Bless Len Miller of Soundstring Cable Technologies for providing me with a solid presentation of John Travolta's "Stayin' Alive." As my pace increased as I attempted to cover four floors in three days, this music became a mantra of sorts.
Thirteen years after the Maryland-based company’s founding, Stealth Audio Cables stand out for their unique geometry. According to R&D Director Serguei I. Timachev, the cables go from thicker to thinner to assist impedance matching in analog transmission. Handmade, including the connectors, prices range, to use interconnects as an example, from the “amorphous wire in Helium, VanCross geometry of Sakra v12 ($12,000/1m pair) to the pure 99.99% solid-core Gold Signal of PGS rev08 ($1000/1m pair).
The Stein Music Harmonizers (approx. $1100 each; distributor Walter Swanborn of Fidelis AV is putting together package deals that include Stein’s Harmonizer accessories) are one of those mysterious sound-improving devices that are hard to explain to those who have not heard them. They certainly impressed Sam Tellig, who recently discussed them in his monthly Stereophile column.
They’ve also impressed me greatly. A set of four Stein Harmonizers has been residing in my reference system in Oakland for several months, bringing me much pleasure. To these ears, when set up correctly, they have a far from subtle effect on three-dimensionality, transparency, and realism. They take me one step closer to the real thing, making what comes out of my speakers sound less like hi-fi and more like music.
I was delighted to spend some time at T.H.E. Show with the Harmonizers’ designer, Holger Stein of Germany. Stein was showing the newest version of the Harmonizers, which were five years in the making.
The latest Harmonizers have a three-position switch on the rear. Those positions are (1) on with light, (2) on without light to preserve battery life for up to two years, and (3) off, to save energy when the system is not playing. Besides that, they function identically to their predecessor (which I have).
So how does the Stein Harmonizer work? Best to quote directly from Stein. Since, for him, English is a second language, I’ve given him an assist in the editing department:
Midway through Axpona, Norbert Mundorf, maker of the fabled Mundorf capacitors, flew in from Germany to bring the Steinmusic Harmonizer H2a and H2b to the Jaton room. Although I had already blogged the room, I happened to be in the right place to learn what was going on.
It was an audio demo quite unlike most others. Less than two weeks after the debut, at CEDIA 2012 in Indianapolis, of Steinway Lyngdorf's Model LS Concert two-way floor-standing dipole line-source loudspeaker/sound system, the LS Concert joined two other complete Steinway Lyngdorf systems for a "very first" quasi-public unveiling in San Francisco. Jointly staged on two floors of a Pacific Heights mansion, the event was hosted by several entitiesSteinway Lyngdorf, a collaboration between piano maker Steinway & Sons and legendary audio innovator Peter Lyngdorf; Sherman Clay, the largest Steinway dealer in the United States; Engineered Environments, a residential systems design and installation firm that specializes in customized technological "solutions," including home entertainment systems, for a "discerning clientele"; and the Luxury Marketing Council of San Francisco. Hence the RSVP and "business attire" required, valet parking, catered event targeted, not audiophiles, but instead a select group of home builders, architects, custom installers, real estate brokers, and venture capitalists.
For many years, Edge Electronics were inseparable from the electrifying presence of the company's publicist, Denver's Steve Norber. Now Norber has come out with his own line, whose initial offerings include the PranaFidelity Purna amplifier ($8950) and PranaFidelity model Fifty90 loudspeakers ($3950). The amplifier, shown beneath a prototype preamp, outputs 400 W into 8 ohms (700 into 4 and 1200 into 2), and accepts both balanced and single-ended inputs. The loudspeakers in the system were a two-way symmetrical array with dual 15" woofers, a 30mm tweeter, and a frequency range of 39Hz22 kHz. In my brief listen, I found the sound amazingly coherent, controlled, and convincing for a small room. Major thumbs up to this one.
I discovered the popularity of the “Cartridge Alignment” seminars presented by Vana Ltd.’s Stirling Trayle and the “Speaker Set-Up” presentations by AudioBeat.com’s Roy Gregory were when I passed the closed doorway to their seminar room and discovered people already lined up for the next presentation.
Steven Hill, designer and owner of Straight Wire, has released his new Expressivo line of speaker cable ($700/8 ft pair). The cables, which contain four conductors surrounded by multiple spiral shields, include a compressed conductor of special OFHC certified copper and a spiral polyethylene rod that encapsulates the conductor. The net result of his geometry is that the spiral rod only touches the conductor group in a small area, resulting in an effective air-spaced dielectric.
Hill claims that Expressivo’s soundstaging, imagery, and detail retrieval surpass those of his Maestro speaker cable. Expressivo occupies the middle of Straight Wire’s loudspeaker cable line, with three lines above it. The company’s full range of cables ranges in price $1/foot to $150/foot for speaker cable, and from $15 to $900/1m pair of interconnects.
English manufacturer Chord Electronics is known for its sophisticated CD players, which use sophisticated DACs. Indeed there was a huge picture denoting Chord's latest-generation DAC, the QBD 76, at the center of the back wall. As my beat was amplifiers, Chord's designer, John Franks (pictured above), spent the next 30 minutes walking me through the design of Chord's latest amplifier, the SPM 1200 Mk.II ($14,000), a solid-state, 350Wpc stereo mode. The amplifier sits at the bottom of the short stack of audio equipment John is leaning on. He explained that the amplifier has a high-frequency, 2kW, switch-mode power supply, and uses an output stage based on dual-die, lateral-structure MOSFETs with a soft turn/on-turn/off characteristic. This allowed John to use a sliding class-AB design.