Wilson Audio reel: The GuildSay what you wish about Wilson Audio, these professionally produced videos show the value behind the brand. If investing your hard earned ca$h into a pair of speakers is of concern, you'd at least want to know where it goes… brilliant. Bring the story behind the story to the consumer and connect the dots for them. More manufacturers need to be doing this: show us your value. Side effects? None. Well done!
Stereokonzept 2-way monitorSay what you may, Germans are masters at mechanical engineering. 'Nuff said. Coming to you from the team at Stereokonzept is a new execution into the vision that is a two-way premium monitor loudspeaker. Not your typical cookie-cutter 2-way monitor, this puppy is engineered to the gills and has quite a few novelties associated with it. Look for an English review at PFO soon. PS: PFO and Hifistatement are now officially collaborating. Courtesy of yours truly. Can't wait!
RMAF: Zu Audio
As is typical with any show they attend, Zu Audio managed to upset the norm once again by having the "coolest" and "hippest" room. Sean and company are no strangers to audiofilia, hence one always expects them to rock the house. And rock it they did! On display, fresh off the factory floor, was their new Definition Mk IV. A definitive upgrade over the now discontinued Definition Mk II, the sound was at once recognizable as it was dramatically improved. Better definition, superior bass integration and treble that was no doubt touched by the hand that is the new tweeter assembly, music simply sounded amazing. At $12.5k not inexpensive, but considering the others at multiples of that, a real Hi-Fi bargain. More to come from Zu.
Preview: Zu Definition Mk 3 and Mk 4
Ssssshhh… chances are you heard it here first: real-world HiFi house Zu Audio is launching not one, but two (!) new reference speakers at this year's Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. Hit the hyperlink and prepare to be amazed!
Newport 2011: Lindemann Audio
German precision at its finest. Lindemann competes with the best of the best in the electronics game, and at Newport, Lindemann importer One World Audio was showing off production ready versions of their new monitors, the Birdland BL-10 ($11k pair). These small stand mounted monitors featured room-filling sound, hyper-precision and Rolex-like craftsmanship. Great demo.
Newport 2011: Acoustic Zen
Acoustic Zen's rooms are always stellar, but this year was the best so far. The Acoustic Zen Crescendos, paired with Tri amplification, outdid previous setups with Halcro equipment. The Tri 845 amp, with all of 20 watts, did a fine job of taming these powerhouse speakers, but I'd love to hear them with even more juice. Luscious, alive, seriously addictive. So good was this setup I just couldn't help but to listen to my entire 9 track demo CD...then came back for seconds with friends.
The Perfect FinishTraditionally, speakers have always been finished in some sort of wood veneer. Historically, this dates back to the days when speakers were large, boxy and thus had to resemble some sort of furniture piece in order to fit into the decor of the home. As the years went by however, loudspeaker manufacturers quickly realized that offering finishes other than veneer was becoming a viable option for more consumers.
Vegas 08: Devore Fidelity and Vegas After Hours
Save the best for last, I'm told. I'm glad I did. By the time I arrived at Devore's monkey house, CES show-goers were already heading for the airport with hangovers and broken eardrums leaving me plenty of quiet time to listen to my demo disc on Devore's big Silverback speakers.
The night before, John (Devore), John (Halpern of Shindo, EMT, Leben), John (Hughes of VRS), Mike Lavorgna (6Moons) and I partied at the "Not For Sale" mini-rave among other hip hi-fi manufacturers, dealers and journalists. The NFS guys are weekend alcohol alchemists, crafting liquor from a variety of exotic ingredients (the active element in absinth being one).
John (one of the three, don't exactly remember) put a small plastic shot glass filled with glowing liquid in my hand and said, "Yo, you gotta try this!" I was about to knock it back like the good post frat boy I am, but they were like, "No, man, sip it." I later found out another main ingredient was Everclear. Upon reflection, either that little shot was liquid plutonium or John, John, John and Mike are the funniest people in hi-fi. Or both.
Check out Jon's (Iverson of Stereophile) great shots (2, 3) of the NFS room complete with trippy FX lighting. Sadly, I wasn't able to grab a pic of the hot tub filled with beer, wine and hard alcohol on ice. Next year I'll make sure I bring my camera and stay conscious long enough to snap some shots. Who said audiophiles are boring? Vegas After Hours is what hi-fi is all about.
As for the sound in the Devore room, well, it was one of the most enjoyable at the show. The sound falls roughly into the Smooth group -- absolutely zero harsh, etched, nasty notes while offering worlds of bass and attack. Power to the Devore Silverback Reference speakers ($15k) was provided by a beefy Ayre amp rather than low watt tubes of years past.
