Was a sunny day. Not a cloud was in the sky. (With thanks to Paul Simon.) A good day for a drive. But where? "Is there some audio store you haven't been to for some time that you'd like to visit?" (My wife is well-acquainted with my interests.)
But of course! Aardvark Boutique Audio, in Orangeville, Ontario.
For some time now, I've been thinking that my record player was due for an upgrade. My Linn LP12 turntable and Ittok LVII tonearm are about 25 years old, and my AudioQuest AQ7000nsx cartridge is going on 15. During that time, my listening has become increasingly dominated by CDs, but I am not yet ready to give up on LPs. Updating my LP12for which I have Linn's Lingo power supply but no other upgradeswould involve installing the Keel subchassis, for $3250for which price I could get another maker's new, current-design turntable and still have the LP12 to sell. The Linn Ittok can't be upgraded, and its replacement, the Ekos SE, costs $4950out of my range. AudioQuest no longer makes cartridges. Examining my AQ7000nsx's stylus under a microscope showed no visible wear, and there was no obvious audible problem that could be traced to the cartridge's suspension, but age must be having some sort of effect. Taking all these factors into account, I decided to replace my entire phono front end.
Bang & Olufsen celebrated its 90 years of existence by releasing a $75,000/pair loudspeaker that had been 12 years in design. Geoff Martin, Bang and Olufsen's Tonmeister and Technology Specialist in Sound Design, played an instrumental role in bringing the Beolab 90 from its origin as a blue-sky project...
Not having been actively involved in the turntable scene until recently, I found out for the first time about European Audio Team (EAT) at this year's CES. I was intrigued by the look of the various EAT turntables and arms, especially the E-Flat turntable with its flat arm ($4475). My guess was that the turntable was direct-drive, but the charming Jozefina Lichtenegger, the company's CEO (above), told me that the turntable was belt-driven, with a 35 lb platter.
Coming from the pro market, where active loudspeakers have been the norm, ATC is a major advocate of the active approach. According to ATC, the advantages include more accurate crossovers, lower intermodulation distortion, improved frequency response and stereo matching, and better low-frequency control. The active speaker from ATC being demoed at CES was the SCM40A, ($12,999/pair; $6999/pair in the passive version).
Made in Slovenia, the Ubiq One ($13,750/pair) is a striking-looking speaker, whose sound (in a system with the Absolare Passion integrated amplifier and Memory Player 64) had a horn-like quickness. I looked up Ubiq Audio on the internet, and was interested to note that Igor Kante, Ubiq's CEO and project leader, is a big fan of Avantgarde horns, as am I.
Now distributed in the US by MoFi distribution, the venerable Quad Electroacoustics has a new non-electrostatic line, the Z series, which uses woven glass-fiber cones for the midrange and bass units, allied to a "true ribbon" tweeter. The tweeter is said to have descended from the original Corner Ribbon, which preceded the electrostatic Quad ESL-57. On static display at CES 2016 were the Z-3 ($4199/pair, left side of the ESL-2812 in the center of the photo) and the Z-4 ($4000/pair, on the right).
"Clear sound from the north" is how the speakers from Penaudio are identified in the product literature, and my immediate thought was that this is a speaker from The Great White North, ie, Canada. Actually, the speakers are designed in Finland, with the factory in Latvia. The speaker in the photo is the Serenade Signature ($10,999/pair), a slim floorstander that uses custom SEAS drivers. Good sound with Conrad-Johnson electronics.
The French speaker company, Cabasse, is probably best known for their huge spherical speaker (La Sphèrereviewed by Michael Fremer in September 2008) but they make a wide range of speakers, most of them more conventional-looking. Making its US debut at CES 2016 was the Murano, a 3-way bookshelf type with a coaxial tweeter.
Taking a photo of a single speaker for a show report presents a challenge, especially if the speaker is narrow and tall. In the case of the new MartinLogan EM-ESL X, the flagship of the ElectroMotion series (at $3995/pair, I make it close enough to $4000 be part of my territory), I solved the problem by enlisting the help of the uncommonly photogenic Erin Phillips, Communications Manager for MartinLogan and Paradigm.