Monday, December 7, 2009

Audio Manufacturers: The internet is not the enemy, bad retailers are.

Let me present you with a scenario:

Audio store A receives a phone call from a potential buyer. The Buyer was doing some online research on an amplifier, and ran across the store's web site. Since the Buyer had no local dealer, the salesperson took the order, and everyone was happy.

Scenario 2:

Audio store B receives a phone call from a potential buyer. The Buyer was doing some online research on an amplifier, and ran across the store's web site. Since the Buyer had no local dealer, the salesperson took the order, and everyone was happy.

What is the difference between these two scenarios?

The difference was audio store B had a web site that was "eCommerce enabled", and the other had a web site that was not. Both dealers had showrooms, both played by the rules, both made sales.

In 2009, there are still audio equipment manufacturers that won't even consider offering a dealership to a retailer who's web site happens to allow online purchases. Even if the online purchase option can be removed from the manufacturer's product pages. The very word eCommerce has them putting their fingers in their ears and screaming "la la la la, I can't hear you..."

It is an irrational, illogical fear. Manufacturers Read this: The internet is not the enemy, bad dealers are.

It is your job as a manufacturer to set forth rules, territories and guidelines. Things like no advertised discounting, no "buy it now" buttons, no ebay stores, etc. if that is how you want to represent your brand. Any good dealer, eCommerce enabled or not, will respect your rules.

Once again the audio industry handicaps itself, keeping tech savvy internet users from discovering their product. Limiting themselves to a shrinking market of aging audiophiles, wondering why revenues are shrinking, and blaming everything but themselves. Lame.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

The PC will revive high end audio

The progression of PC based audio is destined to rekindle the public's interest in good sound, and revive the audio industry. Digital audio is maturing, we are discovering why it wasn't "perfect sound forever", and are quickly closing the gap in sonic performance between digital and analog (vinyl, reel to reel, etc.). As it stands right now, the PC as a high end audio source is in its infancy. We are only beginning to realize it's potential. But in the near future this appliance will revive the public's interest in high fidelity music reproduction. Here's why.

Point 1
As bandwidth (internet download and upload speed) becomes more plentiful, faster, and cheaper; as storage (hard disk space) becomes more compact and less expensive, the MP3 will die off as it will no longer be necessary to compress music files at all. In the near future, an iPod that holds 2 Terabytes worth of music will not be uncommon, negating the need for compression. Downloading the uncompressed .wav files will be a breeze as well, with Ultra-high bandwidth rates.

Companies like Apple will have a strong motivation to improve upon their designs to keep sales going. This will not be difficult or require serious innovation, you won't need more apps or games, just offer better sound and video.

Point 2
Like the 70's and 80's when everyone had a hi-fi system in their home, today everyone has a PC in their home. The PC replaced the hi-fi system in the late 90's as a major source of family entertainment. It will still remain as such, but will now be able to stream high quality music files throughout the home. With the emergence of products like the M2Tech hiFace USB to Digital audio interface, the problems of USB based audio have been addressed, and the benefit of high resolution digital music is being realized only now.

Uncompressed (16 bit 44 kHz sampling rate) and high resolution digital music files (24 bit 96 or 192 kHz sampling rate) will be as common as MP3 downloads are today, and with that higher fidelity music will once again be the mainstream. For many, it will be like hearing hi-fi for the first time, and with that, the re-emergence of high quality music reproduction electronics will take place.

Think of it, the younger generation will experience what we experienced in hearing high quality sound for the first time. Some will care less, some will acknowledge the improvement and move on. But there will be a handful of tech savvy youth that will be moved enough by the experience that they will want it for themselves. Just as we did.

Can you dig it?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Mulder Audio Snuffers: The Truth IS Out There.

