Oh my, did Muddy Waters' Folk Singer sound good. I hadn't heard this audiophile classic in many a year, and my time in Mike Garner of TweekGeek.com's room convinced me that it was time for an extended revisit. Garner achieved gorgeous clarity and marvelous quiet on this recording. As I wrote in my notes, "A very special moment."
One of the three rooms at T.H.E. Show created by Scott Walker Audio of Anaheim excelled in solid, grounded sound with a firm bottom and natural tonalities. Ah, don't we all long for a firm bottom and natural toning. But I digress. In this room, YG Acoustics paired its excellent Kipod II Signature loudspeaker ($49,000/pair) with Sim Audio's Moon Evolution 700i 175Wpc integrated amplifier ($13,000) and 650D CD player ($9000)both products that have been highly praised in Stereophile's pagesand Synergistic Research's Galileo cables, PowerCell 10 SE (probably Mk.III), and full complement of Acoustic ART devices. The latter were doing an excellent job, because the two Kipod II's powered woofers were in firm control in a room that rendered many other speakers' bass boom city. "Beautiful triangle. . .wonderful midrange. . .good three-dimensionality" I wrote in my notes. I wasn't handed a price sheet for the Synergistic Research products, but the company makes its entire price list available online here.
Two unusual download sites now offer high-resolution 24-bit files for audiophiles with a taste for adventure. The first, the UK's B&W Music Club, is a one-album-per-month subscription service that premieres complete, audiophile-quality albums in a wide variety of genres chosen and recorded by "curator" Peter Gabriel. The second, HifiTrack.com, is a Hong Kong-based site that offers Chinese and Asian traditional and pop music, Zen and meditation music, and Chinese-flavored Western pop, jazz, and classical.
As Halie Loren sang her distinctly un-Peggy Lee version of "Fever," I reflected on how much I love the color and warm of Unison Research electronics. The internal glow of the sound, and the sweetness of the electric keyboard, especially stood out. Yummy.
Unison Research is the latest company to offer a power booster for low wattage amplifiers whose sound you love, but whose power is insufficient for your speakers. The Unico UPower booster amplifier ($2695 in silver, $2895 in black), pictured with Bartolomeo Nasta, Unison Research's Export Manager (left), and Marc Phillips, US Importer for Colleen Cardas Imports (right), is a class-A booster amplifier can quadruple output power up to 100Wpc, and, as with the Musical Fidelity Superchargers from few years back, is claimed not to change the sonic signature of the electronics it's paired with.
Universal Music Group must be taking its name seriously these days. At a time when some proclaim the demise of the classical recording industry, the conglomerate's many subsidiaries —Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, Philips, and Archiv, along with ECM, which has only a marketing and distribution arrangement with UMG —are embracing new projects on multiple continents with determination and optimism.
Joe Skubinski of JPS Labs introduced its first two USB cables, the Superconductor Q USB (approximately $399/1m) and Superconductor 3 USB (approximately $799/1m). The cables are so new that Skubinski had to guess at the prices. Both boast a precision twisted-quad design with dual shields and gold-plated connectors.
Skubinski’s design goals were to transfer the digital signal as flawlessly as possible without radiating noise into adjacent cables. As I left the room, he and the folks from Usher loudspeakers were about to conduct an experiment to see if the Superconductor 3 could successfully transmit music recorded at 352.8kHz.
My first visit on the Show's final day was to the Usher room. After listening to their large BE10 floorstander ($14,400/pair), paired with the 2500 amp, 2200 preamp, and CD player (combined cost $5600) and cables from Shunyata and Stereovox, I was treated to Usher’s new entry-level $400 bookshelf baby. Seen here at the left of their lineup, other Stereophile writers had been impressed. While Usher’s little babies understandably offered less low bass extension than the big floorstander, they delivered far higher sound quality than anyone in their right mind could either expect or hope for at this price point.
To the growing number of USB cables on the market, Van den Hul now adds the USB Ultimate ($599/1.5m). Maarten Binnendijk, Managing Director of Van den Hul, claims that the company devoted two years to developing the cable to ensure that it "will beat all other USB cables." Only one way to find out. On your mark, get set, GO!
Vapor Audio’s Rick LaFaver had reason aplenty to smile. Playing MA Recordings’ fabled CD of Sera Una Noche: La Segunda, his system nailed the timbre of instruments spot on. I was amazed at the depth he achieved from his small speakers, and took special note of the realistic decay of the sound of brushes on cymbals and bells being struck. “The hollow resonance of the percussion seems real,” I wrote in my notes.