Take a dCS Scarlatti digital front end ($68,000), combine it with a pair of Nagra VPA tube amplifiers ($20,000/pair, pictured), and a pair of the new Verity Audio Amadis loudspeakers ($29,995) and you'll have a pretty good-sounding system, right?
The Stereophile Ask the Editors session at Showsin which John Atkinson (left), Art Dudley (center), Stephen Mejias, and I fielded questions from the audience at SSIin something that I enjoy a lot, and so, I know, do JA, AD, and SM. Through the years, I've learned that it's almost impossible to anticipate what the questions will deal with. And that was certainly true this time. The questions covered a wide range of topics: why are there so few active speakers on the market; why doesn't Stereophile review more vintage equipment; what system that we've heard (at the show or elsewhere) represents to us audiophile nirvana; music recorded in what format will be reproducible a thousand years from now; why is the interest in high quality audio less popular now than it was a few decades ago; has loudspeaker quality improved through the years; and many more. All thoughtful, interesting questions.
The Computer Audio 2010 seminar on Saturday was very well-attendedI barely managed to get a seat. The presentation was by Steve Silberman of Ayre Acoustics, with technical commentary by John Atkinson. Silberman took an admirably generic and non-partisan approach, barely mentioning Ayre products, and refusing to answer the question "Should I get a Mac or a PC?" I've taken a wait-and-see approach to the whole computer audio subject, and Silberman did not convince me it's time to introduce a computer into my audio system, but I must say that he did an excellent job of describing the options, and if I were to take the plunge I would certainly use the information on the Ayre web site.
Barrie, Ontario, about an hour's drive from Toronto, with a population of about 130, 000, is not a city that I associate with the design and manufacture of high performance audio equipment. It doesn't have even a single "real" audio store, just Best Buy, etc. But, as I found out at SSI 2010, Barrie is the home of McAlister Audio, maker of the OTL-195 monoblock amplifier and a prototype preamp. The designer is Peter McAlister, who produced his first prototype output-transformerless power amp ten years ago. The OTL-195 puts out 150W, and appears to be a very sophisticated design: fully balanced, able to drive 4 ohm loads, a circuit that tracks the signal level in the driver stage and modulates the control grids of output tubes, and various other circuit refinements. The OTL-195 is hand-built by Peter McAlister himself, and utilizes high-quality parts. The price is $8500/pair. As I mentioned in the blog posting below, the King Sound Prince IIs sounded great driven the McAlister OTL-195s.
As a fan of electrostaticsI used to own KLH Nines and original Quad 57sI was intrigued by the favorable reports of the King Sound Prince II full-range electrostatics in both the 2010 CES and the Axpona show reportss, and was pleased to find out King Sound listed on the list of exhibitors at SSI 2010. It was one of the few exhibits that I actually sought out rather than just allowing myself to find it in the course of walking the show floor. And I was most impressed. The soundwith electronics from McAlister, a company that I'll be writing about in a separate blog entryhad the clarity and lack of "speaker" coloration that reminded me of the KLH Nines and Quads, but the speaker seemed to be able to play louder than than these classic 'static designs. The retail price of $6500/pair seems very reasonable. I think I've found my next speaker to review. Or maybe the King II, which is just being introducedbut it may be too big for my room.
May Audio Marketing, owned and managed by Nizar Akhrass, has been a purveyor of audiophile recordings and accessories since . . . well...shortly after Thomas Edison demonstrated the newfangled device called the phonograph. Or at least so it seems. He and his family are still at it, and, in a move that will be applauded by the audiophile community, the organizers of SSI presented Nizar and his wife Alice with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the opening night reception. Well-deserved, I'd say.
Simaudio, represented in my photo by Lionel Goodfield (left) and Dynaudio, represented by Mike Manousselis (right) often exhibit together, an arrangement that seems to represent the friendly relationships between people in these companies as well as the synergistic relationships between the products. They certainly sound good together, and both companies seem to be guided by a desire to offer not necessarily the cheapest possible products, but ones that offer high quality combined with good value.
Simaudio had two product introductions at the show that conform to this approach: the Moon 400M is a 400Wpc fully balanced mono power amp selling for $2995 each, and the Moon 350P preamplifier (also fully-balanced), $1995 without phono stage and CN$2795 with. Dynaudio had the new Focus 220 Mk.II floorstander ($3600/pair) and the DM 2/6 ($800/pair). The DM 2/6 is the least expensive Dynaudio speaker, and although the drivers are not quite at the level of their more expensive brethren, Dynaudio's Mike Manousselis told me that they're still made in the same factory in Denmark, and follow the core Dynaudio technical quality. Lionel Goodfield (Simaudio) and Mike Manousselis look pleased with their new products.
The Focal Electra 1037 Be that was reviewed by Michael Fremer a while back has been superseded by the Electra 1038 Be II ($13,500/pair). The major change is the upgrading of the beryllium tweeter to the level of the units used in the Utopia series. There is also the inevitable crossover change, and the manufacturing of the midrange and woofer drivers has been made more precise. Here's Daniel Jacques of Audio Plus/Plurison, the North American Focal importer, with the Electra 1038 Be II.