As readers of the Stereophile eNewsletter will be aware, the twin subjects of distributing music around my home and integrating my iTunes library of recordings into my high-end system have occupied much of my attention the past year. I bought an inexpensive Mac mini to use as a music server, using an Airport Express as a WiFi hub, which worked quite well, but my big step forward was getting a Squeezebox. I described this slim device in the mid-March and mid-April eNewsletters; I urge readers to read those reports to get the full background on this impressive device. In addition, the forums and Wiki pages on the Slim Devices website offer a wealth of information on getting the most from a Squeezebox.
Listening to a Toni Braxton cut on the LSA1 Statement speakers ($2599/pair), driven by an Exemplar-modded Denon 2910 DVD player and LSA's hybrid integrated amplifier (reviewed by Stereophile when it was called the DK Designs VS.1 Reference Mk.III), I was struck by how much low-frequency information was coming from this nicely finished two-way stand-mount.
I am sure that contributing to the superbly neutral, well-balanced, uncolored, full-range sound in this room was the acoustic treatment from Swedish company SMT, which provided a combination of absorbers and diffusors. And dig the treatment applied to the ceiling by SMT, with different-radius sphere segments. Other exhibitors could take lessons from Martin and its US distributor Dan Meinwald.
When someone is described as having "written the book" on a subject, it is generally taken as a figure of speech. But veteran speaker designer Joseph D'Appolito, PhD, quite literally "wrote the book." His Testing Loudspeakers (Audio Amateur Press, 1998) is an invaluable resource for those of us who, lacking any talent for designing speakers ourselves, nevertheless find the subject of speaker performance endlessly fascinating. So when Snell's PR consultant, Bryan Stanton, contacted me a while back about reviewing the LCR7, the first design D'Appolito had seen through from start to finish for the Massachusetts-based company since he had replaced David Smith as Snell's chief engineer, I suffered from more than a little anxiety.
Trees. All I could see from Route 44 was trees. Many, many trees. How many trees? Exactly 251.1 million maples, hickories, pines, hemlocks, ashes, and oaks of all colors, with trunks 5" or greater in diameter, according to an online survey I later found on the Web. Once you get away from I-95 and the coast, Connecticut seems to be one large forest, its towns peeking out from barely adequate clearings. And not just "seems"—the same online survey says that 57% of the Constitution State's 3,205,760 acres are officially classified as "forest."
SSI seems to feature a higher proportion than usual of rooms sponsored by high-end dealers, and one of the best sounds I experienced was in the room from Montreal dealer Son-Or Filtronique. The top-line, multi-box dCS Scarlatti SACD front-end (soon to be reviewed for Stereophile by Mikey Fremer) drove Audio Research electronics (Reference 3 preamp and Reference 110 amplifier) with speakers the impressive Kliimt from Vienna Acoustics. Cabling was all Shunyata. Corinne Bailey Rae's perfomance of Joni Mitchell's "River," from the Herbie Hancock CD of the same name, was reproduced with midrange to die for, though the low frequencies were a touch over-ripe, I thought.
Son-or-Filtronique was celebrating its 41st year of being in business at SSI and the retailer's larger room featured Verity Sarasto Mk.2 speakers driven by Audio Research Reference 210 tube monoblockslove those green power metersand the relatively new Audio Research Reference Five preamplifier. Source was the fully-loaded, four-box dCS Scarlatti SACD/CD player that Michael Fremer reviewed last August. (My apologies S-or-F, but I didn't note the cables being used.) This was the last room I visited at SSI and all my notes said was "Wow!" So that's all I have to say here.
Wes Phillips gave me the tip. "You must check out the Sonicweld room. Their active Pulserod system uses the DEQX digital crossover." So I checked it out. Comprising two 4'-tall Pulserod towers and two Subpulse subwoofers, the system costs $110,000 but includes all amplificationthree 200W class-D ICE modules for the upper-range drivers in each tower and a1.1kW class-D amp for each 15" subwooferthe crossover module, cables, and even a remote control.
Sonist's Randy Bankert was about to grab some lunch when I stopped by his room on the last day of the Show, but he graciously stayed on to explain what was new about the Concerto 4 speaker ($5895/pair). Art Dudley had reviewed the earler Concerto 3 a couple of years back and described it as coming close "to being the one true, affordable, all-around satisfying choice among the SET-friendly loudspeakers with which I'm familiar." I had found some cabinet resonant problems, however, which Randy had fixed by the time I auditioned the Concerto 3 at the 2010 Axpoina in Jacksonville. The new speaker uses two paper-cone woofers rather than one with the same ribbon tweeter and solid poplar front baffle, and boasts a claimed 97dB sensitivity. This allowed the Concerto 4 to fill the Atlanta room (sensibly treated with Real Traps) with sound with just 5Wpc from the EL84-fitted Glow Audio Amp One ($648). Source was a Cary CAD306 SACD player.
Don't get the wrong idea. I don't watch trash TV. I am not interested in the doings of people who are famous merely for being famous. I was probably the last to realize that Paris Hilton was not the name of a French hotel. But the kitchen TV just happened be tuned to Channel 4 when I switched it on while I was preparing dinner. No, I do not watch NBC's Extra, but as I was reaching for the remote I was stopped in my tracks by what I saw. The show was doing a segment on the new L.A. home of Jessica Aguilera, or Christina Simpson, or . . . well, it doesn't matter. What does matter was the host's mention of all the cool stuff the bimbette had had installed in her new pied-à-terre: "...and a Sonos audio system, of course."