Publisher Profile

AKFest 09 Coverage 1

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Wadia, Dynaudio and XLO continued their very successful cooperation from CES in putting together a system, and they hosted attendees to two rooms. This time at AKFEST09 in the first room, sitting on top of the Stillpoint shelf was the Wadia 781i SACD/CD player. The amplification consisted of a full Octave system from Germany, as distributed by Dynaudio USA. Loudspeaker was the bookshelf Dynaudio C1 ($8,400 piano black lacquer finish; $7,000 standard).

My first impression tells me that the Wadia 781i is very hard to beat in the sub-$20k range, because it wouldn’t have been possible for the Octave/Dynaudio/XLO system to convey all that details and warmth without a good source.

Dynaudio C1 specifications:
Frequency response: 45 ~ 22kHz
Sensitivity: 85dB
Impedance: 4Ω nominal
IEC long term power handling: 170W
Weight: 24lb each
Dimensions: 7.9 W x 17.5 H x 16.9 D

Octave MRE 130 monoblock specifications:
Power output: 140W into 4Ω/100W into 8Ω
Frequency response: 3 ~ 100kHz
THD: 103dB
Input impedance: 210kΩ
Damping factor: 12 – constant form 20 ~ 15kHz
Minimum load impedance: 2Ω
Power consumption: 150W min (idle), 350W max
Dimensions: 18.9 W x 6.3 H x 16.54 D; Weight: 55lb each

The Octave exerted very good control over the 85dB/4Ω C1s with the tube power. I ran into Mike of Dynaudio during breakfast, and he told me he wanted audiophiles to know what Dynaudios would sound like with good tube amps, and I heard good bass control down to upper 30Hz range, with non-fatiguing top-end and a very uniform top-to-bottom characteristic. The only seeming limitation to my ears was perhaps the soundstage as dictated by necessary placements of the speakers on the long wall, pitching the speakers too close to the front wall, while also being too close to the listener already.

A cool Gary Lea (Dagogo Senior Reviewer), upon answering my question of whether he as a guitarist, could play the bass line in the Queen track “Dragon Attack”, answered, “not the bass line, but the main guitar.” Referring to the main rhythm section, “That’s how I play.”

The Octave tube system and the Dynaudio CI could certainly rock.

▼Octave MRE 130 monoblock, MSRP $16k/pair. 4 x KT88 or 6550C each monoblock.

Next door was another Wadia/Octave/Dynaudio/XLO system. This time, the Wadia 381i ($8,450; $6,950 without digital input) was paired with the Octave V70 integrated amplifier ($6,600) and the Dynaudio Focus 360 ($6,500/pair), the top model from the company’s lower line to the Confidence Series. Interestingly, in a room of identical dimensions, the Dynaudio 360, even just as close to the front wall, as well as to the listener, managed to fill the soundstage better than the C1 due possibly to the multiplicity of drivers. Of course, the top-end finesse was still the reign of the C1.

The dimensions of the Embassy Suites Hotel room was actually an advantage to the Audio Note UK exhibit, facilitating a near-wall placement that coincided with Peter Qvortrup’s design philosophies.

▼Audio Note UK exhibit as manned by the inexhaustible David Cope.

The front wall reflection that more or less hampered the other presentations worked to Audio Note’s advantage, and there was no spectral incongruities in the form of overemphasis. The AN sound was ultra smooth and full of sparkle. All these years, I preferred to position my AN-E SEC Silver far out into the room for more three-dimensional soundstaging, because the length of my room and the setup of my system was predisposed toward accommodating varieties of loudspeaker and electronics for review purposes. Had I not been a reviewer…..

Hold that thought. As reviewers, my colleagues and I get to write about exciting new products, such as the new models introduced by Audio Note UK as listed in the following.

Digital front-end:
CDT Zero/II -$2,475. New entry-level Audio Note CD transport with front loading Philips mechanism.

DAC 0.1 – $1,650. New 24/96-compatible DAC, 1543 16bit DAC chip with 6111 WA tube no feedback output stage in small aluminum box. USB and RCA inputs.

Phono front-end:
TT Two – $1,925. Two motor turntable with three point suspended sub chassis, acrylic platter, available in beech, rosewood, cherry and black ash.

Arm 3 – $1,925. 9″ tone arm, Audio Note™ AN-AI 99.99% pure silver wire with AN-Vx external cable.

IOI – $3,575. Low output moving coil, 0.05mV at 1 Ohm, weight 11 grams, AN type 2 diamond in titanium cantilever, silver coils, ALNICO magnets with magnetic iron focusing parts, aluminum body.