Where the show's euro Intense-style speakers have a cooler presentation and sharper dynamics, the Devore's sound was warmer and far more friendly. Compared to Refined-type speakers, the Devores offered a more lively midrange, especially on vocals. It's just a different style, one that I particularly like. It's up to you, of course, what kind of sound you prefer, but now I finally understand why Devore speakers are often called "high performance everyday speakers." There are only a handful of speakers that, to my ears, are designed with a lifestyle in mind -- Devore's are clearly designed with a love of the good life.
Check out our Devore gallery for more pics of the big system and the new Gibbon 5 LCR speakers featuring coax drivers using the same woofer from the Gibbon 8. The 5.1, with their double ports, are said to put out bass equal to the bigger 8. Pictured above are the Gibbon Nines next to the Gibbon Super 8.
SonicFlare Top Speakers of 2007
Sports cars have nothing on hi-fi. Each year, hi-fi manufacturers create new speakers and components with more space-age tech and bling than Bugatti. To show you what hi-fi is all about, we decided to present our Top Speakers of 2007 with their corresponding super car identities. After all, racy looks and extreme performance is what hi-fi is all about.
We chose these loudspeakers based on the buzz they received over the course of 2007. While there were many new and exciting prototype products this year, the loudspeakers on our list are all commercially available and showing up in rock star and hi-fi fan's living rooms everywhere.
Hi-fi, like sports cars, is made up of numerous fantastic speakers, each with their own unique strengths. So if you’re new to the glorious world of hi-fi, forget plastic speakers and find out what “sports cars for your living room” is all about.
RMAF 07: Acoustic Zen
Another room that received a lot of great attention was Acoustic Zen. Their new $12k Crescendo is gunning to replace the very best speakers from other Refined-type companies like Wilson and Genesis. All drivers are custom creations featuring an unusual short coil/long gap magnet structure. Like the less expensive and wildly popular Adagios, the Crescendos feature transmission-line bass loading and massive cabinets.
Halco provided the components. It's hard to say how each piece sounded, but the overall sound was definitely Refined and some of the very best at the show. If the comments at the show are any indication, expect to see people saying, "I replaced my far more expensive XYZ speakers with Acoustic Zen!"
Vegas07 Pro Driver Roundup
Vegas '07 is the year pro drivers became legit in the American hifi subculture. Companies like Eminence, TAD, JBL, B&C, Hemp Acoustics (above) and others are creeping into the space where Scan Speak, SEAS, Peerless, Vifa and others once reigned. Eminence is the largest manufacturer of raw drivers in the world, but rarely provide pulp for the audiophile crowd. Zu really began the trend, working with Eminence for a number of their parts. But until now, pro drivers have remained the pariahs of hifi.
So what's the deal with pro drivers versus typical cones?
1. Low excursion: Typically, a pro driver will feature multiple mini surrounds, as seen in the picture above. Low excursion = snap and attack. Most hifi drivers are made with monster excursion and massive rubber surrounds. While the bass is deeper, the driver is mechanically slower peak to peak. As Adam from Zu says, "it's just physics."
2. High efficiency: While standard drivers have sensitivity in the 80s and low 90s, pro drivers are high 90s and into the triple digits. There are many high-eff drivers from Lowther, Fostex and others, but there is one big difference...
3. High power handling: Made for blowing the gray matter out of musicians and their fans, pro drivers can handle just ungodly amounts of juice. It's not uncommon for pro amps to be rated in the 1000s of watts, despite the high speaker efficiency. Lowther, Fostex and others are made for tiny watts and don't produce the SPLs of the pro guys.
4. Bass: The boom is an interesting issue with pro drivers. A 15" will typically be rated in the 50Fs range, while a similar hifi driver will be down in the teens. An 8" driver in a hifi setup can produce solid bass into the 20s while an 8" pro is considered a midrange driver. There are many ways to get deep bass from the pro gear, but with the low excursion, the thrubbing lows of the hifi world aren't typical.
5. Highs: Pro drivers are typically mated with a compression tweeter which, like their bass brethren, wail until your rims fall off. Crossovers typically happen in the 1.5k range, though guys like Zu and others take their crossover way, way up. This means that a 10-15" driver has to produce really clear midrange way higher than a similarly sized hifi driver would ever dream. That's why "full-spectrum" 2 ways are far more common in pro equipment than in hifi.
So are pro drivers better than their hifi kin? Up for debate, but there's no denying that there's a shift in the hifi market and more pro-based speakers are on the way. Keep reading for pics of the numerous companies showing pro-derrived speakers at Vegas07...
Verity Audio Holiday Tour by Sandy Greene
Every holiday season my family travels up to Quebec City to visit with my wife’s family. This was the second year in a row I paid a visit to Verity Audio. Verity Audio manufactures some of the most physically beautiful and beautifully musical speakers I have seen and heard.
