The delightful Gilbert Yeung of Blue Circle, minus the Mickey Mouse ears and Snake Oil display I encountered at the last Show, has a thing for circles. I'm not complaining. After seeing boxes upon boxes upon boxes, encountering a surfeit of circles is super. (I have a feeling someone is going to rake me over the coals in the comments section for that one.)
Alan (left) and Simon (right) Zreczny of Audio Consultants
When a retailer entitles his two-day open house, "Innovations in High Fidelity," it's essential that his staff know their stuff. For Audio Consultants, there was no question. With four stores in the greater Chicago area, Audio Consultants is, save perhaps for Magnolia, the largest as well as longest established audio dealer in the region.
Audio Consultants was also the only Chicago area high-end store to abstain from exhibiting at Axpona Chicago. When asked why, Simon Zreczny, who runs the store with his son, Alan, replied, "I don't like to be at shows. I don't enjoy doing them. I'm happiest with my customers. I attend 50 live concerts a year, and I always see my customers next to me."
It's said that your first experience on entering a space sets the tone for all that follows. At LP pressing plant Record Technology, Inc. (RTI), that experience is my encounter with veteran pressman Richard Lopez, who responds to my request for direction. As he leaves his vintage record press to lead me to owner Don MacInnis, Lopez reads aloud the sticker on a box of recently pressed LPs. "WORLD'S FINEST PHONOGRAPH RECORDS," he declares with pride. As I reflect on how few workers today feel so connected to the products they make, I sense that something special lies ahead.
Boy, is it hard to take a good photo when a company purposely leaves the shades behind their equipment wide open. But given that Darren Censulo of Avatar Acoustics (now relocated to Fayetteville, GA) had tuned the room with Frank Chang's Acoustic System International Resonators so that it would sound great with all that exposed glass, asking him to close the shades in order to snap a clearer picture was out of the question.
Talk about an eye (and ear) catcher. Dominating the Wyndham’s Rope roomall the conference rooms have cute nautical namesand set up by Bill Gibson of Jacksonville-based House of Stereo, loomed Audience's ClairAudient LSA 16+16 line source loudspeaker ($54,000/pair). A one-way bi-pole, it uses an identical array of 16 Audience A3-S 3" drivers in the front and back, and boasts an impressive 99dB sensitivity. With its line-source array, it should image well anywhere in the room, and can be driven to a continuous and deafening 129dB.
This system is worth learning about, because it nailed tonalities spot-on. After going room-to-room for three days, I assure you that getting tonality and timbre spot-on is no mean feat. In fact, it's a pretty elusive goal for most components.
With so much new equipment to cover, and so little time, I only listened to a handful of systems at CES. One of the few that really wowed me to the core was in the “Made in the USA” Absolare room at T.H.E. Show. The system mated the parallel single-ended 52W Absolare Passion 845 monoblock amplifiers ($37,500) and single-ended Absolare Passion preamplifier ($25,000)both manufactured in New Hampshirewith a full MSB digital systemMSB Signature DATA CD IV transport ($7995), MSB Diamond DAC Plus with Femto Second Galaxy Clock ($38,950), MSB Signature Transport Powerbase ($3495), and MSB Diamond Power Base ($5995)Rockport Technologies Altair II loudspeakers ($100,000/pair), Absolare Bybee Purifier ($7250), Absolare Speaker Bullets ($3750/set of four), and Echole cables.
Gary Koh of speaker manufacturer Genesis was happy to show off the new Absolute Fidelity Interface cables. Being sure to note that the product does not use the Genesis name, because it has been designed to be used with all loudspeaker brands, it has been give its own dedicated Absolute Fidelity website.
“To me, a cable should not function as a component; it should be an interface between two components,” said Koh. “Since every component is different, and draws power differently, I’ve designed different cables to interface between different components.”
The Absolute Fidelity Interface line currently includes the Loudspeaker Interface ($3000/2m pair); Turntable Power interface, Amplifier Power interface, and Component Power interface (each $1800/1m pair); and Component Interface (for use between source components, $1800/0.6m pair).
Koh explained that, a few years back, when he could not find a cable sufficiently transparent to do full justice to his Genesis 1.2 loudspeaker, he began rolling his own. Steve McCormack and a few other designers he works with were so impressed with the cable that they urged him to market it.
“I didn’t really launch them,” Koh said with a smile. “They just started selling. You can call this the official launch.”
Given how impressed John Atkinson and I were by the combination of Acapella High Violoncello II speakers ($80,000/pair) and Einstein electronics demmed at Axpona 2010 and CES last January, I was eagerly anticipating another opportunity to enjoy these imposing babies. The opportunity came in the room co-sponsored by Loggie Audio of Redwood City and Aaudio Imports. (They were the same samples that until recently had resided in JA's listening room for his review in the forthcoming September issue.)
"I am a substantial amp, and I deserve your attention," Accustic Arts' new, pure class-A AMP IIMk.2 dual-mono power amplifier ($11,000) seems to declare. Its aesthetics certainly got me to take notice. The 121 lb amplifier includes 24 MOSFETs, and both balanced and single-ended inputs and bi-wire/bi-amping speaker terminals. It outputs 250Wpc into 8 ohms, and 500 into 4. Also available, albeit not pictured, is Accustic Arts' fully balanced, tube hybrid TUBE-PREAMP II ($6500), with 3 XLR and two RCA inputs, and 2 XLR and 1 RCA outputs. The company also makes a transport, DAC, streamer, cables and accessories. While these products, handmade in Germany, have been out for a while, this appears to be the first time they've become available in the US.