At CES, the Vandersteen/Audio Research room always strikes me as being like an oasis—and not just because of the potted plants they have in the room. And so it was in the room sponsored by New Jersey dealer Audio Connection at HE 2007: music presented without hype or bombast, and simply relaxing to listen to. The speakers were the Vandersteen 5As ($16,900/pair +$5000 for carbon fiber cabinets), with Audio Research PH7 phono stage ($5995), CD7 CD player ($8995), Reference 3 line-stage preamp ($9995), and Reference 110 amplifier ($9995). The analog front end was the Clearaudio Anniversary TT and Stradivari cartridge, with a Graham Phantom tonearm. Cables were Audioquest William E. Low Signature interconnect and Everest speaker cable.
The official closing time of HE 2007 was 5pm on Sunday. I was surprised to see, then, that there were some people registering even as late as three o'clock Sunday afternoon. Now, that's real devotion to the hobby!
Performing music in a group is all about collaboration and communication. Look closely at this picture of the John Atkinson Trio, in performance on the last day of HE2007. JA is playing a solo, and both pianist Bob Reina and drummer Allen Perkins are listening and watching intently. In his comments after the number, Bob said that they had some differences of opinion about how to end the number, and resolving these differences required some give-and-take in the actual playing. Now that's jazz!
Balanced Audio Technology's Steve Bednarski is a big guy, but he's not a giant, and BAT's Geoff Poor is not nearly as diminutive as he looks in this picture. It's just a matter of perspective with a wide-angle lens. The rack between Steve and Geoff houses the new top-of-the-line Rex preamp, described by Wes Phillips in another posting.
HE 2007 had, as expected, some very expensive equipment being demonstrated, but there were also some modest-priced and still very–good-sounding systems. One of these was the system in the DCM room, based on the DCM TFE 200, a substantial floor-standing speaker priced at just $1000/pair. With a Jolida CD player and integrated amp, the total price for the system was under $3000—and that was including $200's worth of cables from Esoteric Audio. The Man in Black is Al Congdon of DCM.
Music Hall's Roy Hall can usually be relied on to introduce some high-value components at each CES or HE show, and he didn't disappoint this time, either. The Music Hall Trio is a combination CD player, integrated amplifier (50Wpc), and AM/FM tuner (80 assignable presets, remote controllable). Not bad for $999—and, given Roy's track record, it's pretty certain to sound good, too.
As far as I can tell, Omaha Audio has no connection with the city in Nebraska: its headquarters are in California, and the products are made in China—but "created, designed and checked in the USA." The system they were playing used their own speaker (named, fittingly enough, the Omaha Speaker), a fairly large two-way with some resemblance to Sonus Faber products ($2000/pair), the Omaha Tube CD player ($1600), and the OD-300B single-ended-triode integrated amplifier ($1400, photographed here by Larry Greenhill). At the Stereophile Ask the Editors session, Sam Tellig was raving about this amplifier and the value it represented. Based on the sound of the system (smooth, highly musical) I have to agree with him.
Remember the name: Salagar Sonics. It's the name of a new American speaker company, whose first product, the Salagar S210 ($7500/pair), still in prototype form, made a strong impression at HE 2007. It's an active two-way—digital crossover; the amp uses the latest B&O ICE module—with a Scanspeak AirCirc tweeter and a 10" Peerless VIFA mid-bass driver, in an unusually-shaped (and highly inert) enclosure. I thought these speakers sounded terrific: lively, low in coloration, and with excellent imaging.
I never know what to expect at the "Ask the Editors" sessions, traditionally moderated by Stereophile editor John Atkinson (above). Sometimes we get a lot of people looking for advice on potential purchases of equipment, questions about arcane aspects of amplifier design, questions about cables, about double-blind testing, where the future of audio lies, and, of course, questions about what we thought of the sound in specific rooms at the Show. This time, many of the questions dealt with, of all things, music! There were opinions expressed about the major symphony orchestras of today vs those of the past, and great performances available on LPs. Don't these people know that we're all supposed to be a bunch of equipment-loving geeks?
Wandering around HE 2007 with my camera, I'm always watching for interesting-looking products to take pictures of. As soon as I caught a glimpse of the Scaena Iso-Linear Array speakers, I knew I had another subject. It’s available in several colors, including pewter/titanium (real metal), but, personally, I wouldn’t consider anything but the red that was on display. And it's not all just looks, either: this is a serious design, with multiple mid-tweeter modules and subwoofers with digitally controlled active bass management. The speaker is available in various heights, the price for the version shown at HE 2007 was $44,000/pair.