Salon Son & Image, the annual open-to-the-public Montréal Hi-Fi Show sponsored by Stereophile, is almost upon us. Scheduled for March 31April 3 in Montréal's centrally located Hilton Bonaventure HotelThursday March 31 is for trade and press onlythe largest consumer audio show in North America has been planned with the audiophiles of tomorrow in mind. . . . For the real skinny, watch this website for comprehensive show blog coverage provided by Robert Deutsch, Art Dudley, and John Atkinson.
After seven previous Grammy nominations for his engineering efforts, veteran recording engineer and equipment designer Keith O. Johnson has received his first Grammy. Together with producer David Frost, "Professor" Johnson won Best Surround Sound Album (for vocal or instrumental albums) at the 53rd Annual Grammy® Awards.
Canadian pianist Robert Silverman, whose artistry has made him an audiophile legend, is set to continue his complete Beethoven Sonata Cycle Series in San Jose, CA. The four remaining concerts are scheduled for February 3 and 10 and April 7 and 14 in the excellent acoustic of San Jose's Le Petit Trianon Theatre. All proceeds from the performances will benefit the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford.
Producer of the series, Michael Silver of Audio High in Mountain View, CA, has retained Marc Wilsher to make high-resolution digital recordings of the entire series. Judging from an unedited hi-res master of the first movement of Beethoven's "Waldstein" sonata, the clarity and truthfulness of Silverman's sound in Le Petit Trianon are first-class.
The recordings could be as revelatory as the recordings that John Atkinson and Ray Kimber have and continued to make of Silverman performing other repertoire. Stereophile will release a new recording of Brahms' Handel Variations and Schumann's Symphonic Études later this year, and IsoMike has recently released a 7-CD set of Silverman performing all the Mozart piano sonatas. (JA's photo shows Robert performing a Mozart sonata at the 2010 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest.)
There's something happening here, and what it is is exactly clear. It's a revolution of sortsa new paradigm for the High End. Despite pessimistic proclamations of the impending death of high-end audio, an unprecedented number of new high-end consumer shows have emerged in North America. Filling the gap left by the demise of Stereophile's Home Entertainment Show in 2007, these seven (!) showstwo new in 2011, two in expanded versions following successful launches in 2010are reaching out to people of all ages, sexes, and format preferences.
Veteran electronics and speaker designer Walter Lindemann decided to expand Lindemann’s line to include cabling after he discovered he was never quite satisfied with cables and didn’t want to resort to cables that cost $50,000. Instead, he decided to enlist a German company to help him roll his own Kind of Blue Cable Series. The cables are said to be a “perfect complement” to the company’s 800 series of electronics.
Soon to be distributed by Jonathan Josephs of One World Audio (smilingly showing off his babies), and so new that the US price has not been set, Lindemann’s Kind of Blue cable line includes power cables, speaker cable, and interconnects. All are cryo-treated.
Power cables, which come either shielded or unshielded, contain up to 14 separate “twisted pair” conductors composed of high-purity copper. Insulation is “Teflon-like,” there are neither ferromagnetic materials nor magnetic screws, shielding (when used) is a conductive Gore-Tex coasted with carbon. Interconnects come single-ended or balanced, the latter with a special XLR connector that is completely free of steel and includes gold-plated contacts.
A sister company of Argento Audio of Denmark, Organic Audio now launched a complete line of copper cables. These include Organic Audio interconnects ($995/1m pair RCA, $1075/1m pair XLR), speaker cable ($1950/2m pair), and power cords ($995/2m). By contrast, interconnects in the all-silver Argento range from $2000$9500/1m pair. All products are distributed by Ricardo Reyes (left) of Musical Artisans in Skokie, IL.
Ulrik Madsen (right), who designs the cables and owns the company, was on hand to discuss his products. All Organic Audio cables are derived from Argento Audio’s entry-level Argento Serenity. “I wanted to take advantage of the connectors I developed for Argento,” Madsen explain. “We make all our Organic Audio connectors ourselves from the same metal as the conductors in the cables, which is OFC 99.997% copper. (The more expensive Argento cabling uses silver). There are no solder points; all attachments are made by applying set-screws to accomplish compression.
Steve Holt, global sales manager for MIT, proudly introduced me to the company’s brand new Matrix line of cables. Designed by Bruce Brisson, the cables retail between $9999 and $21,999, and are part of the company’s reference line.
