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.
Flying Mole Electronics is the whimsical name of a company that makes some compact, relatively inexpensive, and, from what I heard in their room, very good-sounding audio electronics. How compact? Well, just look at the picture of their CA-S3 integrated amp, with a CD box next to it for scale. The amplifier is described as "proprietary bi-phase PWM," with an output of 20Wpc, and sells for $850. The larger—but still compact—CA-S10 ($1500) puts out 100Wpc. Both are claimed to have a tube-like sound. The little CA-S3 did a good job driving both a custom system based on JBL components and a more conventional bookshelf-sized speaker from Von Schweikert.
Ask the Editors: the view from the stage. The questions this year did not include the usual ones about which exhibits people liked the most, recommendations about tweaks, and why Stereophile doesn’t do blind testing in all reviews. Instead, there were questions about things like intellectual property rights, the future of various audio formats, and whether multichannel represents a worthwhile enhancement of the music-listening experience. Very polite and friendly.
"Joseph and Cardas must be stopped! Don’t let them win best sound again! Give someone else a chance!" That was the bit of tongue-in-cheek "reverse psychology" stated on buttons handed out by Jeff Joseph. The upgraded speakers at the show were the RM7XL ($2299/pair) and the RM22XL ($3199/pair).
In the Show's ongoing HE Luminaries series, Jim Thiel, founder of Thiel Audio, talked to John Atkinson about his ideas on speaker design, and the evolution of his speakers through the years, including the new CS3.7, which made its debut at HE2006.
VTL announced a major upgrade to their TL-7.5 Reference Linestage Preamplifier (current gain technology, with dramatically lower noise floor), which is now the TL-7.5 Series II. They also have an upgraded version of the MB-450 monoblocks and a new 250Wpc MB-185. Pictured: VTL’s Bea Lam with the system that featured the TL-7.5/MB-450 combo driving Wilson Sophia 2s. Lovely sound.
Shanling is known for the striking industrial design of their tube electronics. Seen in the Music Hall room, the new A500 integrated amp ($6499) maintains the striking looks, but it's solid-state. Lots of nice blue lights, though.
Those who’ve admired the sound of the speakers from TAD, but could not get past the prices, will be interested in the new line from Pioneer, which use trickle-down versions of the TAD drivers and cabinets just slightly less elaborate in resonance-damping characteristics, and much lower prices ($6000 for the S-1EX pair on demo). Designer Andrew Jones is obviously pleased by the sound, as well he might be.