PS Audio was showing a pre-production version of the almost available Power Plant Premier ($2195), paired with the Trio C100 Control amps ($1795), Digital Link 3 DAC ($995), Usher 6311 ($2000), and PS Audio cabling. Most impressive, besides the exceptional depth of presentation, was the computer-generated comparison between the amount of noise eliminated by a $2500 power conditioner and the PS Audio Quintet Power Distribution Center, a passive line conditioner that lists for $695. (The photo shows a member of the PS Audio team gloating over the results). The new power plant, by the way, doubles the output of the old P1000, and offers significantly better efficiency and current output.
The first room to seize my attention today paired Triode Electronics from Japan with the Adagio Acoustic Zen and Micropure Kotaro speakers. Neither speakers was an ideal match for the Triode TRV 35SE (an El34-based class-A/B integrated amp offering 45Wpc for $1699) or Triode TRV-M300SE (300B parallel single-ended monoblocks outputting 20W for $4000), since both amps need higher-sensitivity speakers to truly shine. But both the soundstage and midrange were exceptionally enveloping, with highs more extended on the Kotaros. Distributed by Twin Audio Video of Loma Linda, designer Junichi Yamazaki’s amps have only been available in the US since April.
Thom Mackris of turntable manufacturer Galibier Design (whose Stelvio costs $12,500) had me smiling when he played a hilarious track by Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers. Although a little raucous on top, the system (Schröder Reference SQ tonearm, perversely entitled ZYX Universe cartridge, Artemis Labs PH-1 phono stage, preproduction Karna push-pull 300B 15W amp from Nutshell Hi Fidelity, and Gran Sfera Horns by Azzolina Audio) offered a compellingly huge, all-enveloping, elevated soundstage coupled to a beautiful midrange.
One room over from Galibier, and again sporting imposing Azzolina Audio speakers, Hagerman Audio was showing another all-analog system. With no time to tune the system due to emergency equipment repairs necessitated by shipping damage, the system offered wonderful size and considerable midrange beauty, nonetheless.
The phrase "save the best for last" rang true for me today. After close to five hours of listening, with ears that were beginning to scream, I heeded the advice of Sound Applications' Jim Weil and headed to the large room at one end of the 9th floor commandeered by Boulder’s Audio Federation. There I encountered the most rewarding sound I have heard at the show so far.
Tipped off by Stereophile reader David Goodwin, I recently visited the San Francisco Airport Museum's beautifully thought-out and executed exhibit The History of Audio: The Engineering of Sound. Installed to coincide with the 121st convention of the Audio Engineering Society, held at San Francisco's Moscone Center October 5–8, the exhibit runs through May 2007 in the North Connect Gallery of the airport's Terminal 3 (footnote 1).
Surprise! If you love Beethoven, Schnittke, Reich, and Richard Strauss, and frequently play classical music on your iPod or hard drive, you're far from alone. Results of an Internet poll of classical music listeners commissioned by the British magazine Gramophone reveal that 75% of those surveyed use 21st-century media—everything from PCs to MP3 players—and 57% have ripped some of their classical CD collection to another digital format. In fact, 20% of respondents not only download classical music legally, but prefer to listen to it on their MP3 or other digital music player.
Classical music specialist Channel Classics, headquartered in the Netherlands, has begun releasing the first DSD-native, hybrid multichannel SACDs recorded in China. Issued under the Channel of China imprint, the first two titles, Ambush on All Sides (CCS-SA-80106), featuring Zhang Hong Yan on solo pipa, and Soliloquy at Cold Mountain Temple (CCS-SA-80406), with the China National Symphony Orchestra under Li Xin Cao, have recently reached the US. A third SACD, featuring Yu Hong Mei on erhu (CCS-SA-80206), is scheduled to reach European shelves at the end of September and the US three or four months later.
Telarc, Classic Records, AIX, Cisco Music, Elusive Disc, Reference Recordings, and M•A Recordings have all pulled out of CES 2007, citing new restrictions on sales of merchandise that they feel to be unacceptable. Chesky remains undecided. Music Direct, May Audio, and Acoustic Sounds will exhibit, but will not sell product. Only 5.1 Marketing and Sales is currently committed to selling music.
We all know the refrain. Classical music is losing its audience. With shorter attention spans, the ascent of the iPod, a penchant for music (and spoken word masquerading as music) in the background, and the submergence of audio by home theater, fewer and fewer people in the United States are being exposed to art music of the past and present.