Jason Victor Serinus

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 12, 2011 4 comments
The Stein Music Harmonizers (approx. $1100 each; distributor Walter Swanborn of Fidelis AV is putting together package deals that include Stein’s Harmonizer accessories) are one of those mysterious sound-improving devices that are hard to explain to those who have not heard them. They certainly impressed Sam Tellig, who recently discussed them in his monthly Stereophile column.

They’ve also impressed me greatly. A set of four Stein Harmonizers has been residing in my reference system in Oakland for several months, bringing me much pleasure. To these ears, when set up correctly, they have a far from subtle effect on three-dimensionality, transparency, and realism. They take me one step closer to the real thing, making what comes out of my speakers sound less like hi-fi and more like music.

I was delighted to spend some time at T.H.E. Show with the Harmonizers’ designer, Holger Stein of Germany. Stein was showing the newest version of the Harmonizers, which were five years in the making.

The latest Harmonizers have a three-position switch on the rear. Those positions are (1) on with light, (2) on without light to preserve battery life for up to two years, and (3) off, to save energy when the system is not playing. Besides that, they function identically to their predecessor (which I have).

So how does the Stein Harmonizer work? Best to quote directly from Stein. Since, for him, English is a second language, I’ve given him an assist in the editing department:

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Wireworld’s David Salz released two new USB cables, the Platinum Starlight ($600/1m) and the Silver Starlight ($300/1m). The Platinum Starlight USB uses molded carbon-fiber connectors, while the Silver Starlight uses aluminum connectors.

Both cables use a new technology, called DNA Helix, that Salz originally developed for use in Wireworld’s premiere PS and SS HDMI cables. DNA Helix utilizes twice as many signal conductors as conventional USB cable designs.

When Salz was first developing the DNA Helix design, he began to measure the transmission speed of cables. By designing a more efficient cable, he found he was able to increase transmission speed by 20%.

“I always start with the direct connection as my reference,” he explains. “What I heard from cables at the start of my work was really disappointing. This new design allows me to get substantially closer to the purity of the direct connection.”

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 12, 2011 10 comments
Audioquest formally released their current top-of-the-line reference USB cable at CES, the Diamond USB ($650/1.5m). The cable’s conductor is solid-core, perfect-surface silver (100% silver).

A key feature of the Diamond USB, which is held in the photo by Audioquest’s Andrew Kissinger, is the Audioquest DBS (dielectric bias system). Invented and patented by Richard Vandersteen, with the cable version co-patented by Vandersteen and Audioquest’s Bill Low, the DBS creates an electrostatic field that saturates and polarizes the molecules of the insulation to minimize energy storage in the dielectric. The result is claimed to be much greater dynamic range, lower background noise, and reduced phase distortion.

Steve Silberman, VP of Marketing, explained that all insulators have capacitance. Energy from the conductor enters the insulation and needs to discharge. The DBS’ electrostatic field lowers the discharge, which in turn lowers the amount of phase distortion and makes for a cleaner signal.

In a very short demo, Silberman compared music through a stock USB cable that came with his printer to music through the Diamond. Using the new Arcam R asynchronous USB DAC, Arcam AVR 600 receiver, AQ Niagra interconnects ($1600/1m pair), AQ Redwood speaker cables ($2300/3ft pair), and Vandersteen 2Ce 30th anniversary edition speakers, the difference in transparency and color was striking.

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Joe Lavrencik, owner of Critical Mass Systems, designs all Critical Mass Systems Precision Component Support Systems. All of the company’s products are built in the Chicago area.

The newest Critical Mass product is Maxxum ($5650 per shelf), a precision component-support system. The shelf and rack architecture operate together to mitigate vibration in the floor, the rack, the shelf, and the component at the same time.

“We do more than isolate,” the sleep-deprived designer offered by way of explanation. “We give energy in the air a pathway out of the component so that components are not saturated with vibration from the loudspeakers.”

Lest you think Critical Mass Systems only manufactures high-priced products, prices start at $195 for a set of four MXK spikes, and $195 for a basic shelf. “Even though we’re very expensive, we start very low,” says Lavrencik.

At CES 2011, Critical Mass Systems products were used in the Lamm, Hansen/Tenor, and BAT rooms. In the photo, Lavrencik kneels near his Maxxum amplifier/component stands ($5650/each) and the Lamm ML3 Signature monoblocks ($139,290/pair) being used to drive Wilson Alexandria II speakers.

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
After Thursday’s full day at the Venetian’s high-performance audio exhibits, it was time to throw all caution to the winds and head to some of the major headphone exhibits at CES’ official three-ring circus, aka the Las Vegas Convention Center’s South, Central, and North Halls.

I’m glad that John Atkinson suggested I spend no more than a half-day at the LVCC. That’s how long it took to navigate through tens of thousands of people (or so it seemed) in the South and Central Halls to reach the displays of Audio-Technica, Sennheiser, and Monster.

