Earlier this year, SME launched one of the world’s truly great turntables, the state-of-the-art Model 60 flagship. Evidently, engineers have been busy at SME, in Steyning, West Sussex, UK, because the company is now releasing updated, Mk2 versions of every model in their range, from the Model 12 and Synergy to the Model 30. When you consider that the Model 30 has been in production since 1990 without major revisions and is still regarded as one of the world’s finest vinyl spinners, the significance of this launch is obvious.
Michael Corleone famously said, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!” I now know the feeling.
It was late in the day on Sunday, October 30. I’d taken thousands of steps to and through the various Audio Video Show exhibits in all three locations and was ready to call it a day. I was about to put my camera away. Then I walked into one more room at the Radisson Blu Sobieski, and I was sucked back into show reporting.
Prior to my departure from Toronto, I received an email from Adam Mokrzycki, the organizer of Audio Video Show 2022, asking if I had any interest in attending a concert featuring jazz singer Melody Gardot. Gardot happened to be playing, you see, in Warsaw on the night of Friday, October 28, which just happened to be the first day of the show.
In the Radisson Blu Sobieski location, I walked into the room occupied by Silent Pound—a brand name I still don’t understand—and stopped dead in my tracks. Fellow SoundStager Jason Thorpe saw me staring at a speaker ahead of me and asked, “Is it something?”
We’ve seen and featured Tentogra turntables in previous Audio Video Show reports. This Polish company’s premier turntable, the Oscar, now at Mk III status, is an over-the-top monster with its own battery supply, which is configurable to provide up to 68 hours of running on a single charge. Each time I encounter the Oscar, I’m startled by how much technology and innovation the company can jam into this thing. At $33,000 (all prices USD), the Oscar’s price is certainly reasonable, but it’s hard in any light to consider that much money for a turntable as an actual bargain.
What’s happened to me? I thought I knew my preferences. Jason likes well-damped boxes and drivers appropriately chosen for their intended frequencies. None of that fussy, retro stuff that inward-looking audiophiles like to champion.
As I mentioned in my article on the three Audio Video Show 2022 locations, the event is too big for us to cover everything, even with two of us here (Jason Thorpe joined me again this year). We’d need five of us to tackle the whole show—and even then I’m not sure we could get it all within three days. As a result, we have to pick and choose what to include in our reports.
It’s worth spending good money on high-quality products. What’s better than that, though, is finding high-quality products at bargain prices. This doesn’t happen very often, but Doug Schneider and I are right now at Audio Video Show 2022 in Warsaw, Poland, and there are bargains to be had in this city, at this show.
The last time I attended AVS was back in 2019. I recall that there were a number of vendors selling LPs at the PGE Narodowy stadium, but this year it seemed like they had seriously multiplied. On the main floor of the stadium, there were two separate areas, each occupied by several different vendors. While there were some CDs for sale, the vast majority of these sectors were taken up with vinyl. Lots of vinyl.
I know, I know—our beat here at Audio Video Show 2022 is supposed to be new products, but over breakfast this morning, Doug and I discussed a potentially different approach for covering this event.
I need to listen to music while I write. I guess it’s a Pavlovian response that I’ve drilled into myself over the last two decades of contributing to the SoundStage! Network. So by necessity I have to bring something along with me to shows and on essentially any expedition where I’m going to have to generate copy.
With a focus squarely on headphone amplifiers and linear power supplies, Ferrum Audio is one of those companies that’s flown under my radar up to this point. The headquarters of Ferrum Audio is here in Warsaw, though, and the offer of a tour of its facilities on Thursday, one day before Audio Video Show 2022 started, had me Googling the brand right quick.
Since I travel to so many hi-fi shows around the world, I often get asked for my opinion about each one. In fact, right now I’m in Warsaw, Poland, getting ready to cover Audio Video Show 2022, which will run from October 28 to 30.
Our new-to-us forever home is a mid-century modern designed by architect Carter Sparks for builders Jim and Bill Streng, Sacramento’s mid-century modern specialists. Sparks studied under Joseph Eichler’s architects, the former designing more than 3000 homes in the Golden State’s capital. Ours features a post-and-beam aesthetic, east-facing sliders and windows, and a large internal atrium skylight with exposed aggregate walkways and three internal garden beds.
Here’s the thing about Toronto, Canada: I don’t think it’s all that pleasant or pretty once you get too far from the downtown core. That comment might piss off some people I know, but I also know many others who will agree with me. Toronto, like any large city, has its pros and cons. But what can’t be disputed is that it’s the Canadian city that the world knows well, probably because of its professional sports teams (the Blue Jays, Raptors, and Maple Leafs), finance sector, film industry, and population.
Since I began writing for SoundStage! back in 2011, I’ve written from—erm—compromised listening spaces. My grad school apartment building was full of senior citizens whom I respected too much to play music too loudly. My first apartment with my now-wife was a 750-square-foot concrete studio in Center City Philadelphia that was an acoustic nightmare. And our century-old, 1020-square-foot first home together, in South Philadelphia, was a long, narrow row house that left my stereo most of the way down the long wall of its open-floor-plan first floor, resulting in horrendous room modes. I vowed that if we ever lived that suburban life, I would have two things: (1) a proper listening room that was truly my own, with as few compromises as possible, and (2) a big family room with a nice television and an audio system that was both inconspicuous and super user friendly.
When I spoke with Rotel’s CTO, Daren Orth, last year about the company’s decidedly high-end Michi X5 integrated amplifier-DAC I was reviewing at the time, he emphasized how the Michi products weren’t just intended to be one-off designs to show off what Rotel engineers could create at higher price points. Instead, they were designed as scalable platforms that could be used as a basis for other Rotel products. Some of that Michi technology went into very affordable models like the MKII versions of the brand’s A and RA series of integrated amplifiers, but to celebrate its 60th anniversary, Rotel has gone all out by introducing two top-of-the-line components in its new Diamond series, the DT-6000 DAC/CD transport ($2299, all prices in USD) and the RA-6000 integrated amplifier-DAC ($4499). While products in the new Diamond series have the same general appearance as other Rotel products with traditional black and silver finishes and slightly updated cosmetics, they are described as having “Michi-inspired” circuit designs.
If you regularly read my articles, watch my videos, and/or follow me on social media, you’ll probably already know that I like to travel to hi-fi companies around the world. In fact, I think I’ve already visited more companies than any hi-fi writer ever has—and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon.
Herewith please find my third and concluding installment from the 2022 Southern California CanJam headphone show, which ran September 17 and 18 at the Irvine Marriott in Irvine, California, south of Los Angeles. We’ve already covered earphones in our first segment and some headphones in our second segment, and now we’ll wrap up with more headphones. Companies are listed in alphabetical order, and all prices are in USD.
Here’s my second installment from the 2022 Southern California CanJam headphone show, which filled a large ballroom and a couple of hallways at the Irvine Marriott in Irvine, California, south of Los Angeles. Our first installment focused on earphones; this one will focus on headphones, and I’ll follow up soon with a second one on headphones. Companies are listed in alphabetical order, and all prices are in USD.
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