Publisher Profile

2009 RMAF Coverage 10

Haniwa Audio, Koetsu USA, Benchmark/Studio Electric, Blue Circle Audio, Laufer Teknik / Audiomanufacture by Boenicke, Grant Fidelity, Heirloom Audio, J-Corder

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Some of you may not be familiar with the name of Haniwa yet but you will be. Born out of the fertile mind of Dr. Tetsuo Kubo and his Kubotek Creation Engineering company, known worldwide for their CAD engineering programs, Haniwa and is manufacturing the full compliment of audio gear including amplification and phono cartridges! Dr. Kubo is a dedicated and true audiophile and a patron of the industry. Suffice it to say you will be hearing more and more about this company. Not only is Dr. Kubo a PhD but he also holds an M.D. of special note. I found myself sitting next to Kubo-san while we were listening to the HSP2H07 small horn two-way speakers. The sound was entrancing and belied their diminutive size. I will be reviewing these in the very near future. Also look for Phillip Holmes to review the new Haniwa HCTR01 Super Low Impedance cartridge soon. Think Air Tight, only better!

Koetsu USA and Hiram Toro impressed a number of people with the combination of Montegiro, Koetsu, Blacknote and Chario products. The Montegiro Lusso turntable with the whimsical Nutjob Record Mat ($45,763 depending on arms and optional features) that I reviewed a few months back was topped with the new Koetsu Azule Platinum cartridge ($10,000) that was the subject of a three way review in this month’s issue. On the last day this was swapped out for the Koetsu Tiger Eye Platinum cartridge ($13,000) of the same review. This was being fed into the Goldnote Pamphili phonostages ($3500 each) and then to the Blacknote DSA 150 integrated amp ($7000). Also being fed into that amp was the Blacknote DSS 30 digital streaming player ($5200) and the Blacknote CDP300 ($5262) previously reviewed by Phillip Holmes. All of this was going straight into a pair of the Chario Sovran ($16,000). The setup was noted by many while I was in the room as being one of the better sounding rooms at the show. The Charios have such a nice and balanced delivery that just allows you to enjoy the music without drawing undue attention to themselves. Undue that is unless you become transfixed on the cabinets which are beautiful Italian walnut!

Another room that impressed me on a number of levels was the Benchmark/Studio Electric room. Utilizing the 275-watt-per-channel Studio Electric EA4 amp ($7350), the funky looking but immensely entertaining 88 dB Studio Electric T3 loudspeakers ($7900) and the Benchmark DAC 1 HDR preamp ($1895), all fronted by a Wadia iTransport ($375) and Apple iPod combo, this room was cranking out some great sounds! I was really fascinated with the T3 loudspeakers. Fit and finish was great and the sound was much bigger than the speakers! Although the stated frequency range was 39Hz – 18kHz (+/- 3db) it sounded much more extended than that and the sound was holographic, even in a hotel room.

As always, Blue Circle Audio and Gilbert Yeung peaked the curiosity by bringing the new BC301FY Thingee pre-amp (starting at $4500). This is a fanciful looking unit modeled after the PVC based Thingee line. It takes a very strong and self assured audiophile to appreciate the Thingee line, as none of the products are about looks but more focused on the money being spent on what is inside. I have the Fon Lo Thingee (phono). Is it pretty? No! Does it sound pretty? Oh baby yes. Am I reviewing it? You bet your sweet a#$ I am!

The Laufer Teknik / Audiomanufacture by Boenicke roomwas showing a new ultra slim SLS speaker. Like all the Boenike designed speakers the cabinets are CNC machined completely out of beautiful hardwoods like walnut. This makes for very dense speakers that require a lot of extra effort to make sound correctly, much like the art of making a violin. The speakers are beautiful to look at and also beautiful sounding. The new SLS will rate a very high WAF!

Ian and Rachel from Grant Fidelity came fully loaded this year. I believe they brought just about all the gear they had! Of special interest was the new Grant Fidelity CD1000 Tube CD player ($3900) with built-in headphone amp. Wow the perfect thing for a high-end bedroom system that does not intrude on the significant other’s space or ears. Also on display was the Shengya CS-6 pre-amplifier ($4900) and the matching Shengya PSM-600 monoblocks ($19,000 per pair). These are massive, extremely high quality and have a sound that defies the price and they are stackable! With the tube pre-amp coupled to the solid-state amps you get the best of both worlds. Huge power without the attendant glare sometimes associated with all solid-state components. If you are one of the non-believers in the advancement of the Chinese audio industry and the new direction of its elite members towards quality at reasonable prices, then shame on you. Let me say one word to remind you of a country that a scant 30 years ago made questionable quality products and is now a world recognized quality leader – JAPAN! Grant also brought their new Compact WZ-5 tower speakers with custom Vifa drivers ($4500). Look for a review of this grouping as a system soon.

Heirloom Audio surprised me by displaying of one of the neatest turntables ever produced. The Nottingham Analogue Anna Log turntable is, once again, available by special request. Certainly one of the more interesting designs to come along in quite a while, the Anna Log has to win the award from most unusual turntable at the show. The table is said to be made from a 200-year-old beam found in old mill and sells for around $13,000, without the arm. The plinth, if you can actually call it that, is made from laminated pieces of the old beam. A great sounding and certainly unique looking turntable to be sure! They were also displaying one of my all time favorite amplification brands, Quicksilver. I still have my original Quicksilver KT88 monoblocks. Still one of the better sounding point-to-point, hand wired KT88 based monoblock amps around!

I was very intrigued by the J-Corder room. The array of Technics 10” reel-to-reel recorders was impressive and so was the sound. These tape machines are still awesome to listen to. I remember in college putting together huge play lists on my Teac reel-to-reel. Definitely on my list to purchase one day. Starting around $4000 depending on colors and options. Visit

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