Sennheiser’s PXC 450 ($499.95) headphones are both the new top model in their noise-canceling series and the first using the Talk Through technology, which distinguishes between general ambient noise and the voice of a person talking to you. I tried them briefly, and was impressed both by the sound quality and by the acoustical isolation. They’re modeled here by Nicoll Public Relations’ Erika Pearson.
As we reported last March, the Consumer Electronics Association decided to move the "high-performance audio" and "high-performance home theater" exhibits of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to Las Vegas' Venetian Hotel in 2007. Here, then, in a blatant attempt to scoop my show-reporting Stereophile colleagues, is my picture of the new CES venue. I actually took this picture last year, not in anticipation of the change in show venue, but simply because I’m a sucker for the ersatz-European ambience of Las Vegas hotel-casinos like the Venetian. And whatever the advantages/disadvantages of the Venetian for demonstrating audio equipment, you have to admit that it’s picturesque!
Everybody loves a bargain. No—make that: Most people love a bargain. Some just want the best, and they don't care about the cost. Some even distrust and reject out of hand any product that's not expensive enough. If you're one of these people, you might as well stop reading this review right now—the PrimaLuna ProLogue Three and ProLogue Seven are not for you. $1395 for a tube preamp? $2695 for a pair of 70Wpc tube monoblocks equipped with four KT88 tubes each? Must be based on old designs in the public domain using cheap parts carelessly assembled...
Loudspeakers based on the Lowther full-range driver have a considerable following—our own Art Dudley included—but most will admit that the driver has its limitations, including some midrange resonant peaks and less-than-impressive bass response. These have been addressed in The Second Rethm by a set of modifications to the driver and the availability of an extension to the cabinet that produces better bass response. I heard a couple of the Rethm speakers (I don’t remember which models) a few years ago at CES, and was not too impressed, but I quite liked the sound of The Second Rethm with the cabinet extension. The extension adds $2000 to the $7500/pair price, but I suspect it’s worth it.
I heard some truly excellent-sounding systems at HE 2006, but if I had to pick one listening experience at the show that transcended all others, it would have to be Kimber’s IsoMike demonstration. The system itself is described by Wes Phillips in another blog entry, and I’m sure it would have sounded very good playing back normal CDs, but what made the sound more closely approach reality was that the source material consisted of four-channel recordings made by Ray Kimber using his IsoMike setup. (Ray is shown here holding a scale model of his IsoMike baffle.) I’ve been often disappointed with multichannel music playback, but this was completely convincing. The voices and instruments present in the room in a way that was at times spooky. Wes was right: Ray Kimber should be King of the Universe.
And so we say goodbye to the Sheraton Gateway and the City of Angels. Home Entertainment 2006 was a good Show, with some great sounds. I echo Wes Phillips's sentiments below. In talking to people, I had a sense that we were all part of a community of individuals with much the same goals, if not always the same way of reaching them. The Show staff were unfailingly pleasant and efficient. The hotel’s facilities served the needs of both exhibitors and attendees well—and by the last day of the show I actually figured out how to go from my room to the escalators without making at least one wrong turn!
WLM stands for Wiener Lautsprecher Manufaktur, and their product literature states that the company’s ambition is "to keep the Viennese heritage of music alive." While this might appear to give short shrift to institutions like the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera, the system featuring WLM Lyra speakers, Audio Aero SACD player and electronics sounded was exceedingly musical in its presentation.
Horns’n’triodes go together like...well, horses and carriages—and those who view both horn loudspeakers and tube electronics as antiquated technology might say that the simile is particularly apt. Although I would not want to argue that the way to sonic bliss is obtainable only by pairing horn loudspeakers with triode tube amplifiers, the combination can be magical, as was the case with the Acapella Audio Arts speakers and Wavac Audio Lab electronics on demo at HE 2006.