After building ModWright Instruments' reputation as a quality source for equipment mods, Dan Wright has expanded his business to include manufacturing his own components. Perhaps because his gear was called into play in a number of rooms, his own room was mobbed until Sunday, when crowds traditionally lighten up.
You can always count on EAR's Dan Meinwald to be spinning some great platters. When I walked in, whatever jazz recording was playing sounded very alive and incisive. (EAR's electronics and Marten's speakers are not shy and recalcitrant). When Dan switched to an old classic LP, Meeting at the River, the Vishwa Mohan Bhatt's unique guitar sounded uncommonly beautiful and clear. Had I not had 18 rooms left to visit on Saturday, with a lot more screaming for attention, I would have stayed longer.
We audiophiles can't resist pushing the boundaries of intimacy. Step on those cables, jostle them ampswe just gotta take a look at what's going on from all angles. Trying not to do permanent damage, here's what I spied on the back of Lowther America's Field-Coil EXR Open-Baffle loudspeaker (estimated price of $15,000/pair).
I ended Saturday's incredibly packed tour of the 15 rooms on the Marriott Tower's 10th floor with a stop in Musical Fidelity's room. It was a good choice. This was the first room at the show where I pulled out Channel Classics' superbly recorded hybrid SACD of the Ebony Band Amsterdam performing a unique arrangement of Revueltas' elemental, gutsy, phantasmagorical Sensemaya. The sense of air was immense, with amazing soundstaging that belied the small size of the room. I also loved the height of the soundstage, and the deep reaches of the bass. But as much as I savored the presentations' air and depth, this hardly laid-back system sounded a bit tipped-up in the highs, a common factor in many of the smaller rooms at the Marriott.
Departure Audio seems to take their name seriously. In a system fine-tuned by Shakti Hallographs (the candelabra-like devices at the edges of the photograph) and the infamous you know whats from Synergistic, the Fort Collins dealership was showing Canton Reference 7.2 loudspeakers ($7000, presumably for the pair), Herron Audio's VTSP-3A preamplifier ($6550) and M1 power amps ($6850, presumably for the pair), Arcam CD 37 ($2295), Blue Circle Audio BC 507 DAC ($2095, with options available), Audio Magic cabling and Oracle power conditioning ($7500). The sound was clean and incisive, which means somewhat tipped up. I would have stayed to explore more, but constant conversation in the room led me to take Departure Audio's name literally.
The sound in this room blew me away. When I walked in, Dr. John's "In a Sentimental Mood" was sounding as lovely and mellow as can be. Switching gears 180°, Reference Recordings' LP issue of Stravinsky's Firebird had absolutely amazing bass. "Amazing," I wrote twice in my notes.
I was delighted to discover that AudioPrism, originators of the infamous green pen (aka the AudioPrism CD Stoplight), is still in business. For newbies who do not know about the green pen, Collett and those who reviewed it shook skeptics to the core when they declared that painting the edge of CDs with the green pen lowered digital edge and improved data retrieval. The backlash was tremendous. Then Krell began bathing its CD tray in green light, some people found that green-tinted CD-Rs and then black discs sounded better, CD mats with green undersides made a demonstrable improvement in sound, and the skepticism was transferred to the next tweak on the horizon.
Making its debut was a platter that screamed for Michael Fremer: Kodo's The Beat MagDrive turntable ($24,000). Alas, the widely lamented "where is Michael Fremer" was starring in an opera entitled Home Remodeling Can't be Accomplished with Remote Control, and was back in New York.
Craig Oxford and William Carpenter, CEO of Consensus Biotechnology and Consensus Biolabs of Little Rock, happily introduced me to the successors to Pipe Dreams loudspeakers, the HighEmotion Audio Pyra Bella 7 monitors ($6000/pair), Bella Basso 28 subs ($4000/pair, with 2 pairs in use), and Passare XOL crossover ($3000). (I did not audition the second system with the HighEmotion Audio Festune Bass Module). The HighEmotion speakers, which employ "a substantial amount of new technology", are the result of years of research into brain imagining technology, and "the emotional responses to music, auditory system function, physics, and electrical engineering."
At one end of the 11th floor sat the large, imposing Galibier Design Suite. It was dominated by several eye-catching products: Daedalus Audio loudspeakers, which replaced the scheduled and, from distant memory, fine Green Mountain Audio Calypso HD speakers ($14,900/pair) because the Daedalus babies were able to put out enough bass to fill the room; and Adona Master Reference stands (price not supplied) which supported the Galibier Design Stelvio-II turntable ($27,500) with its Durand Taiea tonearm ($7900) and Dynavector XV1s cartridge ($5250), and Atma-sphere MP-1 preamp ($15,000) and M-60 amplifiers ($13/600/pair). Equally important were Marigo Labs' VXi Mystery Feet ($779/set of 3), Analog 1 interconnects ($2000/pair), and Analog 1 SC speaker cable ($2000/pair).