The Question of Bass: J. Gordon Holt A few issues back, in Vol.9 No.3, I used "As We See It" to clarify what Stereophile writers have in mind when they use the term "transparency" in equipment reports. This time, I'll do the same thing for the performance parameters of bass reproduction.
Quintessence was a brand new to me, but it turns out that the company's Shadow V loudspeaker ($35,000/pair) was designed by PBN's Peter Noerbaek. Driven by PBN amplifiers and playing a Nat King Cole track from open-reel tape, this large, elegant 225 lb speaker sounded a little lacking in air at the top, but this may well have been due to the room being larger than optimal for the tweeter's dispersion. The sound was otherwise high quality, with an uncolored midrange and extended lows.
An Audio Show wouldn't be an Audio Show without live music, to allow Showgoers to recalibrate their ears. The 2009 SSI featured two concerts, one by jazz pianist and singer Anne Bisson, the other by the Michel Donato Trio, seen here, with Donato on double bass, Jon Gearey on guitar, and Marin Nasturica on accordion. Both acts have audiophile sound-quality CDs available from Montreal's Fidelio Audio, and other news from SSI was that these recordings are now available as 24-bit, 96kHz files.
Simaudio's products were featured in several rooms at SSI and on Saturday afternoon, the Montreal-based manufacturer celebrated its 30th anniversary by sponsoring a concert by Anne Bisson, a local and apparently very popular singer/pianist, to judge b the packed house.
Allowing Showgoers to calibrate their ears as he has done at prior AXPONA shows, pianist John Yurick did a great job in the DoubleTree's lobby. Sunday afternoon, as I was leaving for the airport, John was joined by someone playing standards from the American songbook on a chromatic harmonicluvverly music!
Stereophile Shows in the past always had full programs of live music, to allow Showgoers to recalibrate their ears. While Axpona had a live concert Friday night featuring Steve Davies on guitar and vocals and John Yurick on keyboards, with me guesting on bass, this was for exhibitors and press only. Fortunately, John Yurick performed live on piano in the hotel's lobby during Show hours, offering up some excellent jazz standards.
After a hard day's morning presenting my hi-rez digital audio dems, I wandered into the Marriott's Atrium to sip on a Starbucks Grande Cafe Mocha. There I enjoyed some fine singing and guitar picking from Dan Weldon on the Zu Audio stand. The Utah cable'n'speaker company, whose modification of the classic Denon DL103D cartridge will be reviewed in the December issue of Stereophile, was presenting live music throughout the Show, with their high-sensitivity speakers used as the PA. Nice one, guys.
Back in the last century, I mused in this space about the essential difference between recorded sound and the real thing. I had been walking to dinner with friends when I heard the unmistakable sound of live music coming from a window. But here was the kicker: rather than the instruments being of the audiophile-approved acoustic variety, they were two amplified electric guitars. Their sounds were being reproduced by loudspeakers, yet it was unambiguously obvious that it was not a recording being played through those loudspeakers, but real instruments.
As well as the excellent-sounding Avalon NP2 speakers, the system I used to play back 24-bit AIF files from my laptop consisted of (from top to bottom): Metric Halo ULN-2 to convert the Firewire output of my Apple PowerBook to AES/EBU; Bel Canto DAC 3 (which I enthusiastically review in the forthcoming November issue), sitting on cylindrical wooden footers from a new company Waipuna Sound and connected to the Metric Halo box via a DH Labs AES/EBU link; Conrad-Johnson CT5 preamp and ET250S hybrid power amplifier; and Nordost Thor AC conditioner. Nordost Valhalla interconnects and speaker cables were used throughout. Equipment rack was the attractive and effective Stillpoints, which suspends the acrylic shelves from four steel cables.