Sean Casey / Zu Audio & Speaker setup…
What else is there to say, other than hearing it straight from the horse's mouth, er. Sean Casey. Zu needs more of these YouTube style videos… cool stuff!
First Look Review: Fritz Grove Speakers In The Studio
The Fritz Grove speakers have landed at the Sonic Flare Studio. Here's our first look review at these love letters to the world of Dynaudio:
DALI Mentor Menuet Review
Fritz Carbon 7 Loudspeaker Review
Salk Signature Sound Song Tower Review
RMAF 07: Lovecraft
After the passing of Terry Cain, famed single driver Fostex speaker company Cain & Cain was taken over by a new company called Lovecraft. The guys behind Lovecraft were comrades of Terry, and the new company offers the famous classics like the Abby and Ben while dishing up some new products and colorful finishes.
New at the show are Lovecraft's Walla Walla Walla Sound folded horn speakers (the Sponge Bob shaped speakers pictured below). Featuring a single Fostex 8" Sigma driver, the WWW's are classic Emotional-type speakers and run $3300/pair.
The desktop system below is called the Noogi & Spud. For $1600 you get the single 3" driver monitors with a powered subwoofer section. Very cool product and the finishes are absolutely fantastic. The guys at Lovecraft are young and hip with and into the computer audio, retro tubes and funky finishes.
Click "read full article" for some of the coolest speaker finishes around. The speakers, as of the show, weren't for sale, but if you really want a pair with flames, their automotive artist can probably hook you up. Check 'em out.
RMAF 07: Sjofn Guru AV Speaker System
If you haven't heard of the Sjofn (pronounced: "shoe-fen") Guru system yet, be prepared for reviews coming your way from every magazine. In fact, SonicFlare's own Robert Learner has the Guru system in home. So what's the big deal? Big bass, little box. Believe me, you've never heard deeper bass from a smaller cabinet (or driver) before. The best part is the Guru is designed as a system. Combine huge bass, small size and great sound for $3000 and you have yourself a Show Superstar.
First of all, Sjofn Hi-Fi is the Swedish parent company putting together the pieces: the Guru QM10 speakers ($1995), Xindak integrated and CD player ($400 each), and Supra cables for a package price of $3000. At RMAF, they also showed their $9,995 QM40 speakers with Xindak equipment for their $14k system. Speakers shown were either matte or gloss black, though other colors will be available in the future. Additionally, I was told by Sjofn's finance man that a number of retail stores are in the works with the first in the Denver and the next in Vegas. Single-brand hi-fi stores are a rarity, but if anyone can do it, it'll be the Sjofn.
When I came into the room, the Guru guys were probably thinking I, like everyone else, had an audiophile demo disc to play. But when my bass heavy tracks came on, their eyes lit up. They were pretty confident about putting out big bass, so I said, "We'll see about that -- crank the suckers up!" After a moment, however, the volume was so high, one of the Guru crew told me I was getting close to "blowing up the speakers." He then said something in Swedish to his coworker who turned the volume down to normal human levels. But before they got a chance to tame the system, I snuck up to the little 5" driver and found it bouncing back and forth more than any 5" driver I've seen before.
In terms of sound, the system falls into the Intense camp (with a slight lean towards the Refined group). The system was cool instead of warm, but not so cool as to turn people off. There's obvious system synergy going on between the Guru speakers and Xindak gear. The differences between the $3k and $14k systems were, clearly, bass output, but also definition in notes and overall clarity. As for how each of the components sound, we'll just have to wait and see.
So how does Guru work its magic? As you can see from the pictures, the speakers are pushed back against the front wall. Play with any speaker for a few minutes and you know the closer to the front wall, the bigger the bass. Also, the closer you sit to the back wall, the bigger the bass.
Now, positively utilizing room gain is nothing new -- Linn did it back in the day, as well as a few other manufacturers at RMAF. But the Guru speakers are the smallest, most powerful I've ever heard. Looking at the speaker the first thought that came to mind was "transmission line." No, I was told, speakers are, in fact, bass reflex with a special design rather than the hole-in-box approach.
Of course, if everyone could get monster bass from pushing their speakers against the wall, they would. So what are the trade offs? The reason the majority of manufacturers design their speakers for mid-room placement is to tame room reflections and increase sound stage. Guru deals with the room reflection issues in a couple of ways. As you can see from the picture below, the front wall is covered with sound-sucking foam. Guru designer Ingvar Ohman explained that high frequency reflections are the major issue with close-wall placement and taking the reflections out of the game is the only way to go.
As for sound stage, while it's hard to tell from the picture, the speakers are slightly farther apart than typical speaker setups and, most importantly, toed in so the tweeter axis converge a few feet in front of the listener. Again, this is nothing new (Audio Kinesis does this) but the effect is really obvious: awesome sound stage with depth, width and, interestingly, stable imaging for any position in the room. Ingvar explained that when you sit, say, to the left of center, the right speaker, now pointing directly at you, sends out a higher, faster frequency that compensates for the delay from the other speaker. While I've never heard it explained like that before, the results speak for themselves.
