I've always considered the high end to be industrial art. People who favor a certain brand are saying, in a way, "I like that designer's interpretation. I like his or her art."David Wilson
Last March, I had a rare experience akin to hearing the same recording through two different systems. I heard Andris Nelsons conduct the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in the same programHaydn's Symphony 90, and Brahms's Variations on a Theme by Haydn, followed by his Symphony 3in two very different venues: UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall and, 50 miles north, Sonoma State University's Weill Hall.
Gazing at the prototypes of Peter Bizlewicz’s forthcoming Panorama loudspeakers, I couldn’t help wondering if our beloved canine Baci Brown would either attack them as hostile intruders or try to mount them in a futile assertion of alpha dominance. Yes, not only the closest thing to alien invaders so far encountered at the show, but also visually hilarious, these speakers demanded a listen.
I've always wanted to win the lottery so I could buy a pair of Jed Barber's much-coveted Joule Electra tube amps. I've spent hours in the Joule-Elrod room at several CESes, always entranced by the sound, but have never before heard the Joule LA150 Mk.2 preamp ($7000) and VZN 100 OTL monoblocks ($19,000/pair) paired with Merlin VSM MXE loudspeakers ($10,500.pair) and the Audio Aero Prestige CD player ($14,000). Wired with Cardas Golden Reference, this system did a superb job of bringing out the lovely, warm, full-range sound and delicious richness of Gary Karr's double bass on his Cisco Systems Adagio d’Albinoni CD.
For a select group of invitees, Philip O'Hanlon hosted two performances in On a Higher Note's Mirage suite with fabled singer-songwriter Lori Lieberman ("Killing Me Softly with His Song.") Lori entered the suite to rehearse while I was listening to recorded music, and began singing unamplified while Philip and I were in the next room discussing the products on display. I had to stop talking. It is rare that I find myself in the presence of a singer whose every sound expresses the depth of her soul. What an artist. To say that I was transfixed is an understatement.
We have lost a great artist. Mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, 52, who had previously triumphed over breast cancer, died at her home in Santa Fe on July 3. While The New York Times obituary did not specify the cause of death, other reports suggest she died from cancer, leading to speculation that the claims of back trouble and gall bladder inflammation that led to a string of cancellations in the past few years were related to a recurrence of the disease.
The sound in this room blew me away. When I walked in, Dr. John's "In a Sentimental Mood" was sounding as lovely and mellow as can be. Switching gears 180°, Reference Recordings' LP issue of Stravinsky's Firebird had absolutely amazing bass. "Amazing," I wrote twice in my notes.
Lowther-America showcased their prototype, 98dB-sensitive speakers. Aimed at the DIYer, but potentially available in finished form, the open-baffle design uses a Lowther PM5a, Rythmic subwoofer with dedicated servo amplifier, and SLS ribbon tweeter crossed over at 11kHz (DIY parts cost approx. $4500, custom-built approx. $12,000).
Little did I know, as I began my second day at RMAF 2010, how grateful I would be for the laid back sound in the LSA Group and AudioKinesis rooms by the time the day ended. The combination of LSA1 Statement monitors ($2600/pair) and and LSA speaker stands ($379/pair), LSA standard tube hybrid integrated amp ($5000), Exemplar/Oppo CD player ($2500), and Exemplar active cabling (approx. $8000) wasn't particularly fast on my fabulous Marta Gomez recording from Chesky, but it allowed me to slow down and enjoy what was there.
Luciano Pavarotti interrupted the extended farewell tour he'd begun in 2004 to undergo cancer surgery last July in a New York City hospital. Though he often proclaimed intentions to resume touring, he was forced to curtail further public appearances. After a recent hospitalization for a high fever, he was released on August 25 to spend his remaining days at home. His second wife, sister, four daughters, nephews, and close relatives and friends were all at his side in Modena September 6 as he died.
Our meeting was propitious and totally unexpected. The locus was Los Angeles' Sheraton Gateway Hotel last May, on which we had all descended for Home Entertainment 2006. As a contributor to Stereophile's Show blog, my assignment was as liberal as they come: Go where you are drawn, listen as you will, and record your impressions.