Cuttin-Edge, On-the-Spot Reporting

The SoundStage! Network's mulit-author blog section related to hi-fi, home theater, and more.

Pre-Tokyo Surprise -- Devialet's Gold Phantoms and Dialog Arrive

A few days before I boarded the first of two planes that would take me to Tokyo, Japan, to cover TIAS 2016, the UPS deliverywoman arrived at my door with two big brown boxes and one smaller one. The country of origin was marked clearly on all three: France. Only one company sends us products directly from there -- Devialet.

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YG Acoustics' New Two-Tower Masterpiece: The Sonja XV

When YG Acoustics unveils a flagship loudspeaker, the press comes running, and that is exactly what happened last week at GTT Audio & Video, one of YG’s largest dealers, located in Long Valley, New Jersey. This new speaker is the $265,000 USD (per pair) Sonja XV (eXtreme Version), a 15-year-anniversary model consisting of two towers -- one main tower and one woofer tower. A new ultra-high-end addition to the company’s Sonja line of speakers, the XV incorporates YG’s latest technologies. YG’s president, Yoav Geva, says that the XV is the closest that the company has ever come to the natural sound of a live performance.

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Bowers & Wilkins’s 50th Anniversary: The 800 D3

There’s no question about it: it’s kind of lame to call the presser for a new loudspeaker an “event.” A plywood box with some extruded-aluminum and fancy drivers doesn’t get the blood flowing quite like the introduction of automotive stalwarts, such as Ferrari’s V8-powered sports car models, Porsche’s iconic 911, or BMW’s benchmark-setting M3. But in the case of the Bowers & Wilkins 800 D3, the newest flagship of the company’s legendary 800-series, the “event” moniker strikes me as warranted.

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Paul Barton's RoomFeel Explanation and Experiment

On May 20, Lenbrook Industries brought a group of journalists to Ottawa, Canada, so PSB’s Paul Barton could show them the acoustics lab at Canada’s National Research Council (NRC) and explain what RoomFeel technology is and how it applies to headphones he develops there. Barton has been going to NRC since 1973, the longest of any speaker designer.

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Off Again, On Again -- the 2016 Montréal Salon Audio Show

On March 9 I received an e-mail from the Chester Group (CG), which is based in the UK, saying that the annual hi-fi show in Montréal had been cancelled this year, but the organizers promised to attempt it again in 2017. It was scheduled for March 18 to 20. In that same e-mail, they cited a lack of exhibitors this year as their excuse for letting everyone down so close to the show dates. What a blow to the Canadian hi-fi scene, I thought. But less than one day later, I received an e-mail from Michel Plante saying that it was still on. They were both right. I’ll explain . . .

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Keeping the LPs and the Wife

I hate water. Over the past 20 years, I’ve had a number of house-related floods, including a sewer-backup shit-water apocalypse, two washing-machine overflows, and a leak behind a wall that required removing and replacing the entire wastewater stack, spanning four floors of my home.

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Shunyata Research and the Power-Cable Tryouts -- Part 2

If you read “Shunyata Research and the Power-Cable Tryouts -- Part 1” when it was first published in early January, then you will know that I am about a month behind with this article. In that first part, I wrote that I installed Shunyata Research Venom PS8 power distributors, Venom HC power cords, and Venom Defender noise suppressors in my system and that you should “check back for an update toward the end of this month to find out how it all performed.”

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One Day at Magico

I often find that a company’s products are a reflection of their creator, and in the case of Magico’s loudspeakers, the resemblance to Alon Wolf is unmistakable. The founder of the Hayward, California, manufacturer is a serious man, one who talks with an unwavering sense of purpose. As I sat across from him in his office, his fanatical attention to quality became quickly apparent. Behind him was part of a medium-format camera on a gorgeous wooden tripod that he used to take the stunning photographs that adorn the walls of his office. On his wrist was a Japanese watch with a movement that makes a Patek Philippe’s look amateurish by comparison. And on his desk were a couple of drivers from a competing loudspeaker maker that he eagerly compared to his own designs, explaining in detail how the materials and methodologies that Magico employ offer superior performance. For Wolf, appearance comes a distant second to technical excellence. “We build loudspeakers, not furniture,” he told me matter-of-factly.

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Shunyata Research and the Power-Cable Tryouts -- Part 1

When I first talked to Shunyata Research’s Grant Samuelson back in May 2015 about the company’s products, I could sense that he initially thought I was a power-cord skeptic -- someone who didn’t believe cords or conditioners could make a hint of difference to the sound of a system. It was probably because he could hear some hesitation in my voice when we started talking.

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Umbrella Branding: World of McIntosh Officially Begins

What’s in a name? When it comes to selling goods today, pretty much everything -- brand-name recognition is crucial when it comes to connecting with buyers. This is something CEO Mauro Grange stressed at the press event held at his corporate group’s Manhattan-based townhouse on November 19, 2015. I attended the affair, as did about 15 other press members, who were mostly from outside North America. Also on hand were a handful of key distributors and dealers.

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Hans Begged Me to Listen to the Hegel H360

Hans Wetzel pulled a Jeff Fritz-inspired move when he was at High End 2015, which was held in Munich in May. The moment he learned that Hegel Music Systems was replacing the H300 integrated amp-DAC, which he owned and used as a reference, with the H360, which the company was debuting there, he made the decision to sell his -- and did so lickety-split. He wanted to have the latest and greatest from the brand whose stuff he owns, like Jeff. So the day after he got home from High End, the H300 was out his door.

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France Meets the U.S. in Canada -- Focal's No2 and Audio Research's GS150

Focal's Sopra No2 loudspeaker was one of the main highlights at High End 2015, held last May. In fact, I picked it as one of my five favorite loudspeakers when I wrote "The Best of High End 2015 -- Loudspeakers," which appeared on SoundStage! Hi-Fi in June. Shortly after, I was able to secure the first review pair to land in North America. The Sopra No2 costs $13,999 USD/pair.

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The Pryma Premiere

Go big or go home. It’s a well-known saying in the United States that, according to answers.com, originated in Southern California as a slogan for a motorcycle exhaust system. I had no idea. I asked Mauro Grange if there was an Italian version of it, and he said no -- but he said he certainly knows what it means!

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Nordost and a Gaping Hole

So in order to fix a burst pipe, I had to cut a big honking hole in the wall right behind my equipment rack. I didn't really expect such an activity to affect the sound quality of my system -- not in the least. But I distinctly noticed two effects.

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Sonus Faber's Chameleon Press Introduction

Being cool isn't really a matter of choice. It's one of those things that one either has or doesn't. Clothing, style, surrounding company -- each of these can certainly add a little luster to the patina, but they merely serve to adorn one's intrinsic character with a bit more flair. Sooner or later, true nature will reveal itself. This thought crossed my mind on April 29 as I made my way south from New York City's Penn Station to the meatpacking district, en route to Sonus Faber's intimate press event for its new Chameleon line of loudspeakers.

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