Many, many moons ago, in the days when Stereophile was a small digest rather than a full-sized magazine and lively website, I owned an Aragon 4004 dual-monoblock amplifier. Oh how I wish I had never sold my 4004, with circuitry designed by Dan d'Agostino, and instead mated it with a front end, speakers, and cabling that could have revealed all that it had to offer.
You, thankfully, have an opportunity to find out just how good the circuitry is. The just-introduced Aragon 8008, a software-upgradable, 200Wpc dual monoblock amplifier ($4999) with dual, symmetrical power supply and ethernet-based control and status monitoring, is now produced by Indy Audio Labs, who bought the brand from Klipsch in 2009.
One of the reasons for Acoustic Zen's Robert Lee journey north was to visit his extended family, part of which lives in Millbrae. When I encountered them on the final day of the show, I could not get over how beautiful his grandchildren look. No wonder Robert's tweeter sings so sweetly.
ArkivMusic, one of the Web's leading sources for classical music recordings, has struck a deal that enables them to release on their own reissue label, ArkivCD, out-of-print titles from the extensive catalogues of EMI Classics, Virgin Classics, and Angel Records. The reissues are available "on demand," copied from actual out-of-print CD releases (not master tapes) without compression or enhancement, and are often accompanied by copies of the original liner notes.
ArkivMusic.com has just signed a deal with Warner Classics to reissue, on demand, out-of-print recordings from Teldec, Erato, and Warner Classics. The site's first 300 offerings from the Warner USA catalog, available at the end of October, will join the more than 4000 other out-of-print titles from EMI, Sony/BMG, Universal Music Group, and two dozen independent classical music labels now available on demand from ArkivMusic on ArkivCD. An additional 1000 ArkivCD reissue titles should become available by the end of 2007.
At the advice of Jeff Wilson and Bob Kuehn, two highly discriminating members of the Bay Area Audiophile Society back home, I auditioned a system with truly enviable, openness and three-dimensionality. The combination of the ART Audio Adagio 26Wpc stereo amplifier ($13,000 with the eye-catching canister light), Gill DAC/preamp ($7500), Audio Excellence power supply, Silversmith Platinum cables, Pranawire power cables, and Ars Aures Midi Sensorial speakers ($19,000/pair—where do they come up with these names?) offered a glimpse of the grace and vulnerability rarely exhibited by many of the brutes of the industry. As Karina Gauvin shared a bit of her soul on Canteloube’s Songs of the Auvergne, I basked in the system’s all-enveloping warmth. The Bill Evans track chosen by Lee Landesberg of Landes Imports sounded fabulous. Definitely one of the high points of my Saturday morning at the RMAF.
Art loudspeakers, made in Scotland, paired up German-manufactured audio components from AcousticPlan and a line transformer from Japan to make their joint US debut at the 2007 RMAF. In two adjacent rooms, I heard two different Art models. As depicted in the photo with Art's Derek Dunlap, I first auditioned the art Stiletto 6 loudspeaker ($5000/pair), mated with AcousticPlan's Sitar hybrid-design integrated amp ($7500, complete with external power supply), Audio Technic line transformer from Japan (also debuting), and Cary Audio CD player. The Stiletto, a vented two-way made from birch plywood without use of MDF, measures 88.5dB sensitivity and has a fairly linear frequency response that starts at the mid '30s. It features a SEAS 6" coated-paper driver and a 1" soft-dome tweeter equipped with a proprietary horn to create a delightfully open soundstage. I was quite impressed with this system, which produced very warm, rich sounds that belied the speaker's diminutive size.
The sound in the room from Arte Forma of Taiwan, represented in the US by Aire Audio, completely seduced me. Playing a wonderful recording of pianist Murray Perahia performing Handel, I was captivated by the presentation’s beautiful glow and air. It felt as though a light was shining from within the piano. This system portrayed the high treble delicacy of the piano’s strings like few others.
Taking this year's novel room treatment prize lying down was Artemis Labs of Simi Valley, CA. Undoubtedly wishing to imprint a message that their equipment produces the sound of your dreams, on display were the Artemis Labs SA-1S ($11,000) and SA-1 ($7800) turntables; Schröder Reference SQ ($5600 Euros) and Artemis Labs TA-1 ($3500) tonearms; Artemis Labs cartridge (not yet priced), PX-1 (LCR) phono pre (ditto), LX-1 linestage (ditto encore), LA-1 linestage ($3500), and SP-1 18Wpc power amp ($18,000). Rounding out the system were the fine Verity Audio Leonore loudspeaker ($15,995/pair) and Purist Audio Design cabling.
You don't need me to tell you that listening habits are changing. Although those who predict that the end of our beloved home stereo systems is near (footnote 1) have more than a little in common with those who predict the imminent destruction of humankind, there's no question that listening via computers, iPods, and headphones has become the order of the day among a large segment of younger Americans.