I fell in love with Todd Garfinkle's oft-exotic, ambience-rich, superbly recorded gems on MA Recordings years ago, and have always looked forward to seeing him displaying his latest discs at shows. Now relocated from Japan to Los Angeles, Todd has found an ideal show partner in Chris Sommovigo. Chris, importer of Michael Fremer's reference Continuum Caliburn turntable and designer of the once heralded Illuminati digital cable, currently resides in Atlanta, where he engages in mischief and distributes a host of components, including his own Black Cat Morpheus! cabling, under the umbrella, "The Signal Collection."
So here we are on Saturday night, Rob Robinson of Channel D, Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio, and myself of something or other, chilling in the ridiculously oversized chairs in the Omni Jacksonville's lobby near the elevators, awaiting the arrival of Rob's wife Claudia so we can all head out to Thai dinner, when Jacksonville Symphony French horn player Aaron Brask, aka "Last Horn," appears out of nowhere and on your mark-get set-go begins telling us how absolutely, positively, and totally stoked he is that we have brought all these high-end audio exhibits to Jacksonville. It seems that, given that artist Brask is unable to talk while his embouchure is otherwise occupied with his instrument's mouthpiece, the boy has seized the opportunity to gush, and I mean gush, over his chance to finally hear the equipment, big and small, that he had been reading about and lusting after for all these years.
Soundfield Audio, a speaker company which launched six months ago in Tampa, was making a considerable mark with its Soundfield Audio Monitor 1 ($1300/pair) and larger Soundfield Audio System 2 ($7500/pair with separate subwoofers). The Monitor 1 is a 3-way bookshelf that claims to reach down to 38 Hz ±3 dB, and boasts a passive 5.25" midwoofer and 1" tweeter united in a coincident coaxial driver, and an 8" active long-throw subwoofer. Not yet posted or detailed on their website is the larger System 2.
At the prompting of John Atkinson, yours truly organized and moderated a non-denominational four person "Meet and Ask the Writers" panel on Saturday afternoon. Joining me, on the left of the photo) were (leftright) A. Colin Flood of Enjoy the Music.com, Ray(mond) Seda of Dagogo.com, and Neil Gader of The Absolute Sound. Because the panel was sandwiched into the seminar schedule last minute, we only had 45 minutes to dialog without mikes over music not exactly wafting through the air walls. (A big thanks to Part Time Audiophile for his selfless photographic assistance and positive energy. Much appreciated by all.)
"We initially meant our self-powered speakers for the computer market, and never thought you guys from Stereophile would take us seriously," Audioengine's Brett Bargenquast told me in a particularly candid moment. "Then Bob Reina's review of the A2s helped launch us."
It sure did. Bob's glowing review even convinced me to get a pair of Audioengine 5s for my iMac. Years later, they remain in use, making the husband's cheapo TV in the cottage sound far better than it should.
Although Misty Ellis' atmospherically lit room was a challenge to photograph, the sound this company from Columbus, OH put together from a big-bucks system headed by the Audio Power Labs 833TNT 200W transformer-coupled monoblocks ($175,000/pair), Tidal Audio Contriva Diacera SE floorstanding speakers ($58,190/pair in piano black, $64,190/pair in African Pyramid Mahogany as shown), and Laufer Teknik The Memory Player 64 ($24,600) was as tantalizing and satisfying as its visuals. Initially marred by an exaggerated midrange and treble resonances, everything improved immensely when Tidal dealer Doug White, the extremely conscious proprietor of The Voice That Is in Newtown Square (Philadelphia), PA, removed the preamp responsible for the imbalance.
In a room too small to do YG Acoustics' gems full justice, YG's Dick Diamond had assembled a most impressive system for the Anat III Signature ($119,000/pair, back) and sometimes played, more modestly sized Carmel loudspeakers ($18,000/pair, front). We're talking the same four-piece dCS Scarlatti system (approx. $79,000) and Veloce Audio LS-1 battery powered line stage preamp ($18,000) used in the Scaena room, plus two Krell Evo 402e amplifiers ($18,500). Cabling was all Kubala-Sosna, and a PS Audio Juice Bar took the place of power conditioning. Needless to say, the system presented a complete symphonic picture, with solid bass extremely natural and controlled, as opposed to hyped up. In addition, instrumental timbres were pretty much right on.
Read to the end, folks, because this one has a happy ending. In their extremely popular roomI couldn't get in the door the first time I triedRob Robinson of Channel D and Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio were attempting to dem computer audio done right. I say, "attempting" because, despite the unquestionable excellence of Joseph Audio Pulsar loudspeakers ($7500/pair, to be reviewed in the June issue of Stereophile), which I have enjoyed at multiple audio shows, and Channel D's Pure Vinyl high-res digital transcription/editing/playback software ($299) and Pure Music Digital Music Player ($129), the 24/192 files I heard when I first entered had a most unpleasant hard edge to them.
Hardly 90 seconds into the demo, the earthquake hit. No, not one caused by God and nature, or the vibrational residue from a huge subwoofer in the room above or below. Rather, this earthquake was courtesy of the huge industrial washing machine located directly below Soundsmith's fourth floor exhibit. And we are not talking minor stuff here, folks. Everything was shaking badly, including the sign on the wall, and it went on for several minutes.
Having enthusedgushed, reallyover the Orion-4s ($15,510/pair in this iteration with active crossover, Bibinga wood and Ebony trim) when I first heard them at Burning Amp 2010, then again at Burning Amp 2011 (as reported in the January 2012 issue of Stereophile), I was happy to encounter them once more in Jacksonville. It was no surprise to find them doing an absolutely wonderful job of capturing the correct sound of a piano, and bringing lovely depth to a recording of Mozart's Piano Sonata in D Major, K.576. They did an equally fine job in showcasing the beauty of a quartet performing music by Lera Auerbach.