Music Hall's Roy Hall can usually be relied on to introduce some high-value components at each CES or HE show, and he didn't disappoint this time, either. The Music Hall Trio is a combination CD player, integrated amplifier (50Wpc), and AM/FM tuner (80 assignable presets, remote controllable). Not bad for $999—and, given Roy's track record, it's pretty certain to sound good, too.
I never know what to expect at the "Ask the Editors" sessions, traditionally moderated by Stereophile editor John Atkinson (above). Sometimes we get a lot of people looking for advice on potential purchases of equipment, questions about arcane aspects of amplifier design, questions about cables, about double-blind testing, where the future of audio lies, and, of course, questions about what we thought of the sound in specific rooms at the Show. This time, many of the questions dealt with, of all things, music! There were opinions expressed about the major symphony orchestras of today vs those of the past, and great performances available on LPs. Don't these people know that we're all supposed to be a bunch of equipment-loving geeks?
The official closing time of HE 2007 was 5pm on Sunday. I was surprised to see, then, that there were some people registering even as late as three o'clock Sunday afternoon. Now, that's real devotion to the hobby!
HE 2007 had, as expected, some very expensive equipment being demonstrated, but there were also some modest-priced and still very–good-sounding systems. One of these was the system in the DCM room, based on the DCM TFE 200, a substantial floor-standing speaker priced at just $1000/pair. With a Jolida CD player and integrated amp, the total price for the system was under $3000—and that was including $200's worth of cables from Esoteric Audio. The Man in Black is Al Congdon of DCM.
Remember the name: Salagar Sonics. It's the name of a new American speaker company, whose first product, the Salagar S210 ($7500/pair), still in prototype form, made a strong impression at HE 2007. It's an active two-way—digital crossover; the amp uses the latest B&O ICE module—with a Scanspeak AirCirc tweeter and a 10" Peerless VIFA mid-bass driver, in an unusually-shaped (and highly inert) enclosure. I thought these speakers sounded terrific: lively, low in coloration, and with excellent imaging.
Balanced Audio Technology's Steve Bednarski is a big guy, but he's not a giant, and BAT's Geoff Poor is not nearly as diminutive as he looks in this picture. It's just a matter of perspective with a wide-angle lens. The rack between Steve and Geoff houses the new top-of-the-line Rex preamp, described by Wes Phillips in another posting.
Wandering around HE 2007 with my camera, I'm always watching for interesting-looking products to take pictures of. As soon as I caught a glimpse of the Scaena Iso-Linear Array speakers, I knew I had another subject. It’s available in several colors, including pewter/titanium (real metal), but, personally, I wouldn’t consider anything but the red that was on display. And it's not all just looks, either: this is a serious design, with multiple mid-tweeter modules and subwoofers with digitally controlled active bass management. The speaker is available in various heights, the price for the version shown at HE 2007 was $44,000/pair.
Sure, now he’s smiling. But when Zvox Audio’s Tom Hannaher introduced their new model 425 all-in-one-box surround sound system at a press conference on the first day of the show, he was most distressed about the fact that while the prototype unit had worked fine before he brought it to the room that the press conference was in, in the press conference room it would not make a sound at all. I was going to suggest that he take it back to the original room to see if it worked there, but I restrained myself, thinking that he probably would not appreciate the humor in my suggestion. As it turned out, my facetious suggestion was more correct I realized. On the second day of the show, back in the original room, they plugged in the 425 prior to opening it up to see if they could see anything amiss —and, lo and behold, it worked perfectly. Gremlins, I guess. I had a listen to it myself, and found the sound surprisingly full and natural for a product of this type.
There were a lot of turntables, and a lot of vinyl at the show, not just on demo, but for sale as well. LP vendors like Acoustic Sounds and Music Direct were doing brisk business in their booths in the Ballroom.
Ian McArthur of Audio Plus, North American distributor of the French Focal speakers, is looking casual and relaxed. And why shouldn’t he be? He's leaning on the Electra 1037 Be ($11,000/pair), which has a review coming out by Michael Fremer, a review that —if this is not telling tales out of school —may have people running to their Focal dealers. The sound of the speakers at the Show (Mikey's actual review samples, so they were well broken-in), with Pathos electronics, was one of those that made me stop as I was walking along the corridor to check out what was playing.