I have to admit that for many years I have lusted over the Audio Note UK Gaku-On amplifiers. Always financially out of reach and forever one of the finest musical reproduction products I have ever heard. On the opposite end of that spectrum I have never been as enamored with the Audio Note speakers. At The AKFEST I actually had a chance to spend some real time listening to the speakers mated to Audio Note Kit amplifier, preamp, and phono stage being driven by an old Lenco transcription turntable with an Audio Note tonearm. The table was beautifully restored and was set in a completely new and custom plinth that was a woodworkers dream built by Jean Nanrals. The sound was fabulous and this was the first time I had heard how wonderful this fully integrated system can sound. A real professional reviewer can admit when they have been wrong, and up till now I have been wrong about the Audio Note speakers. I may just have to grab a set of these some time for an extended listening session.
Gutwire was hooked up with Mastersound and Harmonix Reimyo electronics and ASW speakers. The sound was very captivating and musical. The Mastersound Maestro 300BSE ($6100.00) sounded much bigger than it was driving the ASW Genius 400 Loudspeakers ($5,200.00). Fronting the whole thing was a Harmonix Reimyo CD and DAC ($18,000.00). The sound was more than good; stringing it all together was a blend of Gutwire cabling and power cords.
One of the more interesting devices was the Gutwire MaxCon Xtreme power filter. Sitting on top of it was an array of test tubes holding minerals. A different tube for each of the minerals, Tourmaline, Amethyst, Peridot, Chalcedony and a substance called Bincho-Tan. It turns out the Bincho-Tan is actually a highly compressed carbon material which is said to negate RMF and EMF emissions and produces negative ions which are said to produce a calming effect. I cannot attest to the validity of the claims but I did feel calm while talking to Gutwire’s Herbert Wong.
Next door to their other room show stalwarts May Audio, who distributes a whole host of audio products including the ASW, Mastersound, Harmonix Reimyo and Gutwire gracing their other room, were there with a room of great CDs, supplies and tweaks for sale. I can always find interesting music by perusing their racks. They also had the Pinnacle speakers on static display.
Naim is almost a household name in audio circles. A bit less well known is Devore Fidelity who was demonstrating their Gibbon 3 Monitor speakers ($3,000). Being fed by the new Nait series of integrated amps and electronics the sound was smoking. The two-way monitors had excellent imaging and the drivers were very coherent with great extension. The sound they produced reminded me a bit of Pro-Ac Response Twos. That is no bad comparison in anyone’s book. They are hand built in New York and the fit and finish was very good.
This was an interesting room. At one end of the room were the Classic Audio horn speakers. The Classic Audios were reminiscent of Klipschhorns, Voice of the Theater and other similar horn speakers of the past. Set up against the wall in an impossibly big room and driven by Atma-Sphere M60MKIII power amps, MP-3 Mark II pre-amp and a Kuzma reference turntable with an Air Tight PC-1 cartridge on a Tri-Planar tonearm supplying the source material. I am a fan of Atma-Sphere and their OTL tube amps. I also appreciate the Kuzma, Tri-Planar Airtight combo but something was lost on me in the room. Perhaps it was just too big and did not represent the system very well. If I had not heard these components in other settings where they really sounded great I might have passed without a word but it was a shame that the sound was not representative of what this equipment can do. I would love to hear the Classic Audios in a better environment. (no picture)
No show is complete without seeing what Blue Circle’s Gilbert Yeung is up to. Gilbert is one of the more imaginative minds in the audio world today. Sometimes he can be a bit hard to understand and catch on to but he always has a great heart and great ideas. Some find his “Chinglish” signs off putting and others take them for what they are and that is simply Gilbert thumbing his nose at how we all take ourselves too serious. When it comes to audio gear though he is deadly serious. His latest products are the “Thingies”. This is a range of very solid components stripped of their fancy cases and, knobs and lights and housed in PVC pipe. Crude looking? You bet! Crude sounding? Hardly! One of his items, the “FON LO THINGEE” (a great example of his Chinglish) can be spec’ed in configurations from $374 to $974 and come with changeable loading and differing levels of power supplies. If you are on the budget side of things during the economic crunch, as most of us are and need a phono stage or a USB interface or even a DAC you can always contact him about all his Thingies. Yes, you may want to hide them but you will not shy away or be put off by their sound. (no picture)
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