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Open House: The Lotus Group featuring the Granada Loudspeaker and the SMc Audio VRE-1 preamplifier, June 5, 2010

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On Saturday, June 5th, about 40 Bay Area Audiophile Society members in total attended the demonstration of The Lotus Group’s Granada loudspeaker, and the unveiling of the SMc Audio VRE-1 preamplifier ($14,950) in two separate sessions, one at 10:30am and one at 1:30pm, at Manny LaCarrubba’s Sausalito Audio in Novato. The event was presented by Joe Cohen, president of manufacturer and U.S. importer The Lotus Group, and Bob Walters of BAAS. Also addressing the audience were SMc Audio president Steve McCormack, an industry veteran and guru whose McCormack-brand amplifiers of the 90s continue to be sold and bought by his fans in online and printed classifieds nationwide, and Manny LaCarrubba, acoustical engineer, loudspeaker designer, and The Lotus Group’s Chief Technology Officer.

During the morning presentation that I attended, Steve told the audience that it was the most exhaustive engineering project he had ever embarked upon. The preamplifier employs a discrete wideband JFET circuit and external choke-filtered power supply that is supposedly superior in performance to conventional capacitor-based ones. The chassis is made of an industry-first, unique material called Corian, a non-resonant filled acrylic compound commonly used for kitchen countertops. He was of the opinion that his VRE-1 preamplifier had the least amount of coloration compared to those housed in wood or metallic enclosures used by all other companies in the industry.

BAAS members were treated to music produced by a system consisted of the SMc Audio VRE-1, The Lotus Group Granada UB II speaker system ($125,000/pair), a vertically bi-amping pair of the American-made Pass Labs XA30.5 solid-state class A stereo amplifiers ($5,500 each), German-made Hanns Acoustics CD-20 CD player ($2,600) serving as a CD transport, linked digitally via TLG’s own PranaWire Cosmos digital cable ($3,950) to a Lyngdorf DPA-1 Digital Preamplifier’s DAC section only ($6,000). System cabling was via PranaWire as well, with Acoustic Revive (Japan) power cabling products, Sound Mechanics (Japan) platforms and Yeil M&C Levitation Devices.

Three rows of seats were arranged, and I was sitting at the center of the last row initially. As the session progressed, the organizers rotated seating arrangements and my row was moved up. A variety of music was played, including classical music, bluegrass, Louis Armstrong, a redbook CD layer of the Miles Davis Kind of Blue SACD, and one track from my demo disc. They all sounded refined remarkably, imparting highly polished texturing. The system’s spectral extension was impressive and yet very discriminating, as it sounded bass deficient with some recordings, and yet loaded the room with satisfying bottom-ends with others. The front row offered couch sitting privilege and was more comfortable than the folding metal chairs, but I thought the row behind it accorded the best sound to listeners.

The Lotus Group Granada II UB speakers are an open-baffle design, utilizing a $35,000 pair of Feastrex Type II field coil drivers with permendur plate and pole piece. The driver’s phosphor bronze frames are coated with twenty coats of traditional Japanese urushi lacquer. An outboard power supply charges the drivers during operations. I reviewed a standalone version of Type III drivers in Feastrex’s own Makoto cabinet in June 2009, which cost $69,500 the pair complete. The Granada II UB, while using a slightly less expensive type of Feastrex driver, is a far more complex design. It partners the Feastrex 5-inch full-range driver with two 12-inch woofers beneath it, managed by a complex crossover network via DSP. Manny LaCarrubba incorporates and over thirty equalization bands into the digital processor/crossover. The resultant drivers integration was mesmerizing, although the Feastrex Type II drivers might not be as pure and resolving as the Type III in the Feastrex Makoto. Still, even the Type II is potentially more resolving than most drivers out there.
When asked about the uniqueness of his Granada II UB, Joe commented that his speakers are custom calibrated to the unique sonic properties of the customer’s listening room during a personal visit by Manny upon installation. He believes that in comparison, all other loudspeakers with passive crossover networks, by definition, can only be made to give proper response in a single testing environment, and will always represent a compromise everywhere else. Compelling arguments can be made for both speaker types, but that will happen in a future article.

Joe Cohen is the worldwide distributor of SMc Audio who also manufactures the Granada UB II speaker system, the PranaWire cables and imports Acoustic Revive, Sound Mechanics and Yeil M&C products.

The system will be set up for demonstration at the 2010 California Audio Show Parlor Suite, Room 1211, on Friday, July 30 and Saturday, July 31, 9am to 6pm, and Sunday, August 1, 9am to 4pm. Tickets are on sale for $10 per person for all 3 days at, or at the door for $15.

Visit the Bay Area Audiophile Society website for membership inquiry.

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