So here I am, all of my power conditioners on loan, and a new pair of Nuforce V3 amps just in, and in severe need of break in. I actually couldn't listen to them. Mind you they were brand new, with lots of new capacitors, and NO power conditioning. It was awful. I inserted them into the system, plugged my Logitech Duet directly into the amps with the Nuforce Focused Field interconnects and speaker cables, and let 'er rip overnight while I left the room. The next day Gary Mulder of Mulder Audio comes over to talk to me about his new company and products. I should include a bit of history about Gary here. Gary worked for Ayre Acoustics for 11 years. He also worked at Avalon for several years as well. He has a good set of ears, and actually assisted in designing the Ayre power conditioner. He now has designed his own line of power conditioning and filtering devices that are spinoff's of what he learned at Ayre, as well as his own original designs.

He arrives the next day, and we go into the showroom. He hands me a small box which contained 3 of his Snuffers. I had seen similar devices before from other rather popular manufacturers and looked upon them with extreme skepticism. He proceeded to tell me that they needed to be plugged into empty AC receptacles surrounding my system. I plugged one into an outlet that was upstream from where my system was plugged in, one downstream, and one directly into the power conditioner that all of my components were plugged into.

I sat down in my listening chair, and listened. I knew immediately because the new amps actually sounded, okay. These were unlistenable before the Snuffers were plugged in. I was impressed. But this has also happened before. Initially one is impressed with a product, but then after living with it a few days, the ugly flaws in the product become more apparent. Not so with the Snuffers. I now have 150 hours on the amps and the Snuffers and can say with confidence that the Snuffers add a richness, warmth, 3 diminsionality to the sound that just sounds like music. They don't have any drawbacks that I can hear, and what I really like is that they are passively conditioning the power without limiting current delivery to your components. This is something you normally have to spend thousands of dollars for. The price of the Snuffers? $99 for 3. Highly recommended.

More to come on the Nuforce V3 amps, the Nuforce Focused Field interconnects and loudspeaker cables...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Customers Vs. Retailers: Commentary on a Stereophile Letter

While reading the November 2009 issue of Stereophile, I came across a letter titled "Customers vs. Retailers" in the letters section. It stated the following:

"The behavior that I am referring to is what I call the consumer version of bait and switch. A guy visits a legitimate retailer (or retailers), gets hours of demonstrations, borrows trunkfulls of gear, gleans bookfulls of information, and, when he's made his decision, goes online and buys the item, used or at a significant discount, from and online seller who doesn't provide the types of service that he has stolen from the local store(s)."
First of all, this does exist, and I do agree with the writer of the above statement in part. There are unscrupulous customers, just like there are unscrupulous business people. When the two get together, nobody wins in the long term.

What I take issue to is:

  1. Inferring that anyone who is a high end audio retailer that sells product online "illegitimate". That is an ignorant statement, and that is putting it nicely.
  2. Assuming that customers don't take up my time, borrow trunk-fulls of gear, take all of my advice, then don't go somewhere else or buy used. It happens to me too, and it sucks. Shame on you as a customer if you have done this. It's wrong.

Let me educate the brick and mortar dealer. I spent several years, and thousands of hours building my business just as you. My overhead is slightly lower than yours, am I supposed to feel bad because 1) I wasn't wealthy enough to open a store and stock it will millions of dollars worth of inventory? 2) because I know how to build a web site and market my business? I don't apologize for either. It's a different way of doing business that is not going away. It serves a much needed niche, and can be done with integrity.

I do have a showroom. It is a dedicated room built in the basement of my home. It's not your multimillion dollar, five year lease building in the middle of downtown, but it works. for the most part, I rely on going to my prospect's home, allowing them to audition the gear they are interested in within their own system and listening environment. I think it works better, they do to. They appreciate the non-sales approach, and they can make a more informed decision. It pays off by getting the sale (most of the time) and making a friend that likes music as much as I do.

I as a web retailer am able to support customers who live in areas where their are no high end audio stores, or the brands that they are looking for aren't represented. I send them gear, communicate for hours on the phone, and via email. I give them all the support they ask for, and more. How can you, the local store 300 miles away, support them any differently? You can't.

