John Atkinson

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 16, 2014 0 comments
With new US distribution, by the Katli Audio Co. from LA, the Taiwanese Usher loudspeaker manufacturer premiered its Grand Tower flagship ($37,800/pair) at CES. Combining Usher’s diamond-dome tweeter with two in-house 7" midrange units and two Eton 11" woofers, the Grand Tower weighs 500 lbs and has a claimed low-frequency extension of 24Hz, with a 90dB sensitivity. My experience of a percussion recording suggests that both specifications are valid!
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 16, 2014 1 comments
The Polar Vortex weather and its associated flight cancellations prevented Convergent Audio Technology’s Ken Stevens from reaching Las Vegas until the third day of the show. However, once he arrived, he set up a system featuring Vandersteen 5A Carbon speakers, connected by Stealth cables to his new JL5 Triode "Baby CAT" stereo power amplifier. This 100Wpc (8 ohms) amplifier costs $12,000 with amorphous core transformers and Black Gate capacitors, $10,000 with silicon-steel transformers. The circuit features what Ken calls "OptiBias"—Ken describes this as "somewhere between constant current and constant power"—which keeps the bias current of the output-stage KT120 tubes independent of fluctuations in the AC supply voltage. Those who feel tube amplifiers can’t rock hard in the bass should have experienced the Led Zeppelin track I auditioned in Ken’s room.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 16, 2014 3 comments
On first glimpse, Nola’s Carl Marchisotto appeared to be demming the same Concert Grand Reference Gold loudspeakers he had shown at the 2013 CES. However, those were the preproduction protypes and the 2014 show featured the production version. Costing the same $197,000/pair, the speaker features a new ribbon supertweeter taking the response up to 100kHz and two new Gold Technology woofers operating below 40Hz. Driven by an Audio Research Reference 75 stereo amplifier and an Audio Research Reference 10 preamp, with source two United Home Audio Tape decks running 15ips, 2-track analog tape and hooked up with Nordost Odin cabling, the sound in this room had an impressive, full-range sweep that usefully loosened up as the show progressed and the speakers/system broke in.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 16, 2014 0 comments
Jason Serinus mentioned the Rosso Fiorentino Florentia loudspeakers ($99,995/pair) in his report on the Graaf amplifier in the Avatar Acoustics room below. This four-way speaker enclosure features aluminum front panels and glass side panels and weighs 361.5 lbs. The midrange and treble units are mounted in an open baffle, while the top-mounted woofer and the twin 12" subs are mounted in sealed enclosure. The subs are driven by a 1500W amplifier and the sensitivity is claimed to be 89dB.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 16, 2014 0 comments
Scottish manufacturer Tannoy was showing the Carbon Black version of the Kingdom Royal speaker ($85,000/pair), which adds carbon-fiber trim panels, individually machined metal components, and a “specially formulated” paint on the cabinet surfaces. The speaker combines a 12” Dual-Concentric driver with a supertweeter and a 15”, vented woofer with a corrugated surround for maximum linearity. The Kingdom Royal looked elegant indeed, and driven by Cary single-ended power amplifiers with Cary’s new streamer as source, the full-range, wide-dynamic-range sound was equally elegant.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 15, 2014 0 comments
Jon Iverson already reported on the Antelope DAC, but as I have just favorably reviewed their SCM 7 v.3 minimonitor for the forthcoming April issue of Stereophile, I was more interested in the active ATC SCM100SL Towers in the room. This speaker combines ATC's proprietary soft-dome midrange driver with a 1" tweeter and 12" woofer, tri-amped by ATC's Anniversary amplification. With a laptop running JRiver Media Center feeding data to the Antelope Zodiac-Platinum DAC with its Voltikus power supply, the 24/96 transfer of Steely Dan's "Babylon Sisters" was reproduced with tight, well-controlled low frequencies.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 15, 2014 0 comments
Like Stephen Mejias at the 2013 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I have been impressed by the German Zellaton speakers when I have heard them, both at shows, and at a dealer event I attended in 2012 at Fidelis Audio in New Hampshire. With foil-covered drive-units, a crossover from Duelund Coherent Audio, and driven by Trinity balanced phono and line preamps and 200Wpc CH M1 amplification from Switzerland, the three-way Reference speakers sounded forceful and detailed.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 15, 2014 0 comments
"One touch," that’s all it takes for you to enjoy your music, said B&O CEO Teo Mantoni, introducing the Danish company’s BeoSound Essence music-streaming system to the press at CES, and compared that one-touch solution to the current compendium of 10 swipes and presses that you need to playback a Spotify playlist from your smartphone. Mr. Mantoni is holding the elegant Essence Remote in his hand; a ring around the small aluminum puck controls volume and play/pause, forward and backward buttons are embedded on the top. The circular puck is available as wall-mount and desktop versions, and a remote box both connects to the playback system and is the center for AirPlay streaming, DLNA streaming, Spotify Connect, QPlay and Internet radio stations.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 15, 2014 1 comments
I’ve had a couple of conversations the past couple of years with mastering engineer Dave Collins about the D/A processor he was designing for Manley Labs, the company run by his wife EveAnna Manley. The 2014 CES saw the consumer debut of the Heart Monitor Controller 24/192 DSP ΔΣ [Delta-Sigma] DAC, which was being demmed in a system featuring Manley’s 25th Anniversary monoblocks, which use KT120 tubes. There are four digital inputs and Dave has kept the fully differential signal path as short as possible. Silicon includes a SHARC DSP and AD1955 DAC chips and harmonic distortion has been kept to a superbly low –120dB, and even that is the subjectively benign second. Price has yet to be decided.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 14, 2014 7 comments
Jon Iverson reports elsewhere on Light Harmonic's cost-no-object Sire DAC. But the bigger buzz at the 2014 CES was the LH Labs Geek Pulse, a desktop DAC and headphone amplifier. Except that this product does not yet exist!

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