The new speaker cable comes in three flavors: Oracle Matrix HD 90 ($9999/8ft pair), Oracle Matrix HD 100 ($14,999/8ft pair), and Oracle Matrix HD 120 ($21,999/8 ft pair). There is one interconnect, Matrix 50 ($4999/1m pair, $5999/1m balanced pair). For digital cabling, one needs to go up one step in the reference line to Oracle MA-X digital ($3495/1m RCA or BNC, $3995/1m AES/EBU)
These new cables use MIT’s multi-pole technology. “We talk about poles of articulation,” said Holt. “There are electronics inside our boxes on the cables to provide wider bandwith coverage to power, so that sounds at either end of the spectrum won’t be rolled off as quickly.” The Matrix cables also employ a new technology called F.A.T. (Fractional Articulation Technology) that helps maintain the harmonic structure of audio signals.
In the Magico room where they were displayed, the new Magico Q3, Soulution amplifiers, and files from Paul Stubblebine’s Tape Project made wonderful music through Oracle Matrix HD 120 speaker cable and the Oracle MA-X interconnects (start at $8495/1m pair). You can see the Oracle Matrix HD 120 boxes in the above photo, which was taken behind one of the Magico speakers. If other rooms hadn’t called, I would have dropped everything then and there and stayed for hours.
Stage III Concepts, a Pasadena-based company whose products are distributed by Brian Ackerman of AAudio Imports, has released four newly re-engineered, top-of-the-line cables. All are part of the A.S.P. Reference series (Absolute Signal Purity), and are entirely handmade (including connectors) by Luis de la Fuente. Connectors are made of ceramic with a mixture of special resins to minimize crosstalk between pins, and the entire housing composed of carbon-fiber and epoxy resin. The wire itself is silver-palladium alloy. The A.S.P. Reference interconnect and speaker cable also sport a vacuum dielectric.
On display were the Zyklop power cord ($6000/1.5m), Gryphon interconnect ($5800/1m pair RCA, $6300/1m pair XLR), and Mantikor speaker cable ($13,200/2m pair). Besides digital and phono cables and speaker jumpers, the company sells hook-up wire for components in a variety of gauges. The least expensive, 22 AWG ($66/1.5m) is followed by 17 and 15 AWG ($280/1.5m).
Asked about the cable’s sonic properties, Ackerman replied, “It has no sound at all. It’s probably the closest thing I’ve heard to having no wire. It’s virtually invisible, like a direct connection.”
Herbert Wong and Alex Yeung manufacture Gutwire cables near Toronto, Canada, where they live. All Gutwire cables, which are distributed by May Audio, are made of triple-braided copper, and all terminations are crimped without solder.
“We find copper is more natural and musical-sounding,” Herbert explained.
The photo shows the newest additions to Gutwire’s cable line. The power cable is the SP Crystal Edition AC cable ($1800/6ft), which lies in the middle of their price spread. Also shown are the EON-Z interconnect ($1600/1m pair) and UNO-S interconnect ($2500/1m pair). By way of comparison, the prices of the company’s top-of-the-line are as follows: the SP-18.1 AC cable ($7500/6ft), Uno-S interconnects ($2500/1m pair), and digital SD-3-SE ($1150/1m).
The terminations on Gutwire’s novel top-of-the-line SP cabling contain Bincho-Tan (white charcoal). Bincho-Tan emits negative ions, absorbs RF and EMI. Herbert first discovered the substance in his water purifier. Intrigued, he began to research it on the net, and learned about its other properties.
Gutwire also manufactures two 4 and 6 outlet power conditioners, the 4 Bar and 6 Bar ($1100$2600, depending upon the model). Each contains a passive filter, and the top of each is milled from a block of solid aluminum.
In a brief demo, I was struck by Gutwire’s ability to transmit a lovely smooth midrange on the classic recording of Harry Belafonte at Carnegie Hall.
Joining WireWorld, Thiel, and Bryston in their impressive exhibit in the Sands/Venetian Convention Center was power specialist Plitron. Based in Canada, the company has spent 28 years in R&D and manufacture of toroidal transformers that are utilized by many of the leading companies in the audio industry. Five years ago, Plitron decided to introduce their own Torus Power line to demonstrate their full implementation of their work with toroidal isolation transformers and power conditioning.
Arthur Kelm, formerly chief engineer in a number of recording studios including Record One, the Record Plant, and Skywalker, designed the Torus Power Ground One power conditioner panel that uses Plitron transformers. “I have known that power is the foundation of every audio/video system,” he explained. “It’s also the most misunderstood application you have. People just don’t understand power and its importance.
“The major advantage of using an isolation transformer is that you now have a very low impedance to plug into, and you can rebond neutral and ground which is where 90% of your noise comes from in electrical systems.”
The complete Torus Power line includes units from 2.5 amps up to 300400 amps. The lowest priced unit, the RM 2.5 ($999), handles 2.5A. The company’s most popular units, ideal for dedicated audio systems, are the RM 15 ($2000) and RM 20 ($3000). There is also a custom installation series with 60A and 100A units, plus Ground One panels for use in all-home AV and theatres. Some models include automatic voltage regulation.