I represent the brands I carry with the highest integrity. I play by the same rules that they set forth for everyone, brick & motar store AND online retailer. If you are getting undercut by an online retailer, if they aren't adhering to the guidelines for marketing and sales set forth by the manufacturer or distributor, you have every reason to report them and have their dealership revoked. If they are allowed to do this, and the manufacturer doesn't care, find another product line, or have a serious discussion about policy with them.

Manufacturers, take heed. Do not broad-brush all internet retailers as low-ballers and charlatans. Some of us can help you a great deal by offering your product to geographic locations that have no representation. We can do it with integrity, and uphold the brand name you have worked so hard to build. You are missing out in a big way by the "no internet dealers" policy. Trust me, your competition is kicking your ass in those locations, and you won't be competitive (or relevant) for too much longer.

I, like you, get cut out by consumers buying used gear. Often after spending time emailing and talking on the phone advising them. That is the world we live in, and actually I think in the long term it will help high end audio by making the entry level even more affordable. As a business owner you need to select brands that don't have a high turnover of current models on the used market. You need brands that are actively involved in monitoring the internet for rogue dealers. You need brands that innovate and consistently offer new product, and improvements to existing product.

Not to mention you need to cultivate relationships with your good customers. Not everyone who buys from you will be a good customer, but you will find enough of them over time.

Example: I was approached by a manufacturer that has a very well established brand. The problem was that they haven't come out with anything new for at least 3 years. Guess what? Their product was all over Audiogon for sale as used. Why in the world would anyone by their product new when they could get the same thing for less than half the price used? Can you blame a potential customer for buying used at that point? I can't. I also can't carry the manufacturer's product because I know I won't be able to sell it (manufacturers take note please).

You and I are more alike than we are different. We both love music, we both love the reaction of a client who has found what he is looking for in an audio product. We love making friends of our customers.

We both have the same enemy, inscrutable dealers who sell on heavy discounts, damaging brand names and hurting the industry as a whole. The solution is not in blaming customers or each other. The solution lies in manufacturers enforcing their selling and marketing policies, selecting dealers who will represent them with integrity, and making product that isn't flooding the used market. We as dealers need to police activities online, keeping each other honest, and customers need to respect our time and knowledge. If they are seeking a used product, or new at a deep discount, not to waste our time acting like they are interested in buying new product from us.

Monday, September 14, 2009

How to Supercharge a Bybee Quantum Purifier

Bybee Quantum Purifiers have been a mainstay at TweekGeek since it's inception. Jack Bybee has established himself as the consummate tweak meister with these little devices that have performed sonic miracles on hundreds if not thousands of audio systems worldwide. They have evolved over the years, and are available in a DIY series of Purifiers that one can use for AC, speakers and line level, as well as a full line of adapters, and finally one of the best power conditioners on the market today.

I am about to walks you through how to "tweak" the large Bybee Quantum Purifier to enhance its performance. This applies to the large copper Purifiers as well as the large gold Purifiers.

What you will need:
  • 3/4" copper tubing. You can buy pre cut couplers, or if you want to cut a more exact length, just buy a length of tubing and cut to size.
  • Stillpoints 1" ERS Tape. This tape absorbs and diffuses RFI. Many people use it inside components as well.
  • Bybee Purifiers (of course)

How to assemble the Bybee Supercharger:
  • Begin by determining what length of tape you will need to wrap around the Bybee purifier in order for it to fit fairly snugly inside the 3/4" copper tube. Oddly enough you will not be removing the backing on the ERS tape. Why? Because ERS is more effective with a dialectric between each layer. It would actually be less effective if you took the backing off and stuck the layers together.

  • You will need 2 identical lengths for each Bybee. It takes 2, 1 inch pieces of ERS tape wrapped side by side to cover the entire length of the Bybee.

  • Once the Bybee is wrapped, insert it into the copper tube.

  • You can wrap the outside of the copper tube with an additional layer of ERS tape.

  • cover the tube with shrink tubing, or electrical tape so there are no extra conductive surfaces, and you have a supercharged Bybee Quantum Purifier!

