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CES

2009 CES & T.H.E Show Coverage 13

Special Coverage: An Evening at K.T. Audio Imports

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by: Phillip Holmes & Gary Lea

Tom Vu of K.T. Audio has become the new U.S. distributor for GamuT and Musical Life, and Dagogo spent an evening during 2009 CES & T.H.E. Show at the Alexis Park Resort Exhibit, savoring the gourmet food while listening to music. In attendance from Dagogo were senior reviewers Gary Lea and Doug Schroeder, reviewer Phillip Holmes and publisher Constantine Soo.

Dagogoans Phillip Holmes and Gary Lea report:

▼Lars Goller of GamuT (right) shared his design philosophy on his loudspeakers, while Michael Stolz of Musical Life (left) prepared to make his pitch on his turntable designs.

▼Dagogoans: (front row, left to right) Gary Lea, Phillip Holmes, (back seat) Doug Schroeder.

Phillip Holmes:

I was ready to ditch the Venetian with its audio battles (sound bleeding from one room to another), ridiculous elevator situation and miles long walk to the parking garage. A long day number two concluded with after hours listening at the KT Audio Imports room, located over at Alexis Park.

▼GamuT EI Superior 7
Musical Life Conductor MKII turntable▼

KT Audio distributes GamuT electronics and speakers, and Musical Life O/ analog products. There were two rooms set up and I spent most of my time with the reference system, consisting of the Gamut El Superior S7 Loudspeaker ( $36,995), Gamut M250i monoblock amplifier ($26,000), Gamut D3i Dual mono preamp ($9,495), Gamut CD3 player ($8,900), Musical Life Conductor MKII turntable ($20,100), Musical life Conductor SE 12” tonearm ($7,195), Musical life Andante MC Shibata/Cryo cartridge ($2,495), ALLNIC H3000 phono preamp ($10,900) and ALLNIC verito MC Cartridge ($2,200). This system, to my ears, had two of the best sources at the show: the Gamut CD3 and Musical Life Conductor MKII turntable system. The Gamut CD3 is capable of analog-like reproduction, with not a trace of digital distortion. At that price, it competes head-to-head with other world class digital sources and makes a great showing. The sound was airy and open like a fine moving coil cartridge.

Of course, I’m a record collector, and die-hard analog devotee, so most of my attention was directed at what I think is a magnificent vinyl front-end. The Conductor turntable, fitted with the Conductor SE tonearm and Andate cartridge was making beguiling music. It really excelled at minimizing groove noise, distortion and feedback. It was one of those turntables that had no obvious sound of its own.

The plinth is made of 6cm thick slate, platter is 4cm of pure carbon with brass weight inserts for increased mass, there are options for two armboards and the unit includes a motor controller for the AC synchronous motor. According to Michael Stolz, the designer, the unit weighs close to 300lbs. Besides sounding good, the table looks great. The tonearm uses opposing magnets to form a zero-contact unipivot. It’s available in lengths from 9 to 12 inches and in differing materials. The effective mass can be anywhere from 10 grams to 30 grams, depending on length and tonearm material. The wiring is cryogenically treated and is available as one continuous run to the RCA jacks.

Michael Stolz of Musical Life▼

The system as a whole, though comprised of transistor preamp and power amp, had plenty of openness, clarity and dimensionality – very tube-like. Both analog and digital sources sounded very good. I was told that during set-up, everyone involved had to work overtime to figure out the strange room acoustics. They were forced to move the speakers way to the outside, with lots of toe-in. Even with the wide spacing, the imaging was first rate with no hole in the middle. I should mention that the white ash finish of the GamuT El Superiors was a refreshing change. They’d go well with modern décor. KT Audio has a winning combination of products with Gamut and Musical Life.

http://www.ktaudioimports.com/Index.aspx

Gary Lea:

K.T. AUDIO NIGHT AT CES

▲ K.T. Audio dealer (left), Tom Vu (center), Michael Stolz (right).

Welcome to more HIFI goodness from the city known primarily for its badness! It is rather interesting the perception people have of those of us who live here. There is some kind of presumption that we all spend a great deal of time on the strip and in the casinos. They seem to find it incomprehensible that a resident does not know of all the changes and the latest eateries or shows. I had an attendee ask me about a restaurant and a show on the strip and I had no idea because I had not heard about the restaurant and had not seen the show they were inquiring about. You would have thought that I ran over his grandmother and kicked his dog.

