Publisher Profile

AKFest 09 Coverage 3

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Snell Acoustics dominated the AKFEST with a Dr. D’Appolitto seminar and multiple of rooms. One of the most exciting products I’ve come across was the unveiling of the new Phantom Tower prototype, which was “95% ready” for formal release. Though described as the first “derivative of the $60,000 Illusion, the $20,000-per-pair Phantom Tower sounded big and refined.

Driver integration was exceptional, the transitions between drivers were completely “inaudible” more than 3 feet away. In addition, the ultra smooth-sounding McIntosh electronics imparted a most endearing tenderness to the presentation, one that was incredibly easy on the ear even in the midst of compounding sonic complexity in orchestral passages.

The more amazing aspects of the experience was the relative closer proximity of the speakers at approximately 5 feet to each other. Yet, the soundstage was adequately formulated.

Snell Acoustics is now a wholly owned subsidiary of D&M Holdings, Inc., which also owns audiophile brands such as Denon, Marantz and Boston Acoustics. The venerable Dr. Joseph D’Appolitto, Snell’s Chief Engineer since 2003, whose MTM “D’Appollito Configuration” (midrange-tweeter-midrange: one tweeter flanked by midrange drivers above and below it) concept has been adopted by some of the biggest names in loudspeaker manufacturing, designed both the Illusion and the Phantom Tower. The following is an excerpt from the company’s official Press Release at AKFEST:

“Phantom features many of the same astounding audio characteristics and leading-edge technologies as the flagship Illusion, including an innovative 3-way design and extraordinary handcrafted cabinet construction. To achieve its full-range, entirely uncolored audio reproduction, Phantom integrates the world’s finest transducers with Snell’s matchless crossover expertise, resulting in unimpeded clarity and unrestricted detail. Phantom boasts dual 4.5-inch machined XL magnesium midrange drivers mounted over and under an extremely low-resonance 1-inch SEAS XL silk dome tweeter with neo-magnet. ”

Who isn’t captivated by the sheer beauty of the Marantz? For myself, even if they sound just competent and not fabulously fantastic, it would be reason enough to have them on my short list of things to buy. Marantz created a product line that is stunning to behold visually, and according to fellow press publications, they are sonically fabulous as well.

The Marantz system, as presented by a pair of the Snell LCR7XL ($3,000 each) Signature Series bookshelf, had wonderful dynamics, beautiful tonalities and texturing, all in all, a very well-rounded performance package. The suite of sonic attributes was so complete and exemplary, it was very difficult to single out a particular strength. The Marantz experience will likely make it difficult for any smitten audiophile to stray off the path and go non-Marantz ever. For myself, I did stray off course in the preparation of this show report for a good half hour and went to musicdirect.com to read about the individual products. Very alluring stuff.

Most interestingly, I turned the volume up and really blasted the system, and yet for the rarest of occasion, the music from this solid-state design did not assault my ears.

▼(top) Marantz SC-7S2 preamp, $8,000, (bottom) SA-7S1 SACD player, $7,000

Marantz MA-9S2 monoblock amplifiers, $8,000 each▼

You wouldn’t have noticed the dynamic contrasting prowess of the Spendor SP1/2R speakers (89dB/8Ω, $5,595/pair) with Luxman electronics, Soundstring cables and Yamamoto rack, if you visited the Venus Hi Fi room (retailer) and played soft music. Because that was what I thought was happening, until the CD got past the classical tracks and traversed right into the jazz ones. And what bottom-end.

Considering the caliber of products being used, it was only deserving: Luxman Du-50 ($5,000) universal player, L-550AII ($4,800) integrated amplifier, and Soundstring cable system. Len Miller of Soundstring started cable manufacturing since the 60s, and Monster Cable was his client. The dynamic transients this system was displaying was among the most impressive at the show. The electronics sat on a Yamamoto Sound Craft rack.

The interesting thing is, when the CD got to a track where I was expecting some forbidden bass, there was only a mildly underlying bass line, which told me that the system was not only very good at producing bass lines, but also that it was highly discreet in producing what is really supposed to be played. Also, some kick drums on this system was less pronounced than others, but you need to hear it play the bass guitar. It was rumbling and rockin’ with no breakups or distortions.

AKFEST09 marks the debut of the Spendor SP1/2R in a North American Show. Also, per Audio Karma administrator Ernie Burke, Venus Hi Fi is the longest-standing AKFEST Exhbitor.

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