Morning was cool and clear and I was fully rested and looking forward to what the day would bring at the High End exhibits.
I have to admit I really haven’t spent any time looking into Emotiva, probably because they have been a factory direct product line, so my visit with them was rather eye opening. Because of their low prices I had assumed that they were an offshore manufacturer, but in fact they are designed and built in Nashville TN. Their parent company is Jade Design which for for many years served as an OEM/ODM builder for other more well know audio companies. Sorry, I can not disclose the names, but the list surprised me. Jade also owns Sherborn and Emotiva Pro, the latter Emotiva’s sister company.
At the show they were demonstrating a rather large selection of gear. I listened to their Stelth DAC DC-1 ($399), SP-1 Preamp with phono stage and SA-1 150W/ch amplifier (price not set) to be released next quarter. The electronics were driving a pair of their own Airmotiv B1 speakers. They are 5.5″ 2 way bookshelf speakers with an AMT tweeter (no price as yet). It was a good sounding little system at a very affordable price and deserve a definite second look.
Mitchell and Johnson was my next stop. UK-designed and China-built, they definitely exude UK roots. I had the opportunity to listen to their SAP201V (budget friendly $499) 40W/ch integrated amp with both MM and Digital ins. The digital was supplied by a Wolfson WM8761 24/192 DAC. The source was a CDD-201V with a Teac transport utilizing a Mediatek MTK1389DE DAC (Retail $399). They also showed a WLD + 211T Network Player which included Spotify, Windows Media, DLAC, FLAC and an standard assortment of capability. Everything was connected to a pair of Golden Ear Model 5s, and wired with Kimber Kable. The Hanns Teessink (a remarkable Blues guitarist out of the Netherlands) “Mississippi” recording’s Guitar and vocal displayed focused and dynamic qualities one would expect on far more expensive gear. It had good attack as well.
Chris Jones “No Sanctuary Here” sounded extremely smooth with absolutely no edge.
I took a break from the tower for lunch at the Convention Center and decided to drop in at the Gibson Tent. Gibson owns such HiFi companies as Teac, Onkyo, Integra, Stanton, and Philips Audio. One of the reasons for the stop was to see if they had any new turntables, as they recently have been expanding their analog lines. They currently have three turntables in the Teac line with a new model scheduled to hit the higher end (for them) at around $800.
I got side tracked with a little soundbar from Philips that looked really interesting. They call it the Philips Fidelio E6 Wireless Surround Cinema Speakers. Suggested Retail is $799 but expect to get a deal on line. It is a very clever design that converts from stereo to surround sound in seconds, simply by disconnecting two of the front speakers and moving them to the rear. They have built-in battery and Bluetooth that is wireless; you don’t have to plug them in for power. The center channel is via a pair of speakers mounted on the inside edge firing inward. The system is basically a 3″ 2-way design with a 6″ powered wireless sub, and detachable satellites. To sweeten the deal, because the wireless sats are self powered and Bluetooth-capable, you can use the fronts and the woofer for the main system and move the detachable sats into another room for stereo, or split them up into two rooms for mono music playback.
As for the sound I was not expecting much but was pleasantly surprised. After the Red Bull auto race video that actually was impressive for the money, I requested they play “Hotel California” in stereo and found it very acceptable for music. It had decent bass without overly floppy low end, and I found the vocals clear and properly placed. Depth wasn’t great, but hey it’s not bad at all. So if you are looking for an easy to set up surround sound that does not piss you off when you want to listen to music, this may work for you. Considering the price and ease of set up and flexibility, I think it’s a winner.
If you haven’t guessed by now, there is very little in the way of audiophile gear left at the convention Center. One exception was a surprising marriage of some of the coolest powered mini monitor/multi-media speakers with the world’s best headphone. Well in my opinion it is. I am speaking of STAX electrostatic Ear Speakers (Way beyond headphone) and Edifier. You probably haven’t heard of them, but they are a huge surprise. They played for me the proto-type of the new Luna Eclipse 2.1 system, which is a dual 3″ slot- loaded 2-way satellite, bi-amped internally with 22Watts to the mid and 15 Watts to the 1″ silk dome tweeter. The bass is an impressive dual 8″ wireless powered sub in an 11-meter cabinet with 110 watts of power. Sonically, it sounded very musical with way more air and detail than the projected price would suggest. It also did a very respectable job on movie material. They project it to sell for $500 to $600 complete, but I think it would be a deal at anything under a grand!
The MA-5 is similar to the Luna Eclipse 2.1 but consolidated into a small Blue tooth table top system without a sub. It reminded me of Bang and Olufsen, but at a price of only $199.
I immediately moved around the corner to the Stax display and memories flooded back when I put on the Stax phones. I have listened to hundreds of headphones over my 47 years in the business, but these are the only ones I think I can wear on my head, close my eyes and perceive of a musical performance in front of me, not in the middle of my head. If you haven’t listened to Stax SRS-4170 system using the SR-L700 phones at only $1,775, you really should. They also have models available for less.
What a great way to end my day. Looking forward to Day Three.
Copy editor: Laurence A. Borden
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