Cuttin-Edge, On-the-Spot Reporting

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

T.H.E. Show Newport Beach, 2013: Part 1

Along with Top Audio in Milan, Italy, the T.H.E Show Newport Beach in California is my favorite for a few special reasons. It's exclusively audio-oriented (as opposed to the massive CES), it's user-friendly (like Rocky Mountain), and it's in a great part of the world (like Top Audio). I went to graduate school and lived along its beaches for about five years back in the early '80s, so not only do I know my way around, but I can always read the silvery alphabet of the sea in any glance across its suburban landscape. Besides, I can usually count on fine weather, excellent food, live music, entertaining distractions (a cigar bar, a car show), and some important product debuts. T.H.E. Show Newport Beach ran for three days, May 30 to June 2, and took place at two adjoining hotels -- the Hilton and the Atrium -- across the street from the John Wayne Airport in Orange County. For this two-part blog post, I'll mainly cover new products in Part 1, while mostly talking about standout demos of established gear in Part 2.

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Simaudio's New Moon Neo Series

I make it a point to visit as many companies as I can to see what's brand new, and to report it to our readers whenever I can. So on Thursday, May 30, I drove to the east side of Montreal, Canada, to a place called Boucherville, in order to visit Simaudio's factory. It was there that I met with Simaudio's VP of marketing, Lionel Goodfield, who guided me through the assembly area where they were making their new Moon Neo-series products.

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Bel Canto's Flagship Digital Arrives

Bel Canto Design has taken the concept of separates in high-end digital audio to perhaps its logical conclusion with their flagship three-box DAC/power-supply/digital-converter setup. The DAC3.5VB Mk.II ($3495) digital-to-analog converter is the heart of the system. The Virtual Battery Supply 1 (VBS1, $1495) upgrades the power supply of the DAC3.5VB Mk.II by adding increased power filtration and greater isolation from power-supply-induced noise. The highly regulated VBS1 comes in a chassis that mirrors that of the DAC itself. Lastly, the REFLink ($1495), also in the same-size chassis as the DAC and power supply, is a digital converter that you'll need if you use a USB digital output from your music server or computer-based system. The REFLink then sends the DAC3.5VB Mk.II a digital signal that it can decode.   

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No Sleep till Munich

In 1987 the Beastie Boys released the song "No Sleep till Brooklyn" on their Licensed to Ill album. Whenever I travel, I think about that phrase. Overseas traveling to a show like High End isn't as hard as it used to be in the old days, but it still isn't easy, particularly when you live in a place where there are hardly any international flights, so everywhere you go requires a connection, and no matter what you do, you can't sleep on a plane.

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Today's Inspiration, Courtesy of Paradigm

Here's what I was thinking earlier today: The life of a full-time audio writer can be pretty great because of all the cool gear we review. What's more, you actually look forward to the doorbell ringing because chances are it's UPS, FedEx, or some other delivery service dropping off something new. The only downside to this gig is that you have to unpack and repack this stuff, which can be a hassle. But that's a small price to pay, particularly when a day is as inspiring as mine was today.

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Speaker-Measuring Day!

Measuring speakers properly takes time, effort, an SUV (or truck), and quite a bit of money. All of these came into play on Thursday, April 18, 2013, our latest speaker-measuring day.

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Profundo: Part 3

Bob Clarke started Profundo in 2002 after a stint at Musical Surroundings and while he was still a lecturer at UC Berkeley. He already repped the famed Viva tubed electronics and picked up the distribution of Transfiguration cartridges from Japan because, he said, he'd always loved them, temporally and tonally. "They're easy to listen to and natural," Clarke said.

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Profundo: Part 2

After a dinner of bistecca Fiorentina, some steamed greens, and a Casanova di Neri Brunello, Bob fired up "the big system" upstairs. It featured the original Trenner & Friedl Dukes ($125,000 USD per pair when available), a three-box-per-channel speaker system that stacked two long woofer cabinets on the bottom, a Harbeth-like monitor-shaped M/T cabinet in the middle, and a gleaming supertweeter like a grand silver eye atop it all. The Dukes had external crossovers and were biamped with Heed Obelisk PM monoblock amps (70Wpc; $4200/pr.) on the woofers (93dB/4 ohms) and a Viva Solista LT integrated amp (18Wpc; $7800 when available) on the M/T drivers (97dB/8 ohms). The speakers had a claimed range of 25Hz-40kHz.

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A New Pro-Ject

Is it absurd to think that you could replace an entire audio system -- excepting the speakers and their cables -- with a single box that measures a mere 206mm x 72mm x 195mm? Well that's just what I did today.

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Profundo: Part 1

I first met Bob Clarke of Profundo in the hallway outside of his demo room at the California Audio Show back in 2010. I remember a strikingly gorgeous sound coming from a pair of Trenner & Friedl Art monitors driven by Heed electronics, with cabling from Cardas. But it was hard to get into the room, not only because it was so crowded with showgoers that there was no space to squeeze in, but also because Bob was so congenial, gracious, and witty out there in the hall. We struck up an exchange characterized by high-speed repartee, and I was having so much fun talking that, for a while, I forgot to keep up with my rounds of the show. It did help that Bob had a good bottle of wine in hand -- I think it was a California Cab from Mondavi -- and poured me some in a clear plastic cup.

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Honky-Tonking in Nashville over Spring Break

I was in Nashville last month to do a couple of events at Vanderbilt University -- a poetry reading on a Thursday night, then a Q&A on a Saturday morning. That left me with Friday night free, so I got some recommendations and headed off from the Embassy Suites where I was staying to the dives and honky-tonks of Music City's Lower Broadway.

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Coming Soon After a Very Long Time: JE Audio's VM60 Mono Amps

"Blogging on Audio" allows us to give a behind-the-scenes view of the reviewing process, which is an ongoing thing around here and sometimes has some hiccups along the way. This entry is about the JE Audio VM60 mono amps that I just finished writing the text for, which will be published on May 1 on SoundStage! Hi-Fi. They sell for $6400 USD per pair. The review has been a long time coming; in fact, way too long.

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More on the Meitner MA-1

I have had about six weeks to play with the Meitner Audio MA-1 now and that’s easily enough time to be able to tell you this: it kicks ass.

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Once Every 15 Years: My Speaker-Cable Change

If you've read my reviews closely over the last 15 years, you might have noticed one relatively important thing: my speaker cables rarely changed. I received a set of Nirvana S-L speaker cables for review in 1997, and I bought them shortly after that. Since then, I'd wager that they were in my system for at least 90% of the reviews I've written. They have been my reference speaker wires.

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Magico's S1 Makes an Appearance

The Magico S1 is the new floorstander from Alon Wolf and company. It's priced at $12,600 per pair and is a two-way design that features an extruded-aluminum cabinet and a pair of drivers: a 1" beryllium-dome tweeter -- the same one used in the company's S5 -- and a brand-new 7" Nano-Tec midrange woofer. Now the S1 you see below is in the company's M-Cast finish, in this case bronze. The exterior feel is slightly textured, unlike the piano finishes you see on many speakers (including some Magicos where their M-Coat is optional). The paint looks to me like it would be quite durable, but I don't want to test that theory! I know their hard-coat anodized finish is very solid.

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