Pipedreams: Stompin' at the Doghouse

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.

"It's been a good year, Larry," said Craig, "we've reorganized Nearfield Audio into a new business, High Emotion Audio, and recreated the Pipedreams in a twin-tower form. You've got to come and hear it at the Alexis Park."

"Where would I find you?" I asked to keep the conversation going while I kept one eye open on the kitchen door where the ladies were bringing out the food. "Just come to the doghouse," sighed Craig, "it's the only show room at the Alexis Park I can get that's big enough to let the Pipedreams breathe."

Mmmm, where is the doghouse? I consulted the Alexis Park guide, found the Pipedream's upstairs (ugh) room number, and pushed my feet sleepily over there early Sunday morning. Craig's twin-tower Pipedream ($85k–$135k/system) sat at one end of the double room, its burl/walnut, full-fill, 100% sheen, 15-coat lacquer finish gleaming in the sunlight.

D. Mike Shields, High Emotions' design engineer, gave me the info. The twin tower emerged as a "disaggregated" design that employed two narrow cylindrical baffles per channel, one to mount 40 tweeters, and the other to mount 18 midrange drivers, that provide a minimally diffractive environment for the array. These poles are sunk into a massive pedestal weighing 200 lbs. Craig drove the columns with two 350Wpc Conrad Johnson stereo amplifiers. Backing the columns was a row of four powered subwoofers, two per channel, each employing two opposed 12" drivers to pressure a central chamber so the resulting output formed a radially propagated pressure wave. Each sub was driven by an internal 400W amplifier.

Playing a Bela Fleck album, the new Pipedreams proved to be dynamic, punchy, and transparent, playing with best transient response at moderate volumes than at low volumes. By midmorning, the Pipedreams were delivering the goods with plenty of dynamics and fun, all I needed in the doghouse.