It's been over two years since I reviewed a pair of JL Audio's Fathom f113 subwoofers. Kalman Rubinson and I both gave the f113 top marks for delivering clean, powerful bass in a wide variety of full-range systems. At the end of the review period, JL Audio's Carl Kennedy told me that they wouldn't send me another subwoofer for review until they had developed one that outperformed the Fathom f113 (footnote 1). To this day, the Fathom f113 tops the subwoofer category in Stereophile's "Recommended Components."
JL Audio's home high-end audio subwoofer engineer, Brett Hanes, proudly shows off the company's new $1700 ES-112 subwoofer (wood finish) that uses clever engineering principles to coax better performance and value from a less-expensive product. The ES-112's woofer features the company's only dual-spider driver construction, a smaller voice-coil, though the cone is designed for the same 3" peakpeak excursions found in the company's flagship f212 and Gotham models. Other construction simplificationsyou change line input voltage by changing fuses in external fuse holdermake the product more adaptable for international sales. It also has a high-pass output with variable frequency crossover, which will be appreciated by those of us using subwoofers in a two-channel home audio system.
High-end amplifier guru John Curl, well-known for his early designs at Mark Levinson Audio Systems and for the Vendetta phono preamplifier—some regard this as the finest head amp ever made— was at the Alexis Park to discuss his latest design for Parasound, the JC-2 preamplifier. [The price of the JC-2 has not been determined yet, but will be somewhere in the vicinity of $3200.] John was particularly pleased to point out that he had worked with the same circuit-board designer from the Vendetta days. He also pointed out the preamp’s "D-core" power transformer, which has an oval core at right angles to the winding. John believes that this is much quieter than a conventional toroidal transformer. However, he had persuaded Parasound to omit a phono stage because even the D-core transformer wasn't quiet enough for him. That brought up an obvious question—would he reintroduce the Vendetta? Although nothing was definite, he noted, "I'll probably have to do something because everyone is bugging me to bring it back."
I was highly impressed with the dynamics, speed, and pace of a new $8000/pair loudspeaker from John DeVore, a speaker maker from my area of the country, Brooklyn, New York. I had first read about John in the New York Times when it featured new and brave entrepreneurs making their way in Brooklyn during the recent recession. I was interested, because of my medical research background, that the very tall Mr. DeVore had been positively influenced in his younger years by an uncle who was a leading primatologist, and had take him to Africa to view various monkeys living in their natural habitat. As a result, John names his loudspeaker lines for various species, including the Gibbon, Silverback, and now Orangutan. This floorstanding, two-way, high-sensitivity (dB/2.83V/m) loudspeaker features a 1" silk-dome tweeter and a reflex-loaded, 10" treated-paper woofer (rear port) in a cabinet with a lace walnut finish. I was struck by the similarity between John's energy and enthusiasm and the dynamics and pace of the music the Orangutan generated driven by the 15Wpc Mag Amp.
"Go and hear the KEF Concept Blade Loudspeaker," encouraged John Atkinson, "it’s their current statement on the state of loudspeaker art." For reasons unclear, KEF selected a hard-to-find Hilton Hotel suite for their exhibit, far away from the high-end exhibits in the Venetian Hotel. But when I whispered the word "Blade," I was ushered into a dark room where the set of twin loudspeakers, looking like aircraft wings, were standing. The cabinet curvature eliminates cabinet resonances, I was told. The KEF engineer explained that the company had not set a price on the Blade because they regarded it like a concept car, a one-off, handbuilt test model.
Harman Specialty Audio's Kevin Voecks demonstrated his latest portable room-response testing system, an iPad 2 running Studio Six Digital's "Audio Tools" iTunes app. (A favorite of JA’s.) The iPad 2 plus a $50 external mike and an accessory box from Studio Six becomes a portable audio test system with up to 1/48-octave resolution. Kevin used this tool to set up Revel's new M106 and F208 loudspeakers on the 35th Floor of the Venetian Hotel. He demonstrated frequency response graphs and a virtual SPL meterseen in detail as a graphic representation of a huge analog SPL meter on the iPad screen.
I'll never forget my first encounter with the Krell LAT-1 loudspeaker. Late one Friday night last fall, on City Island in the Bronx, it was time for the monthly meeting of the Westchester Audiophile Society and I was late. I rushed through the door past a group of audiophiles and headed straight for the two new black loudspeakers already set up and ready to play. Music writer and society member Sid Marks made a sound. I turned to him and he pointed across the room: "Go tap on that enclosure." I walked over to one of the black speakers and did so. There was no sound—no give, no nothing. It was as if I'd knocked on a granite boulder. "See what I mean?" said Sid. I nodded. There was nothing to add.
Krell Industries' new Modulare Duo loudspeaker system was the one active exhibit in their suite, playing music from an excellent sampler of audiophile favorites. Todd Eichenbaum, shown standing next to the $35,000/pair, 300 lb system, explained that the separate woofer and satellite units were made of machined billet aluminum, as with Krell's original LAT-1 speaker system, but the Modulare’s drivers and passive crossover circuitry have been designed for higher current handling. The low-frequency cabinet contains three 8" aluminum-cone woofers, while the satellite section marries a 1" ScanSpeak ring-radiator tweeter, and a 6.5" aluminum-cone midrange driver.
Lamm Industries introduced the new LP-1 Signature dual-mono phono preamplifier ($32,790), with two separate chassis power supplies. Each channel uses two high-transconductance triodes without feedback. The new phono preamplifier was used in a system with Lamm ML-3 amplifers ($159,490), an LL-1 preamplifier ($42,790), connected to a pair of Wilson Audio MAXX3 speakers ($69,500/pair) with Kubala-Sosna cables throughout. Music was played on a Kronos turntable ($32,000) fitted with a Graham Phantom II Supreme tonearm ($6000) and a ZYX Universal II cartridge ($8,495). Vladimir Lamm was also using two pairs of his ML2.2 monoblocks ($37,290/pair) to drive a pair of Verity Audio Lohengrin loudspeakers ($120,000/pair) in an adjoining room. The sound in both rooms was spacious, smooth, dynamic, and full.