Publisher Profile

AKFest 09 Coverage 5

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Bob Neil, a lifelong educator now 70 years old, who used to be a hardware reviewer for Positive Feedback and continues to write software reviews, is now a dealer for Audio Note UK, Blue Circle and Jean Marie Reynauld loudspeakers.

In the picture above, from right to left on the rack, the show system featured Audio Note’s CDT-Three CD transport ($9,550), DAC 4.1x Signature Balanced ($28,000), Blue Circle “FtTH” integrated amplifier (95wpc/8Ω, $5,595) and BC600 line conditioner ($1,795). On the floor to the right is power supply for the FtTH. Cabling was via Audio Note’s Pallas, SOOTO and Lexus.

Bob writes about music in a less condensed manner than those from Fanfare writers, and his preference in music is reflected by the choice of Audio Note and Reynauld speakers. To him, Audio Note speakers presented music in a most atmospheric manner, with presentations infused with the air around instruments, while the Jean Marie Reynauld’s offered weightier sound with stronger physical presence of instruments like cellos. He believes many American speakers are too exacting and hence, exerting, taking the enjoyment out of music listening.

From my impression of the system at the show, I completely understood where he was coming from. The system was utterly enjoyable with plenty of spirit and speed, at the same time very relaxing.

Jean Marie Reynauld Offrande Supremes (91dB/8Ω, $6,900 pair)►

The Nola Viper Reference II in true Piano Rosewood finish ($15,000 pair) came with outboard crossover, and as driven by the very affordable Jolida JD1000P (100wpc, $2,000) amplification, produced a very full-range sound that was imminently glowing in the midrange with beautiful texturing on instruments. It was reminiscent of a high-efficiency, single-driver loudspeaker as driven by an SET. For a multi-driver design to be able to conjure up such characteristics was remarkable.

This is indicative of a speaker design that is either meant to produce such sound, or a fundamentally neutral one that reflected the characteristic of equipment upstream. The Nola is a dipole, open-baffle design employing custom Alnico midrange and tweeter drivers. The external, passive crossover employs Mundorf 1,200-volt silver/gold/oil capacitors, and all inductors are air-core ones. Sumptuous.

▼JD100 tube CD player
JD3000B preamplifier▼

▼JD1000P power amplifier (100wpc x 2)

Based in Chicago, Illinois, Acoustic Technologies LLC was having the 2nd show after CES to demo the “Classic” loudspeakers. Approximately 93dB sensitive into 8Ω, the design was a backhorn with a lone 3-inch titanium cone driver. At least in the venue of the hotel room, the single-driver design put out disproportionately huge volume in conveying soprano vocal, as well as a full orchestra.

The accompanying Ayon CD-2 being reviewed by Dagogoan Doug Schroeder was paired with the Pass Labs X1 2-chassis preamplifier and the First Watt F3 power amplifier. When playing a jazz track, the handsome towers produced impressive cohesiveness and bottom-end. Things got interesting when playing the classical tracks from my own 16bit/48kHz CD, as I thought that there was a slight resonance in the upper bass and lower midrange per my preference.

As consistent with what most exhibitor have to contend with, the fact that the speakers were positioned so close to the long wall might have overemphasized the observed stretch of the spectrum.

Still, for such a small driver, as driven by the Nelson Pass amplification, to be able to convey the dynamics in various types of instruments, including a classical piano solo, was a true show-stopper. Curious that they would choose solid-state amp instead of SET, designer Mr. Maeshiba revealed that he was reluctant to transport his Air Tight amplifier from show to show, and that the Pass Labs were less susceptible to shipping damage.

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