Hi-Fi Returns to L.A. Page 4

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BEST OUTRAGEOUSLY EXPENSIVE SYSTEMS

Ready for a $44,625 pair of two-way speakers? Me, neither. But I think that once ultra-affluent audiophiles get a listen to what Wadax is doing, more than a few will pony up the pennies.

This company, which made its North American debut at T.H.E. Show, simply blew me away with its technology. The voice of the system is the Speak 1.5, the two-way speaker I alluded to before. Why so expensive? Each speaker is internally bi-amplified with a total of 400 watts of Class D amplification. Why are the drivers so far apart? "Because they sound good that way," said Wadax USA's Rick Brown - and because digital EQ and 300 dB/octave digital crossovers make the widely spaced driver arrangement practical.

But there's more. The company's PRE1-Phono preamp/DAC includes digital correction for your turntable. The dealer plays a special test record, records the result on a digital recorder, sends the result to Wadax, and the company burns a chip for your PRE1-Phono that compensates for the resonances in your turntable and tonearm. The before/after demo I got delivered something I've never heard before: the sound of a vinyl LP without the coloration and imprecision I normally associate with that medium.

A more traditional but no less compelling demo took place in the room of L.A. dealer Brooks Berdan Ltd. (above), where I heard Wilson Audio's Sasha W/P speakers driven by VTL MB-450 Series III tube amplifiers, dCS digital audio electronics and a Grand Prix Audio Monaco turntable. The bassline of Madeline Peyroux's "Don't Wait Too Long," played from the Careless Love LP, sounded so organic and tasty I completely forgot I was supposed to be covering a hi-fi show and sat through tune after tune, hogging the sweet spot.

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