Photos by: Jeff Dunson
I broke the show report up into two parts, but the rooms I visited are not in any order. Earthquake Sound, for example, was displaying at the South Hall while Rogue Audio was at the Venetian Tower. The order I chose to write about rooms in this report was out of convenience more than any other reason. No particular rhyme or reason. I have to admit that this year was much harder on me physically. Maybe because I am getting old, or perhaps because I brought the wrong pair of shoes. So I have to apologize for not covering more of the show than I did.
Although they are primarily known for their subwoofers, Earthquake also produces a rather bodacious power amp as well as some rather interesting architectural items. The first product I saw was their new DJ-Quake 2.1 – Party On system, a budget pro speaker sound system that incorporates a pair of 4” x 4” array speakers, stands, and a matching 12-inch subwoofer with a built-in 1000-watt amplifier. This system has Bluetooth capability, remote control, RCA input as well as XLR/TRS input and output. Additionally, it features 2 mic input connections, which makes it a good choice for karaoke. The system will retail for less than $1,399 complete.
I connected my phone with a 3.5mm mini cable and some Blood, Sweat & Tears and pretty much filled the front of the South Hall with music. What is interesting about it is a built-in room correction chip from Bosch to minimize reflection. Earthquake also acquired some circuitry from dbx and is applying that technology in this system.
The bass was very respectable and the array of four 4-inch mids and horn tweeters did a great job. The amplifier also allows the user to add a passive subwoofer that will be powered by the same amplifier. I could see this as an excellent choice for a novice DJ or small commercial installation.
Earthquake also introduced an in-wall stereo amplifier (model IW-BTA250), which retails for $139. At first glance it is similar to the Russound A-Bus system, but it is a more robust product. The complete set of the IW-BTA250 comes with a 24V DC power supply, a cable adapter and a retrofit junction/electrical box for easy installation.
This amplifier can have some interesting applications. The IW-BTA250 was connected to a pair of WSLA63 Edgeless Line Array In-Wall LCR Speaker (MSRP $525/each). The IW-BTA250 can produce 50 Watts RMS per channel at 4ohms. This amp has both line level 3.5mm input as well as Bluetooth and features over-voltage protection, DC output protection and input protection circuitry. It can handle a wide range of speaker impedances from 2ohms up to 8ohms.. It was hard to give a good evaluation due to the environment, but the amp looks to have some interesting applications.
Audio-Technica showed 5 new turntable models. The top of the line AT-LP1240USB ($449.95) appears to be using the same motor as the old Technics SL1200. This is a full-featured DJ table that includes a digital output. They also updated the AT-LP120USB which, at only $299, is an excellent entry level DJ table.
What really interested me was the new AT-LP5 at $449.95 including an AT-95 cartridge. It uses a similar arm as the LP1240 with the same motor as the LP120. Stripped of the DJ features, it is a simple design meant for home use.
The next table was the AT-LP3. This looks to be a great table for the entry-level audiophile at only $279. It is a basic manual belt drive with a new AT-91 phono cartridge (conical version of the AT-95). The only comment I have is that it would be nice to have a lock for the arm rest. Other than that it is a totally cool table for the money.
The last table is an update of the old entry-level table. The AT-LP60WH-BT (available in black and white) is a fully automatic belt drive with a phono preamp and Bluetooth built in. Not bad for only $179, plus they offer optional matching Bluetooth headphones.
Big news from AT is that they have completely revamped their cartridge line and have brought back their legendary Shibata stylus. But the really big news is a totally new moving coil cartridge design. The new AT-ART1000 ($4999) mounts dual coils directly beneath the line contact stylus tip, which, in effect, makes this closest to a direct coupled design.
They use dual 0.9mm diameter coils constructed with pure copper continuous casting wire fitted directly above the line contact styli mounted on a boron cantilever. This is truly a unique and innovative design. I listened to it set up in their room at the Venetian Hotel mounted on the VPI Avenger table and JR Memorial Arm feeding into the Audio Research LS-28 and Mono 250s driving Sonus Faber Olympica 3.
I have had the opportunity to listen to cartridges that sell for thousands more and can’t remember hearing any that have the attack and detail of the ART1000. The bass response is convincing and well extended. Musically, this may be a noticeable step forward in cartridge technology. I look forward to a far more in depth evaluation in the future.
My first introduction to Taiwanese company Four Channel was a few years ago. I have to admit this is a horrible name for a company that only produces stereo equipment. One of my pet peeves is companies that have names that make no sense as they relate to the products they produce and this is a good example. However, what they do manufacture are surprisingly musical little integrated amps.
The FE-841 is a pure Class A EL84 tube integrated that produces 12w/ch and includes a remote. What makes it unusual is it has SDHC card input and a USB input along with 1 mini and 2 RCA inputs. It has an $899 suggested retail price.
They also showed the AF-02, which is a very similar Hybrid version at 15w/ch and only $399 retail. I have had the opportunity to listen to this little jewel on a pair of Martin Logan Motion 15s with and without the ML Dynamo 500 sub-woofer. This little Class A/B integrated sounds way better than its price would indicate. As for build quality, it uses point-to-point wiring and decent parts. It is surprisingly smooth and detailed and a great value.
The last model I saw in their display was the FA-U7. It has the same features and supports lossless music (APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, MP3) and produces 28w/channel, plus very cool cosmetics.
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