NHT's Xd system is what audiophiles have been saying they want: a matched loudspeaker system that optimizes the performance of its components for a real-world domestic listening environment. But with their dollars they've voted against just such systems for years. If we put our money where our mouths are, active speaker systems such as Meridian's DSP or those used in recording studios would dominate the High End.
The NHT Xd DSP powered speaker demo was held at the Plaza Hotel in New York City last week and representatives from NHT and its supporting cast, DEQX and PowerPhysics, opened by explaining the philosophy behind the new product and the essential components they each contributed (also see previous).
I have reviewed and owned so many Paradigm speakers that they feel almost like members of the family. I've owned the v.2 and v.3 versions of the Reference Studio 60, and reviewed the v.3 version in Stereophile (in December 2004, Vol.27 No.12). My long and intimate relationship with this speaker is founded on the best of reasons: We are extremely compatible. The Studio 60, in all its incarnations, is large enough to be used as a full-range speaker with nearly any program material, and yet is compact enough to be easily accommodated in my relatively small Connecticut listening room. It neither looms over me nor disappears into the space. Used as a center-channel speaker, it's just short enough to clear my line of sight to the video display. Finally, and despite inevitable price creep over the last decade, the Studio 60 still comes in under $2000/pairmy line in the sand for a reasonably priced system.
I am biased in favor of Paradigm loudspeakers. I've used them for 10 years; they offer good sound and good value, properties they share with a number of other Canadian makes who have taken advantage of Canada's National Research Council facilities in Ottawa. In fact, the first components I bought specifically for what is now my multichannel system were Paradigm Esprit/BP speakers, which had impressed me at a Stereophile show. When I took the step into multichannel and found that there wasn't a matching center-channel speaker for the Esprits, I replaced them with Paradigm's Reference Studio/60 v.2s. But while the smaller Reference Studio/20, and the larger Studio/100 have both been reviewed in Stereophile, the Studio/60 had not. The release of the v.2's successor, the Reference Studio/60 v.3 ($1699/pair), was an opportunity to fill that gap.
Today's New York Times carries a brief obituary notice of the passing of audio innovator, Peter Pritchard, on August 23 in Austin, Texas at the age of 83. Peter founded Audio Dynamics Corporation in New Milford, CT in the early 1960's. His original ADC-1 ("Tip mass: 0.6 mg. Compliance. 20x106cm/dyne, all directions. Playing weight: 1 gram or less in top quality arms") was a breakthrough product. Indeed, all ADC pickups were notable for their extremely high compliance and low tracking forces and he pursued this approach through a series of successful designs including the well-known ADC-10, ADC-25 and XLM cartridges. They were all based on his "induced magnet" principle, which derived from the older GE variable-reluctance cartridges that had been game-changers for affordable magnetic phono pick-ups in the 1950s.
In this, its 50th year of company operations, Phase Technology announced and demonstrated a new type of loudspeaker system. The series, named dARTS for Digital Audio Reference Theater System, is obviously aimed at the custom-install, home-theater market, but the components and concepts are applicable to music reproduction in any number of channels. As described by PT's director of sales and marketing, Tony Weber, the dARTS system is (1) modular and (2) actively powered and equalized by DSP, incorporating Audyssey's MultiEQ XT for digital room correction.
One of the highlights of such annual events as the Consumer Electronics and Primedia Home Entertainment shows has been the demonstrations of loudspeakers from TAD, the professional division of Pioneer Electronics. Designer Andrew Jones is always generous in using recordings brought by visitors, and enthusiastic in explaining the technology behind these beautiful behemoths. Among these speakers' unique features are a beryllium dome tweeter mounted concentrically inside a beryllium midrange cone, and a cabinet built of stacked, carved horizontal sections, for incredible rigidity without using exotic materials or excessive mass. The concentric upper-range driver is a reminder that, some time back, Jones worked for KEF, where the coaxial UniQ driver was developed, but the materials and details of the TAD drivers are all new. While the TAD Model 1s are always good for musical and audiophile thrills, their price is in the upper five figures, which put them out of serious purchase consideration.
Pioneer showed a number of interesting new products in two-channel electronics and speakers. but pride of place was ceded to their new flagship A/V receiver, the SC-09TX. This is almost, but not quite, a pair of separates with the 10-channel, ICE-powered class-D amp confined to a chassis separated from the rest of the digital and line-level electronics. The main 7 channels are rated at 200W, operated simultaneously. I thought it notable that the amplifier chassis is configured to be under the main chassis and that indicates that we’ve reached a point where the efficiency of class-D amps allows the power-hungry DSP and video processing to breathe out the top. Fans help, too. Every conceivable input and output is provided including 6 HDMI inputs and two HDMI outputs, accommodations for XM, Sirius, and iPod input, and a talented EtherNet link. I show you the back panel to impress you with the connectivity and the distinct chassis for the power amp. The front panel sports a 4" LCD for control and video previewing.
I have a soft spot in my heart (some say my head) for transmission-line designs. I remember being entranced by the authoritative but effortless bass of John Wright's IMF and TDL Monitors, and I have been inspired to experiment by building my own lines in various sizes. Then, as demonstrated by Bryston's Jim Tanner at the 1997 WCES and at HI-FI '97, PMC's IB-1S loudspeakers threw an enormously deep soundstage. (I have a soft spot for that as well.)
Pro-Ject easily wins the competition for who can offer the greatest number and variety of little audio boxes. With their range of turntables distributed around the room, they had an entire large wall covered with their devices, DACs, CD players, preamps, mono- and stereo-amps, switches, power supplies, tuners, and phono stages. They also had boxes with combinations and permutations of these functions and most of them came in more than one of their various ranges, E, S, DS, DS+ and RS, in order of feature set and price. I was most intrigued by their Stream Box DS music streamers, all of which handle up to 24/192 via WiFi, LAN and USB and offer Internet radio via vTuner as well as Spotify and other streaming sources. A 3.5" TFT color display shows text and album art. As you go up the line, you can add iOS and Android control, ALAC support, analog and digital inputs or, even, built in power amps. Prices start at under $1000.