What can you tell about the intrinsic sound quality of a loudspeaker if you've heard it only at an audio show? Arguably, not much. If it sounds bad, there may be a number of reasons for that, only one being the speaker itself. It may be the acoustics of the room, problems with speaker setup, poorly matched associated equipment, insufficient break-in/warm-up, or poor choice of demo recordings.
The design and manufacturing of loudspeakers can be described as falling on a continuum. At one end, we have speakers that use off-the-shelf drivers purchased from driver manufacturers, combined with crossovers based on information in standard loudspeaker design cookbooks and/or loudspeaker design software (perhaps with "voicing" that conforms to the designer's preference). In the hands of a skilled designer, this approach can produce good resultsbut they can't claim any originality.
At the other end of the continuum are speakers that are designed and built from the ground up,, using design principles that, while perhaps not entirely original, represent substantially new application of these principles. This approach is much more rareand much more costly to implement.
The Muraudio Domain Omni ESL ($48,000/pair), which made its debut at TAVES, is squarely in the latter category...
Turntables were much in evidence at TAVES, perhaps the most impressive being the TechDAS Air Force One, which had two versions of the famed Graham Phantom Elite arm mounted. Bob Graham himself was on hand, and can be seen in the photo. Bob demonstrated the vacuum hold-down of the turntable, the audible resonance of the LP when tapped being silenced when the vacuum was turned on. Impressive. The worldwide standard price of the Air Force One is $100,000, and the Phantom Elite arm is $15,000, but Bob said that since he's also the distributor of the AirForce One, he can offer a "deal" on the package price.
No, you're not accidentally visiting www.motorcyclistonline.com. With some out-of-the-box thinking, Suave Kajko, President of the Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show (TAVES), and Simon Au, Vice-President Sales of TAVES, approached Harley Davidson Canada about exhibiting at TAVES 2013 this past weekend, and the HD people agreed to participate.
What does this have to do with audio or video? Well, the top-of-the-line Ultra Limited Harley ($30,000) includes an "infotainment system," with all kinds of audio/video goodies, including surround sound. Here it is, with Suave looking suitably...suave (Sorry!).
Is there a country that, per capita, has produced more major loudspeaker brands than Great Britain? The British brands that immediately come to mind are Tannoy, KEF, Bowers & Wilkins, Quad, Rogers, Spendor, Harbeth, Castle, Acoustic Energy, ProAc, Monitor Audio, Epos, Celestion, Lowther, PMCand Wharfedale.
Few topics ignite more heated arguments among audiophiles than the price of audio equipment. How much do you have to spend to get really good sound? Are people who buy expensive gear wasting their money, or is it simply a matter of getting what you pay for? There are many such issues, most of which have been discussed at length in Stereophile and various online forums; here are a few I haven't seen addressed except in passing.
Located in Kelowna, British Columbia, Resonessence Labs is the maker of the Invicta ($4000) described as a "technically excellent, audibly superior, Next Generation DAC." I can't comment on all these claims, but the Invicta is clearly a highly versatile device, with a wide assortment of inputs, including an SD card reader (FLAC, AIFF, and WAV on SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards), HDMI video output to show playlists on a TV monitor, and no fewer than seven digital filter options.
French manufacturer YBA has kept a low profile for several years now, but the brand has been re-launched, with Yves-Bernard André still in charge of design. The reference line products are made in France, but the production of the other YBA products is in Asia. I know that production of YBA's affordable Audio Refinement had problems with that arrangement, but they've apparently learned their lesson, and the new production will have much greater control effected by Yves-Bernard himself. The Passion 650 amplifier ($6999), shown in the photo, was on static display.
Kudos Audio is a line of British speakers designed by Derek Gilligan, formerly of NEAT, which uses custom drivers made for them by SEAS. The one demoed at SSI 2013 was the X2 ($2900/pair), a modestly-sized floorstander, in a system that included a Mimetism 15.2 integrated ($6690). The source was a CD in a laptopnot conforming to audiophile ideals, but the sound did not seem to suffer from it.
As discussed in an earlier blog posting by Art Dudley, one of the innovations of SSI 2013 was the Personal Audio Zone, staffed by SSI, where show attendees could listen to 150 different pairs of headphones, and was hoped to attract younger listeners to the show. I made two visits to the Personal Audio Zone: on the first visit, the place was nearly empty, so I recruited SSI staff member Catherine P. Lauzon to act as model for a photo.