Last time up I had a tour of their facilities and listened to a couple of their models in their amazing listening/testing room. This year I was hoping to hear their new Rienzi model. The Rienzi slots second into their line above the Tamino’s, which I reviewed (and loved) last year. The Rienzi’s use the same two drivers that the Tamino does (midrange/woofer and tweeter), but breaks the cabinet in two like all the other models up the Verity line, and adds a woofer to an either forward-firing or rear-firing bass cabinet. Unfortunately their new Rienzi was just packed up to go to CES. I look forward to a review of the Rienzis for SonicFlare.com sometime next year.
Keep reading for all the details...
Notes from ATC World: “Dogs and Cats Living Together”
For all you discerning audio aficionados, SonicFlare essayist JB sidesteps individual component reviews on his path towards complete system synergy. Read his adventures with two legendary brands the US scene has all but forgotten: ATC and YBA.
Also, check out JB's previous coverage of the HE2006 show.
Von Schweikert's New Clothing
Von Schweikert Audio, to everyone's great relief, has changed its name. No more misspellings, Von Schweikert is now known as V Speakers.
Along with the new name, V's entire speaker line is getting a new identity. The legendary VR-4 JR MKIIs are now simply called the "Virtues" and run $5695. The $995 VR-1s now go under the name "Victory." Above, the smaller $75,000 VR-9 SEs are now the "Valiant" while the big $150,000 VR-11 shall forever be called "Vanquish." Seeing a trend here? The VR-7s probably have the best name: "Vast." I'm surprised there's no "Vendetta." Shame.
The new "Valiant" speakers (VR-10 MKII) are surely some of the largest speakers in the world. At $85,000, that gives V a total of five speakers above $20k which, I believe, is a record for a speaker company. Double towers per side, the bass block has four 15" woofers with 1000 watts covering 10Hz up to 60Hz. The $65,000 more expensive Vanquish doesn't go the double tower route but uses an identical main stack. So why more expensive? The drivers in the VR-10 are similar but cheaper. So instead of the Seas 8" magnesium driver (retail $177.45 at Madisound), the Valiant uses the Seas 8" aluminum ($73.85). Add 'em up, throw in an upgraded crossover, electronics, cabling and, viola, there's your $65,000.
Also new from V Speakers is online purchasing. Strangely, the www.vspeakers.com site doesn't have a shopping cart. Instead, www.higherfi.com, the eBay of ridiculously expensive speakers, is handling transactions. Regarding online vs. retail and protecting retailer margins, the V Speakers site says this:
"V" speakers by Von Schweikert Audio are available for purchase either online or at our dealers. Both our online and dealer prices are the same.
But a little trip to the Higher-Fi site reveals a 30% price drop. Why?
The 30% discount shown assumes you will donate a working component (speakers, cd player, receiver, etc) to the charity of your choice or send it in to us so we can donate it for you. This is part of our "Share The Music" campaign to provide music to those less fortunate, please support our program.
Talon Audio Back in Action
Talon Audio is back in action after disappearing off the radar screen and sending speculation through the audio world. Talon's previous website hadn't been updated since April 2004 which, in and of itself, isn't anything bizarre in audio. But given that it went black for the last 6 months, well, people started wondering just what was up in the house of ceramics.
Talon's new site has one very interesting detail under the brand name: "A Rives Audio Company." Rives is that acoustic treatment and room optimization company who recently demoed at HE2006 with two different rooms: one with treatment and one without. At HE2006, they paired up with Gryphon and Ultimate A/V (the retail store) while at CES Rives was with Talon. Seems Rives is now doing 40 acoustic treatment projects a month, so their literature claims.
Talon Audio came flying into the audio scene with colorful cabinets and ceramic drivers and were one of the first companies (along with Kharma) to use the wildly expensive Accuton ceramic and diamond drivers now seen in dozens of speakers. In fact, at CES this year, the number of speakers with Accuton drivers was a running joke and could have made for a great drinking game.
Talon also champions the folded transmission line cabinet, putting out big bass from smallish cabinets. When Talon's Raven and Firebird speakers came out, there was lots of talk of Talon vs Wilson. As with any new speaker in the $20k+ range, comparisons against Wilson are expected. And like Wilson, Talon polarized the industry with people either gushing about crisp sonics or screaming about bloody ears.
Of course, the biggest problem with being "the next hot thing" in audio is there's always someone after you. Not much press about Talon in the last few years or new products (other than diamond tweeters available as a $10k option), so we'll see just what Rives can do with Talon in their little audio family.
Correction: The number of Rives acoustical engineering projects is 40 a month, not year. To clarify, Rives provides acoustic engineering and design services and does not manufacturer or sell acoustic treatment products.