There is only one trade off that may be a sticking point. The $2000 Guru QM10 doesn't have the clarity and definition as other speakers in this class. My guess is that since the woofers are forced to work extra hard to get the bass, the midrange frequencies lose definition relative to other speakers with less excursion. Ideally, a speaker would have all frequencies coming from the same plane. But when you have a driver with, say, an inch of excursion, the mid frequencies from one moment to the next may be offset by as much as an inch. It's not as if you're experiencing Doppler effect, it's just that the Gurus aren't as defined as other speakers in the same class.
Overall, the Gurus are brilliantly engineered and sound fantastic. While the black cabinets don't scream luxury hi-fi, the Gurus are the ticket for people wanting killer sound without big boxes and huge bass without subwoofers.
Robert Learner Reviews the ATC SCM 11s
THOU SHALT NOT COMPRESS. Or uh, whoa!!!, as a pair of ATC SCM 11s ($2000), about the size and solidity of a cinder block (with similarly hard edges too), blasts My Morning Jacket’s live Okonokos to thrilling effect with no compression. And no signs of it imminent. Like my baby daughter when she’s pissed, there’s a disconnect between eye and ear. You can’t quite reconcile such a small package putting out so much volume...
Duevel Planet Review by Sandy Greene
I can’t believe it. In my short (second) career (ok, hobby) writing reviews of audio gear, I have had my first (short) bout of writer’s block. And I think I know why… the Duevel Planets are unlike any other speaker I have experienced before. I’m not listening for the micro or the macro, the width or depth, the highs or the lows, the details or the definition. They just don’t ask me to do that.
Keep reading for the full review...
Vegas07 Most Likely to Succeed: Solar HIFI
Solar HIFI is a new brand from the ever-growing hemp family. Solar's Kevin Whilden is a man all about the green: environmental green, that is. All natural hemp fibers are just the beginning. Both the speaker cabinets and the receiver's cheeks are made out of bamboo. Even the amps inside are highly efficient class D.
Kevin wants Solar to be known as the most environmentally friendly audio company out there. The good news is his system sounds great and is "under $3000" for the complete package. The receiver sports a CD player and numerous digital inputs for your Squeezeboxes, iPods and USB jacks. The 125 class D amp was sired by a very respectable class D stud. Mucho kudos for a legit high end system with all the right bells and whistles!
In a brilliant move, Solar is pursuing various non-audio outlets to move their speaker system. Since the whole package is environmentally friendly, Solar is looking at clean and green home and clothing shops to build business. And, naturally, simply banging the big green drum is a guaranteed way to get pop culture exposure. I wouldn't be surprised to see celebs pulling Solar systems out of their Oscar goody bags.
Best of luck to the Solar team! Closeups next page.
Vegas07 Hemp Speakers
In addition to their raw driver family, Hemp Acoustics is also involved in a number of speaker projects. The speaker shown is from a new company Tympanik and uses the new hemp coax 8" driver -- high efficiency, low excursion and full range sound. There's also another model using the 8" whizzer full range. The cabinet is molded out of hemp, unlike a traditional cabinet using separate pieces of mdf or ply. Production isn't set yet, but prices will be somewhere in the $2000-3500 range depending on drivers.
Right, Hemp Acoustics' own fully open baffle speaker. It wasn't ready for prime time when I was in the room, but the technology is pretty interesting. 8" full-range and a 15" bass driver in an S-shaped baffle. Folding the baffle in an S shape gives a virtual baffle width of 5 feet or so, which is monstrously huge. In open baffle designs, the wider the baffle the deeper the bass. Check out the next page for a shot of the back end of the bass portion sans driver. Also next page, Hemp bookshelf with their Extremis 6.8 driver and ribbon tweeter.
Vegas07 Hemp Acoustics
There's a new player trying to break into the high end speaker driver scene. If speaker drivers are to speakers what engines are to sports cars, then Hemp Acoustics is gunning to be the Saleen of audio. Or maybe Mercedes, providing lux engines all the way up to 700hp.
In any case, Hemp Acoustics has merged with Adire, makers of massive subwoofer drivers with obscene excursion and the much hyped XBL2 motor structure. Adire will now become an automotive-only brand while Hemp Acoustics takes over the audiophile market. While the majority of Hemp Acoustics' speakers will be made out of hemp, they'll still have a few offerings (like their Extremis 6.8) made out of traditional materials.
As you can see from the picture above, HA already has a wide range of drivers. How wide? "We're going to have BETTER versions of all the hot drivers on the market." "Scan Speak Revelator? (the slit cone tennis ball driver)" "Yup, but better." "Fostex whizzers?" "Yup." "The OB king Visaton B200?" "We'll crush 'em." "Coax compression hi-eff?" "Oh yeah." "High qts, open-baffle subwoofer?" "You got it." "Coaxial beryllium cone with ion tweeter?" "Okay, you're weird."
