There were a lot of great sounding systems at the show, there always are, but some rooms just hit you right. For me, it was the Dynaudio / Simaudio room. In this small room, Simaudio Moon W7M monoblocks ($16,000/pr, 500 watt@8 ohm) drove the small Dynaudio Confidence C1 ($6,500/pr or $7,000/pr in black lacquer, stands were an extra $450/pair and bolted to the bottom of the C1). The system front end was from Sim Audio's Moon line as well, The Andromeda CD player ($12,000) and P-8 Controller and Preamp ($11,500) completed the front end. A seriously priced system, no doubt, but the sound was commensurate. From the overplayed "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole that greeted me when I entered, to Sarah McLachlan's "Eyes of an Angel," to a Bruce Coburn / Lucinda Williams piece (this guy is seriously nihilistic – nobody sell him a rocket launcher, please!), the system sounded relaxed and totally involving. It had an uncanny ability to paint unique perspectives for each recording. I could have stayed even longer, but the show was calling. With a new found respect for Sim Audio electronics and an even stronger desire to get a Dynaudio Confidence system in for review, I begrudgingly walked away.
Krell employees, three of them, and practically in unison, insisted that the iPod's dock attachment offers balanced outputs. That's why they, Krell, king of balanced amplification, are offering the new Krell iPod Dock later this year. If you can't tell from the picture, there are separate bass, treble and volume controls on the front. I glimpsed out back and the KID offers both balanced (XLR) and single ended (RCA) outputs. Oh, yeah, it's expensive at $1,200, but if you're in love with your iPod as much as I am (and if you're transferring music from your CDs down at AAC's max 320 kbps rate you should be), this KID may be your ticket to better music.
The DCS Scarlatti CD player and Brinkman Balance turntable, arm and cartridge were a formidable front end in one of the Singer rooms. VTL's TL-6.5 tube preamp and TP-6.5 phonostage gently handed off the signal to a VTL Reference S-400 stereo tube amp. The big surprise for me was the speaker system at the end of this audio reproduction chain. Escalante Design's Fremont speaker had an unusual two toned finish that made me think palomino pony. The speaker was very boxy, very unconventional by modern aesthetics, but boy, this speaker was blessed with a beautiful tonal range with powerful but controlled bass. Big well designed tubes amps like the VTLs will do that.
The distributor for a new (to the USA) Swedish speaker resorted to the dirtiest of tricks to get us into their room – free Swedish food. I didn't know Edamame and asparagus were Swedish, but I guess the meatballs were all gone. I grabbed a few veggies and sat down to listen. The $1,850 GURU QM10 loudspeakers from Sjfn HiFi were pumping out a lot of bass heavy music without the assist of a subwoofer. Unfortunately, the first cut was something that sounded like Yello meets the Greater Wagnerian Society of Skinheads.
I spent some time in the Lipinski / JVC room. Lukas Lipinski showed us a more stylized version of the L-707 speakers on custom stands that include stereo amps (either bridged and biwired or not-bridged and biamped – we're still a little confused). Tom Norton goes into more detail in his coverage below, so I won't repeat it here. Suffice to say, the sound from these speakers was, once again, very good, if a bit too loud.
This new Krell speaker continues the tradition of machined aluminum cabinets, but uses a new 6-1/2" midrange with an aluminum cone. As the name implies, the midrange / tweeter and woofer sections are separate. Not shown are the cables connecting the two modules. The three 8" ScanSpeak woofers are also new, but the 1" tweeter is the same as that in the Krell LAT-1000 speaker. Not yet available, but estimated to sell for $35,000 / pair, these expensive speakers had no trouble filling a large room driven by Nordest cable and a pair of Krell Evolution 600 monoblock amps.
It's not new, but it's still sexy. The two chassis Evolution One power amp can muster 1,800 watts of Class A power into 2 ohms. $50,000 / pair. To me, the retro look has me thinking of the dashboard of classic Fifties American car.
The soothing sounds of Frank Sinatra singing "What's New" (CD, originally a Capitol Records recording) were a welcome treat in the BAT / Wilson room. A pair of Watt Puppy 8 speakers sounded as smooth and inviting as the pair I heard in Denver last September, telling me the new, kindler, gentler Wilson wasn't a figment of my imagination. The BAT Rex preamp uses 18 tubes and fed dual 150SE tube monoblocks. Jeff Pour of Balanced Audio Technology turned off the house lights so we couldn't leave.