The end result is you have an even more transparent sound than with a stock Bybee. When you use the Gold Bybee for the SuperCharging, you approach the level of the super expensive, Super Effect purifiers. The kind used in the Super Effect Speaker Bullets that retail for $4200, and are not available to the DIY market.


Friday, September 4, 2009 T-Shirts Now Available Through

This T-shirt is sure to get you noticed.

On the back it reads:
Funny name. Serious audio.

I had such a great reaction from it at last year's Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I decided to make them publicly available. I really don't make any profit, I just think its a fun t-shirt. I hope you do too.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

How Do You Listen?

I'm Curious. What does listening to music do for you? How do you listen to it?

Is it mainly for background "filler"? Something to occupy your ears while you focus on something else.

Is it therapy? Do you make it a point to shut out all distractions, sit, and just listen?

Or are you someone who, every once in awhile, a song triggers something inside of you, causing you to connect to it on a deeper level? A "goosebump" moment perhaps..

How do you listen? Tell us.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Music as Therapy? Yes!

A recent New York Times article discusses how music can be used like medicine. I don't know about you, but music has always served a therapeutic benefit to me. I suppose we audiophiles simply want a better "fix" than the average person, so we go to great lengths to acquire a system that will bring us that feeling we so desire.

I think the American public for the most part has forgotten, or has never experienced, the thrill, goosebumps, or relaxation good sounding music can bring. If there isn't video accompanying the sound, they aren't interested in just sitting, and only listening. Music is now something you listen to while doing something else. Background noise to fill the void.

I have hope that music therapy will catch on, and it may be a convergence of this, cheaper bandwidth and data storage that could possibly create an audiophile renaissance in the near future. If only the music industry would stop compressing the life out of recordings. Stay tuned...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

This doesn't happen very often

I just wrote this email to Jim Wang of Harmonic Technology after putting his new Reference 9 SE speaker cables in my system.

Hi Jim,

I just received my 10 foot pair of Pro 9 Reference
SE's and put them in my system in place of some fairly expensive ($6k)
cables. I was expecting there to be lower performance in your cable, but
right out of the box I would say your cables at almost 1/4 the price, are nearly
their equals. And they havent' even broken in yet!

Bravo Jim, this is one incredible speaker



Folks, Regardless of what others try to convince you of, whether they are just cheap, have an agenda other than enjoying music, have crappy gear, or hearing that isn't able to detect differences (through hearing loss, or untrained ears), there is a level of difference associated with cables. You usually get what you pay for provided you do your homework.

But this cable really does offer more than what I am used to hearing at this price point. Quite a bit more actually.

I am going to say that Harmonic Technlogy Pro 9 Reference SE has set a new performance benchmark for speaker cables at the$1500 price point.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Good times, Bad times

Yes I know its a Led Zeppelin song title, but I feel it is appropriate for today's post. The economy has wreaked havoc on high end audio. Sales are down everywhere. Heck I've gotten a day job as many of you know. I hate the fact that I am less available, but it is necessary in order to get through these tough times.

There has actually been a silver lining to these economic dark clouds. One that I think will have long term positive effects on the industry as a whole. Manufacturers and distributors who were hesitant to embrace internet retailers are now taking a second look, and even taking that leap towards offering their products online.

Of note, JPS labs recently contacted TweekGeek and has embraced us as a new dealer. Tweek Geek also recently Signed on with Laufer Teknik, and will be representing all of their products online soon. Products like Volent Loudspeakers, Behold Electronics and the Nova Physics Memory Player. And last (for now) we have also brought in the Stereophile Recommended Audio Elegance audio racks.

Of course, Tweek Geek does do business locally in the Denver, Colorado area too. But we do have the unique advantage of a powerful web site that serves the world, and others are taking notice.
Do you have any recommendations?

