At what point does a domestic audio product cease to be an appliance and assume a loftier place in one's home and heart?
We all can agree that a Bose Wave CD player sits at one end of that continuum, a Koetsu Jade Platinum phono cartridge at the otherbut what of all the products in between? Scarcity, mode of manufacture, appearance, even sentimentality ("This is just like the one my father used to have!")each plays a role, but there's no doubt that price tops the list: The more we pay, the more we love (footnote 1).
Among the smaller systems I heard at NYAS, this nears the top of my list: the Resonessence Labs Invicta D/A converter ($3990), driving the Music First Audio Baby Reference preamplifier ($6990; see Sam Tellig’s rave in the October 2012 issue), the Wells Audio Innamorata power amp ($6000), and most recognizably, Audio Space’s BBC-approved version of the classic (imagine that word in gold leaf) LS-3/5a monitor (only $1790/pair) and SW-1a woofer towers ($1190), with cable by Audience. This setup had exceptional drive and impact: qualities I associate with good transformers, of which the passive Music First preamp has an abundance.
Upon visiting the room of Colleen Cardas Imports, I was impressed by yet another small loudspeaker: the Signature version of the model 1920 mini-monitor ($3450/pair) from British firm MAD (for My Audio Design). The 1920 is described as designer Timothy Jung's take on the classic BBC LS-3/5a theme, and while it didn't sound precisely like that hallowed box, it was pleasing in much the same way when driven by the 65 WpcClass-A Monoblock Reference power amps ($15,500/pair) and Control Preamplifier ($9500) from Pure Audio, a company founded by the previous principals of Plinius. Source components were the Platinum Data CD IV disc transport ($3995) and The Analog D/A converter ($6995) from MSB Technology, while cabling and power-distribution products were by Furutech.
Given that Quad's founder, the late Peter J. Walker, wasn't around to design the Quad II Classic Integrated, the English firm relied instead on Tim de Paravicini, whose credits include the comparatively recent Quad II-eighty mono amplifiers and QC-twentyfour preamplifier (not to mention his own line of E.A.R./Yoshino electronics and countless other well-regarded products). It's with respect for both men that I say: In turning to Tim de Paravicini, Quad has probably chosen the closest approach to the original.
"The realistic reproduction of orchestral music in an average room requires peak power capabilities of the order of 15 to 20W when the electro-acoustic transducer is a baffle-loaded moving-coil loudspeaker of normal efficiency."
—Peter Walker and D.T.N. Williamson, writing in the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society in 1954
There's a nice symmetry in knowing that Liberty Audio Trading has been appointed the new Canadian distributor for Quad Electroacoustics: Years ago, Liberty's founder, the late Nizar Akhrass, was among the first to bring the line to North America. (Taiga LLC continues to represent Quad here in the States.) At SSI Liberty Audio demonstrated the entry-level Quad ESL-2805 ($10,000/pair). John Atkinson will be reviewing the ESL-2805 in the May issue of Stereophile.
Colleen Murphy, whose first serious system was built around a pair of Klipschorns, prefers vinyl to all other formatsnot just for the superior sound, but for other, less tangible qualities. “It’s almost a ritual,” she said at NYAS 2013. “The inconvenience is one of the things that makes us give ourselves over to it.”
I thought the Raidho D-1 loudspeaker ($28,000/pair, including stands), was among the most interesting and musically impressive new products at SSI. Raidho, a Danish company known for their work with ultra-lightweight ceramics, has developed a process for bonding to their speaker diaphragms a thin coat of industrial diamond, conferring even greater stiffness and freedom from unwanted resonances. Paired with a Jeff Rowland Aeris D/A converter and Jeff Rowland 625 power amplifier, the Raidhos were impressive on a variety of material. We’ve all heard demonstrations where we came away saying, “I can’t believe they got so much bass out of such little loudspeakers,” but in terms of the sheer quality and scale of that bass, the Raidho/Rowland combination was on another plane altogether.
Granted, I know little to nothing about the home theater market, but I thought this was kind of cool: a paint called Screen Goo, available through all Sherwin-Williams dealers, that can be used to transform any flat, paintable surface into a projection screen. This two-stage treatmenta reflective undercoat, topped with a semi-translucent diffusive top coatis 100% acrylic, with a very low VOC content. Screen Goo is available with different degrees of pigmentation; the photo above compares unity-gain white, on the far right, with two other shades. This company’s biggest market? According to Kevin Nute of Goo Systems, it’s theme-park installations (eg, the Haunted Mansion at Disney World).