Sennheiser’s PXC 450 ($499.95) headphones are both the new top model in their noise-canceling series and the first using the Talk Through technology, which distinguishes between general ambient noise and the voice of a person talking to you. I tried them briefly, and was impressed both by the sound quality and by the acoustical isolation. They’re modeled here by Nicoll Public Relations’ Erika Pearson.
Convergent Audio Technologies' SL-1, in its various iterations, has been my reference preamp for some time. When the SL-1 Ultimate came out, I kidded designer Ken Stevens about the fact this designation implied that there was simply no way to improve it, so what was he going to do when—inevitably, in my view—he found ways to tweak the design? Well, sure enough, the SL-1 Ultimate is now the SL-1 Ultimate Mk.II, and Ken has a new preamp called the Legend, which is said to be even better. Improvements over the Ultimate Mk.II include a Teflon circuit board, Black Gate electrolytic capacitors, separate left and right volume controls, and a constrained-layer aluminum/steel bottom plate. An interesting feature is that the AV bypass works even without the preamp being turned on, saving tube life. The price is $15,995, which makes the $7995 for the Ultimate Mk.II seem like a positive bargain.
The rooms at the Venetian Hotel that are named after famous Venetians (Marco Polo, Galileo, Bellini, et al), with their ultra-high ceiling, are proving to be a definite challenge for exhibitors. (The rooms in the Venetian Tower, which I haven’t visited yet, are said to be better.) One of the more successful in taming these rooms’ acoustical challenges was Lyngdorf. Of course, this is the all-singing, all-dancing, DSP-corrected RoomPerfectTM system, which is designed to deal with room anomalies. And that it did, the sound from the "2+2" system (two main speakers out from the wall and two subwoofers against the wall) sounding uncommonly well-balanced. Designer Jan A. Pedersen is looking pleased, as well he should be.
People whose memories go back a long way may remember Dick Sequerra’s highly-regarded Metronome Seven loudspeakers. They haven't been made for some years, but the importers of Thorens products have prevailed on Dick Sequerra to start making them, and a pair of these (serial No.3) was being used in a system that included a Thorens turntable (natch), Ron Sutherland’s PhD phono stage and Direct Line Stage, and new $15,000/pair Thorens monoblocks. The speakers are designated Metronome 7.7 Mk.6, and are priced at $1995/pair. Very nice sound, especially considering the fact that the system was in one of the Venetian rooms with ceilings that are much higher than any normal home. Here are Ron Sutherland and Thorens importer Chuck Kennedy, kneeling at the altar of High Fidelity.
As we reported last March, the Consumer Electronics Association decided to move the "high-performance audio" and "high-performance home theater" exhibits of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to Las Vegas' Venetian Hotel in 2007. Here, then, in a blatant attempt to scoop my show-reporting Stereophile colleagues, is my picture of the new CES venue. I actually took this picture last year, not in anticipation of the change in show venue, but simply because I’m a sucker for the ersatz-European ambience of Las Vegas hotel-casinos like the Venetian. And whatever the advantages/disadvantages of the Venetian for demonstrating audio equipment, you have to admit that it’s picturesque!
Everybody loves a bargain. No—make that: Most people love a bargain. Some just want the best, and they don't care about the cost. Some even distrust and reject out of hand any product that's not expensive enough. If you're one of these people, you might as well stop reading this review right now—the PrimaLuna ProLogue Three and ProLogue Seven are not for you. $1395 for a tube preamp? $2695 for a pair of 70Wpc tube monoblocks equipped with four KT88 tubes each? Must be based on old designs in the public domain using cheap parts carelessly assembled...
My first encounter with the Acarian Alón IV was at the 1992 Las Vegas WCES. I was doing the show report dealing with speakers, and there was already enough advance buzz about the Alón IV that I put it on my "Speakers I Must Listen To" list. And listen I did, at some length, and came away impressed with their open quality and well-defined soundstage. In discussing reviewing assignments with John Atkinson, I told him that the Alón IV was one of the speakers I wouldn't mind spending some time with. (The list also includes the WAMM, the MartinLogan Statement, and the Apogee Grand, but I'm not holding my breath.)
And so we say goodbye to the Sheraton Gateway and the City of Angels. Home Entertainment 2006 was a good Show, with some great sounds. I echo Wes Phillips's sentiments below. In talking to people, I had a sense that we were all part of a community of individuals with much the same goals, if not always the same way of reaching them. The Show staff were unfailingly pleasant and efficient. The hotel’s facilities served the needs of both exhibitors and attendees well—and by the last day of the show I actually figured out how to go from my room to the escalators without making at least one wrong turn!
I heard some truly excellent-sounding systems at HE 2006, but if I had to pick one listening experience at the show that transcended all others, it would have to be Kimber’s IsoMike demonstration. The system itself is described by Wes Phillips in another blog entry, and I’m sure it would have sounded very good playing back normal CDs, but what made the sound more closely approach reality was that the source material consisted of four-channel recordings made by Ray Kimber using his IsoMike setup. (Ray is shown here holding a scale model of his IsoMike baffle.) I’ve been often disappointed with multichannel music playback, but this was completely convincing. The voices and instruments present in the room in a way that was at times spooky. Wes was right: Ray Kimber should be King of the Universe.
Loudspeakers based on the Lowther full-range driver have a considerable following—our own Art Dudley included—but most will admit that the driver has its limitations, including some midrange resonant peaks and less-than-impressive bass response. These have been addressed in The Second Rethm by a set of modifications to the driver and the availability of an extension to the cabinet that produces better bass response. I heard a couple of the Rethm speakers (I don’t remember which models) a few years ago at CES, and was not too impressed, but I quite liked the sound of The Second Rethm with the cabinet extension. The extension adds $2000 to the $7500/pair price, but I suspect it’s worth it.