The room was standing-room only, with three rows of chairs, both side walls, and the back walls filled with folks eager to hear one of the dream systems assembled by Denver retailer Audio Unlimited. Where shall we begin: the dCS Scarlatti Stack which consists of the CD/SACD transport, DAC, master clock, and upsampler/digital-to-digital converter (by my math $81,000 total, and by anyone's math a fair hunk of change); the BAT REX linestage ($20,000), BAT VK-P10SE phono stage with new Super Pak Premiere ($16,000), BAT VK-600M SE monoblocks ($26,000); Running Springs Audio Dmitri Conditioner Premiere ($4,000); Hansen's new Audio Emperor loudspeakers ($60,000/pair); or the little bundle of TARA Omega Gold and 0.8 cables that together cost at $36,000 but probably far more? The take-no-prisoners sound was stunning. So stunning that some of the people were pinned to the back wall. Wow!
Not every breakthrough product available through cable manufacturer Nordost costs an arm and a leg. The new Quantum Resonant Technology products distributed worldwide by Nordost Corporation are a prime example. While the QX-2 costs $1700, and the larger QX-4 costs $2500, their amazing effects on sound suggest a product I'd expect to cost far more.
I'm scared. I've just returned from a visit to the isle of my birth, Manhattan. As the spouse and I walked to Stereophile's offices to meet John Atkinson and Stephen Mejias for dinner, we passed some of the most valuable real estate in the country. It was hard to imagine that, if global warming continues at its current, ever-accelerating pace, the buildings we were marveling at will soon be below sea level.
There's good news on the download front. Two sites, one in the UK and the other in the US, are gearing up for major expansions of their catalogs. Both offer DRM-free files in both lossless and high-quality (320kbps) MP3 formats.
T.H.E. Show, aka The Home Entertainment Show, has put out a welcome mat for members of "authentic Audiophile Societies throughout the globe."1 Scheduled for January 911, 2009, in Las Vegas, the same dates as the Consumer Electronics Show down the road, T.H.E. Show has for the first time offered members of audiophile societies paid access to over 100 anticipated active-display suites in both the St. Tropez and Alexis Park hotels.
Sometimes, wonderful things go unnoticed. Thus did Stereophile miss that, in June 2007, at its 31st annual conference, in London, UK, the International Audio Engineering Society issued two Awards of Excellence in the category of Professional Engineering. One, which we learned about from a Minnetonka Audio press release, went to Dorian Records (see the May 2008 issue of Stereophile, pp.14–15). The other went to AIX Records of Southern California. The award is for John Gorka's The Gypsy Life, one of more than 50 high-resolution recordings available from AIX in DVD-Audio/Video surround sound and on two-channel CD. Most interesting is that both AES awards were for DVD-Audio projects.
Alon Wolf can be mesmerizing. When the founder of Magico gets going on one of his favorite subjects, loudspeaker design, the strength of his convictions, depth of technical knowledge, and sureness of response are enough to hush many a skeptic into silence.
After a four-year hiatus, the Vacuum State of the Art Conference and Show has been resurrected. Scheduled for next weekend, May 24–26, at the Hilton Hotel in Vancouver, Washington, just across the river from Portland, Oregon, VSAC owes its renewal to audio enthusiasts and software company owners Carolyn S. and Michael Kilfoil, who have taken over from founders Dan and Eileen Schmalle.
A few nights ago, I listened to mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's recording of J.S. Bach's great solo cantata, "Ich habe genug" (It is enough), BWV 82 (Nonesuch 79692-2). Hunt Lieberson was one of those rare mezzos, like Janet Baker and Kathleen Ferrier before her, whose voice conveyed an innately spiritual sense of connection with something greater than the individual self. Especially when she sang softly, she was able to imbue her tone with a hallowed reverence that is easier to feel than describe in words. To the extent that anyone can communicate the "tender mercies" and sacred intimacies of life, love, and spirit, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson proved herself a master.
It's said that your first experience on entering a space sets the tone for all that follows. At LP pressing plant Record Technology, Inc. (RTI), that experience is my encounter with veteran pressman Richard Lopez, who responds to my request for direction. As he leaves his vintage record press to lead me to owner Don MacInnis, Lopez reads aloud the sticker on a box of recently pressed LPs. "WORLD'S FINEST PHONOGRAPH RECORDS," he declares with pride. As I reflect on how few workers today feel so connected to the products they make, I sense that something special lies ahead.