HE2005 Day Three: The Show Turns up the Volume

No, we really weren't feeling kind of seasick, but the crowd definitely called out for more—and at HE2005, more is what we usually got.

First things first. We promised to get back to you about that sexy Chord stack we were salivating over in day two's coverage: the $5995 One CD player, the $5495 Prima preamplifier, and the $6495 Mezzo 140 power amplifier, which, oddly enough is rated at 120Wpc. Put 'em all in the $1700 Choral rack and you'll have all of your fashionista friends panting. We're assuming the system sounds as good as it looks, but we still haven't heard it.

That same room had a specially painted pair of Tetra's Manhattan Line 305s ($3500/pair standard; $5500/pair, custom painted) on display, based on the costumes worn by the Beatles in the Sgt. Pepper cover. The speakers were painted by designer Adrian Butts' sister Carolyn and custom paint jobs will be a regular feature from Tetra from this point onwards.

Speaking of classic rock, we were pulled into the DeVore Fidelity/Simaudio room by the sound of Jimi Hendrix ripping into some blues. Slowly we turned and step-by-step we stumbled into the sweet spot. Wowsers! We never heard that 60Hz Marshall hum sound more there, er, here.

The system consisted of DeVore Fidelity's $14,000/pair Silverback Reference loudspeakers and Simaudio's $9200 250Wpc Moon W-8 power amp, two-chassis $9500 P-8 preamplifier, and two-box $9800 Moon Andromeda CD player. Actually, we'd been ducking into the DeVore/Simaudio room for days now, having thrilled to Art Dudley's copy of Del McCoury's "1952 Vincent Back Lightning" and our own SACD of Ryan Adams singing "Oh My Sweet Carolina," to name but a few.

Today, we noticed something else about the room: Ranged along the rear wall were several black fabric-covered columns. John DeVore patted one and said, "These really work pretty well." Of course, they were Room Lenses, a tuned resonator that J10 Scull used to favor, only with slightly toned-down cosmetics. John likes 'em enough that he's working to license 'em from their designer. Were the Room Lenses the reason the DeVore/Simaudio room sounded so good? "Not really," JDV said. "We were amazed at how good the sound was after just a little position tweaking—but the Lenses helped us get the last 5% there."


Which is also what we said when we passed Butler Audio's room. That name sounds familiar, we mused. "It should," Butler's rep said. "You reviewed our Tube Driver back in a mid-1990s Car Tunes column."


As I understand it, B. K. Butler has come up with a new twist on tube design. Working with the "Edison Effect," his Monad power amplifier runs a specially modified 300B with "backward bias," using no B-plus voltage, with the result that the tube runs quite cool in class-A on 15V. Coupled to a unique power supply with over 2 Farads of capacitance and no output transformer, the amp puts out 100W into 8 ohms and 200W into 4 ohms. Oh yeah, did I mention zero negative feedback?

The chassis is hogged out of a solid 6" slab of aluminum and the whole chassis acts as a heatsink. Circuit boards are silver, parts are pedigreed, and all contacts are silver-plated Rhodium. The Monad monoblocks cost $18,995/pair.

The DK Design Group's DK-1 integrated amplifier looks almost as massive as the Monad, but this 150Wpc tube preamp (6922s)/solid-state power amp single-box unit only costs $2995. For that price, you also get balanced inputs and a phono section. The sound was taut and incisive, with lots of swell tube warmth and depth. How can Daniel Khesin do it? We're betting he's not making a lot of money on this one. He seems to working hard for what he's getting, though.

Speaking of hard work, HeadRoom's Tyll Hertsens looked exhausted—as well he might, having replaced everything in HeadRoom's line. He was walking around the Show with a teeny little bag that contained a Rio MP3 player, his new $300 Micro DAC, and a $300 Micro Amp, hooked up to a pair of Sennheiser 'phones.

"Check this out," he said and slammed the headphones on our shining pate (or does the editorial "we" require a plural there?). We went away to our happy place for a while.

HeadRoom will be introducing its new products soon. Look for a variety of home, portable, computer, and reference headphone amps in the very new future. But why, we asked, did HeadRoom replace everything in its line? "I blame—or rather credit— the head-fi community," Hertsens said. "People have been rolling their own products and the products have been getting better and better. Now our products have had to get a lot better, so we started with a blank slate."

Sounds like a feedback loop to us—and definitely not negative feedback.

"The feedback has been tremendous," Odyssey's Klaus Bunge told us, speaking of his new Art On-Wall loudspeakers. These two-way, ported wall-hanging flat speakers utilize ScanSpeak drivers in framed, shallow, rectangular enclosures. The grille-cloth is laser printed to resemble works of art, many by German artists of Klaus' acquaintance. There are two stereo models, the $1500/pair Canvas 1 and the $1950/pair Canvas High End—as well as a Canvas Center at $1200.

Klaus built a special MDF wall to demonstrate the Canvas line and we thought they sounded pretty impressive, with lots of bass and depth. Depth? From on-walls? That surprised the heck out of us, but there you are.

"Of course, they are not intended to replace an audiophile's primary system—but, with these, if you can't have speakers on the floor, that doesn't mean you can't have good sound."

We'd close with a joke. but then we'd have to decide between "a sound investment" and "works of art that work," and frankly, we're tired and just not that clever. Instead, we'll close with a picture—they're said to be worth a thousand words, which effectively doubles the length of this report.