I visited the Kevro room to get another listen to the Monitor Audio Silver 8 speakers that I reviewed in January. However, I found that Kevro was bringing Cyrus electronics back to the US. The offerings were all in the tidy and familiar half-shoebox format that permits Cyrus devices to stack so neatly.
One of the trends in amplification this year is the large number of stereo integrated amplifiers with digital inputs. Among these, the Parasound Halo Integrated stands out for its impressive feature set.
At Musical Surroundings, the Metis line-stage preamp from Aesthetix, first seen at the 2014 RMAF, was running the big demo system. This new 4-tube preamp replaces the multi-chassis Callisto at about $25,000.
For years, I have greeted Rogue's Mark O'Brien with the question, "Anything new in digital?" fully knowing that Rogue Audio is committed to vacuum tube-based analog. This time I asked "Anything new that is not digital?" and Mark beamed. Finally, I had asked the right question...
I remember reading about Monitor Audio speakers as I pored over British audio mags in the 1970s, before the economy was globalized. They were among the many worthy UK brands whose cachet was amplified by their unavailability in the US. This venerable brand has survived and flourished, while many others from the 1970s have disappeared, or become mere labels under the aegis of multinational corporations. The reasons for this success seem to be that Monitor has evolved their metal-cone driver technology, kept the focus on their core market, and continued to provide high-quality construction and finishes. So I was not surprised to read, at the back of the Silver 8's multi-language owner's manual, that the speaker was "Designed and Engineered in the United Kingdom, made in China."
A decade or two ago, I stumbled on a surprising demo room at an audio show. I don't recall most of the equipment, but I do remember a pair of Paradigm Studio 20 speakers at one end, their crossover entrails dangling free, connected to the rest of the system by a multiplicity of wires. At the other end, among the usual electronics, was a PC whose screen was a crazy quilt of graphs and menus that constantly twinkled in response to the ministrations of DEQX's Kim Ryrie. He seemed totally absorbed, but looked up and proudly offered to show me what he was doing. When I told him that I was familiar with the Paradigms, he played some music that sounded just fine. Then he clicked his mouse. The sound was transformed from the familiar to the fabulous. I was dumbfounded. "What have you done?"
It's August as I write this, and I'm looking back at some things that need to be discussed, and forward to the fall audio showsparticularly the 2014 New York Audio Show, which, by the time you read this, will have been held in Brooklyn, September 2628. I grew up in Brooklyn, not in "the city," Manhattan, a place that we traveled to only for special reasons. Audio shops were rare in BrooklynI remember only Audio Exchangebut in Manhattan there was a small cluster near Grand Central Station, there was Lafayette Radio near the Holland Tunnel, a few scattered elsewhere, and the magnet of Liberty Street in lower Manhattan, where more than two city blocks were packed with audio shops.
Power amplifiers are unglamorous but essential. In theory, they have only one task. But, according to audio sage Yogi Berra, "in theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not." Amplifiers must take a voltage input signal and provide an output of somewhat higher voltage but of substantially higher current, the product of which is power. The task is complex in that this output must be applied to electrical interfaces whose characteristics vary widely from speaker to speakeracross the audioband and, for some, even at different power levels. There are no control mechanisms or feedback signals to help. The power amp must just stand and deliver.
It seems more and more that I'm reviewing equalization products in this column, and that such components are less often dealt with in the magazine's formal equipment reports. But it's not as if the problems created by room acoustics affect only multichannel systems. Stereophile has not ignored the topicsee the many reviews of physical and electronic room-treatment products posted on this websitebut months can pass without publication of a review of such a component. Meanwhile, multichannel devotees such as I seem to talk about almost nothing elseand here's why.