Philip O’Hanlon may call his distribution company On a Higher Note, but it was the beauty of his system’s midrange that impressed me the most in his intentionally low-lit room. I couldn’t spend much time hereI lamentably missed playback of the Channel Classics DSD master filesbut on a master tape of guitarists Roy Gaines and Anthony Wilson, I was immediately captivated by the inherent rightness of the sound produced by the Brinkmann Bardo II turntable ($9500), Luxman D-08 CD/SACD player ($17,000) and DA-06 DAC ($6000), Mola Mola Kaluga preamp ($10,000) and Makua monoblocks ($15,000/pair, rave-inducing Vivid G3 Giya loudspeakers ($40,000/pair), Kubala Sosna Elation cabling, and Sonorus ATR10 open-reel tape deck ($13,000).
Three years ago, as the shift to downloadable media gathered momentum, Concord Music Group purchased Telarc International. The suspicion of those who then saw the handwriting on the wall were confirmed this past December, when a company-wide restructuring by CMG included the layoffs of 27 Telarc employees. Among those now on their own are the entire Telarc Production Department, as well as former classical publicist Amanda Sweet.
Latvian enterprise Onda Ligera, manufacturer of loudspeakers and integrated amplifiers, made a very impressive U.S. debut at T.H.E. Show. With products not yet distributed in the US, the company mated its biggest loudspeaker, the 3-way WAVE 168D ($35,000/pair), with what I believe was their IPA 006 integrated amplifier ($15,000). (The speaker’s nominal impedance is 4 ohms, and the 006 is said to be capable of outputting 600W into that load.) Ensuring that the front end would be of similar quality, Onda Ligera used the excellent Esoteric K-01 CD/SACD player ($19,500). I wish I had asked about the cabling and power treatment.
This system sounded extremely fine. On a gorgeously reproduced recording of John Coltrane, for example, bass was tight, and the sound of cymbals seemed very natural.
Named for the Italian word for "wave," three-year old Onda Cables of Calgary, Alberta, Canada has announced its top-of-the-line Onda Riptide ($5800/1m pair). The cables have their own proprietary solid-core silver pin in their RCA terminations, and a combination of 13, 14, 16, and 10-gauge wire. Their Riptide power cord ($5800/5 ft) combines 8 and 16 gauge wires for maximum speed, rhythm, and pace. Onda's Riptide speaker cable ($8900/8 ft pair) uses 9-gauge conductors, augmented with 13 and 16. Owner and designer Greg Kozokowsky learned a lot of his technology from his work as an engineer in Canada's oil sands.
Saturday’s first taste of the real thing for this writer came in the form of midrange truth. The location was the third floor Santa Cruz room put together by Optimal Enchantment, a Santa Monica-based high-end retailer whose 25 plus-year history in the business perhaps grants it the right to so audacious a name. The amps were Audio Research REF 610 monoblocks, each of whose twenty glowing 6550 output tubes help account for their 600W output and $40,000/pair price tag. Speakers were an industry given, the Vandersteen 5As, the cable Audioquest, and the turntable a Basis Debut Signature ($10,900) outfitted with a Transfiguration Orpheus cartridge ($5,000) and Basis Vector Model 3 tonearm ($3750).
After my first day of blogging, one dedicated Stereophile reader dropped John Atkinson a note to lament that I was mainly concentrating on large systems to the expense of smaller ones. Happily for all parties, one of the smaller exhibits he urged me to visitthe Feastrex roomsI had already checked out and have since blogged about.
Photographed in a state of mild panic, as your truly was trying to figure out what was wrong with his new Canon digital camera [Answer: nothing but his brain], the dedicated Serinus RMAF work area at the Marriott is pictured in its characteristically unglorious state.
A sister company of Argento Audio of Denmark, Organic Audio now launched a complete line of copper cables. These include Organic Audio interconnects ($995/1m pair RCA, $1075/1m pair XLR), speaker cable ($1950/2m pair), and power cords ($995/2m). By contrast, interconnects in the all-silver Argento range from $2000$9500/1m pair. All products are distributed by Ricardo Reyes (left) of Musical Artisans in Skokie, IL.
Ulrik Madsen (right), who designs the cables and owns the company, was on hand to discuss his products. All Organic Audio cables are derived from Argento Audio’s entry-level Argento Serenity. “I wanted to take advantage of the connectors I developed for Argento,” Madsen explain. “We make all our Organic Audio connectors ourselves from the same metal as the conductors in the cables, which is OFC 99.997% copper. (The more expensive Argento cabling uses silver). There are no solder points; all attachments are made by applying set-screws to accomplish compression.
After years of attending shows where Nordost cabling was successfully paired with Raidho Acoustics speakers, I was surprised to learn that the Raidho Acoustics Ayra C-2 ($24,000) speakers are internally wired with Nordost Valhalla. No wonder the combination is so synergistic. Frankly, even a boom box would sound like a breakthrough product if it were wired with the Nordost Odin I heard in this room. Odin ain't cheapOdin power cables cost $11,000 for a decent length, interconnects $16,000 for 1m, and speaker wire starts at $20,000 for 1m, with the best sound said to come from 4 meter lengths of speaker cable and an investment of $38,000but the sound is as full, complete, neutral, and satisfying as anything I've yet heard. My own experience confirms that single Odin power cable can transform the sound of a system.