I don't know who came up with the idea of having the female SSI staff wear blue wigsas they have been doing for the past two yearsbut I think the idea was a brilliant one. The blue wigs not only make the staff instantly identifiable, but they communicate a sense of fun, and that's just what the show is. It also helps that the staff are unfailingly pleasant and cheerful.
The first room I visited at SSI 2015 was the one devoted to the Soltanus Acoustics ESL Virtuoso loudspeaker (CAD$10,995/pair). Why did I choose this room? First, their room was right next door to mine, so it was a matter of convenience. And when I saw the sign that said that they were showing a full-range electrostatic loudspeakerwell, given my history with the original Quad and KLH Nine, I was most intrigued.
And this speaker turned out to be one of my "finds" at the show...
No show report can be considered complete without at least one picture of an esoteric tube amplifier, and I wouldn't want to break with this tradition. The Wavac HE 833Ver 1.3 is the stripped-down version of the $350,000/pair SH-833 that was reviewed by Michael Fremer and caused some readers apoplexy. This one is a mere $140,000/pair, the lower price reflecting less elaborate power supplies. A bargain, I'm telling you! I have no reason to believe that this would measure any better than the one reviewed by Mikey, but I must say that the sound of the Verity Lohengrins driven by these amps, using a dCS digital source, was—apart from some bass softness, which could even have been room-related-absolutely terrific, certainly one of the best sounds at the show. Go figure.
Synergistic's PHT ($199/set of two) is a very tiny, tweezer-ready HFT designed to placed atop a phono cartridge, and is marketed with a nod and wink: "grown in California, legal in all 50 states" (PHT is pronounced pot). Analog vets might remember Apature's line of moving-coil cartridges from the 1980s, which included the models Panama Red, Maui Blue, and Koce (which was white). Think I'm handing you a line? I've got a Koce here.
System Audio A/S is a Danish manufacturer of loudspeakers that's been in business since 1984, but I must admit that I've never heard of it before—probably a function of the fact that North American distribution has been spotty. Listening to the new SA Rangers ($4000), I was convinced that the fault was certainly not of the speakers. The sound was open, with a wide and deep soundstage, and a great sense of "quickness." (The system used an Arcam CD source and electronics, and Nordost Valhalla speaker cables.) The SA product literature also convinced me that this is a mature, fully developed product line, with some proprietary technology, including a dome tweeter that weighs just 80mg, making it possibly the world's lightest. Pictured are S/A's sales manager Frits Dalmose (left), Canadian distributor Bruno de Lorimier (right), and the SA Ranger (middle).
T+A (Theory and Application) is a German audio company best known in North America for their electronics and source components, not their speakers. That’s about to change with the appointment of Dynaudio as T+A’s North American distributor, and the introduction of the T+A Criterion line of loudspeakers. Asked whether Dynaudiowhich, of course, is a loudspeaker manufacturerhas collaborated with T+A on the design and/or manufacturing of their speakers, Dynaudio’s Mike Manousselis quickly assured me that Dynaudio functions only as the distributor for T+A; the T+A speakers are manufactured entirely in the T+A factory in Herford, Germany. Dynaudio makes loudspeaker drivers that are used by quite a few speaker manufacturers, but T+A is not among them.
Those who’ve admired the sound of the speakers from TAD, but could not get past the prices, will be interested in the new line from Pioneer, which use trickle-down versions of the TAD drivers and cabinets just slightly less elaborate in resonance-damping characteristics, and much lower prices ($6000 for the S-1EX pair on demo). Designer Andrew Jones is obviously pleased by the sound, as well he might be.
Two venerable British makeswho share a North American distributor and neither one content to rest on their laurelsteamed up at SSI 2012, the Tannoy Definition DC8T ($6200/pair) being combined with the Linn Akurate DSM digital streamer ($9200) and Linn Akurate 2200 integrated amp ($6000) to produce a very clean, dynamic sound.
The Tannoy/Linn room had a nice-sounding setup featuring the Tannoy DC-10S speakers ($17,500/pair), Linn Akurate preamp/media streamer ($9350), and Akurate 4200 four-channel amp ($8360). The speakers were had a very attractive glossy finish, which is now offered as an alternative to the traditional Tannoy satin.
Now, that's a real speaker! Unless you examine it, or read the literature on the Tannoy Canterbury GR ($30,000/pair), you might think that you're looking at a speaker made more than a half-century ago: a very substantial floorstander that's wide as well as deep, making no concession to modern speaker design ideas like keeping as narrow a front baffle as possible.