We are especially interested in bringing in a good turntable, one or two phono preamps, and DACs to complete our product offerings. Please contact us if you have any recommendations, or if you are a manufacturer of one of the above items and would like to discuss having Tweek Geek represent your line.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

My Worst Audio Purchase Ever

I remember it clearly. I was in 9th grade and itching for a new pair of speakers to replace my old Jensen 2-way (yes they made home speakers). The old Jensen two ways weren't cutting it. I went to Midwest Audio in Kearney Nebraska knowing I was going to walk out of there with a pair of new speakers. I was also there because I heard they would give anyone a line of credit. At 15, I didn't exactly have a stellar FICA store, so this was a great opportunity to buy something I couldn't afford. I had a decent job and could make payments, so I went nuts.

My worst audio purchase ever.The sales person showed me to the shag carpeted listening room (God I wish I had a photo of it, wood paneling and shag carpet. Awesome!) He proceeded to play music through the latest and greatest from Sony. A two way loudspeaker with solid real walnut veneered cabinets, and shiny aluminum SQUARE drivers! He played 1 track (from the movie "flashdance", ugh.) that made the speakers sound great, and I bought them.

I got them home and, it was one disappointment after another. First, no highs, then crappy bass. How come they didn't sound like this at the store? What an idiot! I hated that Flashdance song, but yet it made the speakers sound incredible to my ears. I was now in hock for nearly a thousand dollars, had crappy speakers, and was in a total funk about it. My girlfriend at the time had noticed my depression, and took that opportunity to break up with me and start dating one of my best friends. Nice. Ahh, high school memories. I could have been bitter, but I chose to take a life lesson out of it all.

So what did I take away from this experience?

1. Don't let the retailer control the demo music if you can help it. Bring your own music. Hopefully you don't have crappy recordings that will make everything sound crappy.

2. Before making any major purchase, sleep on it. Take a day or two to decide if the purchase is really necessary.

3. Ask the dealer about return policies. Any dealer worth his salt will accommodate you with a 7 to 30 day return policy.

4. Shop around. Resolve not to buy the first thing you see.

I hope this helps someone. Do you have a "Worst audio purchase ever" story you'd like to share? Let me know.

Saturday, February 21, 2009 now live

High quality audiophile music is a passion of mine, and it has long been a dream of mine to offer downloadable, audiophile music.

Well, with the current state of DRM, and the difficulties in getting record labels to agree to the site selling their music in a high quality downloadable format, it still remains a dream. But now a dream with a web site.

I have actually gotten one record label to agree, B:There records in Switzerland. They are run by Sven Boenicke of Boenicke audio, who makes some pretty nice sounding loudspeakers too.

I would also encourage artists who care about how music sounds to them to contribute. If you are an independent artist with no label, but with well recorded music, I would be interested in hearing from you too.

So far I have only links to audiophile record labels whose music I would love to carry. I also have shameless plugs for Tweek Geek audio gear on there as well. It makes the search engines happy.

I would love to have music lovers submit articles on what music means to them, and how good music reproduction helps them enjoy music. I want to be more than a place that sells music, I want it to inform, enlighten and stir curiosity in music enthusiasts who may not be audiophiles.

Any thoughts?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Newbie's Guide to Good Audio

What qualities distinguish a good audio system?

We've all heard it before. One walks into a room with a nice audio system set up in it, and someone always says. “Wow! I’ll bet that can play loud!” This, or something like it, is typical of a newcomer’s reaction to an audiophile’s hi fi system.

Why a system’s loudness capability should be the only measure of excellence isn’t difficult to understand. People install expensive hi fi systems in their cars. Some of the larger audio systems seem capable of shaking the host vehicle apart. The pavement trembles when one passes by. A nightclub’s sound system is in the same league: ear-splitting, gut-wrenching, floor-buckling output. With the exception of classical music, which is rarely ever amplified, the same is true for most live concerts. Any more, the average boom box can break a lease, and TV ads featuring hard-pumping woofer cones say it all. "Loud is good" in most beginner's judgments.

