Robert Baird mentioned the seminar program presented at the New York Audio Show by The Sound Organisation. I applaud the Chester Group for featuring educational sessions like these at the Show. At the session I attended, renowned recording engineer Jim Anderson (above), past president of the Audio Engineering Society and Chair of the Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music at New York University's Tisch School for the Arts, compared the original and revised versions of Patricia Barber's Cafe Blue, as well as playing tracks from her new album Smash, which he mixed at Skywalker Sound. The system featured a pair of active MB2S-A monitors from English company PMC, with their distinctive dome midrange units, fed audio from a PrismSound Orpheus DAC and a MacBook Pro.
Michael Fremer raved, raved about the Soundsmith SG-200 strain-gauge phono cartridge system in the March issue. "The SG-200 is a unique game-changing product," he wrote, so I made sure I checked it out at Axpona. In a system featuring Soundsmith's own HE150 MOSFETamplifiers and Dragonfly two-way standmounts ($1500/pair), the strain-gauge cartridge, mounted in a Schröder Reference tonearm on a VPI turntable, breathed new life into Dave Brubeck's "Take Five," with a clean, open sound and excellent upper-bass clarity. When Mikey write that the SG-200 was "as addicting as its proponents say," my experience at Axpona convinced me he was correct.
Back in the bad old pioneer days of high fidelity, the 1960s and early 1970s, amplifier manufacturers embarked on a specifications war, claiming ever lower percentages of total harmonic distortion. But, as J. Gordon Holt presciently pointed out in the 1960s, without reference to the spectrum of the distortion harmonics, the actual percentage was not in itself a reliable indicator of an amplifier's sound quality. And as those early low-THD models had distortion spectra that were heavily biased toward the sonically objectionable fifth, seventh, and ninth harmonics, and suffered from other related ills, they tended to sound quite nasty.
The analog front end in the E.A.R. USA room was the Townshend Rock 7 turntable ($3200), with its unique system for applying damping where it is most needed, at the cartridge end of the arm rather than the pivot, fitted with the Helios Omega arm ($2800) and a Dynavector XV1S cartridge. Phono preamp was the E.A.R. 324 that both Art Dudley and Mikey Fremer have enthused over in the pages of Stereophile.
As well as providing the sound for the seminar room, which was where a recorded music concert, titled "Euphoria at the Waldorf," was presented Friday and Saturday evenings, The Tweak Studio's exhibit room also featured components from the premium German manufacturer Burmester: a pair of 380 Mk.2 speakers driven by a 911 power amplifier and an 088 preamp. Source was a Walker turntable and arm fitted with a Soundsmith Sussuro Hyperion cartridge. There was much to admire in this system's reproduction of Louis Armstrong singing "St. James Infirmary," but as was the case with so many of the rooms at the Waldorf, the presentation was marred by over-ripe room acoustics.
Chicago retailer Tweak Studio has been a fixture at the 2013 shows, and proprietor Arnold Martinez was demming a system featuring Elac 249 Black Edition speakers ($8000/pair) driven by a Burmester 911 amplifier ($31,000), Esoteric C-03X preamplifier, Burmester A/D phono preamplifier ($26,500), and Music Hall MMF-11 turntable fitted with a Goldring Legacy cartridge ($600). Wiring was all WireWorld Platinum series and the racks was a Stillpoints. The L-shaped lobby-level room had problematic acoustics, which Martinez had addressed by firing the Elac speakers, with their AMT tweeter and distinctive faceted lower-frequency drivers, across a diagonal, A dub version of Bob Marley’s “Waiting In Vain,” played from LP, was musically convincing.
Revel main man Kevin Voecks demmed the new four-way Ultima Salon2, previewed yesterday by Wes Phillips, for the Stereophile scribes. It was worth the wait. With all-Mark Levinson electronics, the dem program ranged over many music types, culminating in Little Feat’s “Long Distance Love,” whose awesomely deep low frequencies didn’t faze the speaker’s triple 8” titanium-cone woofers with their edge-wound rubbon voice-coils. Price will be $22k/pair, with availability in early spring ’07.
Because of the restrictions placed on merchandise sales at CES, the usual Acoustic Sounds booth, stocking much-in-demand LPs, SACDs, and CDs, was nowhere to be found. But the Kansas company still had a display room showing the hardware lines it distributes, including Thorens, Sutherland, and Stirling. But founder Chad Kassem was most proud of the new Analogue Productions LP: the Ultimate Analogue Test LP. Produced by Clark Williams and Barry Wolfson, with input from George Marino and others, cut at Sterling Sound, and pressed on 180gm vinyl by RTI, the Test LP has a selection of tracks to enable the LP lover to optimally set up his system.