First stop was Audio-Technica, where I encountered former audiophile critic turned publicist Frank Doris. Together we examined three new over-ear “Audiophile headphones” and one set of in-ear noise-canceling headphones.

I sampled the most expensive of the audiophile bunch, the Audio-Technica ATH-W1000x Grandioso ($699.95) that Tyll Hertsens writes about elsewhere in this report. I also briefly checked out their new in-ear QuietPoint active noise-canceling (ANC) ATH-ANC23 headphones ($99.95). Complete with an in-line volume control, the phones will first reach the market in February 2011. I found them a pleasure to use. Unfortunately, Unfortunately, all that was available to audition were MP3s of highly compressed, noisy pop and rock.

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 12, 2011 1 comments
Ted Sindzinski, Internet Marketing Director for Monster, introduced me to the Beats by Dr. Dre Pro headphones ($399 street) that Stephen Mejias reviewed a few months back for Stereophile. A partnership with Beats by Dr. Dre, these recently released “mixing phones with high-end capabilities” were designed by Monster and marketed as part of the Beats family products.

Due in spring 2011 will be Monster’s Miles Davis Trumpets in-ear speakers (not yet priced). Featuring drivers in the front instead of the back of the buds, which allows them to be very, very small, these headphones look and feel very special.

Ted Sindzinski, holding the new ‘phones in the photo, believes these are one of the company’s best-sounding headphones. “They’ve been manufactured for a nice, warm, full, rich sound,” he assured me. Note the cute little silver trumpet on the cables. If you ask me, they’ve got Stephen Mejias’s name written all over them.

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Although Sennheiser has come out with nothing that surpasses their wonderful, state-of-the-art HD 800 headphones, they have released three new, far less expensive audiophile models: the HD 598 most prominent in the photo ($329.95), the HD 558 ($229.95), and the HD 518 ($169.95).

I auditioned the HD 598, whose beige soft velour pads contrast elegantly with their black body. The salesperson who showed me around made a big deal of the packaging. Far more important were the frequency range, 15Hz–28kHz, and the sound. Although the rather bombastic source material was supposedly MP3, the headphones delivered impressively smooth bass and a far more natural-sounding presentation than I would have expected.

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
At T.H.E. Show in the Flamingo hotel, a mere half mile, 500 hawkers, and 2000 gambling-addicted alcoholics away from the bulk of high-performance audio exhibits in the Venetian, John McDonald of Audience was showing his new Adept Response aR6-TS power conditioner. Each unit comes complete with an Audience powerChord. The units sell at two different price points, depending upon choice of Audience power cords ($5000 with a standard Audience powerChord e, or $6550 with the Au24 powerChord).

The 6-outlet version of the Adept Response aR6-TS was in use in the room. A 12-outlet version is also available ($8600 or $10,150, depending upon powerChord choice).

What’s new about the unit is the “S” in aR6-TS. “T” stands for the Teflon version of power conditioner, and “S” for its new Audience Teflon aura-TO capacitors. John McDonald says the new capacitors are significantly more resolute and transparent.

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Steven Hill, designer and owner of Straight Wire, has released his new Expressivo line of speaker cable ($700/8 ft pair). The cables, which contain four conductors surrounded by multiple spiral shields, include a compressed conductor of special OFHC certified copper and a spiral polyethylene rod that encapsulates the conductor. The net result of his geometry is that the spiral rod only touches the conductor group in a small area, resulting in an effective air-spaced dielectric.

Hill claims that Expressivo’s soundstaging, imagery, and detail retrieval surpass those of his Maestro speaker cable. Expressivo occupies the middle of Straight Wire’s loudspeaker cable line, with three lines above it. The company’s full range of cables ranges in price $1/foot to $150/foot for speaker cable, and from $15 to $900/1m pair of interconnects.

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Cable manufacturer Kubala_Sosna has been in business eight years, with business expanding each year. This year, the company’s products were in use in 12 rooms at CES.

Just introduced are two new digital cables, the Emotion S/PDIF ($1500/first meter, $300/each additional meter) and Elation S/PDIF ($2700/first meter, $400/each additional meter). Both cables are a step up from Kubala-Sosna’s previous Expression level.

“We’re raising the bar, no doubt,” said keen recordist Joe Kubala (pictured on the right). In perfect agreement was partner Howard Sosna (left), who designs the cables in collaboration with Joe.

With the new cables used to connect the PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport to the Perfect Wave DAC, I heard impressive bass and captivating warmth coming through the not-too-shabby Tenor Audio Reference 350M monoblocks ($100,000/pair) and Estelon Model XA loudspeakers ($43,900/pair) from Alfred & Partners in Estonia. Of course it helped that Estelon’s entire line is internally wired with Kubala-Sosna.

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