Despite the recent affirmation by Stereophile's Kalman Rubinson that the Super Audio Compact Disc remains "the best available all-around physical medium for music" (May 2009, p.47), audiophiles in the US continue to declare it a dead format. Regardless, independent record producers such as Jared Sacks, founder and managing director of Holland's Channel Classics Records, continue to champion and promote SACD.
Two unusual download sites now offer high-resolution 24-bit files for audiophiles with a taste for adventure. The first, the UK's B&W Music Club, is a one-album-per-month subscription service that premieres complete, audiophile-quality albums in a wide variety of genres chosen and recorded by "curator" Peter Gabriel. The second, HifiTrack.com, is a Hong Kong-based site that offers Chinese and Asian traditional and pop music, Zen and meditation music, and Chinese-flavored Western pop, jazz, and classical.
Three years ago, as the shift to downloadable media gathered momentum, Concord Music Group purchased Telarc International. The suspicion of those who then saw the handwriting on the wall were confirmed this past December, when a company-wide restructuring by CMG included the layoffs of 27 Telarc employees. Among those now on their own are the entire Telarc Production Department, as well as former classical publicist Amanda Sweet.
As reported on this website on December 9, Joseph Cohen of the Lotus Group, exclusive distributor of Oyaide products in North America, discovered that Chris Johnson of Parts ConneXion was selling counterfeit Oyaide AC plugs at regular Oyaide prices. Given that Johnson had previously signed a contract with the Lotus Group to distribute genuine Oyaide plugs, Cohen immediately attempted to reach Johnson to resolve the matter.
Frank Cheng's Acoustic System International now produces LiveLine cabling. Combining acoustic resonator technology with super thin, solid-core wire, the cabling is composed of different segments that contain wires made from different metals that are ultimately soldered together at 850 degrees. The RCA interconnect costs $995 (length not stipulated in the press materials), XLR interconnect $1450, 1.8m power cable $995, and 2.4m speaker cable $1750. One online publication gave each of these cables a product of the year award.
Directly across the hall from the PrimaLuna exhibit, I discovered its somewhat more expensive big brother line, Mystère. While PrimaLuna amps operate in triode mode, Mystère gives you the sound of tetrode. These aren't high power babiesthe ia11 integrated amp ($1995) puts out 40Wpc watts and the ia21 integrated amp ($2995) gives you 50Wpc. The electronics are manufactured with a different partner in China, and are the dream project of their designer.
Allen Perkins' Spiral Groove has expanded beyond its excellent turntable, which has won major awards in Japan, to issue a new amp, DAC, and cabling. The patented cable line, close to final production, includes speaker cable, interconnect, and digital interconnect. Price has yet to be determined. Proof of its quality is that it used Spiral Groove's two tonearms and the entire line of Sonics speakers designed by Joachim Gerhard (formerly of Audio Physic) and now manufactured in Berkeley, CA. Having heard pre-production samples several of these products at Casa Bellecci-Serinus, I know that one of Allen's concerns is to eschew hard-edged digititis and over-hyped sound in favor of the more natural presentation of analog.