I first heard the Canadian-made Waveform Research Mach 17 loudspeaker system in New York City at HI-FI '96, Stereophile's Home Theater & Specialty Audio Show. Another Ontario native, Chris Russell of Bryston Ltd., had raved to me about their sound. His recommendation sent me outside my assigned reporting area and down to the sixth floor of the Waldorf=Astoria, to dimly lit room 602—full of ASC Tube Traps, amplifiers, cables, and the twin truncated pyramids of the Mach 17s.
"Larry, I've just come from the Alexis Park." Tom Norton, editor of Ultimate AV" button-holed me. "I think the Pioneer speaker is worth a visit. It's one of the only new things I've found over there." Tom's words rung in my ears. Had to see it!
I was sipping my gin'n'tonic, watching a hologram of a scantily clothed dancer and soaking up some serious party ambience at Stereophile, UAV, and Home Theater magazines' annual CES bash, held this year at the Venetian Hotel's Vivid night club, when a tap on my shoulder snapped me back to business. It was jolly Craig Oxford, president of former Nearfield Acoustics, the company responsible for the balls-to-the-wall, cost-no-limit, Pipedreams loudspeaker system.
Andrew and Lukas Lipinski, manufacturers of the L-707 monitor I reviewed in December, were fed up with poor room acoustics and slow foot traffic at trade shows. So they eliminated the room! Ray Kimber urged them to take the empty spot in the Alexis Park lunchroom for their demo setup. Andrew set up one of the few multi-channel demo systems at the Show using six L-707s, including the one for rear height information seen in the photo. Despite the din of the lunch crowd, all I had to do was sit in the nearfield, and I was bathed in sound from Andrew's multi-channel recordings, such as his new Republique SACD. For the photo, however, they kicked back with Telarc's recording of Ladysmith Black Mambazo singing "Diamonds in the Soles of Her Shoes." It definitely rocked the lunchroom!
High-end amplifier guru John Curl, well-known for his early designs at Mark Levinson Audio Systems and for the Vendetta phono preamplifier—some regard this as the finest head amp ever made— was at the Alexis Park to discuss his latest design for Parasound, the JC-2 preamplifier. [The price of the JC-2 has not been determined yet, but will be somewhere in the vicinity of $3200.] John was particularly pleased to point out that he had worked with the same circuit-board designer from the Vendetta days. He also pointed out the preamp’s "D-core" power transformer, which has an oval core at right angles to the winding. John believes that this is much quieter than a conventional toroidal transformer. However, he had persuaded Parasound to omit a phono stage because even the D-core transformer wasn't quiet enough for him. That brought up an obvious question—would he reintroduce the Vendetta? Although nothing was definite, he noted, "I'll probably have to do something because everyone is bugging me to bring it back."
McIntosh displayed the full-range, $80,000/pair XRT2K speaker in their two-channel room at the Alexis Park. It sets a record for number of
drivers per side—110—with
40 tweeters, 64 midrange units, and six woofers. Frequency response is claimed to be 16Hz–45kHz. The system driven to full volume by the 495lb McIntosh MC2KW monoblock ($30,000), which can deliver 2kW, demonstrated awesome dynamic range.
The German Clearaudio company, ever-reverent of James Bond's lineage of luxury philosophy, introduced the $17,000 Goldfinger cartridge. Magnets have been doubled up to eight pieces, and a dynamic range of an extraordinary 100dB is claimed. Eric Clapton's "Layla" on vinyl (Reprise 9362-4502-1) never sounded better, I thought.