A/V VETERAN

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jan 04, 2010 3 comments

I could argue that the opening salvo of this report was delayed because I wanted the entire piece, which will appear in periodic postings over the next few weeks, to appear in 2010. Or that I figured no one would be watching during the holidays, tied up as they were with festooning the house with LEDs, pondering whether to send real cards or new e-cards (when you care enough to e-mail the very best), or spending hours lined up for <I>Avatar</I>.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Nov 27, 2009 0 comments

Last week the History HD channel broadcast the multi-part documentary </I>World War II in HD<I>. Most of the footage was in color, dredged in an exhaustive two-year search from private collections or the back shelves of dusty museum storerooms. (Rumors to the contrary, it was not found in an Area 51 warehouse next to a crate with an ark in it.)

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Nov 18, 2009 7 comments

It all started when I wondered what kind of audio I'd hear from the Blu-ray players I had on hand if I used them from their analog outputs. Most Blu-ray player reviews treat audio playback as a given. But is it?

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 14, 2009 0 comments

YG Acoustics claims to make the best speakers in the world. While there are plenty of challengers for that throne, they certainly are some of the most expensive. The big
YG Acoustics Anat Reference II Professional loudspeakers ($107,000/pair) were as imposing physically as their price might you to believe in two rooms at the show. But they didn't quite do it for me in either room, considering their cost. I was much more impressed by the smaller Kipod Studios (shown in black in the photo) at a mere $38,000/pair, though the room they shared with their big brother was too big and too lively. Throw in three of the Kipod modules (the two-way that sits on top of the pyramidal subwoofer) for $8500 each and you have a full surround package for $63,500&#151;plus your choice of subwoofer, of course. The calling card of both YG speakers, apart from quality drivers and crossovers, is their solid aluminum cabinets, said to virtually eliminate unwanted resonances.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 14, 2009 0 comments

Attention, Wilson Audio Alexandra and MAXX owners, your center channel speaker has arrived and your checkbook is about to take another hit. I didn’t catch the price of the new Polaris, due in 2010, and it wasn't on site. I found out about it only through a lonely printed handout sitting on a side table. The photo here is from the Wilson website. The speaker is far larger than the picture might suggests, and if it's designed to match those two…um…puppies, you can bet it will be a cost-no-object design. My guess is that you just might be able to bring home a <I>pair</I> of the new Sasha W/Ps for less.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 14, 2009 1 comments

If I had to give a prize for the best sound at the show, it would be a toss-up between the Wilson Sasha W/Ps tied to Ayre electronics, discussed earlier, and the PMC MB2XBDi speakers (shown here) driven by Bryston electronics. Apart from room bass mode issues that all manufacturers had to deal with, the PMCs were superb. They were far too big for the space, designed as they are for professional applications. But the top modules of the towers are available separately (known as the MB2i), offering a more domesticated appearance for $21,000/pair. I didn't catch the price of the add-on bottom subwoofer modules, but am reasonably certain that for home use a duet (or, for home theater, a quintet) of MB2is will be a better fit&#151;supplemented by a more conventional and inconspicuous subwoofer or two positioned where they minimize room interactions (co-locating the subwoofers with the main speakers almost never gives the best results).

So went RMAF 2009. The show also offered a wide selection of interesting and informative seminars, with presenters from the two major high-end, mainly two-channel audio print publications, <I>Stereophile</I> and <I>The Absolute Sound</I>, and others as well. If you missed the show this year, a 2010 edition is currently planned for next fall.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 14, 2009 0 comments

The Hegel room was one of the first good-sounding rooms I heard, and remained one of the most affordable. Hegel? It's a Norwegian company that has been doing business almost everywhere in the world for about 20 years, but this is their first serious foray into the U.S. market. A tough time to start, but they come well equipped. The demo featured the H200 integrated amp ($4400), which at 200W per channel is one of the more powerful integrateds around, the CDP2A mk II CD player ($2650), and the new HD10A D/A converter ($1200) featuring USB and SPDIF digital inputs. The speakers that completed the system were the Dali Helicon 400s.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 14, 2009 1 comments

If the Vivid Giyas make you think of the B&W Nautilus speakers, that's because the same cabinet designer was involved. The Giyas will set you back $58,000/pair, not including, of course, the Luxman electronics and source driving them here, and the Synergistic actively shielded cables (don't ask) tying it all together.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 14, 2009 1 comments

The company may be more widely known for clever ads that play on its naim than for loudspeakers, but Naim Audio's new Ovator S-600 might just change all that. There's enough innovation here to fill a review-length discussion, but the main feature of the system is the BMR (Balanced Mode Radiator) midrange/tweeter. The latter covers the entire spectrum from 380Hz to above the audible range. The dispersion is claimed to be similar that of a conventional midrange and tweeter array, but with the superior coherence possible when all the mid/high frequencies are coming from the same location. A brief listen indicated more than a little promise. The BMR also seems to be ideally suited to a center channel design, though there appear to be no immediate plans to offer one. The S-600 is expected to sell for just north of $10,000. A somewhat smaller, less expensive sibling is also expected.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 14, 2009 0 comments

The 2009 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest was held earlier this month in Denver, Colorado, as it has for several years now. While my main beat these days is home theater, both for <I>Ultimate AV</I> and, increasingly, for <I>Home Theater </I> magazine, once an audiophile always an audiophile, so I was anxious to find out what was happening in the world of hair-shirt Hi-Fi.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 14, 2009 0 comments

At the opposite extreme are the Sony SS-AR1 speakers, shown in the middle of the photo (the larger speaker on the left is a JBL). The SS-AR1s are not yet available in the U.S., but likely to cost $20,000/pair if and when they are brought in. They sounded excellent in the Kimber Kable room, where Roy Kimber was playing his impressive IsoMike multichannel recordings (the only multichannel music to be heard at the show). The brochure on the speakers talks a lot about using the wood from maple trees grown in the cold northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, harvested in November when the grain is tightest. Combine that with the birch plywood from Finland and you get a "reverberation with a beautiful northern-European ambience." OK. In any event, the midrange and tweeter also appear to be of Scandinavian origin—likely made by the same Scan-speak that energizes the YG Acoustics speakers.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 14, 2009 0 comments

You may not have heard of Bamberg Audio, out of Fishers, Indiana, but you might in the future. The company's Series 5 TMW offers a lot of value in this intriguing and fine-sounding $8300 package. The top modules are available separately, making them more or less suitable for surround and center channel duties.

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Tom Norton Posted: Aug 31, 2009 0 comments

Here's another DIY speaker from a clearly dedicated and talented enthusiast. As before, of course, we have no way of knowing how this intriguing design sounds. But the driovers here are among the most well-respected. I don't know the woofer, but the midrange is a 3" dome from ATC and the tweeter a ring radiator from Scan Speak, used in a number of very expensive speakers. Building this, in this configuration, would clearly be beyond the capability of most of us. But if it were a commercial design it would easily command high in the five figure range .

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 31, 2009 2 comments

A couple of blogs down I talked about loudspeakers, and alluded to the small but enthusiastic click of hobbyists who choose to make their own, rather than rely on far more expensive commercial designs.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 09, 2009 3 comments

As I browsed through the latest issue of <I>Stereophile</I> during a late afternoon lunch break, the waiter who brought my soup glanced at an advertisement.

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