AN-S4 step-up – $5,200. High quality moving coil step up transformer wired with Audio Note™ 99.99% pure silver wire on fully interleaved super mumetal 250 core, six single impedance versions available.

R Zero II – $1,400. New phono stage using 1 x 6112WA, 1 x 6111WA tube.

iZero – $2,000. New push-pull, stereo integrated amp, 2 x 9 watts, 2 x ECL82/ch.

E/SPe HE – $7,600/pair. 2-way rear ported enclosure with 1″ tweeter & 8″ high efficiency bass driver, 98dB efficient, Audio Note™ LEXUS LX copper speaker cable, internal crossover copper inductors, all round veneered Russian Birch plywood cabinet.

Interconnects – RCA-terminated 1m pairs of:
Lexus – $235. 99.99% pure copper 50 strand litz wire symmetrical interconnect, copper screen.
AN-S – $350. 99.99% pure silver 15 strand litz wire symmetrical interconnect.
AN-Vx – $1,250. 99.99% pure silver 27 strand litz wire symmetrical interconnect, copper screen.
Sogon 50 – $3,175. 99.99% pure silver 50 strand litz wire symmetrical interconnect, copper screen.

Speaker Cable – Stereo single-wire meter of:
Lexus XL – $280/m + $135 term – four internal conductors per strand, pure copper litz cable, copper version of the SOGON™ . Black jacket.

AN-SPe – $780/m + $80 term – Audio Note™ 99.99% pure silver litz 17 strand internal conductor. Gray jacket.

▼A gathering of vinylphiles of the cultured kind.
The quintessential vinylphile.▼

Jim Salk (Salk Sound) and Frank Van Alstine (Audio By Van Alstine) continued their winning partnership in shows, and each company spotlighted new design concepts that I found too good to be at their respective price points.

With an impeccable history of reliability and solid-engineering, the Audio By Van Alstine name has been established as one that offers non-glamorous product packaging in very affordable pricing. The entire system on display this time in the large Ambassador Ballroom, consisted of the Insight + Solid State DAC ($999), the preamplification system of Insight + Phase Inverter Bridge ($849) and Ultra SL Hybrid Preamp ($1,599), a pair of the Fet Valve Ultra 550 Hybrid Tube Amplifier ($2,399/pair) as enhanced by the Double Die Output Mos-Fet option ($250 total, $21 per device). The monoblocks were rated at 1kW into 1 Ohm. The CD player was a Harmon Kardon HD735. You know what I am thinking.

The sound as produced by Salk Sound’s latest loudspeakers (yet to be named) was powerful and involving, non-fatiguing, while the soundstage was very lifesized, a very probable result of the sustenance of output in full spectrum by the drivers, as well as the very discreet feat channel in separation as accorded by the AVA monoblocks. Note the FAL midrange, as well as the one-piece construction of the midrange and tweeter. The entire speaker was made in bamboo. Jim Salk has the following to offer Dagogo’s readers on the construction of the loudspeaker:

“The process we use is often described as trans-lamination. The idea is quite simple.

If you want to create cabinets with complex shapes the would be difficult or even impossible with flat sheets of material, one way to do it is to cut a series of pieces in the desired shape and glue them together, building up a deeper version of that basic desired shape.

In this case, if you look at the shape of the top section of the midrange/tweeter section, we used this shape and cut 18 panels (32 for two cabinets) out of 3/4″ material. We then glued them together (laminated them) to create a cabinet in that shape that is 13 1/2″ deep. A CNC machining center was then used to cut away the area behind the tweeter creating the shape of the rear tweeter enclosure. One beauty of using this trans-lamination technique, is that the internal walls can also be any shape you would like as well.

In the case of the woofer section, the walls were made of of 31 laminated panels that were two inches thick and internal bracing was then used to further reduce cabinet resonances. The result is a 23 1/4″” deep woofer cabinet with 2″ rock-solid walls that weighs in at 133 pounds.

Damping materials are used between the woofer section and the upper midrange/tweeter section to dampen any last vestige of cabinet resonance and prevent it from influencing midrange performance.”

Jim also told me that the new Salk prototype in bamboo finish took more than 3 days to assemble. Pricing on the unnamed Salk Sound loudspeaker would roughly be around $14,999 the pair in MDF and $18,999 for bamboo.

If you are driven by resolution, the SALK/AVA system was a competent achiever, and cannot be surpassed for the money. The next step from here would hve to be the Pass Labs designs for the higher levels in resolution, dynamics and transparency; but for the readers among us not ready to go the Pass Labs route, the AVA is a very wise option.

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