While there is no arguing that we have some of the finest restaurants in the world operating in the casinos, and there is a great deal of fine entertainment in the showrooms, the reality is that we hardly every go to the strip. As a matter of fact, the time I spend each year at CES amounts to more time than I get to the strip the rest of the year combined. While it is only 20 miles to the strip from my home all highway driving, we rarely venture to the heart of the debauchery. Two reasons and only two reasons keep us from enjoying it more: 1 – Too, too many people and the traffic on the street and sidewalks is nothing I feel like navigating these days. 2 – Too $%^&*(@ expensive! I don’t know about other resort towns, but I don’t think most people in Orlando go to Disneyworld every Friday night. Then again, I could be wrong. As for me, I would rather stay home and explore the endless possibilities that HIFI affords me for great listening experiences.

Dagogo was treated to a night of exploration at the Alexis Park Hotel via T.H.E. Show, in a private setting, to the lines handled by Tom Vu of K.T. Audio. The list of items is impressive and we had the chance to talk with designers/engineers about their creations without any outside distractions. On display for us were the following items and their prices:

System 1

Gamut El Superior S7 Loudspeaker
Gamut M250i monoblock amplifier
Gamut D3i Dual mono preamp
Gamut CD3 player
Musical Life Conductor MKII
Musical life Conductor SE 12” tonearm
Musical life Adante MC Shibata/Cryo
ALLNIC H3000 phono preamp
ALLNIC verito MC Cartridge
$36995
$26000
$9495
$8900
$20100
$7195
$2495
$10900
$2200

System 2

Gamut PHI 7 loudspeaker
Gamut PHI 3 Monitor speaker
Gamut Di150 Dual mono integrated amplifier
Gamut CD3
Musical Life Symphony MKIII
Musical Life Conductor SE 12” tonearm
Musical Life Adante SE MC
ALLNIC H1500 MKII Plus

$7895
$2598
$14000
$8900
$10345
$7195
$1795
$5500

The rooms at the Alexis are suites and set up like a one-bedroom apartment with a living room, kitchen and bedroom. While we did not have time to do any critical listening, it was still possible to get a feel for how the equipment might sound in a room similar to a home environment. I focused most of the time with system 1. While all the components have their merits, there were some of more interest than others. Since I am a hard core vinylholic, I gravitate towards the analogue gear, and the Musical Life Conductor turntable and matching arm caught my attention immediately.

The Musical Life Conductor, made by German Engineer Michael Stolz, is a mass of shale rock, carbon, steel and brass. This 300-pound behemoth sports a plinth made from shale rock. That means it is incredibly well damped, or at least it should be. The platter is made from carbon with brass weights, and is some 100 mm thick. Only 50-60mm shows as the platter is recessed in the plinth. The table can handle multiple arms and sells for a paltry $20,100.00. The matching 12 “ arm will set you back a mere $7,195.00. At the cost of today’s higher end turntables this is almost entry level. From what we could gather in our listening system, this table will be of interest to any seeking to get into that level of vinyl spinning. Look for our own Phillip Holmes to review this table. He is a lot bigger than me and it will still take 3 guys to haul this thing in.

The ALLNIC H3000 MM/MC LCR RIAA Phono tube phono preamp got my attention and it is quite likely that I will be reviewing the unit very soon. At $10,900 it has some pretty stiff competition.

The name ALLNIC comes from “all nickel”. Every transformer inside (mc-, input-, interstage- and output-transformer) is made out of a nickel alloy, better known as Permalloy. K.S. Park has devoted himself to develop and manufacture high-end vacuum tube amplifiers and related components. Strategic merging with GIS Korea Ltd. in the beginning of 2005 enables him to focus fully on research and development. According to ALLNIC, the preamp “has very wide, low distorted, rich mid-ranged, natural and passionate sound. No external step-up transformer needed, very high quality MC step-up included.” I heard nothing to contradict that and am looking forward to having it in my system to see how well it performs.

On another front, Gamut was driving the system with their Gamut M250i monoblock amplifier , Gamut D3i Dual mono preamp and Gamut CD3 player, all driving the new Gamut El Superior S7 floor standing speakers.

Overall, the system acquitted itself rather well considering the room and I think we will see most of these products find their way into our publication for review over the coming months. Thanks again to Tom Vu for a great evening!

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