Upon actually sitting down and listening to an audiophile sound system, the newcomer will likely say “Wow!” again, followed this time by “It sounds so clear!”

So what is it that makes a high end sound system high end?

Its about the components, but its also about becoming a better listener. This is what separates the audiophile or enthusiast from the casual listener who is merely interested in having cool gadgets. Below are a few terms used by audio enthusiasts that I think are important to distinguishing high end audio from "low-fi but loud" audio.

Accurate timbre and tone - The musical instruments and vocalists sound like they should. A trumpet sounds like a trumpet, etc. Taken to its extreme, the equipment and system seem to disappear, leaving only the music. It can take an audiophile years to achieve this level of performance in their system.

Low distortion - The signal coming into the components is unchanged (ideally) as it passes through. The real world ideal is that the signal is imperceptibly changed as it passes through each component. We haven't made a 0% distortion component yet, but the industry has reached levels approaching 0. It is said that the human ear can only detect levels near 10% distortion.

Low noise floor - Silence is a big part of accurate music reproduction. The quieter the background, the more subtle details that add realism to the music are allowed to emerge.

Soundstage - Soundstage is created by the output of the loudspeakers. It is basically an illusion created by the speakers being fed slightly different signals to fool our ears into perceiving a sense of space that is different from the actual space the audio system occupies. A good soundstage allows the listener to perceive the size and space of the performance venue in which the recording was made. In lower performance systems the soundstage is often limited to the space between the loudspeakers. From that space sound may extend forward from the speakers, but usually not too far behind the speakers.

Ideally, in a high end audio system, the soundstage will radiate from each loudspeaker in a spherical pattern. In recordings with large soundstages, that illusion of a large recording space will be recreated. It will extend beyond the speakers in all directions. In extreme cases if the system is really well designed and the room is properly treated, the soundstage can envelop the listener and appear to extend beyond the listening room walls themself. Immersing the lisener in the venue in which the musical event was recorded. One will not be able to "connect" the sound emanating from the speakers to what they are hearing. This is the situation where listeners will often say the speakers "disappeared".

Imaging - Imaging is a sub set of the soundstage. Imaging is the appropriate placement of instruments and vocals within the soundstage of the recording. This takes some training on the part of the listener to identify, and comes with time.

Dynamics - Dynamics are the differences between the softest and the loudest musical elements. When listening to a live event, even a non amplified performance will have a wide dynamic range between the loudest and softest elements of the music. This is what gives music "punch" and excitement in many cases. A system that portrays dynamics well will sound live on a good recording, and will reproduce those dynamic passages without distortion.

The recording itself is very important when it comes to conveying the sense of dynamics. Unfortunately most of the popular music today has had most of the dynamic aspects removed by being electronically "compressed" during the mixing process by the recording engineer. They do this so that 1) lesser systems do not distort the sound during loud playback, and 2) so one can hear most of the musical elements in a noisy environment, such as a car traveling on a road.

Below are links to excellent illustrations of the results of these recording techniques.

Transparency - When all of the above come together, you achieve a level of transparency. The Stereophile Glossary defines transparency as "1) A quality of sound reproduction that gives the impression of listening through the system to the original sounds, rather than to a pair of loudspeakers. 2) Freedom from veiling, texturing, or any other quality which tends to obscure the signal. A quality of crystalline clarity."

..."The casual audiophile hears reproduced sound as a whole, and judges its quality according to whether it sounds "good." Many reviewers never reach that stage of perception because---convinced by their measurements that all competing products sound "essentially the same"---they never make the effort to listen critically to reproduced sound. The reason a subjective reviewer hears more than the "objective" reviewer is not that his auditory equipment is superior. It's because he has accepted the premise that identical measurements do not necessarily ensure identical sound, and has trained himself to hear the differences when they exist..." - Stereophile Audio Glossary introduction

Those are some of the basic terms we as audiophiles use to describe the sound we are hearing when we listen to a high end audio system. I am sure there can be even more clarification of terms, and additions of others. I invite everyone to chime in an express what they feel is important for the new audio enthusiast to learn/know.

