but it could have been. AudioQuest’s Steve Silberman is convincing. And I am now convinced that, when the time comes for me to dive into computer audio and other digital waters, I’ll seriously consider a NAS for my needs.
While Silberman has found success with several different NAS devices, on display in the AQ room was Synology’s powerful DS712+, which Silberman says is highly reliable, has a very friendly user interface, and never compromises the performance of his system.
Visual aesthetics were clearly not the main priority in room 431. Pictured is Polk Audio's LSiM 707 loudspeaker ($4000/pair), driven by an unseen Oppo 83 SE used as a transport, the excellent Peachtree DAC/Pre ($4700), and, on the computer end, a Macbook Pro running Amarra 2.4.2 via an Audioquest Carbon USB cable. Audioquest Rocket 88 cabling, PS Audio P10 power conditioner, XLO-10 power cords, and room treatment completed a system that, on George Benson's classic recording of "The Ghetto"a song that doesn't sound remotely like the predominantly Mexican, multi-ethnic and multi-national ghetto in which I livesounded like solid hi-fi.
Eficion’s distinctly shaped F250 loudspeaker ($9950/pair) combines an Air Motion Transformer tweeter with a 5” carbon-fiber midrange unit and a 10” woofer. The speaker has a high specified sensitivity of 90db and a frequency range of 30Hz35kHz.
The speakers were partnered with Plinius (“The Heart of Music”) gear: the 125Wpc, Class-A SA-103 power amplifier ($10,125), M8 preamplifier ($5150), and Tiki 24/96-compatible networking DAC ($4775).