The first room to seize my attention today paired Triode Electronics from Japan with the Adagio Acoustic Zen and Micropure Kotaro speakers. Neither speakers was an ideal match for the Triode TRV 35SE (an El34-based class-A/B integrated amp offering 45Wpc for $1699) or Triode TRV-M300SE (300B parallel single-ended monoblocks outputting 20W for $4000), since both amps need higher-sensitivity speakers to truly shine. But both the soundstage and midrange were exceptionally enveloping, with highs more extended on the Kotaros. Distributed by Twin Audio Video of Loma Linda, designer Junichi Yamazaki’s amps have only been available in the US since April.
The synergy is palpable between Triode Corporation's Japanese-made electronics, distributed by Santo Oropel's Twin AudioVideo, and Acoustic Zen's loudspeakers and cables, masterminded by Robert Lee. At CES, Triode premiered the imminently available TRX-M300 8W into 8 ohms triode monoblocks (approx. $14,000$15,000/pair). Built around a 300B tube driven by a 91A tubethere are one 300B, two 91As, and one 274Bthe 60 lb monoblock includes auto-bias, and has a frequency response of 10Hz50kHz, +0, 3dB.
It may read like a page out of a classic corporate crime thriller, but the threat is real. ExpoPul, a company whose factory in Saratov, Russia manufactures vacuum tubes under the brand names Sovtek, Electro-Harmonix, Tungsol, Svetlana, Mullard, and others—tubes that include the 6H30 "super tube"—is threatened by one of the many Russian corporate "raiders" who are increasingly stealing businesses from their rightful owners. If the threatened hostile takeover proves successful, two-thirds of the world's supply of vacuum tubes—tubes vital to the sound of audiophile gear and instruments from such well-known companies as McIntosh, Audio Research, BAT, Jadis, Fender, KORG, Peavey, Vox, Soldano, Carvin, Ampeg, and Crane—could become a thing of the past.
In a room tuned with the amazing Acoustic System Acoustic Resonators to sound good with the glass window exposed, Darren and Bonnie Censullo of Avatar Acoustics displayed a system distinguished by the kind of openness and air that some people would kill for. Products included the Abbington Music Research AMR CD-77 and AMR AM-77 ($8500 each, both outfitted with NOS tubes), Acoustic System Tango Speaker ($13,500/pair), Current Cable Powercord and interconnects, and a host of Acoustic Resonators. If you look closely, you may see one of the diminutive resonators ($200–$2200) on the rear window. This is one system I hope to revisit if time allows. I’d love to hear some of these products in my own listening room, which is far bigger than the hotel suites into which most systems were shoeboxed.
It's hard enough to take a good photo when your subject is rapt in conversation. But when your subject is Michael Fremer, and his subject is Turntable Set-Up, the challenge is immense. Standing before a packed house of analog devotees, Michael was so animated, and so filled with information, that even my camera had a tough time staying still.
I love this stuff. Ultra System's Robert Stein (pictured right with Bernd Alne of HiFi-Tuning left) greeted me with an entire array of 12 audio enhancement products, a host of which are just entering the US market. One that will surely attract Michael Fremer's attention is the Audio Desk Systeme Vinyl Cleaner. This German wonder, which retails for $3495, delivers the world's first, fully automatic ultrasonic as well as mechanical LP cleaning bath. The baby treats both sides of an LP to an ultrasonic cleaning, then to a liquid bath, and finally to a blow dry. The only services it doesn't offer are tints and highlights.
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.