Quietly tucked at the back of the main hall, Musical Fidelity had a lot of new stuff of great audiophile interest. First off is the new "audio Swiss Army Knife," as JA referred to it in his blog yesterday, the all-in-one, $9000 kW250. But among the other goodies on the Signal Path booth was the X-Package, consisting of the neat little X-RAYv8 24/192 upsampling CD player, the X-T100 60Wpc tube hybrid integrated amp, and the Triple-X power supply which powers both as well as an optional external DAC, tuner, etc. In their compact but non-resonant aluminum casings, this $3000 system was surprisingly potent.
In a press conference held September 28 at Sony Music Studios on West 54th Street, MusicGiants —see Wes Phillips' earlier story on this company—announced the launch of a new music download service that offers CD-resolution digital recordings from the major artists on the major music labels, EMI, Sony/BMG, Universal, and Warner.
In my February 2000 review of Meridian's multi-talented, multichannel, multi-kilobuck Digital Theatre system, I fumed about the lack of a medium for discrete multichannel music. Even more loudly, I railed against the irresponsible mastering of many Dolby Digital and DTS discs, which place the listener in the middle of an ensemble and swirl the voices around his or her head with little concern for musical or artistic coherence.
All of us have excuses for why we cannot acoustically treat our rooms but a lot of the underlying reason is that many are not convinced that they should make the physical or financial effort. I’ve discovered what I think of as training wheels for room acoustics. Tom Gorzelski of mytheater acoustic panel showed me his simple and inexpensive kits; these are enough to get anyone started. The panels are only 1" thick and, with their polyester filling, light enough to hang with a single nail. Don't expect them to work into the bass, therefore, but Tom acknowledges that they are most effective at 1–2kHz. Also, they come in packages of four 24x40 panels ($120) or two 24x24 panels ($45) because you cannot expect just one to make a difference. Still, hanging a 4pack of the bigger panels should reduce reflections if placed at ear level and, especially, at the first reflection points on the side-walls. It's likely you'll like it enough, perhaps, to do even more.
Tone controls? I ripped them out of my Dyna PAS-3! And that was the last time I had tone controls. As a card-carrying audiophile, I wanted just what the engineer had inscribed on the recording, with as little change as possible (read: high fidelity).
Without having intended to, I seem to have collected several "statement" products. I've already reported on the Weiss Medea and Theta Digital Generation VIII digital-to-analog converters. I saw and expressed interest in the Nagra DAC at the 2002 Consumer Electronics Show, when prototypes of it were shown along with a forthcoming multichannel version, the Nagra Digital Audio Processor (DAP). The two units are based on the same chassis and interface, the DAP including additional modules and processing.
Unpacking and installing a new component is always cause for excitement, even if one does it with almost mechanical regularity, and the anticipation is greater when the component is from a manufacturer of almost mythic reputation. So when John Atkinson asked if I'd like to audition Nagra's new PL-L preamplifier, I feigned calm as I accepted the assignment, even while remembering those years in college radio when I had to schlepp big Ampexes and Maggies. The sexy, portable Nagras were the stuff of dreams. Finally, I thought, I'd get my hands and ears on one.
Some months back, a poll at the Naxos of America website asked visitors about their preferences among high-resolution and multichannel formats. At that time, Naxos had been releasing DVD-As (and DVDs) in the US, but only released SACDs elsewhere.
There was a lot to see in the Lenbrook Group rooms and I was pleased to see that the anticipated T-175 multichannel pre-pro was ready for prime-time. However, the unit that caught my eye was a little stereo unit, the T-715. This trim, $499 beauty has a 25Wpc amp, a CD player, an AM-FM tuner, and a subwoofer output in addition to the usual audio line-level inputs and outputs and headphone jack. It also sports a USB input for playback of MP3s or of anything streaming off the Internet. It's just about the size of a shoebox. Add a pair of small speakers, like PSB's $279/pair Alpha B1s, and you have an ideal and compact second system.
Photographed by Jason Victor Serinus in the Sumiko room on the 35th floor of the Venetian Hotel, this is the prototype of a new flagship speaker from Vienna Acoustics. Its signature elements are an innovative coaxial midrange/tweeter with a flat, reinforced, flat diaphragm for the midrange to eliminate any horn effect on the tweeter dome and an ultra HF unit to optimize polar response in the upper range. Note that the upper enclosure can be aimed to improve imaging.