"Turntable Wars" was the phrase used by Anthony H. Cordesman to head his review of the Oracle, SOTA, and VPI turntables in Vol.9 No.4. To judge from the reaction of the manufacturers at CES to this innocent phraseology, you would have thought that Stereophile had been warmongering, rather than publishing what were actually pretty positive opinions of the products concerned. So enraged was Jacques Riendeau of Oracle, and concerned that the record be put straight, that he insisted on a "right to reply" to AHC's review; as it happened, Ivor Tiefenbrun and Charlie Brennan of Linn (right in photograph, footnote 1), and SOTA's Rodney Herman (center in photo, footnote 2), also wanted to contribute to the debate, so a small crowd of illuminati gathered in Room 417 of the Americana Congress to commit opinions to tape. I held the microphone and clicked the shutter; Larry Archibald (left in photo) was there to lend the proceedings a businesslike air.
Some readers may feel that it is pushing poetic license beyond reasonable limits to call the Krell KSA-50 a "new-wave" amplifier. It has, after all, been around for several years. The Krell KSA-50 is new-wave enough, however, to be an incredibly stiff class-A design, rather than a pseudo–class-A circuit, and its 50 watts per channel are supported by enough of a power supply to drive an arc welder. You get about 70 watts of RMS power with 8 ohms, 150 watts with 4 ohms, and sufficient watts into 2 ohms to threaten my load resistors. There is almost enough power to drive a pair of Apogee Scintillas at their ohm setting—though I'd prefer at least the Krell KSA-100.
Breaking news this morning is the announcement that the Italian Investment Group Fine Sounds SpA is to acquire 100% of famed US tube-amplifier manufacturer McIntosh Laboratory from D&M Holdings. Fine Sounds already owns the Sonus Faber, Audio Research, and Wadia Digital brands and the Sumiko distribution company.
Legacy's Bill Dudleston stands by the new Aeris speaker ($16,900/pair), which combines an AMT tweeter/supertweeter module (see below) with a dipole midrange unit and upper wooferthese have corrugated surrounds for maximum inearityand two sealed-box subwoofers operating below 220Hz and driven by an internal 500W ICE-power class-D amp. With an AVM amplifier and CD player,the sound of Tchaikovsky's Italian Caprice was forceful and clean, though the big bass drum thwacks clipped the amplifier at the level I had chosen for the orchestral sound in the large room Legacy was using.
Anders Ertzeid, VP of Sales and Marketing for Hegel, introduces the Norwegian company’s new H300 integrated amplifier ($5500). This amp includes a 32-bit DAC, 5 digital inputs and 5 analog inputs, and uses a high-precision clock circuit said to eliminate jitter.
I have been impressed by the sound of the line-source Scaena speakers at previous shows, but nothing had prepared me for the drop-dead gorgeous, real silver finish on the Silver Ghost 10th Anniversry Edition speakers at CES. Costing a breathtaking $153,000/system with the active subwoofers, the Silver Ghosts were driven at CES by the battery-powered Veloce amps and preamp and connected with the High Fidelity cables that Jason Serinus wrote about earlier in this Show report. (The regular speakers cost a relatively more affordable $83,000/pair.)
"The synergy is palpable between Triode Corporation's Japanese-made electronics and Acoustic Zen's loudspeakers and cables," wrote Jason Serinus earlier in this blog and I just wanted to add my 2 cents. As I had in many rooms at CES, I auditioned my recording of pianist Hyperion Knight performing Gershwin on the Acoustic Zen Crescendo speakers ($16,000/pair). The sound of the Steinway was sweetperhaps a little too sweet?and the soundstage was wide, deep, and stable.
Jeff Joseph was demming his new Pearl3 floorstanding speakers ($28,100/pair) in an all Bel Canto system (including their new USB converters), hooked up with Cardas cables. Jeff's music choice was decidedly idiosyncratic a duet for marimba and double bass, a recording of an African singer and sax player made in his backyard, Harry Belafonte live at Carnegie Hallbut with every kind of music, the Pearls allowed the music to speak most effectively.
I first heard the dipole Orion 4 speakers ($14,750/pair with Analog Signal Processor), designed by Siegfried Linkwitz and manufactured by Wood Artistry of Healdsburg, California, at the 2011 AXPONA in Atlanta, where they were one of the best-sounding rooms at the Show. They were in too large a room in Chicago, but still managed to sound clean and natural, with a full range of frequencies, driven by Pass Labs amplification with DH Labs cabling. I refer you to me 2011 report for details on the speaker's design but new at Chicago was a refined version of the Analog Signal Processor, with closer-tolerance crossover components, and an amplifier/processor that obviates the need to drive the Orions with 6 or 8 amplifier channels and the resulting confusion of cables.
It appears I couldn’t go for an entire show without hearing Bela Fleck and the Flecktones’ “Flight of the Cosmic Hippo”one of the last rooms I went into on the Sunday afternoon, shared by Affordable Audio and speaker manufacturer King Sound featured the unmistakable sound of Victor Wooten’s deep-voiced bass guitar! “Electrostatics don’t have bass?” asked Kingsound’s Roger du Naier, “Listen to that!” And Roger was right, the Prince III electrostatic kicking major low-frequency bootie, and without too narrow a sweet spot, the other Achilles’ Heel of big panel speakers. Surely this wasn't all due to the presence of Synergistic's little ART bowls in the room?