First, today's language lesson: lampa = vacuum tube (or a valve) in Polish. Hence the name LampizatOr for the young Polish company whose GM70 SET 22W tube monoblock integrated amplifiers ($8000/pair) are point-to-point wired in Poland, and whose motivating force, Lukasz Fikus, seems intent on causing quite a stir on audio forums with statements such as, "I DECLARE universal war against high-end equipment manufacturers: CD player, amplifier, cables, speakersNO MORE CRAP."
John Larsen was on hand to show off his eye-catching Swedish-made Larsen 8 loudspeakers with SD feet ($6995/pair), which are distributed by Audio Skies. Meant to be placed against the wall for full control and bass response, they can descend to 23 or 24Hz, and ascend 20kHz. "They're designed to play with the room, not against the room," Larsen explained of a design that claims to eliminate distortion-creating first reflections. The angle of the tweeter also creates a wide soundstage that was given a run for its money on Telarc's recording of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.
It's a l o n g story, but Fritz Speakers ended up at T.H.E. Show as a replacement for a company that couldn't make it. In tow were the Fritz Speakers S/R loudspeakers ($3500/pair), which combine a Scanspeak Illuminator tweeter and a 5" paper-cone driver. Bringing up the rear, as it were, were a VPI Traveler, modified Oppo, DEQX preamp, PTE phonostage, Wells Audio Innamorata amplifier, and WyWires cabling. On an LP by Tracy Chapman, I heard fine soundstaging, lovely bass, and a little ringing around the edges. The bright edge remained when we switched to CD.
When I entered the Daniel Hertz room, close to a full house was sitting at attention as someone was giving a spiel about room correction. As I wrote in my notes, "I don't know what's going on, but the choir is overloading and the sound is too warm." Said person, whom I only later learned, after I left the room, was Mark Levinson, then announced that he wanted to show off the system's dynamic range. "Any sound known to man this system can reproduce," or something very close to that, he declared as he proceeded to play sounds created by Norah Jones.
Having heard a prototype of Zesto Audio's brand new BIA 120 class-A stereo power amp ($12,500), I was delighted to discover it looking and sounding extremely attractive in a system that included TAD Evolution One loudspeakers, a Zesto Andros PS1 phono stage, Merrill Williams audio REAL 101 turntable w. Tri-Planar U2 tonearm and Dynavector XV-1s cartridge, and a full complement of WyWires cabling. On Illinois Jacquet's album, God Bless My Solo, I noticed that the really nice, warm sound was a little bright on top, and that images seemed rather small for the speakers and room.
ATI (Amplifier Technologies, Inc.) of Montebello, CA, who also owns Theta Digital, were blowing minds with the nine channels of bass produced by the combination of their American Muscle AT6002 Morris Kessler Signature Limited Edition Stereo Signature Amplifier ($3995), which outputs 300Wpc into 8 ohms and is available in 2- through 7-channel versions; the finally released and revised Theta Prometheus monoblock amplifiers ($12,000/pair); the well-known, upgraded Theta Casablanca IV; and California Audio Technology loudspeakers.
Although the business buzz in the Esoteric room made deep sonic evaluation impossible, I was impressed with the very nice midrange warmth and sweetness of the Esoteric system. I didn't hear any overtones from the new Grandioso M-1 mono power amplifier ($23,000/each), but I expect they were drowned out. A new companion preamp may be out by summertime. Also due from the company known for its excellent transport mechanisms is a new top-of-the-line transport, to replace the P-01, and a new mono DAC, to replace the D-01.
Rogers High Fidelity's New York-manufactured, aerospace engineering-based system, which included the just-launched PA-1A six-tube phono preamplifier ($7100) (pictured on the right) and EHF-200MK2 KT150-based, 112Wpc integrated amplifier ($15,000), delivered extremely quiet, beautifully warm and lovely sound with Shunyata power conditioning, Kimber Kable, and Davone Grande loudspeakers. The two Rogers pieces also looked fabulous.
Due late February, the cute Monitor Audio Airstream A100 50Wpc, class-A/B, integrated amplifier ($500) is a pure analog design that can work on its own, or as part of an audio/TV-based system. It is compatible with Airplay and Airplay Direct as well as the Monitor Audio Airstream App-based controller, can navigate music collections and stream music, supports DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) streaming, has a front-panel USB input, built-in hi-res DAC, stereo RCA pre/sub outputs, and offers control via front panel or slender remote. The sound was clean, crisp, and fast through Monitor Audio's GX50 loudspeakers ($1800/pair).
Gideon Schwartz of AudioArts NYC assembled an extremely fast system that delivered maximum color without any of the harsh, irritating edge that I encountered on many systems, both tube and solid-state, at CES. On Salvatore Accardo's well-worn Diabolicus in Musica LP of Paganini's solo violin music, as well as on a CD by the Musicians of the Nile, I was deeply impressed by the upward extension of the tone and the system's willingness to bathe music with the light it deserves. If the system wanted for the last iota of bass impact and clear delineation of low-lying lines, it nonetheless handled bass with a finesse that few hotel room set-ups offered, especially in the case of large loudspeakers sandwiched into small spaces.