Friday, January 9, 2009

CES '09

Well, its the new year. One resolution I had made was to start posting on my blog again, and there is better subject matter to begin with than the Consumer Electronics Show.

Vegas buzzes with all manner of geekiness during this week devoted to our fascination with electronic gadgetry. My particular fetish is (obviously) for high quality, high performance audio gadgetry.

The main event for audio was held at the Venetian. There is also a smaller show (The Home Entertainment Expo) held at a terribly out of the way location. I really felt sorry for the exhibitors here. I don't think they had any traffic. Fortunately I was staying at the Alexis park, so it was convenient for me to drop by. Traveller's tip: Unless you were raised on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, I doubt anyone would ever enjoy their stay at the Alexis park hotel in Vegas. Situated right next to Mcarran airport, one is subjected to ceaseless aircraft takeoff noise. The experience could only be matched by attempting to sleep on the flight deck of the USS Enterprise during the invasion of Baghdad. /rant.

My "customer" experience

I went to the show not as an exhibitor but as an attendee, bouncing from room to room discovering some new gear, and meeting some new people. For three days I felt like a retail customer, and each exhibit I visited was a high end audio store.

Some exhibits I was greeted with a smile, a handshake and felt welcome as I looked over the gear, the literature, and of course listened. Genuinely good experiences created by industry professionals who loved audio and audiophiles.

Other rooms, well, you know the stereotypical high end store where you walk in and are immediately confronted with a "you're not worthy" attitude, or ignored altogether? Yeah those people still exist, and they were well represented. My interest in their products quickly waned. What a shame, waste of time and money for them.

On to the show: Day 1, the Venetian

The following is a run-down of the rooms I found sonically interesting, followed by the gadgets that I found interesting as well.

The good sounding rooms

Hansen Audio/Kubala Sosna cables - Good sound and good people. The Hansen speakers with Kubala cables sounded very open and natural. There was good image depth and width and dynamics were impressive.

Magico - I went to both rooms at the show, and preferred the lesser V2 speakers (in the less than ideal hotel venue). Again good holographic imaging and staging. Very good vocals and mids, but just a teeny bit hot on the treble, probably around 10k. Strings and "air" appeared a wee bit exaggerated. I would love to hear these with some different cables.

Vivid Audio B-1's with Luxman 30 watt class A  integrated amplifier

Vivid Audio/Luxman - Really nice sound achieved from these unique speakers and from the "old school" looking Class A 30 wpc integrated with wood chassis. Luxman continues to impress me with the amazing build quality and silky smooth sound. The Vivid Audio loudspeakers are simply amazing. So much technology implemented from these South African made loudspeakers. Really too much to cover hear, but know this. These speakers do not sound like cones in a box. They are dynamic, holographic, super clean at any volume level, and really cool looking. With their B&W Nautilus heritage, and several new twists of their own, expect to hear a lot about this speaker company in 2009.

Synergistic Research cables, Burmeister Electronics, Wilson Sophia speakers

Synergistic/ Wilson Audio/ Burmeister electronics - Very, very good sound here. I thought the Vivid speakers with the Synergistic cables at RMAF sounded better, but nonetheless the system sparkled with the usual holographic, uncompressed sound that Synergistic cables deliver when coupled with great electronics. Oh, and yes the Synergistic ART system was in place and worked wonderfully. Helping to create the "wrap around" sound that it is known for.

Modwright KWA150 amp

Modwright/ Machina Dynamica - Terrific sound from the modestly priced Modwright 36.5 preamp, KWA150 power amp, and modded Slim Devices Transporter. Many times during the show people asked Dan if the new amp was Tubes or solid state. That is a sure sign of a successful solid state amp design. I can't wait to get mine in the showroom.

Nuforce's new music server interface.  Cool!

