Harmonia Mundi, one of the world's leading independent classical music labels, has finally taken the downloading plunge. In an agreement with the Independent Online Distribution Alliance (IODA), the world's largest distributor of digital music content, announced on January 24 at the annual music conference of the Marche International De l'Edition Musicale (MIDEM) in Cannes, Harmonia Mundi will make available its entire catalogue of early music and contemporary recordings to hundreds of digital music outlets around the world. IODA will also handle digital distribution of HM's catalogue within France, where Harmonia Mundi is headquartered. A separate agreement with Apple's iTunes makes all Harmonia Mundi titles available on that site as well. Also available are the classical, world, and jazz titles from the more than 30 independent labels that Harmonia Mundi distributes in many parts of the world.
Deutsche Grammophon and Decca/London have announced a first in the history of opera on DVD: the simultaneous release of Mozart's entire oeuvre of operas and operatic fragments. Captured live at the 2006 Salzburg Festival as part of the 250th-anniversary celebration of Mozart's birth, the 19 DVDs feature striking productions of all 22 operas, plus a wealth of bonus interviews with conductors, singers, and other members of the artistic team.
The unquestionable sonic high point of my second day at CES was the opportunity to hear two of the larger, floorstanding speakers in the line that has already brought us the much-touted $20,000/pair Magico Mini "bookshelf." The largest and most expensive of the pair is the $120,000/pair M6 (Model 6). First released one year ago, this four-way floorstander includes three 10" woofers, one 7" mid-bass driver, one 5" midrange unit, and an air motion-transformer tweeter. Weighing 650 lbs, with an enclosure of extruded aluminum, the speaker is said to extend from 28Hz to 50kHz, with a 90dB sensitivity and a 4 ohm impedance. The M6 recently won the Grand Prix Award from Japanese magazine Stereo Sound, and was featured on the cover of its December 2006 issue.
Having waxed ecstatic over the big Märten full-range loudspeaker on display at last October's Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I was delighted to discover the somewhat smaller $30,000/pair The Bird on display in two virtually square, air-walled conference rooms at the Sands/Venetian Convention Center. The three-way speaker, with a 6 ohm impedance, boasts a frequency range of 28Hz–45kHz, and is 89dB sensitive at 2.83V.
Needing a shot of the real thing after a particularly disappointing dem from another manufacturer, I headed down the hall to hear Aurum Acoustics' total package. ($48,000 gets you the Integris CDP CD player, Integris Active 300B amplifier and speakers, Integris two-shelf Isolation Rack in matching veneers, 2m power cable, Aluminum Base kit, and Loudspeaker Grille Kit. As I said, the whole package.
While John Atkinson awaits a review sample of Parasound's just-released JC 2 two-channel analog preamp ($4000), photographed here (second from top) with Parasound president Richard Schram by Kalman Rubinson, I took the opportunity to discuss its genesis with Richard.
Wanting to hear more of newest addition to the line that includes the Andra II, successor to Stereophile's 1997 "Loudspeaker of the Year," I visited Egglestonworks' second The Nine room after the Show's first day closed at 5pm. Here I discovered a wonderful depth to the presentation, thanks to McCormack's UDP-1 universal player and DNA-500 amplification, as well as to the Kubala-Sosna cabling. The treble was also nicely focused. Alas, despite another round of Echo Buster room treatment and a striking-looking Grand Prix rack, The Nine's bass control was defeated by the room's square dimensions.
After encountering several rooms filled with overly warm, romanticized tube sound, it was a welcome shock to discover tube gear from Rogue that sounded far more neutral. Alas, the sound from Rogue’s Zeus amplifier (225Wpc, $7495) and prototype reference-level linestage preamp seemed a bit soft around the edges, lacking detail. However, who knows how much of what I heard was due to the plethora of Echo Buster paneling with which the exhibitors had tried to tame the room's acoustics. Paired with the Egglestonworks The Nine ($12,900/pair), introduced at the show, I heard much promise until competition from adjoining rooms forced me to retreat. What I did learn is the speaker uses an 8" Morel woofer, two of the same 6" Morel drivers featured in the company's earlier Andra 2, and an Eggleston favorite, the Dynaudio Ecostar tweeter. Available in virtually any automotive color, the speaker will start shipping in March.
The very first room I visited at CES featured VTL and dCS electronics powering Avalon Eidelon speakers via Transparent cabling. This was a good start. I had become an instant convert to VTL sound at HE2006 last May, where Wilson Sophia speakers, driven by VTL electronics via Cardas cable and a Jadis tranposrt and DAC delivered some of the best sound I heard at the show. Since then, I've heard VTL gear in three other environments, this being the fifth. Each time, it has sounded different, but always musical.
Rives Audio and Talon Audio (now owned by Rives) proudly introduced the Thunderhawk, a $25,000/pair, composite speaker consisting of the $10,000 Hawk positioned atop the Thunder cabinet. The latter’s woofer is available either with a passive crossover, or with the new Rives Sub Parc, fully adjustable active crossover, which includes a 1000W switching amplifier. Said to deliver full-range sound down to 18Hz, the system sounded absolutely seductive playing jazz vocalist Susanne Abbuehl’s Compass (ECM).