TwinAudioVideo teamed up with Acoustic Zen to pair the large and imposing Acoustic Zen Crescendo loudspeaker ($16,000/pair) with Triode Corporation Ltd. of Japan's Tri TRV-4SE tube preamp ($1,900), the power module of the Tri TRV-845SE 20W pure class-A integrated amp ($6000), and Tri TRV-CD4SE tube CD player with 192kHz upsampling ($2200). The Crescendo is a 3-way, 125 lb transmission-line design with 6 ohms nominal impedance, 89dB sensitivity, and a frequency range of 20Hz to 30kHz. Also in the room on the floor were two ORB power traps (aka power conditioners/distributors), the Kyoto ($6000) and Kamakura ($3900), and, of course, Acoustic Zen cabling. This system did a fine job of capturing music's beauty and warmth. Which is saying a lot.
It takes people of vision to advance sound quality in an errorthank you, Mr. Freud, I mean erawhen record companies often seem set on anything but advancing the quality of music and musical reproduction. Hence, for his panel "Adventures in Digital Formats, Upsampling & Dithering," John Atkinson and RMAF's Kurt Bauer assembled an extraordinary panel.
Directly across the hall from Musical Surroundings, Garth and Jim White, owner and designer of Aesthetix Audio Corporation, played the same French jazz recording I had just heard. This time, the Clearaudio Innovation Wood turntable ($10,000) with TT2 linear tonearm ($9500) and daVinci v2 cartridge ($5500) did the honors. Handling the rest were the Aesthetix Rhea Signature phono stage ($7,000), part of the Saturn series and named after one of the moons of Saturn; and the same Aesthetix Atlas power amp ($8000) as used across the hall. Vandersteen Quatro Wood speakers, HRS equipment stand, Kubala-Sosna cables and Running Springs Audio power products completed the chain.
All the wire used in DH Labs's products is manufactured in the USA; cables are manufactured in the same facility that manufactures for NASA. At least 11 major recording studios use the company's cables, and others will soon join the list. This, along with the nice sound albeit not ultimately detailed sound they were getting from their modest display system certainly suggests that they're doing something right.
Using as his source a MacBook Pro playing iTunes/Pure Music, Dusty Vawter of Channel Islands was using his Transient MK II asynchronous USB converter ($699) with the VDC-5 Mk.II upgrade power supply ($399), PLC-1 Mk.II preamp ($899), D-500 Mk.II monoblock amplifiers ($5000/pair), and speaker prototypes that, perhaps a year from now, will yield Channel Islands loudspeakers. Playing a cover of "Sounds of Silence" on an Usher sampler, the sound was invitingly warm. The system also did a beautiful job of transmitting the natural sound of cymbals, which is no easy task.
As I walked into the Emotiva room, a blast from the distant past greeted me with a smile. It was the Eagles, live, welcoming me to Hotel California. Resisting the temptation to declare, "But I've just come from there," I instead noted the solidity of the bass line, the powerful slam, and the sonic warmth that really did feel like a welcome. "Welcome to Emotiva land," the system seemed to sing.
Although he looks a bit burned from being asked to play one too many Columbia LPs, whose harsh string tone belies the myth that vintage analog recordings are de facto superior to CDs, Dan Meinwald has a lot to be happy about. The EAR Acute CD player ($5900), 890 Primary Drive 70W stereo amp, 868 preamp complete with phono stage ($6900), Discmaster turntable ($20,000 without tonearm), Dynavector XVIS cartridge, and debut 3-way, open-baffle dipole loudspeakers ($7000/pair—also available in a larger model) were creating a wonderful, magical soundstage on Stokowski’s monumental recording of Smetana’s The Moldau. It’s no wonder that so many dedicated audiophiles continue to be seduced for life by EAR’s vaunted sweetness and bloom.
Kara Chaffee has every reason to smile even wider than she's smiling here. Her DeHavilland GM-70 50W SET monoblocks ($11,000/pair) and Ultraverve remote preamp ($2995) were creating one of the most wondrous, air-filled soundstages I have heard. "We aim at the heart of the music," she told me after I had spent a while listening to some of my favorite CDs.