- Written by Chris Groppi and Rick Schmidt
- Published on 13 October 2008
Day 2: Rick Schmidt
I stopped in the Jones Audio room where their PA-M300-1 Monoblocks fed by a Benchmark DAC were in turn feeding some B&W speakers. I haven't heard B&W's in a long time. These sounded lighter and more direct than that distant memory. But then it could have been these amps too, very lively.
One of my first stops was to visit with Lou Hinkley of Daedalus Audio and to hear the top of the line from Daedalus, The Ulysses. This is the big cousin to my 2.1's and so has much of the same stuff, like the drivers but more. More drivers and indeed more sound, especially on the low end. The Ulysses was playing in two rooms, the first one way too small for these big speakers it was also balmy-warm thanks to the Clayton Audio S100 Balanced Class A amp. I'd like to hear more of that amp. It seemed to have ample muscle for pushing the dual 8" woofers around but smooth like class A amplification should be. In the second room the Daedalus' were driven by Manley gear but the biggest difference was the room. Plenty of room for the speakers to breath here.
My most astounding experience on Friday (even more than the Dow swinging 1000 points) was the AVR PH77. Now here is convergence. This NOS tubed phono stage has a digital side to it. A digital side that would put many home theater processors to shame. Built in to this phono stage and switchable from the remote are every RIAA curve known to man, customized equalization for every cartridge known to man as well as the loading for that cartridge (well of course it would have that!). In addition, you can customize each of those settings and store them. Oh, it also knows how to compensate for certain record company biases such as Decca pressings etc. A phono stage like no other. The sound was immediate and sweet. Pictured here with Darren Censullo.
Validating my recent experience with Stereo Dave's single driver speakers was the MaxHorn. The huge cabinets help these speakers measure flat from 50Hz to 18kHz and the sound was simply enchanting. Folks just did not want to leave this room.
Jumping to the other end of the technological spectrum, the MBL room. Looking at these speakers makes you feel like you are on the set of Star Trek. Listening to them makes you fell like you are living Star Trek. You keep looking at the speaker because of the way it looks but your mind keeps telling you that the sound is coming from somewhere else. This new model, the Mark II's, feature Porsche Leather upholstery around the base which encloses a built in subwoofer.
I'd heard that Focal was revamping the Utopia line and was anxious to see and hear it. At the lower end of the scale is the Diablo.
The Grand Utopia replaces the conventional fixed magnet in the subwoofer with an electro magenet. You can see the outboard power supply for it on the floor to the left of the speaker on the right. This allows the woofer to be 96db efficient at 16Hz. Listening to these speakers with all Boulder electronics was one of the few times it seemed like the performers were in the room with you. Living with these speakers would be a fundamentally different experience than what we are normally talking about when we talk about hifi because the sound just envelops you. You know we often wonder what speakers the sound engineers were using when they mixed, well it wasn't these. Cost, $180K. Not the most expensive speakers at the show though.
These were the most expensive speakers at the show - Marten Coltrane Supreme $295,000. Well, I presume they are the most expensive.
The Krell room had a complete Krell system that was dynamic and powerful.
My compatriot Chris Groppi glued himself to these Denon 7000 headphones. The folks from Headroom were annoyed but they couldn't remove the headphones from his head without damage so they're Chris's now.