Robert Stein of Ultra Systems (and of the innovative retail outlet The Cable Company) introduced an accessory called the WA Quantum Chip. Available in different sizes, ranging in price from $7.50 to $65 each, the German-made WA Chip is a removable sticker that contains an impregnated film, which is reportedly subjected to a special treatment. Sized for everything from fuses to cell phones to speakers, WA Chips are claimed to increase component efficiency and current flow, for audibly enhanced performance.
I was recently reunited with an old friend from high school. My best friend from high school, in fact. Our families got together, everyone got along, and as the dust of conversation settled toward the rug of companionable silence, talk turned to work. And when the inevitable happened, and my old friend and his wifeclassical-music lovers bothasked how much a person had to spend these days in order to get a good music system, I answered their question with a questiona question that, crazily enough, just popped into my head...
Bluebird Music, the North American distributor for Chord electronics (and other lines), along with Totem Acoustics and the Montreal retailer Audioville, put together this superbly clear and punchy yet unfailingly smooth system: a Chord Red Reference Mk.III CD player ($25,000), Chord CPA 5000 preamp ($20,000), Chord SPM 5000 Mk.II amplifier ($25,000), and Totem Element Metal loudspeakers ($13,000/pair). Neil Young's "Look Out for My Love," a song I've only recently come to appreciate (its mildly goofy arrangement put me off for the longest time), sounded especially greatno more so than during the entrance of the backing singers, when the sound of this Chord-anchored system seemed to double. Also in this system but not auditioned during my visit was the brand new Chord Music Streamer ($13,000), a CAT 5-happy player with BNC digital inputs that also contains the full Chord QBD76 D/A processor.
There's home cooking on one side of the hedge and fast food on the other, and the world moves farther from the former and nearer to the latter with each passing day. So it goes in domestic audio, where virtually every new milestone of the past quarter-century has pointed far more toward convenience than toward quality.
Depressed? Don't be. Those of us in the perfectionist community have a history of dealing with such things, howsoever slowly and inefficiently. (footnote 1). We're getting better at it, too, year by year. An example: Chord Electronics, of sunny southern England, has now brought to market their Chordette Gem D/A converter ($799) which they offer as an affordable means of getting perfectionist-quality sound from computer-music files.
Andy Regan of Cardas Audio saw me near the 10th-floor elevators and asked, "Do you have an iPod or an iPhone?" I said that I did, and Andy handed me a leather pouch upon which the Cardas logo had been printed. Inside was an obviously well-made pair of earbuds. "Give 'em a try."
Colleen “Cosmo” Murphy, the record-store clerk-turned-internationally known DJ-turned-analog impresario, has set out to change the way we listen, one roomful at a time; based on my experiences at NYAS 2013, she is bound to succeed. I had heard that Ms. Murphy is as sound- and music-savvy as she is lovely, and I can only say those observations don’t do her justice. “Today, music is treated almost as aural wallpaper, as a cheap commodity,” Murphy bemoaned in her opening remarks before spinning the Japanese vinyl version of David Bowie’s Hunky Dory on a truly grand system, including a Spiral Groove SG1.1 turntable with Centroid tonearm and a Lyra Atlas cartridge; a VTL TP 6.5 phono preamp (with integral step-up transformer); VTL’s TL 7.5 line-level preamp and Siegfried monoblock amps; Wilson Audio MAXX 3 loudspeakers and Opus series cabling from Transparent. (When I visited the Classic Album Sundays room, early on the show’s first day, exact pricing details weren’t yet available; suffice it to say, everything was rather expensive.)
Heard at one of the three SSI rooms sponsored by Montreal dealer Coup de Foudre was this serene-looking record player by Clearaudio, comprising the company's Concept Wood Edition turntable, Satisfy Carbon tonearm, and Performer V2 moving-magnet phono cartridge. Sold as a package for $2200, the Clearaudio player sounded open and engaging in a system including a Unico Primo integrated amplifier with built-in phono stage ($2450), Opera Grand Mezza loudspeakers ($2800/pair), and cabling by Transparent Audio.
Bill Parrish of GTT Audio calls it "the best." Jonathan Halpern of Tone Imports describes it as "the most well-organized, well-attended show, with the greatest number of products I've never heard or seen before." Peter McGrath of Wilson Audio says "It has risen to be the most significant showcase of high-end technologies: a major, major show." And our own Michael Fremer says it's "where you go to confirm that audio is a serious, healthy, and growing business."
The object of their praise is the Munich High End show, which runs from May 15 through May 18. . .
The TAD CR1 (for Compact Reference) loudspeaker ($37,000/pair) was demonstrated with Viola amplification and a digital front end comprising the Weiss Man301 server ($9000) and Weiss Medea+ D-to-A converter ($19,000). The CR1, which has been on the market for a little over three years, has a rated sensitivity of 86dB and uses the same type of CST coincident driver as featured in the company's flagship Reference One loudspeaker. The TAD had satisfying bass extension for such a relatively small enclosure, but the system was being played way too loud for my comfort, so I can't offer a more nuanced appraisal. JA, however, was very impressed when he reviewed the CR1 last January.