Publisher Profile

2009 RMAF Coverage 8

Wharfedale, Lotus Group USA, Jones Audio, King Sound, Monarchy Audio, Vandersteen, Vivid/Luxman/Synergistic Research, MBL

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ECONO-SHOCK!

In the past Wharfedale has always meant polite Brit sound to me and nothing serious. Lately the company is getting more serious, especially with its Opus 2-2 Towers ($2,299 – 3,499 depending on finish). The big payoff in design is the implementation of the same upper drivers as the flagship Airedale at $20K. Large (3”) soft dome mids are starting to appear more regularly in sizable floor standers, but I didn’t see too many in affordable speakers like the Opus 2-2. I enjoyed the buttery smooth midrange and lack of harshness in the treble. For Wharfedale this is a turn from the “blahs” and a big step toward the beautiful. This speaker should not be passed over by those wanting an economical, capable larger speaker with a small footprint.

INCOMPREHENSIBLY INCONGRUOUS, or HUH?

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What sacred rule of audiophilia demands that we always pair monetarily commensurate components? Sure, the little guy may splurge on speakers and skimp on the source. But what of a distributor who revels in such incongruity? I say, “Hooray,” and applaud the courage to match the humble Hanss Acoustics CD-20 Player ($2,000) with the fortitudinous Lotus Group USA Granada UB II speakers ($115, 000)! Yes, that’s a differential of more than 57 times! I have occasionally put together systems with cables twice the price of speakers, or, as in this case, economical sources with extravagant speakers. Sometimes I have obtained superb results – just as Lotus Group did with this system. I thrilled to the sound of this rig as a woman thrills to a bejeweled necklace. An impeccably postured system, and one of my favorite sounds of the show.

PRE AND AMPS WITH POTENTIAL

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Sam Jones of Jones Audio was showing his Pre-S-1 Stereo Preamp and PA-M300 Monoblock Power Amps with what hard core audiophiles would consider “garage system quality” electronics and Ho-Hum speakers (I can just imagine someone Googling “Ho-Hum Speakers”). I’ll bet more than a few glanced in the room and never stayed to listen. I did, and was well rewarded by being introduced to this software company owner’s passion – audiophile grade amplification. Frankly, Sam’s rig looked like he had no idea what he was doing in terms of equipment, which can be forgiven as it was his first show. But this man has over 20 years of amp building experience. As I tried to listen through the cheapness of the associated gear, I think I heard vast untapped potential. I would love to investigate Jones Audio further in a proper review setting in my audio room. I’ll withhold my final verdict, but suggest that intrepid show goers can find truly intriguing products if they don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, or in this case, the component with the system!

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