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.
Ian McArthur of Audio Plus, North American distributor of the French Focal speakers, is looking casual and relaxed. And why shouldn’t he be? He's leaning on the Electra 1037 Be ($11,000/pair), which has a review coming out by Michael Fremer, a review that —if this is not telling tales out of school —may have people running to their Focal dealers. The sound of the speakers at the Show (Mikey's actual review samples, so they were well broken-in), with Pathos electronics, was one of those that made me stop as I was walking along the corridor to check out what was playing.
There were a lot of turntables, and a lot of vinyl at the show, not just on demo, but for sale as well. LP vendors like Acoustic Sounds and Music Direct were doing brisk business in their booths in the Ballroom.
Sure, now he’s smiling. But when Zvox Audio’s Tom Hannaher introduced their new model 425 all-in-one-box surround sound system at a press conference on the first day of the show, he was most distressed about the fact that while the prototype unit had worked fine before he brought it to the room that the press conference was in, in the press conference room it would not make a sound at all. I was going to suggest that he take it back to the original room to see if it worked there, but I restrained myself, thinking that he probably would not appreciate the humor in my suggestion. As it turned out, my facetious suggestion was more correct I realized. On the second day of the show, back in the original room, they plugged in the 425 prior to opening it up to see if they could see anything amiss —and, lo and behold, it worked perfectly. Gremlins, I guess. I had a listen to it myself, and found the sound surprisingly full and natural for a product of this type.
The press conference that I personally found the most exciting on the Show's first day was by Ralph Glasgal (left) on his Ambiophonics system. I knew about Ambiophonics (a signal-processing system
designed to cancel out interference between a pair of loudspeakers,
creating something akin to binaural listening but from speakers instead of headphones), but somehow I’ve never heard a demonstration, or at least not a convincing one. The demo setup at HE2007 was rather unusual, with a pair of giant Sound-Lab electrostatics at one end of the room, and another pair of floor-standing TacT speakers at the other end, the setup intended to demonstrate how the system works with these two types of speakers. I only heard the demo with the Sound-Labs, but I must say I was quite blown away with the huge soundstage, precision of imaging, and sheer ease of the sound. The Ambiophonic processing was performed by the latest TacT RCS 2.2 XP ($6000) which also functions as a full-feature preamp, a digital room correction device, and a D/A converter. Tact’s President and Designer, Radomir Bozovic (right), was also on hand to answer questions about the Tact system.
Outlaw Audio had a press conference, at which Peter Tribeman talked about all their new products in a way that effectively combined modesty with a not-inappropriate touch of blowing your own horn. He freely admitted that there are a number of companies making excellent speakers—naming several that he admired—but suggested that Outlaw Audio’s new speakers stand comparison with these industry standards. He said their aim was not to sell a boatload of speakers, but to use the best components and designs, tweaking the crossover of each speaker to produce true audiophile results. The speaker he’s holding up here is the prototype of their LCR ($700), which can function as a center-channel speaker in vertical or horizontal orientation, with switch-selected modification of the crossover, hence lobing pattern, to take into account orientation. All of Outlaw's speakers will be made in the USA.