More evidence that the Bricasti Model 1 D/A converter ($8495), while certainly not cheap, represents quite good value for the money was found in one of the rooms sponsored by New York retailer Sound by Singer. During a conversation about a new power-supply upgrade for the Model 1, I asked Bricasti's Brian Zolner if the new board is retrofittable to older Bricasti units, and he assured me that it isfor just $150. [John Marks will discuss the new power supply in a "Follow-Up" to appear in our July issue.Ed.]
As a card-carrying member of The Insecure, I tend to clam up when I'm around people who are considerably more intelligent or well-informed than I. Consequently, I had embarrassingly little to say in the presence of Bricasti Audio's Brian Zolner, whose understanding of the various digital-filtering choices offered by his company's M1 D/A converter ($8495) was as deep as it was generously and at times even humorously offered. In any event, the Bricasti sounded fine at the front of a system in which a pair of Harbeth HL5 loudspeakers ($5690/pair) was driven by the undeniably beautiful Dan D'Agostino Momentum Stereo amplifier ($25,000).
There are a thousand different ways to make a loudspeaker. A hundred to make an amplifier. And at least a million to make a piece of wire. But here's the deal with a moving-coil phono cartridge: stylus, cantilever, rubber grommet, tensioning wire, coils, magnet, output pins, and maybe a body. Done.
It was that rarest of rare occasions in audio-show reporting: I entered the demonstration room of a brand that was unfamiliar to me, and was impressed at once by a sort of musical rightness I seldom hear from modern playback gear. Sure, I was familiar with the company that made the CD player, preamp, and monoblock amps in useElectrocompaniet, whose solid-state amps are among the few I consider worthy of comparison to the best tube designsbut the Austrian loudspeaker manufacturer Brodmann Acoustics was new to me. Their stand-mounted Festival S ($4500/pair), driven by a pair of Electrocompaniet AW180 monoblocks ($5425 each) allowed the solo violin in a Paganini work to have far greater than usual texture, tone, and presence. Based on my experience at RMAF, the pairing of these two brands is something you should go out of your way to hear.
Of one room I can honestly say: The sound pulled me in. A succession of convincingly deep, tactile drumbeats caught my ear, and I followed the thwacks to Cabasse, where the Sphère ($150,000/pair, more or less, and reviewed by Michael Fremer a year or so back) held court, driven by Cabasse's own Bel Canto-sourced amps; the Cabasse outboard digital crossover; and McIntosh's C2300 preamp and MCD500 SACD/CD player. No less impressive was Christophe Cabasse himself (left), who patiently led me through the Sphère's impressive technical backgroundin English, I'm thankful to say. Monsieur Cabasse also reminded me that his company celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, having been founded by Georges Cabasse (père) all the way back in 1960.
Michel Plante, the President of Salon Son et Image, offered a pre-show glimpse of something new: the Personal Audio Zone, where visitors are free to try any of over 150 different pairs of headphones, representing nearly 30 different brands. During this morning’s setup, the ‘phones were being arranged on their tables in order of expense, from the $22 pair nearest the door to the $1600 pair at the far end of the room. Michel Plante said that he’s “trying to create a buzz about headphones, in order to attract younger listeners to the show,” and that he has made it as affordable as possible for headphone manufacturers to participate. (The Personal Audio Zone is staffed by SSI volunteers, not manufacturers or their reps.)
In yet another Coup de Foudre room, a Clearaudio record player acted as source for a Unico Nuovo integrated amplifier ($2400, with phono section), itself driving a pair of ASW 404 loudspeakers ($2000/pair). This relatively affordable system loaded the room nicely, and sounded hypnotically good on “Autumn Leaves” from the Cannonball Adderley album Somethin’ Else.
Cardas Audio used Axpona NY to introduce their new Clear cable line, with loudspeaker cables ranging in price from $1200 to $6000 for an 8' pair, and interconnects ranging from $695 to $1200 for a 1m pair. The cables at the top of that rangecalled Clear Beyondwere put to good use in a system comprising the Unison Research CDE CD player ($4000) and S6 integrated amplifier ($5000). The latter, which uses parallel single-ended EL-34s, seemed to be a lot of amp for the moneyand sounded fine driving a pair of Opera Grand Callas loudspeakers ($10,000/pair).