No, I’m not talking about one of the young women who always seem to drive Stephen Mejias to distraction at shows. Rather, I’m speaking of Estelon’s Model XB loudspeakers ($32,900/pair). Designed for more modestly sized rooms, this Estonian speaker was producing realistic, full-range sound courtesy of Vitus Audio’s SM 010 monoblock amplifiers, SL 102 preamplifier, and SCD010 CD player. Power Conditioner was Silver Circle Audio’s Tchaik 6, cabling Kubala-Sosna’s Elation, and rack and feet from Stillpoints.
Listening to HDTracks’ 24/192 download of the Jimmy Cobb Quartet’s Jazz in the Key of Blue, I finally heard what a well-tuned MSB system can do. “So musical!” I wrote in my notes. Instrumental timbres were excellent, with the warmth and fullness of Roy Hargrove’s trumpet portrayed with near tube-like roundness and warmth. Combined with the air and depth conveyed by the high-res recording, and the sheer presence of the drums, the experience opened a portal to audio nirvana. I could have spent hours exploring music in multiple formats on this system, and still have wanted more. It killed me to have to leave the room so soon. Only the reality of many more rooms to cover before show’s end kept me from staying longer.
I’ve come to expect three things from Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio: great music, great sound, and great set-up. The music came first. With the new Joseph Audio Pearl3 loudspeakers (introductory price $28,500/pair) singing their hearts out, the timbres of Ben Webster and Gerry Mulligan’s saxophones were gorgeously conveyed. The same goes for the massed voices on Cantata Domine’s Scandinavian language version of “O Holy Night,” which was a favorite classical demo track at RMAF for exhibitors with analog rigs.
People sat up and took notice when Sanders Sound Systems released their Model 10 full-size electrostatic loudspeakers with analog electronic crossover amplifiers a few years back. The latest version, Model 10c ($13,000/pair) was delivering solid, full-range sound from a system that also includes Sanders Magtech Stereo amplifier ($5000), new preamplifier that combines both line and phono stages ($4000), and their own interconnects and speaker cables.
High Fidelity Services of Braintree, MA was producing good, solid sound on well-recorded rock on a system that mixed two products it imports and distributes, Neat Acoustics’ Ultimatum XL6 loudspeakers ($14,280/pair) and Scheu Analog’s Das Laufwerk 1 turntable with 12" Tacco arm and Scheu/Benz cartridge ($15.995), with Zanden’s Model 2500 CD player ($22,000), Model 6000 integrated amplifier ($22,000), and 1300 phono stage ($13,750); Running Springs’ Maxim power conditioner ($6400); and Chord Cable Company’s SArum cabling ($8400).
“We have no crossover,” I was told soon after I entered the Tocaro loudspeaker room. “Our tweeter receives the full signal. And even though our speakers are 100dB or more efficient, they can handle the 175W of power that we’re feeding them.”
Developed by Miguel Herrero and hand-built in Gütersloh, Germany, the Tocaro 42D ($14,000/pair including stands) was connected by Crimson interconnects ($360/m) and Crimson bi-wire speaker cable ($1070/8’ pair) to the Resolution Audio Cantata ($6500), Crimson 710 solid-state preamplifier ($7000), and Crimson 640E monoblock amplifier ($6000/pair). I tried to do what the sign said, and forget whatever I thought I knew, but I couldn’t overlook the sound of boxy percussion on my well-played Chesky CD of Marta Gomez, nor the bright edge around her voice.
It was great to again encounter Silverline’s flagship Grand Bolero loudspeaker ($35,000/pair), displayed by Scot Markwell of Southern California’s Audio Summa. Together with Kuzma’s Stagi S NSE 12" w/TVA tower and Crystal Cable Silver ($2950) and Stabi SD in brass w/external power supply ($3700); BEL’s 1001 Mk.IV amplifier (NFS); and Furutech’s Lineflux RCA interconnects ($2704/1.2m pair), Speakerflux speaker cables ($3645/2m pair), and Powerflux power cords ($3007/1.8m each), the system produced admirable full-range sound.
Assistance Audio, North American distributor for BMS, was showing off the company’s drivers. As I was soon to learn, Lacoustic, JBL, and Volti are but three of the audio manufacturers that use BMS’s drivers in their products.
The company’s Jack Arnott explained that BMS’s drivers can be found everywhere from soundstages in LA to naval paging systems and home audio installations. “I’m using my own cabinets so you can see what’s inside,” he said. “I am using Home Depot speaker cable because I am selling speaker components, not speaker cable." Well, I must say that both Tony Bennett and K.D. Lang’s duet on “La Vie en Rose” and the opening chorale from Glenn Gould’s second recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations sounded quite beautiful.
According to Bob Farinelli of Bob Carver LLC, the legendary designer has “made some adjustments” to the sound of his 35-driver Bob Carver ALS line-source speakers with active tube based crossover network ($19,700/pair). I’ll say. The sound has improved greatly since I blogged Carver’s speaker and electronics at AXPONA in early June. The system’s subwoofer may have overloaded the small roomthis is not the first or the last time you’ll read about bass overload in these blogsbut the line array’s ability to reproduce the timbre of an unnamed jazz trumpeter’s instrument was spot-on.
Since Sonic Studio dropped the price of its Amarra music software system to $189, lots more people have been enjoying its sound. Less than two months after Amarra’s last release, James Anderson announced the imminent arrival of 2.4.3 (free to current owners). He also played Reference Recordings’ superb recording of Copland’s Symphony 3, one of whose movements has become known as the “Ode to the Common Man.” Turns out that the performance was recorded using Sonic Studio’s professional Soundblade products. Played back with Amarra 2.4.3, it sounded fabulous, with absolutely tight, room-shaking bass. No doubt Amarra’s optional equalization component, which can help control bass booming created by either room nodes or less than flat loudspeaker response, had more than a little to do with the success of the presentation.