The Richard Gray's Power Company 400S arrived on the audiophile scene last year with a bang. Weighing in at a hefty 20 lbs and at $700 a pop, this four-outlet power conditioner, according to the paperwork, "effectively 'positions' audio, video, and home theater equipment 'electronically closer' to your utility company transformer, without introducing any type of series electronic 'traps' or capacitors into the circuit, which we feel degrade the performance of certain equipment, and severely limit the amount of current they can handle."
John Atkinson and I were On the Road, whistling down I-95 in a big, Kona Blue Metallic 2011 Ford Edge Ltd with voice-command everything. To paraphrase Raoul Duke at the very beginning of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, we were somewhere around Princeton, New Jerseynot quite the edge of the desertwhen the drugs began to take hold. Just as in the original text, "there was a terrible roar all around us, and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car . . ." I decided that there was no point in mentioning the bats to JA. He'd bought the Criterion Collection DVD of Terry Gilliam's film version of Fear and Loathing at Princeton Record Exchange. He knew about the bats.
I'm not sure why, but people tell me things. Maybe it's because they realize I listen. They reveal themselves, sometimes in charming and unexpected ways. So I was almost prepared for my three-way conference call with the designer of the Symphonic Line Kraft 400 power amplifier, Rolf Gemein, in Germany and Indianapolis-based importer/distributor Klaus Bunge. I started by asking Rolf about his design philosophy . . .
Rarely have I anticipated the arrival of a review component as I did the Sony SCD-1 Super Audio CD player. I'd first heard the machine itself with the enthusiastic audiophile hordes at Chicago's HI-FI '99. I'd also been lucky enough to enjoy a few of the Direct Stream Digital-encoded recordings Tom Jung had made for DMP right off the hard drives of a prototype DSD processor via Ed Meitner electronics. (See my interview with Jung elsewhere in this issue.)
John Atkinson flapped his bushy eyebrows at me and smiled slyly. "Hey, J-10, why don't you do the Sony SCD-C333ES SACD carousel player for April?" Usually, when JA gets that look on his face, I seek shelter. The phone bripped suddenly in my office, but I knew it was too late. "Oooo-kay..." I smiled back, thinking of Stereophile's recent covers and the hubbub, bub, thick as it comes, that they'd produced. (See "Letters" in the February and March issues.)
The La Luce turntable's elegant form usually stops audiophiles dead in their tracks. Then comes a long, low "Wow." I'm hardly immune myself. And that's not even considering the sound, which has always been wonderful, as it was in the Joseph Audio/Cardas room at CES '98.
"Preaching to the converted," I sighed to myself as I read the manual for the Stax Omega II Earspeaker headphone system. I fondly recalled my headphone reference for all time—the Most Fabulous and Seductive Sennheiser Orpheus tubed electrostatics, which Thomas J. Norton reviewed for Stereophile in 1994. I recalled the Orpheus's heady, open, fast, and colorfully wideband sound, and clutched my palpitating heart.
Things didn't start off auspiciously. I'd been after Symphonic Line's Klaus Bunge for more than a year to send me the Kraft 400 Reference monoblocks. Finally he called. He said he was going to be in town for a few days, and he had with him a pair of what he described as his "traveling" Kraft 400s, which he proposed to leave with me.
Ted Denney at Synergistic Research has come a very long way in a very short time. In the past I've enjoyed and commented on his Resolution Reference interconnect and speaker cable. Great stuff, but I'm picky. Then, not too long ago, boxes of his new, top-of-the-line Designers' Reference interconnect began raining down upon us (liveried, I might add, in an extremely vivid shade of green!).
If you search for "DVD-A" on this website, you can get the whole confusing story of the format, which has been the subject of one of the strangest format launches of recent years: First it's on, then it's off. The watermark is audible. No, it's not. Oops, it is—back to square one. There's software, there's no software. (There's not—only one demo disc officially available in September 2000, when I wrote this review!)