The Paragon VL-2 Signature ($8600/pair) from Hong Kong-based Volent Corp. combines a unique dual-ribbon tweeter with a titanium/graphite-sandwichconed woofer in an attractively curved enclosure filled with wool. Frequency range is specified as 30Hz60kHz, impedance as 4 ohms, and sensitivity as 88dB/2.83V/m. Driven by MSB's M202 tower amplifiers and MSB digital source, the sound was much larger than I was expecting from these stand-mounts.
Von Schweikert's new VR-44 floorstanding speaker comes in two forms: passive ($22,000/pair), and Aktiv ($25,000/pair) with a 300W amplifier driving the 8.8" composite alloy-cone woofers below 200Hz. Both the woofers and the 6" midrange unit are loaded with labyrinths, and the tweeter is a ring-radiator type. Superbly finished with either Steinway Black Gloss or Mercedes Platinum Silver, the VR-44's produced a full, musical sound at THE Show, driven by Jolida tube amplification and with the source an open-reel recorder from United Home Audio playing a tape of Van Morrison playing "Brown-Eyed Girl."
The United Home Audio room at RMAF featured Von Schweikert speakers driven by Jolida electronics, this time the Von Schweikert VR5 Anniversary Mk.2s ($30,000/pair), Jolida Fusion preamp and Fusion 200W tube monoblocks ($6000/all three). But my eye was drawn to the UHA Phase 9 tape deck, which was playing some Series 3 releases from The Tape Project, specifically Nat Adderley and his band performing "Work Song." One of the better-sounding rooms, I thought.
Von Schweikert speakers were featured in a number of rooms at RMAF, and their VR-33s ($4500/pair) were demonstrating impressive dynamics with a drum recording in the second-floor room the company was sharing with Jolida. Power was being provided by the new Jolida JD 1000RC tubed integrated amplifier, which gets 100Wpc into 8 ohms from its four matched pairs of EL34 tubes. The VR-33 weighs 103 lbs and combines an MTM array on the front panel with a rear-firing, port-loaded woofer. "Own a $15,000 speaker for only $3750" says Von Schweikert's literature. My notes said $4500, but whatever the exact price, you get a lot of speaker for the money. As you can see from the photo, the price of the VR-33 has been kept competitive by using a cloth covering for the enclosure rather than veneer.
The last time I was in England, I happened to be rummaging through some boxes in my mother's garage, boxes containing photographs, my old school books, concert programs, diaries, postcardsall the bric-a-brac you collect throughout your life that you'll never have a need for and can never discard. If anything, such rubbish is perhaps the nearest thing to roots that anyone can have these days. Among the boxes was an amplifier that had been an everyday companion of mine for many years, the vintage Vox AC100 I had used to amplify my Fender bass when on the road.
"What is this music?" asked Jason Serinus (above).
We were sitting in the VTL room, where a pair of Wilson Alexia speakers ($48,500/pair) were being driven by VTL's S-400 stereo amplifier ($33,500), TL-7.5 Series III preamp ($20,000), and TP-6.5 phono preamplifier ($10,500 with transformer).
"It's 'Lose Yourself to Dance,' my favorite track from Daft Punk's Random Access Memories LP," I whispered...
Wired with Transparent cables, the extreme audio system in the large room at the Denver Tech Center HyattdCS Vivaldi digital source, VTL TL7.5 III preamp, VTL Siegfried power amps, Wilson Alexandria XLF speakers driven full-range and twin Thor's Hammer subwoofers driven by 250Wpc Parasound Halo A 21 amplifiers below 38Hzworked its magic both on the disco-meets-EDM of Daft Punk's "Lose Yourself to Dance" and the delicate harmonic traceries of Dave Wilson's Debussy violin sonata recording transferred to DSD by Puget Sound's Bruce Brown. In both cases, there was a sense of loss when the music stopped. It is difficult to imagine how music reproduction could get any better than what I heard in this room the Saturday afternoon of the show!
History teaches us that the full flowering of any social phenomenon takes place after the seeds of its destruction have been sown. That tourist magnet, London's Buckingham Palace, for example, was built decades after the English Revolution and the Restoration had redefined the role of the British monarchy as being merely titular, and made the elected Parliament the real seat of power.
Back in my bass-player days in the 1970s, I used to do a regular cabaret gig, providing musical support for sundry British stand-up comic acts. I flashed back on those days when I recently watched Fierce Creatures, the John Cleese/Jamie Lee Curtis/Kevin Kline/Michael Palin vehicle, on satellite. There, playing the part of a zookeeper, was pint-size comedian Ronnie Corbett, whom I backed a few times. (He always bought the band a bottle of Scotch—you remember stuff like that!) Ronnie used to open his act with the old "They said Thomas Edison was crazy...they said Henry Ford was crazy...they said Albert Einstein was crazy..." gag, which ends with "They said my Uncle Charlie was crazy...actually, my Uncle Charlie was crazy!"
Although it was introduced at the January CES, SSI was my first opportunity to hear Wadia's cute 151PowerDAC mini amplifier ($1200). It combines a DAC, digital preamp and 25 Wpc power amp, and is housed in the same tiny package as Wadia's iTransport shown to its right. The PowerDAC was being used to drive ProAc's new floorstanding Studio 140 Mk..II speakers in the M-HiFi room at SSI, with XLO cables.