Nuforce - The Nuforce room was showing off their new music server. I was very impressed. BYOM - Bring Your Own Monitor however. They were using a touch screen panel (Casey said he purchased it on Ebay for around $150) that, when used with the iPhone type interface was extremely user friendly and cool. Sound seemed very good, but the room was bustling with noise. MSRP is expected to be around $2500, availability in March. So long Sooloos.

Quantum - Nordost purchased Quantum a year or so ago. They took the old Quantum design and have improved it greatly. I was impressed at the top to bottom improvents that were rendered immediately when the unit was in the system. Soundstage width and depth improved, bass was less boxy and boomy. I remember straining to hear improvements with the old Quantum boxes, but with the improved Quantums, the difference was obvious and immediate. Very nice.

Day 2: Alexis Park

Good things were happening at the Alexis Park exhibits despite dismal attendance and noisy jet flyovers. I had a lot of fun hear, since I was able to actually talk to people manning the exhibits. Below is a Synopsis.

Harbeth speakers Paired with Luxman and Synergisic Research

Harbeth/Luxman/Synergistic - Wow. This room had it all, great sound that just made you relax and smile. But man those Harbeth speakers are fugly big boxes! Absolutely zero Wife Acceptance Factor. But the sound, very musical, relaxing and holographic. Definitely for the Man-cave only. The Luxman Class A Integrated synergized extremely well here. There seems to be a trend here, every system with Synergistic cabling is super holographic, spacious and tonally neutral. One is simply able to relax and enjoy the music. I am really becoming intrigued by the Luxman gear as well. Super solid build quality, kind of a retro look, and buttery smooth sound.

Reference 3a Episode speakers

Reference 3A/EMM labs/Chang Lightspeed conditioning - Another great listening experience at the Alexis Park. Super friendly folks running the Chang/Reference 3A room. I was blown away by the sound of the Reference Episode, then to the Dulcet. The main secret is the midbass driver. They call it "direct coupled", meaning that there is no crossover used on it. All drivers use minimal crossover components, for instance the tweeters have a single Mundorf Silver/oil cap on them. In the higher end models, Murata supertweeters and Bybee Quantum Purifiers are used. The end result is incredible. The Episodes had super huge soundstage width and depth. Electrostatic speed, harmonic layering, and a relaxed organic warmth with no real colorations. The Dulcets simply stunned me. So many mini monitors have a limited musical capability, a boxy sound from trying to go too low, or sound strained and compressed due to their limited size. The Dulcets had none of that. They threw a huge stage, were uncolored in the bass regions, yet produced amazingly deep bass, and just made you want to listen. These beat my Be-718s and cost $1000 less! As a result Tweek Geek is becoming a dealer for these incredible loudspeakers.

Boenicke Loudspeakers in the Laufer Teknik room

Laufer Teknik room

Laufer was showing Boenicke audio loudspeakers, with their usuall Behold electronics and the vaunted Memory Player, also the latest AC conditioner and cables from Bybee Wire. The Boenicke speaker was very nice. It had two full range drivers, one on the front baffle along with a ribbon tweeter from Serbia, and one firing upward for additional ambiance. The cabinet was two solid blocks of wood that were CNC milled then glued together. The sound was very open, fast and natural. I spent a lot of time here enjoying the music. Sven Boenicke was also there to provide information on his design. He also makes some very special audiophile recordings that will be available soon on Sven is indeed a music lover and a creative genius. A nice guy too!


More pics

New acoustic treatments

Some extremely cool looking acoustic treatments in the Modwright room. Several prints to choose from, all high quality reprints of the creator's original artwork. Beautiful, and about time someone did this.

Vivid Audio Giya loudspeakers

The Vivid Audio Giya loudspeakers paired with Luxman gear and Nordost Odin cabling was spectacular. We were treated to 15 ips tapes taken direct from the master tapes one evening, what a memorable time. The cables alone were nearly worth the price of my home.

More of the Giya

More Giyas.

Philip O'Hanlon with Joe Reynolds and an engineer from Nordost

Philip O'Hanlon, Bjorn from Nordost, and Joe Reynolds of Nordost. Nice folks.