I know. It sounds a bit like a Beatles flashback. (Note the psychedelic colors on Ron Hedrick's face, for reasons that only the Marriott lobby's lighting designer can explain). But this seems to be a very 2008 product. Marigo's Ron Hedrick spent 2 years building 120 prototypes before releasing his VX Mystery Feet for amplifiers, DACs, and other components ($699/set of three), and TR Mystery Feet for digital transports and CD players ($659/set of three). Each support foot consists of 32 parts, with 10 constrained layers of composite material that are first heated, then pressed at 1000psi. Hand-assembled, the feet include little brass inserts on the component end to distribute energy. You balance your components on the protruding little brass thingees on one end and pray there's no earthquake.
Oh my God. What a sound! The lighting and my distance from the speaker doesn't allow you to see it clearly, but there's a little cross inside the radiating grille atop the workings of MBL's Radialstrahler Reference mbl 101 Mk.II speakers ($59,990/pair) that drives home the religious experience that listening to an all-MBL system can create.
Here's a more modest system than some of the others featured so far that really nailed the raucous highs on a curious wind version of Revueltas' wild, ritualistic Sensemaya. Veteran high-end designer Frank Van Alstine was justly proud of his Ultra 550 hybrid power amp with its 300Wpc ($2395), Transcendence Eight vacuum-tube preamp ($1299 with optional remote and phono stage), and Insight Solid State DAC ($999). Paired with the Jim Salk Sound Veracity HT3 3-way loudspeakers with their 10" woofer ($4895), this system was making sounds worth checking out.
I literally breathed a sigh of relief when I entered this room. Not that anything was wrong with the exceptional sound of the vast majority of rooms I visited. But of all the systems I auditioned, this one felt most like a safe haven. It was like coming home.
I'm scared. I've just returned from a visit to the isle of my birth, Manhattan. As the spouse and I walked to Stereophile's offices to meet John Atkinson and Stephen Mejias for dinner, we passed some of the most valuable real estate in the country. It was hard to imagine that, if global warming continues at its current, ever-accelerating pace, the buildings we were marveling at will soon be below sea level.
There's good news on the download front. Two sites, one in the UK and the other in the US, are gearing up for major expansions of their catalogs. Both offer DRM-free files in both lossless and high-quality (320kbps) MP3 formats.
T.H.E. Show, aka The Home Entertainment Show, has put out a welcome mat for members of "authentic Audiophile Societies throughout the globe."1 Scheduled for January 911, 2009, in Las Vegas, the same dates as the Consumer Electronics Show down the road, T.H.E. Show has for the first time offered members of audiophile societies paid access to over 100 anticipated active-display suites in both the St. Tropez and Alexis Park hotels.
Sometimes, wonderful things go unnoticed. Thus did Stereophile miss that, in June 2007, at its 31st annual conference, in London, UK, the International Audio Engineering Society issued two Awards of Excellence in the category of Professional Engineering. One, which we learned about from a Minnetonka Audio press release, went to Dorian Records (see the May 2008 issue of Stereophile, pp.14–15). The other went to AIX Records of Southern California. The award is for John Gorka's The Gypsy Life, one of more than 50 high-resolution recordings available from AIX in DVD-Audio/Video surround sound and on two-channel CD. Most interesting is that both AES awards were for DVD-Audio projects.
Alon Wolf can be mesmerizing. When the founder of Magico gets going on one of his favorite subjects, loudspeaker design, the strength of his convictions, depth of technical knowledge, and sureness of response are enough to hush many a skeptic into silence.