Audiophile magazines produce their “Best Components” of the year issues based on what they have reviewed. While not exhaustive, they give a good clue as to their experiences with the equipment. Similarly, one should not take the following as the expression of the ultimate collection of the “best” at the show, for I did not get to hear some reportedly fantastic products like the Perfect8 speakers. I did return to some manufacturers to follow up on products, such as the King’s Audio King, one of my favorites of the past year which underwent a revision. Kindly take this listing as a stepping stone to discovery of products I heard in show systems which I feel have superior potential for a rig you establish.
Jones Audio Preamplifier
I like Sam Jones, as he’s a very polite, thoughtful man who is not showboating his work. When I first heard his gear at RMAF a year ago it was paired with sub-audiophile quality electronics and modest B&W speakers. I heard something very good nevertheless, and recommended he upgrade his attending components. At this show I see he’s working toward that goal; in fact, he purchased some Revel Ultima Salon 2 speakers for the demo system, the PA-M300 amps and Preamplifier – a very good move that resulted in a far more upscale presentation. The system sounded taut and punchy without dryness or harshness, despite his not yet replacing the inexpensive Denon source! I continue to be impressed by what I’m hearing from Sam’s designs.
Many times cables are underrated, or simply overlooked in systems in deference to box components and speakers. I have learned a rule of systems which has served me well: A superior system cannot be established with inferior cables. There are many systems at this show I would have liked to tweak, emanating from speakers such as the Magico Q5, Avalon Time, Eggleston Savoy Signature and YG Acoustics Anat Reference II. I would have enjoyed a day or two with them reworking their cabling, as I felt the sound was not far off from ideal, but needed adjustment.
Two brands of cables sounded superb in their systems, one was Stealth Cables, along with Essential Sound Products power cords, displayed with the Convergent Audio Technology gear and Vivid Giya 2 speakers. The other was Clarity Cable at T.H.E. Show at Flamingo Hotel grouped with Abbingdon Music Research, Dr. Feickert Analogue and Orca Design’s impressive large monitor.
It may be one of the strangest looking speakers, but the Vivid Audio Giya 2 is a killer speaker sonically, and a perfect case for not dismissing a speaker simply because of its odd appearance! I heard the bigger Giya at RMAF and was swayed very positively; here again was an outstanding sound. The Giya 2 had one of the more subtle and nuanced, yet lively presentations at either show. It’s amazing how a speaker with allmetal cones can be so well balanced and forgiving on the top-end. Vivid’s catch phrase on its literature is, “Beyond Imagination,” and their performance is certainly beyond expectation.
The Convergent Audio Technology (C.A.T.) SL1 Legend Preamplifier and JL3 monoblock amplifiers were silky smooth and powerful. Mated with an Audio Aero LaSource player, this system was the epitome of excellent sound appropriately matched to a room’s size.
Revisiting Reviewed Products
If I have time enough at shows I’ll check up on products which have been in development since I reviewed them. I was surprised to see the radical reworking of the King’s Audio “the King” speaker! The newest model, the King II, sports a traditional look with latticed and scrolled woodworking and an outboard transformer power supply. One can order this speaker in the more contemporary appearing style similar to the original King.
The King II shifts from separate panels for bass and treble to the unified grid approach in the well considered Prince II. While not having a perfect side by side comparison, I sensed an increase in detail over the King. However, the bass and treble seem less defined and possibly a bit less well separated. The onboard power supply having been moved outboard necessitates an extra set of cables, supplied by King’s Audio. I would need to judge these models in a side by side assessment to determine if these changes are an absolute step forward for this design. Noting that caveat, the King II was generating a vast, panoramic field of music not too much smaller than the huge Sound Lab Millenium-1 PX.
I had also seen but not heard at earlier shows the King Tower, a smallish omnidirectional speaker which recalls the elegant MBL speaker line. I chuckled when I saw (I was told its presence was inadvertent) MBL amps driving the King Tower! The question was asked often, “Are those MBL’s?” However, more critical observers would have known it to be highly unlikely that MBL would insert blue foam balls between driver sections of the speaker. The King Tower was simply enchanting, exploding the sound field to give the impression that one was sitting within a miniature galaxy of sound. While not quite “true to life” in terms of imaging, the spatial extension was quite enjoyable.
- (Page 1 of 2)
- Next page →