Cuttin-Edge, On-the-Spot Reporting

May 18-22, 2011
All prices in euros unless indicated otherwise

The Most Complete Product Line in High-End Audio: Gryphon Audio Designs

Three preamplifiers, six power amplifiers, two integrated amps, two CD players, four loudspeaker models, a complete line of cables, power distribution, phono stages, spikes and demagnetization devices, and even racks as well as furniture. Gryphon Audio Designs of Denmark can assemble a number of complete audio systems using only their components. Although the breadth of their offerings is large, what's most impressive is the high quality with which they do it all. What's more, it's all designed and built in Denmark to world-class standards and then sold worldwide.

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Worst of High End 2011: Fleming's, Voxativ, Sonus Faber and Dugg Schneider

One of the things that irked us this year had nothing to do with the show. Instead, it was our beloved digs, Fleming's Hotel, which is where we stay every year.

Fleming's Hotel is located in the Schwabing district, which is close to the event center and closer yet to all the best restaurants. The place was as clean as it has been in the past and the breakfasts were good, but the water temperature in the shower kept fluctuating and the Internet kept cutting out. This isn't just irritating; it disrupts your work life.

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Hegel's Take on Asynchronous USB and "Super Exciting" Digital Connectors

Hegel's Bent Holter has some opinions about asynchronous USB connections that are sure to throw audiophiles into a tizzy, stir up some controversy, and cause some to say that it's flat-out heresy. Bent is the chief designer at Hegel, a Norwegian company with a 30-year track record. Bent believes that while an asynchronous USB connection can be a good way to transfer music data from a computer to a DAC, it's not the only way and it might not be the best way -- a claim that runs contrary to the thoughts of many who feel that asynchronous USB connections represent the holy grail of low-jitter data transfer.

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The Tricked-Out NuForce uDAC-2

Previously, I wrote about three lavish stand-mounted speakers that I described as "sinfully sensational." I called them sinful because of how expensive they are, and I called them sensational because they're so darn cool. But being sensational isn't limited to expensive products; ironically, the product that caught my eye today is one of the cheapest I've seen at this show: the tricked-out NuForce uDAC-2.

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Sinfully Sensational Stand-Mounted Speakers from Crystal Cable, Sonus Faber and Magico

From comments that I hear, I'm led to believe that many people think two things about me: 1) I favor mostly two-way, stand-mounted (i.e., bookshelf) speakers, and 2) I like only cheap stuff.

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Real Performance from Kaiser and Raidho

In a previous article, I made a big deal about the fact that more and more serious speaker companies are now building their own drivers. Another example is Raidho Acoustics from Denmark, and their flagship C4.0 speaker (85,000€ per pair) was making some mighty fine music in Munich. In the case of Raidho, their driver designs consist of a proprietary sealed ribbon tweeter along with ceramic cone drivers of varying sizes featuring neodymium magnet systems. The result is a trademark sound that's both full and detailed, expertly walking the fine line between "musical" and revealing.

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What It Takes to Be a Q

There was a time, in the not-too-distant past, when small speaker companies could not compete in specific aspects of loudspeaker design with large speaker companies. For instance, even five years ago it was almost impossible to find a specialist high-end speaker manufacturer that designed its own drive units. When I say "design," I don’t mean using modified drivers (or ordering custom drivers to spec or having a name stamped on the chassis by the OEM), I mean drivers engineered from the ground up by the company for the company. That's not to say that good results can’t be had having someone else do that work. But wouldn’t a company always be limited, to even a small degree, because they aren’t in complete control of their project? With recent advances in computer simulation software along with some highly specialized in-house engineering, a number of small companies are now operating on a world-class level in every aspect of the design process, including driver design.

High-end speaker making has officially graduated from its hobbyist roots.

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KEF's Blade

I just love loudspeakers, so something like KEF's new Blade speaker really charges me up. It's not just because the speaker looks nice or sounds great or is brand new; it's because KEF has forged ahead and made what I feel are real advancements in loudspeaker design.

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Devialet: Digital Done Right

Audiophiles tend to have a love-hate relationship with so-called "digital" amps. These switching-type designs can deliver extremely high power and very good sound, quite often for a reasonable cost. However, few will tell you that these modern amplifier devices are flat-out better-sounding than a cost-no-object conventional solid-state or tube design. For me, nothing rivals the sound of a pure-class-A solid-state amp no matter how ludicrously large, heavy, and hot it might be.

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A Blade and a Piano

What would you say if I told you that the state of the art in loudspeakers can be purchased for half, or even a quarter, of the price you might think? Not really good speakers. Not almost-the-best-you-can-buy speakers. But state-of-the-art speakers. As in better than what was available just a few years ago at crazy six-figure prices!

Would you be surprised? Excited?

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