Sunday afternoon is always the slowest time at an audio show, but you couldn’t tell it from the room dominated by Hsu subwoofers. In the only room I encountered on floors 4 and 5 of the Atrium that was playing action DVDs or Blu-rays, the movie’s obligatory, super-hyped explosions were resonating far outside the door. In what I take to be a statement about popular culture and the American obsession with violence, the darkened room was so packed that there was no way I could even stand in the doorway.
No, I’m not talking about one of the young women who always seem to drive Stephen Mejias to distraction at shows. Rather, I’m speaking of Estelon’s Model XB loudspeakers ($32,900/pair). Designed for more modestly sized rooms, this Estonian speaker was producing realistic, full-range sound courtesy of Vitus Audio’s SM 010 monoblock amplifiers, SL 102 preamplifier, and SCD010 CD player. Power Conditioner was Silver Circle Audio’s Tchaik 6, cabling Kubala-Sosna’s Elation, and rack and feet from Stillpoints.
OMG. It’s 4pm on Sunday, the show is over, and I have three rooms left to cover. Dash to door number one. It’s already locked. Next to door number two. It’s locked as well. Is this going to be the worst episode of Let’s Make A Deal ever known to man or audiophile, I wonder, or will I find the pot of gold behind door number three?
Well, kind of. The door opens, there are boxes everywhere, and Larry Alan Kay, former co-founder of Fithe audiophile magazine that ran all those recipes for audiophiles who like to drink and chomp while they listenis packing up the BSG Technologies QOL Signal Completion Stage.
In two adjacent rooms, GTT Audio & Video showcased systems dominated by much-admired YG Acoustics loudspeakers. In the smaller set-up, the diminutive YG Acoustics Carmel ($18,000) joined the excellent PS Audio PWT Memory transport ($3500), Devialet D-Premier all-in-one DAC/Phono Stage/Integrated amp ($16,000), and Kubala-Sosna Research Emotion interconnects and speaker cable ($3000/first meter) and power cables ($1100/first meter). The chosen material, Jascha Heifetz’s classic recording of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, sounded excellent, but the system’s clarity drove home to me that he was playing so fast that much of the soul of the music was lost.
I’ve come to expect three things from Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio: great music, great sound, and great set-up. The music came first. With the new Joseph Audio Pearl3 loudspeakers (introductory price $28,500/pair) singing their hearts out, the timbres of Ben Webster and Gerry Mulligan’s saxophones were gorgeously conveyed. The same goes for the massed voices on Cantata Domine’s Scandinavian language version of “O Holy Night,” which was a favorite classical demo track at RMAF for exhibitors with analog rigs.
In adjacent rooms, Gershman Acoustics from north of the border was showcasing the US show debut of its Idol loudspeakers ($2995/pair) and their flagship Black Swans ($45,000/pair). In both cases, Esoteric and Clearaudio sources, VAC electronics, Gershman Acoustics Hybrid speaker cable and unidentified interconnects, and Critical Mass Systems’ PXK racks ($1650/level) and Black Sapphire Filter System ($995/level) did the honors.
Having heard at last Randy Bankert’s 97dB-sensitive Sonist Concerto 4 floorstanding loudspeakers ($5895) with electronics and cabling that do them justice, I understand what beautiful sound they are capable of producing. Together with Snake River Audio interconnects and speaker cable ($1100$2449 for a 3m bi-wire pair of speaker cables), whose outer shell shimmers like a snake slithering in the sun, the Hong Kong sourced Increcable TIA-280 80Wpc integrated amplifier, and a Cary CAD-306 Pro SACD/CD player, this system produced solid bass and beautiful highs.
It’s a great name, isn’t it? Your Final System, based in Rochester, NY, is an Internet-based, high-end audio consulting firm specializing in custom USB 2.0 cables and computer music servers that will travel anywhere in the US to set up their music server. Unfortunately, shit happens. YFS’s McIntosh 275 amplifier died right as the show was getting underway, they hunted around until they located Jolida electronics that were fresh out of the box. Given the insufficient break-in time, it’s inappropriate to comment on the sound of a system that also included a customized YFS HD Ref 3 Digital Music Server/Transport ($13,000), Bricasti M1 DAC ($8600), Von Schweikert VR-44 Aktive loudspeakers ($26,000/pair), and YFS cabling (including their REF USB cables ($350 each).
High Fidelity Services of Braintree, MA was producing good, solid sound on well-recorded rock on a system that mixed two products it imports and distributes, Neat Acoustics’ Ultimatum XL6 loudspeakers ($14,280/pair) and Scheu Analog’s Das Laufwerk 1 turntable with 12" Tacco arm and Scheu/Benz cartridge ($15.995), with Zanden’s Model 2500 CD player ($22,000), Model 6000 integrated amplifier ($22,000), and 1300 phono stage ($13,750); Running Springs’ Maxim power conditioner ($6400); and Chord Cable Company’s SArum cabling ($8400).
Assistance Audio, North American distributor for BMS, was showing off the company’s drivers. As I was soon to learn, Lacoustic, JBL, and Volti are but three of the audio manufacturers that use BMS’s drivers in their products.
The company’s Jack Arnott explained that BMS’s drivers can be found everywhere from soundstages in LA to naval paging systems and home audio installations. “I’m using my own cabinets so you can see what’s inside,” he said. “I am using Home Depot speaker cable because I am selling speaker components, not speaker cable." Well, I must say that both Tony Bennett and K.D. Lang’s duet on “La Vie en Rose” and the opening chorale from Glenn Gould’s second recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations sounded quite beautiful.