Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity - John E. Johnson, Jr.

On March 1 and 2, 2014, Secrets hosted a Salon Presentation as part of our 20th Anniversary Celebration of publishing. The presentation consisted of three rooms containing state-of-the-art equipment, both solid state and tube, and both two-channel and home theater. The photo above shows the living room with the speakers. One of the pairs of horns is just visible behind the Legacy speakers. This was before the presentation, when the furniture had not been moved out of the way.

The presentation was a resounding success, with attendees stating that they had never heard such fantastic sound, and were totally unaware that certain items even existed. The Secrets Editor, John Johnson, presented all of the equipment, with CD, SACD, DVD-A, as well as vinyl and Blu-ray movies in the home theater room. The attendees were people who don’t go to audio shows, but who want to have good quality components and are unable to find local shops that can demonstrate the products.

The success of the Salon Presentation indicates that this may be a way of bringing new members into our audiophile community. The manufacturers are more than willing to put in their products. Some of our readers around the world need only invite them to participate in your own presentation, and consumers will come.

Here is a list of the products that we demonstrated (click on the photo to see the full size page):


Many attendees had never seen or heard of the electrostatic speakers, and as I have found in the past, the ladies really liked them (very good Spouse Acceptance Factor), presumably because they are thin and transparent, so they don’t overpower the room with their size.

We had a very wide variety of components, and everyone had different opinions about which speakers sounded the best  – this was a matter of preference, as all of the speakers were top-of-the-line.

I was very surprised that so many of the attendees said they had never seen horn speakers or electrostatic speakers. So, it just brings home the sad fact that many high end audio shops are either going out of business or converting to custom home theater installation. This is a huge problem for the manufacturers, as there are fewer and fewer places that consumers can go to hear high end setups.

I spent about 50 minutes in each room, with 10 minute breaks in between for refreshments. However, many of the attendees went directly to the headphone table instead of the refreshments, as we had three setups with very high quality headphones and headphone amps. They heard distinct differences and definitely had their preferences.

Videos and more photos will be added to this page as we edit them.


So, here is the living room setup, with the furniture moved, and seating in place before the attendees arrived. There was one more row of chairs behind the couch. We had about a dozen attendees besides the manufacturers on the first day. I had a team moving the speakers and connecting the cables for each stereo set to compare the sound. As I mentioned previously that ladies love flat panel speakers, they did indeed say they liked the sound of the electrostatic speakers, but I know that their physical appearance (the speakers, not the ladies :=>) had a strong influence on this opinion.

The components consisted of an OPPO BDP-105 universal player, BAT VK-5i tube preamplifier, BAT VK-75SE stereo tube power amplifier, and Wireworld cables. The speakers were my own electrostatics (Audiostatic ES-500), plus Linn Athenaeum horn speakers, Legacy Focus SE speakers, and Burwell horn speakers (not seen in the photo).

Secrets Salon


I gave the presentation and used a chart (seen on the left in the photo above). I utilized about a dozen tracks of music in a wide variety of genres.

Secrets Salon


In the home theater room downstairs, MartinLogan had brought in a full set for movie and music surround sound. They consisted of the CLX full-range for the front left and right channels, and Stage-X for the center (sitting on the floor). Three Velodyne DD-18 subwoofers (my own) can be seen under the Stewart Grayhawk screen. The equipment rack is behind the right CLX speaker. I will describe that later.

Secrets Salon


I found that the Stage-X made was such a wonderful center channel speaker, in that it did not lose much of its sound off-axis, it would make a good side channel speaker, so I used two additional Stage-X speakers for the side-surrounds, one of which is seen above the French doors in the photo below.

You can see that this is a home theater in a real home with all the problems that go with not having a dedicated home theater room. This room is basically our den, and it also includes a fireplace on the opposite wall, and a large window in the rear. Problems with balancing the sound? Yes. Got the sound balanced? Yes.

Secrets Salon


Here is the rear wall. A Sony VPL-HW55ES served as the projector. Its bright, crisp image with deep blacks was extremely impressive. In the corners are two MartinLogan Summit-X speakers, used for the rear left and right channels. They have powered woofers, but I rolled them off at 55 Hz using the Classé SSP-800 processor because I have configured the three subs as three discrete subs, one for the front left, one for the front right, and one for all the other speakers.

Secrets Salon


A close-up photo of the Sony VPL-HW55ES projector shows that the composite video jack has finally disappeared from the standard set of inputs. The lens has vertical and horizontal shift to allow perfect alignment with the screen. This is the brightest one-bulb projector I have yet seen, and it is perfect for my 0.95 gain Stewart Grayhawk projection screen.

Secrets Salon


Wireworld Eclipse 7 speaker cables were used for the front left, right, and center channels. The photo below shows the connection to one of the MartinLogan CLX’s. The cable at the top is the AC power cord that supplies voltage to the diaphragm that sits between the stators and is the heaviest power cord I have ever seen that came with a component as the stock cable. Various other Wireworld models, including RCA interconnects, XLR interconnects, and speaker cables, were used throughout the presentation rooms.

Salon Presentation


Here is the previous generation, Wireworld Eclipse 6 speaker cables. You can see that they are flat, which is a huge contrast with the model 7’s, shown above, where the conductors are wound in a spiral. In general, Wireworld cables have shown the lowest amount of reactive impedance that I have ever measured in a high end cable.

Secrets Salon






More to come . . . . .