Acoustic Zen Adagio Jr. and Kevin Deal's Tube Funhouse

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by Josh Ray on September 28 '06

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Sunday was the Los Angeles (and OC) Audio Society's annual BBQ at none-other than Kevin Deal's house of audio insanity. Kevin Deal is Mr. Upscale Audio. You know, three ads in every Stereophile and TAS, threatening you with: "buy a transistor, get a beat down from a crooked cop."

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Deal's house is a fun story in itself, but the real event was the premier of the Acoustic Zen Adagio Jr. speakers. The Adagio (seniors?) have won wild reviews from just about everyone since their premier in January at CES. The Adagios are floor standing speakers with a transmission line port, getting that bass down to mid 20s. The new speakers use the same mid/tweet/mid arrangement but in a bookshelf form and rear port for mid 30s. And where the big Adagios are $4300, the new Adagio Juniors are $3500.

To get my geek on, Mr. Lee's technical description of the drivers in the Adagios was pretty interesting. If you're a regular reader, you know the TAD/Pioneer EX speakers and the ATC hyper monitors get a lot of love on these pages. One element they both have in common are drivers with short voice coils and long magnetic gaps (rather than long coils and short gaps). Throw Acoustic Zen in with those boys. Mr. Lee said that only about 2% of drivers made are short coil/long gap (naturally TAD and ATC) and is the only way to get harmonic distortion to lowest possible levels.

His other big tech element is the circular ribbon tweeter which, at .001mm thick, is claimed to be the thinnest ribbon out there. Since I left my Guide to Ribbon Thickness in my other pair of corduroys, I can't confirm this claim. If any of you amateur audio detectives out there notice a similarity to the Emit ribbons, you won't be surprised to know that the Acoustic Zen has their tweets custom made in Germany.

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Mr. Lee says 400 pairs of Adagios have been sold since their launch in January. For a virgin speaker company, that's huge. Chalk it up to the incredible reviews and the gorgeous finishes. Just about everyone who saw the Adagios fawned over the finish before the sound. Though the unkempt and smelly audiophiles (like me) make the most noise, it's the rich and cultured music patrons who drive the bulk of hi-fi sales.

The Prima Luna $2695 ProLogue Seven monos with 70 watts from KT88s provided the juice. The preamp was the $3500 Cary SLP-98 and a Cary CD-303/300 did digital duty.

So how did the setup sound? For the brief moment I could get a listen, it sounded, well, similar to the ATCs and Pioneers. No surprise there. Giving sonic values is kind of pointless, but I will say I'd love to hear them with some real muscle. I generally prefer speakers like this to be manhandled with big solid state, but that's my taste.

Other people liked the system but there were no "Jesus has returned from heaven" comments that I heard. Well, except for maybe this guy:

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Nothing like auditioning speakers with a bluetooth headset in your ear. The other guy is definitely getting some religion.

Keep reading for more from the bash and a lot more pictures...

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Entrance to the Deal residence flanked by Avant Garde (right) and Gallo and Sonus Faber on the left. Below, Deal's home theater setup.

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Yeah, Kevin lives in a showroom. Lucky bastard. The main Upscale headquarters take up two warehouses nearby.

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Above, Deal's M3 with a Ferrari 360 Modena under wraps on the left. This is the same Ferrari he parked outside of HE2006 with the license plate: "MY TBE IS LNGR THN YR TBE." Below, Kevin describes why he loves Atma-Sphere. Behind him, the entrance to the grand canyon of tubes.

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Danny Kaey fills his pockets with rare NOS tubes while Kevin talks up his bikes.

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Below, LAOCAS prez Bob Levi in black and Acoustic Zen's Mr. Lee. Kevin Deal is in the white on the right.

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Audiophiles doing what they do best. For all you Where's Waldo lovers, there are two women in this picture. Can you find them???

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Women? Greatest resemblance I see is a fat dude with a ponytail. :D Great pix Josh. It's been a while man. Work is just getting more demanding by this time of year and listening time has just become too scarce. Know what they say, all work and no play... This Kevin dude, you definitely don't want to mess with him... those Avantgardes are just too damn sweet, I'd dig to have a pair of those. Pity I'd have to take my house out just to put them in first.
I heard the Adagio Sr's at HE'06 with the Red Dragon ICEPower amps and was completely blown away. IMHO, these speakers are the best available for under $5K. Only the Pioneer S-1EX impressed me more which were $9K and also powered by ICEPower amps (BelCanto REF1000's).