Hemp Acoustics is also tackling lots of really unusual drivers for the DIY scene. Below is the picture of their 15" coax driver. Low excursion with high sensitivity and big power handling. And check out that machined tweeter horn and monster magnet. Wild stuff and wildly expensive at $1200.
On the next page, their $299 open baffle specific 15" driver with Qts of .68 (I believe), their XBL2 motor and low excursion surround. OB sub drivers have become all the rage these days and HA wants to be the preeminent manufacturer.
Monitor Quest: Amphion Ion
Robert Learner takes a look at the Amphion Ions in a quest for a stellar home mini system. Previously covered are the ATC 10A-2 and the Zu Tones. Also check out the monitor quest mission statement and Robert Learner's bio for his personal listening tastes.
No-brainer Audiophile Holiday Gifts (in the $1,000 to $2,000 range) by Sandy Greene
Sarcastic… a little. But if you look at the average cost of approved audiophile fare, you’re looking north of $2k easily.
I’ve got some gear in house now and have just started writing reviews of them for SonicFlare. I didn’t want you all to miss the opportunity to get these pieces on Santa’s wish list.
The Red Wine Audio modded Olive Symphony (base unit: $899 + RWA mods: $649 = $1,548). This is an iPod in a box that also includes a CD player/ripper/writer, analog-to-digital recording capabilities and even a Squeezebox to get other music on your wireless network including internet radio. Red Wine Audio does some audiophile part upgrade magic, but more importantly takes the AC line out of the sonic picture as the unit run off a battery. Unbelievably silent. Combined with the part upgrades, this unit has a really musical, revealing and organic character that competes with CD players that cost the same and more and offer no where near the functionality and fun. A great swiss-army knife audio gift that adds fun to the listening experience.
What better to take advantage of all that quiet battery-powered sonic goodness than another battery-powered piece of kit? That would have to be the Red Wine Audio Signature 30 amplifier ($1,399). Golden-eared Srajan Ebaen from 6moons.com just loves this amp as it makes his “Best of 2006” list. I’m also a huge fan of this amp. It’s physically smaller than average, very well built with a very clean and classic visual design. It sounds fantastic running the Omega Super 3 XRS’s, the Audio Note AN-E/Lx’s and the recently arrived...
Duevel Planets ($1,195 pair). These super cool little guys just arrived this week and I can’t stop listening to them. They sound so much bigger than they are for many reasons. This omni-directional experience is new to me. It’s surround sound without the extra speakers. Listening to “Via Chicago” from Wilco’s live, Kicking Television cd, it’s like you’re in the middle of the audience. That’s “you are there” if there ever was! Couple the enlightening musical experience with an attention grabbing cosmic product design: chrome atoms floating above a grey monolith, and you have the ultimate living room entertainment conversation starter. Even better, they let everyone in your listening room enjoy good sound no matter where they sit.
Now make sure you’ve been nice... or if you haven’t, then make nice. Ah... Give or get the gift of gear.
AV123 Mini Strata Frankenstein Speaker
AV123's new "giant killer" has been making the audio industry rounds of late. If you haven't heard of the Mini Strata, well, let's just say it's a pretty weird and wild speaker. Most of the industry has gone nuts over the fact that it has so many different, unusual drivers. Is that a planar dipole midrange? With a circular planar tweeter? And a cone midbass driver? PLUS a rear-firing subwoofer with 350watt amp? Oh my!
What's interesting about this speaker is not the number of drivers -- since when did a Best Buy Polk get love for having 20 drivers a side? -- but the fact that it's such an unusual design in the most competitive price range in audio ($1595) and from a major player, not a tweaky freaky underground audio company. If you're not familiar with dipole drivers, you've got to get the speakers at least 3-4 feet out into the room, but once you do, you get a massive sound stage and complete disappearing act. Many consider the dipole effect to be hot stuff, but like an illicit affair, it's difficult to live with day to day.
Now, I want to dispel the myth that more=better in audio. A two-way speaker with a sub is a truly killer combo, for no other reason than it makes room placement FAR easier than a 5-way monolith. In fact, I'd say more audio hearts have been broken by bass overkill than anything else. They get this mastodon in the front door and spend the next 6 months nailing bedsheets to the walls. So, dear readers, be warned about speaker reviews that say, "it has a dozen drivers at such a low price" because all that matters is if it will sound good in your room.
That said, with all the news in the industry about this speaker, expect some big time reviews. AV123 has gotten major press for their Melody amplifiers and Onix speakers, all very fine products at great prices. The Mini Strata will surely follow suit, though the dipole nature won't make it right for everyone. Then again, it does have built in subs, so it'll have more friendly bass than passive speakers. Ironic, no?
Keep reading for AV123's full press release and more pictures and check out their site for all their goods.
UPDATE: Sean from AV123 writes: "A quick note – it is not a dipole speaker, The rear panel is removable but it is not specifically intended to be run that way so closer rear-wall placement is possible and with the very adjustable 8” amp, you can tame the bass output so it is not overwhelming :)"