Anthony Gallo's new Reference 3.1 loudspeaker ($2995/pair) proved that it's better to set up a room properly than it is to try to beat it into submission with expensive components. Not to take anything away from Gallo's Ref 3.1, which sounded fantastic, but his demo proved that God truly is in the details, sounding bigger, realer, richer, and more dynamic than most of the googolbuck systems we heard today. In fact, one importer, who shall remain nameless, confessed that he had a pair in his living room rather than the costly lines he brings into the country.
Penaudio's Tommi Forss was excited about the Finnish company's new Alba ($4000/pair). "We wanted a smaller floorstanding speaker than our Serenade, but a larger speaker than our Charisma, so we used the 1" SEAS Excel fabric dome tweeter from the Serenade and the 7" SEAS treated paper cone midrange/woofer in a compact time-aligned cabinet."
Dusty Vawter's Channel Island Audio has made its reputation building high-performance audio components in extremely small packages, but we were still surprised to see how tiny CIA's new VDA-2 DAC ($599)is. How small? Try 4.4" W by 2.65" H by 4.4" D.
When your company is called Muse, I guess some product names just suggest themselves. When Kevin Halverson needed a moniker for his CD, DVD-A/V, and SACD player, he thought of Polyhymnia, the muse of sacred poetry, geometry, mime, meditation, and agriculture. Halverson says, "It means 'many voices," which it also does.
Leave it to a bass player. John Atkinson sidled up to Jon Iverson and me last night and said, "Have you heard Ascendo's room yet? It has a bandpass woofer that doesn't sound like a bandpass woofer at all—it sounds good."
It has been a while since we saw a new design from Egglestonworks, so we were happy to see the Fontaine II ($5500/pair.) The Fontaine has a small footprint and looks even smaller than its 41" height would suggest. the driver complement is a 1" fabric dome tweeter and two 6" midrange/woofers. Like the other EW designs, the Fontaine II utilizes a transmission line.
Balanced Audio Technology's Geoffrey Poor proudly showed off BAT's new Solid-state preamp, the VK42SE ($5995). Those ominous looking black cans are brand new state-of-the-art oil-filled capacitors, which will sport a different livery in the production model, by the way. The 42SE features BAT's power supply bypass, dual mono, zero feedback circuitry and it sounds "more tubelike than some of our tubed designs," Poor proclaimed. "It's like a VK42 on steroids! It has more air, more liquidity, and more testicular fortitude. I don't know why we don't have it in the system."
Jon Iverson has a nose. I mean, he just knows—for instance, we were walking through the Alexis Park, I mean Alexis Villas, when he stopped in front of Zu's logo and said, "I think this might be worth investigating."
We heard the HE-333 v1.3 monoblocks ($69,000/pair) in the Signals-SuperFi room, but we don't know a lot about 'em, other than the price, the fact that the new guy outputs 150W rather than 100W, and that they are drop-dead gorgeous. Us guys are so easy—sometimes all it takes to get our interest is a flash of stocking.
Signals-SuperFi introduced Peak Consult's new floorstanding three-way The Zoltan ("as in Kodaly") ($36,699.99/pair). The Zoltan boasts Peak Consult's usual glorious woodwork and uses a 1.5" Scanspeak cloth dome tweeter, 4" AudioTech midrange driver, and two 7" AudioTech woofers. Fronted by The Continuum Audio Labs Caliburn Turntable ($89,999.99), Boulder 2008 phono preamp ($30,000), Boulder 2010 preamp ($30,000), and Wavac HE 883 v1.3 monoblocks, strung together with Stereovox's SEI-600II and LSP-600c cables, the system pretty much blew me away. This is vinyl? Dean Can Dance was dynamic and vivid, with tons and tons of depth. No wonder Mikey Fremer raved about the Caliburn. The Zoltans cry out for further listening.