In the early morning hours of December 11, Joseph Cohen of the Lotus Group, the exclusive distributor of Oyaide products in North America, sent out a "Lotus Group News Flash!" The e-mail, dated December 10, declared:
Naxos has taken a major step toward distributing higher-quality downloads of classical-music recordings. ClassicsOnline, the label's impressive download site, now offers the world's largest collection of classical-music recordings free of digital rights management (DRM). All of the site's nearly 22,000 albums, from more than 100 independent labels, are available at 320kbps.
Boy, is it hard to take a good photo when a company purposely leaves the shades behind their equipment wide open. But given that Darren Censulo of Avatar Acoustics (now relocated to Fayetteville, GA) had tuned the room with Frank Chang's Acoustic System International Resonators so that it would sound great with all that exposed glass, asking him to close the shades in order to snap a clearer picture was out of the question.
Lou Hinkley's Daedalus Audio teamed up with an old friend, Art Audio/Gill Audio, and a new friend, Manley Labs. Showcasing the Daedalus Audio Ulysses loudspeaker ($10,950/pair), now boasting new improved internal wire, the system's dark presentation was very well delineated, with impressively three-dimensional sound. The midrange was especially mellow and inviting.
As I walked into the E.A.R./Marten room, Nat King Cole's voice sounded as beautiful as I have ever heard it reproduced. Through the modest-looking Marten FormFloor speakers ($6500/pair) and Marten FormSub ($4500), Reference Recordings' triumphant version of Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances was so thrillingly full and colorful that I could not hide my amazement. On Dialoghi, a demonstration-quality CD from Bob Attiyeh of Yarlung Records that Robert Levi of the Los Angeles Audio Society urged me to play, the sound of Elinor Frey' cello was as warm and beautiful as anyone would ever want it to be. I was in love.
After a short visit to the Daedalus room, during which time Peigen changed speakers and cables, I returned to hear the F200's big daddy, the F300 ($14,900/pair). This is a 3-way, 4-driver vented box, with a rear-firing supertweeter, Air Motion Transformer tweeter, and copper shorting ring on the woofer to facilitate tighter bass. Frequency range is 24Hz40kHz, sensitivity 89dB, and weight 158 lbs each. The speaker comes in two parts, so that the mid-and high-range unit can be used separately as a center channel with an impressive frequency range of 40Hz40kHz. Associated components were the same as with the F200.
There's nothing like being greeted as the audiophile equivalent of the Messiah to either make your day or impel you to run for cover. In the case of Peigen Jiang's Eficion speakers, I'm glad I got over my embarassment and stayed.
Something happened in the middle of the tenth floor. In the remaining rooms I visited to the right of the elevatorwith apologies to all those systems I unintentionally missed due to the pathetic human limitation of being unable to be in three rooms at oncethe sound was darker, less illumined, but nonetheless quite involving. This is actually a sound that large numbers of audiophiles prefer. It's a more seasoned and mellow sound, less apt to sound bright and edgy in live rooms, and closer to the sound in acoustically dampened environments. It's truly a case of different strokes for different folks.
Within minutes of running into Jeff Wells, new National Sales Manager for Spectron Audio, I found myself on the tenth floor of the Marriott. Playing my own version of pick a number, any number, I decided to check out the first room on my left. There, in a display sponsored by TweekGeek.com, I discovered two Spectron Musician III class-D amplifiers ($7195 each) driving SP Technology Revelation full-range speakers ($20,000/pair).