Although LPs remain, for me, the high-end medium of choice, I'm not terribly interested in today's high-end record players. Most of them, from the 1980s through the present, have been soulless, uninspired, me-too products that utterly fail to communicate the presence, momentum, and punch of recorded music. And in certain waysexpense, complexity, size, cosmeticssome have been, quite simply, ridiculous.
Musicians and harmonica players of Montreal, take heed: You are all fair game for a painter named Patrick Larrivee, whose unambiguously available work filled one hall of the Hilton during SSI 2012. Unfortunately, it was the hall that led to my room.
Driving the distinctive Scaena "iso-linear array" loudspeakers in the Audio Doctor suite was a pair of Conrad-Johnson's limited-edition ART amplifiers ($37,000/pair): one of 125 pairs in existence. These ARTs used KT-120 output tubes (the amps are rated at 275Wpc when run with 6550 pentodes) and were operated without their strikingly pretty tube cages.
With so many lookalike, workalike remote handsets littering the ring-stained table of our hobby, new ones seldom stand outor work better than the old ones. Pioneer has finally produced a breakthrough: Anyone who buys a new Pioneer VSX-1020 receiver (expected to go on sale in America in June, for approximately $800) will have the opportunity to download a virtual handset from the Apple apps site, for use with his or her iPod Touch or iPhone. The finished product looksand worksexactly like the knobs and switches on the amp's front panel. Here's one remote control that will probably never get lost under the couch or dropped in the toilet. (Don't ask.)
At NYAS 2013, I was more impressed with the French Waterfall loudspeakers than at previous shows. Their Victoria Evo model ($7000 per pair) sounded clear and articulate in the second of two Audio Doctor rooms, demonstrated with an Auralic Vega D/A converter ($3495), Manley 300B preamplifier ($5795), and Aragon 8008 amplifier ($4400); judging from the smiles all around, Dave Lalin of Audio Doctor and Nadine Chaix Dewell and Cedric Aubriot of Waterfall would agree.
The ceiling remains, but the floor has changed: Benz-Micro continues to offer a selection of rather expensive phono cartridges, including their well-established LP Ebony ($4700) and Ruby 3 ($3000) models. But in recent years, my attention has been drawn by the succession of budget Benzes: first, the Gliders ($795), then the ACEs ($550), and now the MC20E2-L ($199).
Ontario retailer and distributor Audio Pathways had a number of new products on displaysome active, some passive. Among the latter were the impressive Magne air-bearing turntable and companion Magne air-bearing linear-tracking tonearm ($14,000 as a package) from Bergmann Audio of Denmark.
When Bernard Brien started his company BIS a number of years ago, the refurbishing of vintage electronics comprised the bulk of his businessbut over time, he says, he was struck by the sonic weaknesses of older wiring, and the potential for improvement by swapping it for new. A peripheral involvement in aeronautics led Brien to discover the suitability of that industry’s cabling for audio purposes: “It has low mass, low resistance, high bandwidth, and, especially, low mass,” he says, “and it isn’t very expensive.” Brien also touted the simplicity of his products with a phrase, the alliteration of which is lost in translation: “C’est un fil, pas un filtre.” Bien sur!
One doesn’t normally think of a private concert by a gifted recording artist as a particularly bad way to start the day, but. . .
On Saturday morning at SSI, I stepped into the Oracle Audio room just in time for owner Jacques Reindeau to invite me to hear a few selections from the album Blue Mind by the Montreal-based composer and chanteuse Anne Bisson, played on an almost all-Oracle systemwith the artist standing in front of me, singing along with her recorded self.