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E-clec-tic-i-ty (2 of 2) SonicFlare at the Home Entertainment Show 2007

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by Sandy Greene on May 20 '07

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Here’s my second report on the entertaining and certainly eclectic Home Entertainment Show 2007.

Above you’ll see a couple of pieces from the Bel Canto room. Bel Canto was showing with Joseph Audio and was the system driving the insane $150,000 pair Cabase La Sphere speakers. The pictures above are from their display in the room with Joseph Audio. Pictured are the Bel Canto e.One series CD-2 transport/DAC and the e.One S300iu integrated amplifier with a built in USB DAC. The entire e.One system in my opion is perfectly executed and these two pieces really play to where SonicFlare sees the industry’s future… flexible integration with digital sources in stylish and well built room friendly packages. I’m itching to get my hands on these pieces for a SonicFlare review.

Continue reading for images and notes on pieces from AudioEngine, Behold, Ascendo, Gamut, High Water Sound (Abbington Music Research, Aspara Acoustics, Tron & TW-Acustic), Hyperion, Loiminchay, Music Hall, Nagra, Rethm, Salagar, SimAudio, Slim Devices, Verity, Weiss and Zu.

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About a year and a half ago, I reviewed the AudioEngine A5 and was really impressed with this very affordable $349 speaker that easily granted me a high-end audio experience from my computer and iPod. AudioEngine has a prototype new finish for the A5 in the bamboo wood you see in the photo. The A5’s, word is, will have a built in wireless receiver in its next release. The new smaller AudioEngine A2 speakers were simply running off an iPod shuffle and with their tiny size sounded quite nice. There will be an AudioEngine sub coming out too. This little audio engine keeps cranking out quality products that smartly integrate into your digital life.

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Ah… Behold! No, this stuff ain’t cheap… not even remotely affordable… but it is some of the nicest looking, perfectly finished, most resolved physically, technically ingenious and absolutely musical collections of gear on the market today. This room was put together by Laufer Teknik out of Brooklyn… go Brooklyn! Pictured above is the highly modular Behold APU768 preamp on top of their CD player.

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Above are the Behold BPA768-484-B Bi-amping power amps, which received digital signals from their pre. The amps were driving the Ascendo M-S’s gloriously, making for my favorite room of the show. This is stuff to lust after!

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Gamut is another company that inspires some true gear lust. Their product design is visually interesting, classy, enticing and sophisticated. The sound in the room was very nice too. Pictured are their Phi7 speakers driven by their integrated amp and CD player. A couple of other rooms were using the Gamut CD player as well.

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He’s got great taste in gear and great taste in music. Jeffrey Catalano from High Water Sound in lower Manhattan had a fantastic setup with Abbington Music Research, Aspara Acoustics speakers, Tron amplification & TW-Acustic for analog. This was one of the few rooms I really wanted to sit and stay in for a while. Very engaging!

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The Hyperion room was also one of the better sounding rooms. The amps and pre were Hyperion and the speakers were the follow-ups to the critical darlings the 938’s. The new 968 speakers will retail for $6,500.

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This was the introductory show for a new loudspeaker company named Loiminchay, meaning “Delightful Understanding.” These speakers are built out of solid blocks of Baltic birch ply. The enclosures are designed in NYC and built in China. They had a few models on display. Above are their Mandarin Supreme model which range in price from $80k to $114 depending on finish and inclusion of digital crossover.

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If it seems to you like I’m jumping around here… well I’m not. For the most part this post is in alphabetical order. Between L and N is M for Music Hall. Pictured is their new Trio music system combining CD player, AM/FM tuner and CD player into one clean package.

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Here’s a shot of Nagra’s new-ish CDP cd player and PL-P battery operated tube preamplifier with phono stage.

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The PMA pyramid monoblock amplifiers gloriously powered the elegant sounding Verity Audio Parsifal Ovations. John Quick from Tempo Sales and Marketing… Verity and Nagra’s US sales rep played an awesome track off of vinyl from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stadium Arcadium album. As expected, the Nagra/Varity room sounded fantastic!

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Having read a lot of show reports featuring and lauding the Rethm speakers, I sat down to listen with high expectations and I wasn’t disappointed. First of all, I think their product design is tops in the speaker class. These speakers are beautiful objects. Sharing a room with ModWright and Art Audio, the sound was very full and musical… one of the better sounding rooms of the show.

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Salagar Sonics is a new loudspeakers company and made its debut at HES2007 with their S210 powered speakers. Powered by the Bang & Olufsen ICE Power digital amp, one speaker holding the amp and the other passively slaved. At $7,500 a pair these speakers sonically will have great competition. Aesthetically these speakers are right up there with the Rethm’s as some of my favorite current form designs.

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SimAudio introduced a new entry line at this show. The $1,350 a piece CD-1 player and I-1 integrated amp. Front panel headphone output and 1/8” mini jack for portable players adorn the amp with six inputs and 50wpc. The upsampling CD-1 uses the BurrBrown 24-bit/192-kHz DAC with 8x oversampling and pays great attention paid to power with 8 stages of DC regulation. I did not get to hear this gear sharing a room with Totem loudspeakers, but no doubt, with Sim’s reputation, it will be a real contender at its price point.

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Ah, the Slim Devices Transporter. How I yearn for thee. I’m on a waiting list to review one of these for SonicFlare. I happily own and love the Squeezebox. With most of my CD collection on my Mac Mini in Apple Lossless, and after just reviewing the Hagerman Chime USB DAC, I really am curious to see how the Transporter lives up to all the hype.

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Robert Learner and I grabbed lunch mid-day Friday and he urged me not to miss the Weiss room. Look for Robert to say more here, but what I can say is that this quite expensive gear had a build quality and sound quality to match the price… very impressive!

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X, Y, ZZZZZZZZ-YOU. ZU loudspeakers. Zu had on display their Druid 5.1 home theater package. It’s actually up on eBay right now… 2 days left. Not sure it it’s the same exact system from the show, but if it is, it’s worth bidding on.

And that’s a wrap for me. (Look for a report from Robert Learner soon.)

Of the 71+ rooms and probably 3-4 times the amount of product, the above (and previously posted) gear is a collection of what I am excited to share with you. There were some brave introductions, some fantastic convergent technologies, some absolutely beautiful industrial design and of course some fantastic musical reproduction. It’s companies like Bel Canto, Benchmark, GURU, Slim Devices, AudioEngine, Rethm, Gamut and Zu that I think will appeal most to the SonicFlare reader… and I hope to get a chance to share experiences with some of these exciting companies and products with the you soon.

Comments

A correction re: your Home Entertainment 2007 show report on the Benchmark DAC1 USB: The DAC1 USB has been available for more than 2 months. It also includes new features besides the addition of the exclusive 96-kHz, 24-bit native USB Audio: - auto-mute on headphone insertion, - auto-stand-by, - jumper selectable headphone gain attenuation, - high-current output drivers capable of driving loads as low as 300 Ohms without an increase in distortion well suited for driving long cables, vintage 600-Ohm inputs, and unusual loads.
Is the new Simaudio gear final production models? The CD-1 player on the Simaudio website has a different loading tray (much slimmer).