Patrick Chu, creator and designer of the $80,000/pair, two-way, Mandarin Supreme loudspeaker, explained that the products’ name is a synthesis of two words: Loimin means "delightful understanding" and Chay means "ateliar or studio." The frequencies from 750Hz upwards are handled by a 1" tweeter loaded with a 19" horn comprised of alternating layers of cherry and oak wood. The bass, which is rated down to 22Hz, is handled by 10" and 12" woofers. This composite was by far the least active speaker material I've come across. Rapping it with my knuckles was like tapping on granite. The woofer enclosure was made of concrete with a cloth covering. I didn't ask about the loudspeaker's weight because I didn't want to know. The nominal impedance is 8 ohms, and the voltage sensitive a very high 92dB. Although I didn't audition any familiar reference recordings, the speaker had a dynamic sonic texture with a midrange emphasis.
...and 3.6kW into 2 ohms! All in a day's work for Krell's $40,000/pair, Krell Evolution 900 monoblock amplifier. On passive display with its top off, you can see that the amplifier has three output modules, each containing a pair of driver stages, 28 bipolar output devices, and a massive heatsink that vents heat in chimney fashion through vents in the top and bottom of the chassis. The power supply features two 3kVA toroidal transformers, 52 electrolytic capacitors, each rated at 1800µF, 900watt, and 105°F. Weight? Again I didn't want to know, but was told it was a mere 175 lbs!
"That's an impressive soundstage for a two-way monitor," I thought looking at the diminutive Confidence C1 loudspeaker, but hearing a wide, deep soundstage. Dynaudio's 25 lb pound, two-way ($7000/pair plus $450/pair for two) features a 7" woofer and the Danish company's acclaimed Esotar2, 28mm, soft-dome tweeter. The drivers are mounted on a baffle that is said to be decoupled from the cabinet. Dynamic range was superb driven by Simaudio Moon W-7M monoblocks, thought JA, who thought that this system's reproduction of Stereophile's new Attention Screen CD was one of the best he heard at the Show.
Todd Eichenbaum, design engineer at Krell, walked me through the design of their new amplifier, the $10,500, 300Wpc 302. The power supply employs a 3kVA toroidal transformer, built-in power conditioning, a current-mirror input stage, a push-pull driver stage, and low negative feedback (8dB) around the output stage. It was paired with the $10,000 Evolution 222 stereo preamplifier.
Krell Industries' new Modulare Duo loudspeaker system was the one active exhibit in their suite, playing music from an excellent sampler of audiophile favorites. Todd Eichenbaum, shown standing next to the $35,000/pair, 300 lb system, explained that the separate woofer and satellite units were made of machined billet aluminum, as with Krell's original LAT-1 speaker system, but the Modulare’s drivers and passive crossover circuitry have been designed for higher current handling. The low-frequency cabinet contains three 8" aluminum-cone woofers, while the satellite section marries a 1" ScanSpeak ring-radiator tweeter, and a 6.5" aluminum-cone midrange driver.
The Pathos InPower monoblock amplifier ($13,500/pair) is a hybrid design offering 80W (at 0.4% THD, 5Hz–60kHz, ±3dB. It features some of the most beautiful industrial design I saw at the show. Designer Gianni Borinato describes it as a balanced, double INPOL power amplifier, with a zero-feedback, hand-matched. MOSFET output stage biased to run in class-A. The point-to-point wiring uses silver wire. Two triode tubes in the input stage are wired in opposite phase to form a double triode that is claimed to minimize distortion. The design proved its merit by driving the Focal 1037 Be loudspeakers with speed, dynamics, and excellent imaging. The room was a favorite among the Stereophile writers at the Show.
Andrew Watson proudly discussed the latest iteration of KEF's reference floorstanding speaker, the $20,000/pair 207 Mark 2. This new version features a new UNI-Q array that no longer needs the hypertweeter found in the Mark 1 version. The new tweeter has a vented magnetic assembly to provide more air volume behind the dome to smooth the sonic response. The manufacturer has to drill through the magnet assembly, thereby reducing its sensitivity. As a result, two additional neodymium rings were added to the usal magnet. The new tweeter's design has the voice-coil former touching the dome at two points to lend additional support and prevent breakup at high frequencies.
My interest in wireless network music players began during David Hyman's keynote speech at Home Entertainment 2003. Then CEO of Gracenote, Inc. (footnote 1), Hyman stunned me with his opinion that CDs and DVDs were already obsolete. Rather than pursue discs with greater storage capacity, Hyman urged industry designers to design music-server units with large hard drives to allow instantaneous access to any digital music track. With all of your music stored on a central hard drive, you could, within seconds, locate a specific track among thousands just by knowing the name of the artist, song, group, composer, year of recording, or even recording venue. Music mixes could be instantly grouped into playlists by the owner.
"Now that's real room lock," I exclaimed, listening to the deep pedal organ notes from John Mark’s recording of James Bustard playing Herbert Howell’s Master Tallis’ Testament, recorded at the Church of St. Stevens in Providence, Rhode Island. Tierry Budge's new loudspeaker, the floorstanding, two-way, Pearlized White, $18,990/pair speaker played the pipe organ pedal chords with thunder and power when driven by the VTL S-400 amplifier and the new dCS digital front-end on one of the Sound By Singer rooms. The speaker's large enclosure holds both an external 12" woofer and an internal 12" driver, which allows Budge to rate the speaker's response down to an impressive 18Hz. Budge claims the internal 12" minimizes group delay, reducing the driver's rise time from its nominal 500ms to 55ms. The tweeter is soft-dome, ring radiator made by Scan Speak.
AIX Records' Mark Waldrep, see here with Mona Waldrep, was promoting their latest DVD-Video and DVD-Audio, surround-sound release, Ernest Ranglin, Order of Distinction. Featured performers included Robbie Krieger from the Doors, Phil Chen and Laurence Juber from Paul McCartney's Wings group, and Elan Atias from the Caars. Mark reminded me that his website, Itrax.com, will go operational in June, providing one of the only sites where high-quality, lossless-compressed, surround-sound music files will be available for purchase and downloading.