Back in March 2022, when I declared the Reavon UBR-X200 one of the last remaining high-end universal Blu-ray disc players available for purchase, I didn’t anticipate the impending introduction of Magnetar’s UDP800 4K UHD Blu-ray player. It was launched in December 2022, followed shortly by the UDP900. Magnetar is affiliated with Groupe Archisoft, a company that’s connected to Reavon and also to Zappiti, a manufacturer of high-quality media players (although they’ve recently discontinued support for their Zappiti Video software). Magnetar and Reavon disc players are both distributed in the United States by Florida-based Let’s Get Physical Distribution Inc.
I took a seat in one of the Playback Distribution rooms (the company had several), with the intent of listening to the flagship Krypton3X speakers from Amphion. “Anyone here seen Barbie?” asked Rob Standley, president and cofounder of Playback.
It was the kind of serendipity I couldn’t ignore. The room next to mine was hosted by American Sound of Canada, a Canadian distributor with a bricks-and-mortar presence just outside of Toronto, which is where I live.
The day before I departed for the Florida International Audio Expo, I received an email from Wynn Wong of Wynn Audio, the North American distributor of a whole bunch of tasty brands, asking me how I was making out with the Thales TTT-Compact II turntable (review forthcoming on SoundStage! Ultra). “Are you attending the Florida show?” Wynn asked as an aside.
Last November, I wrote about the Estelon Aura loudspeaker on SoundStage! Hi-Fi in my “System One” column. In that article, I described how I purchased some Tönnen Sound acoustic panels from Amazon to help tame some reflections in my living room. I also created a video on our YouTube channel about the Tönnen panels and two other panel-type products—smaller hexagonal- and square-shaped felt-type absorbers—that I’d also bought from Amazon.
Sometimes you just luck out. I’d sat for a while listening to the TAD Laboratories Reference system, and it was a packed house, as you’d expect on a Saturday afternoon at an audio show. I sighed to myself and figured I’d nip back up to my room and grab my laptop so I could come back down and sit, listen, and write, as is my wont. It works well at shows, I find, to sit still in a chair and write about the room, rather than gather details and then write it up later in my room or at the bar over a light Yankee beer.
A speaker, by necessity, becomes a part of the room in which it’s installed. If that speaker is relegated to a listening room, and if the owner really doesn’t care about the appearance, a well-designed driver complement in a rectangular MDF box will do just fine.
I have an issue taking a ridiculously priced product seriously if there’s not a credible explanation of why it costs as much as it does—or unless it delivers sound that catapults me to Mars. There are several such components on the market that fail this test, and the Børresen Acoustics M1 two-way standmount loudspeaker is one of them.
I arrived at the Embassy Suites hotel in Tampa on Thursday night after a two-hour tarmac delay due to snow and the attendant de-icing. I barely had time to slam down a beer in the lounge before it was time for dinner hosted by the organizers of the Florida International Audio Expo. Seated next to me in the restaurant was the affable Jason Motoyama, lead preamp tech for Pass Labs, and we had a great time chatting about music. Our mutual love of Mike Patton of Mr. Bungle and Faith No More bridged the generational gap that might otherwise have loomed large between us.
While eating breakfast at the buffet in the Radisson Blu Sobieski hotel at the Audio Video Show in Warsaw, I tend to sit in roughly the same quadrant each day and from year to year. This section is usually occupied by representatives of several manufacturers—notably Kostas Metaxas and the chaps from Falcon Acoustics.
Until now, SVS’s largest and most expensive speaker has been the Ultra Tower, a three-way, five-driver design that stands 45.6″ tall and sells for $2600 per pair (all prices in USD). That model remains in SVS’s line, but the new Ultra Evolution Pinnacle is now the flagship, and it ups the game significantly. This Pinnacle is the first model of SVS’s brand-new Ultra line, with other new models to be announced soon.
A few weeks ago, a friend of my wife’s shot her a text asking if she or I would be interested in accompanying him to listen to Geddy Lee, bassist of Canadian band Rush, discussing his new book, My Effin’ Life.
I consider myself unreasonably lucky. In 1999, I moved into my current home, which is one of a block of nine townhouses. The houses were built in 1986 as what’s known in Toronto as infill housing. The land was part of a farm in the late 1800s, and as Toronto spread outward, the land was sold off in parcels. Encircled by houses, ours was the last remaining undeveloped lot in the area, which is less than two miles from the city’s core.
There are few audio designers more imposing than Touraj Moghaddam, a towering Iranian expatriate of impressive eloquence and wit. His piercingly intense eyes betray a lively sense of humor. When Touraj speaks, his powerful voice and quick intellect enable him to project his ideas about audio design with great passion. In short, when Touraj talks about high-end audio, you’d better be on your A-game because he’s a master of the subject, and keen to engage, debate, argue, and inform. I warmed to him immediately.
The Brits have a certain way of doing hi-fi. They’re quietly self-assured, and they’ve earned it, because most of the stuff they come up with is superlative. They know this. Falcon Acoustics, then, is the stereotypical British speaker brand, because it’s been known for its excellent replicas of the BBC LS3/5A monitor for years. Here at Audio Video Show 2023 in Warsaw, the company has publicly debuted its new M40 floorstanding loudspeaker.
Doug Schneider had the inside scoop. “Head up to room 608. Check out Blackwood’s speaker. It’s got some really cool tech.” Doug is a master of understatement, so I figured there was something in that room worth getting excited about. Off I went.
It only took one song.
I’d hurried over to the PGE Narodowy stadium to meet with Heinz Lichtenegger, founder of Pro-Ject and the current owner of Musical Fidelity. The plan was to discuss my upcoming review of the Musical Fidelity M8xTT turntable, but I arrived about 15 minutes early, so I puttered around in the three rooms that Pro-Ject and Musical Fidelity shared in this quadrant of the stadium. It was first thing in the morning, and the show was just opening, so the rooms were nearly empty—this was the golden hour, like right before sunset, when the light is best for photography.
It’s rare that the two Audio Note companies—Audio Note UK (from the UK, obviously) and Kondo Audio Note from Japan—end up at the same show. It’s likely not a good idea. If products from the two companies were to touch each other, they might well explode with the force of a thousand suns. They’re matter and antimatter, so to speak.
If you’re unfamiliar with SoundStage! Ultra senior editor Jason Thorpe, here’s the most important thing you need to know about him: he’s an elite-tier button pusher. “Hey, I’ve got an idea,” he told me as we left one of the demo rooms at the Radisson Blu Sobieski hotel. He smiled out of the corner of his mouth and rubbed his hands together. “Why don’t we do a faceoff between Audio Note UK and Kondo Audio Note, which is from Japan? I’ll write up one; you do the other. It builds tension.” He’s the audiophile press’s version of hovering your finger half an inch from your older sibling’s nose and squealing, “I’m not touching you!”
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