Let me start out by saying $19,000 will buy you the top of the line turntable from Avid's Conrad Mas, the new Acutus Reference, distinguished from the $6,000 cheaper Acutus by its massive new power supply, which looks and acts much like a power amplifier
This power supply is also available as an upgrade for existing Acutus owners, and apparently makes an enormous difference to the sound. The Acutus active suspension has received an upgrade, which makes it much easier to setup for your choice of tonearm. The Acutus is virtually impervious to footfalls and air-born vibration, while the new power supply drives the motor with great precision to optimize the pace and timing of the recordings. Conrad tells me the Acutus remains almost untouched since its introduction in the mid nineties, the mark of a very sound design. We are talking about a three-point suspension, a sprung subchassis and a belt drive system, but that's where the similarities to other designs end. An extremely powerful hand-built motor drives the 10 kilogram platter through a round section belt and the vibration caused by the stylus is channeled directly through the bearing to the subchassis rather than being drained into the platter through a unique matting material and clamping system.
Here the Acutus is shown in close up with an SME Series V tonearm ($4,500) and Mobile Fidelity Carbon 3.5 phono cartridge ($3,499). Other models in the Avid range use similar principles but less elaborate implementations, starting with the $5,000 Volvere through the $8,000 Sequel.
Also in the Audio Basics room I met Gabi van der Kley of Crystal Cables and her husband Edwin - or Mr. Siltech, who was just the significant other on this occasion. Edwin kept me up to date on the development of his extreme high end speakers first seen at CES 2007, and revealed that these were to be the flagship of a whole line of speakers to emerge over the next few years. Crystal Cables, now an independent company with its own R&D first sprang from research into new alloys at Siltech. By creating an alloy of silver and gold, electrical resistance dropped significantly, allowing for much thinner conductors, but the most significant advantage is the much improved malleability of the wire, greatly reducing the micro-fractures to which traditional silver or copper cables are so prone to, which require considerable stiffness of the cable wrap for protection. They may look delicate, but you can apparently roll a grand piano over the ultra slim Crystal Cables without damaging them.
Gabi's new Power Strip, a six-output device whose internal wiring uses gold-silver alloy conductors. Supposedly a treat for the ears - certainly a treat for the eyes.
Accentus Audio is showing their new four-way Grand Accentus SE speakers which start at $32,000 Cdn. They feature not one but two aluminum ribbons - one a tweeter and one a supertweeter, plus two 6.5" sandwich construction midrange drivers and similarly constructed 12" subwoofers. Pictured with the Grand Accentus
are Ban Hoang (left) of Uniko Electronics in Edmonton and Simon Au (right) of Toronto's Audiyo. Feeding the speakers are electronics from EMM Labs and Antique Sound Labs, contributing to a powerful spacious sound in one of the largest rooms in the show.
The most interesting digital source at the show is the new Nagra CD Player, which was making excellent sounds in the Fidelio Audio recordings room among others. This is a player I would very much like to examine more closely.
Fidelio Audio's René LaFlamme is dedicated to purist recordings of classical and jazz music using the finest microphones to capture the sounds of local and international artists in the Montreal area, often using the magnificent acoustic of a local church.
I took away some very impressive CDs, their FSI Samplers for 2006 and 2007
and Stravinsky's Histoire Du Soldat being particularly vivid examples of the art of recording. The 2007 sampler goes so far as to show the position of every instrument and the microphones for each track individually. Way to go! Fidelio not only sell their own CDs and SACDs, you can also buy their custom microphones, the RL1 and RL2. For more details visit
Fidelio Audio's website.
Naim Audio is showing their new SuperNait integrated amplifier ($4,750) that can
be upgraded by buying a separate power supply for the preamp section or a phono stage. It features a built in DAC so it offers both analog and digital rear panel inputs, as well as a front panel input for an analog or digital source and a headphone output. SuperNait delivers 80 watts per channel and can cope easily with difficult loads, just like my new Whirlpool washer, but knowing how well constructed Naim components are, I'd expect to keep the repairman away much longer with the SuperNait than the Whirlpool. Doug Graham shows us how to load the Naim CD Player and that's the SuperNait on top of the rack. I'm pleased to see Naim offer a five-year warranty for the SuperNait. SuperNait is expected to be a big seller for Naim, as confirmed by the order book, and I have asked the Canadian distributor Jean-Luc Petit of Dimexs for a review sample. Actually, he's the distributor for Nagra too, so now he has two of my most wanted components!
There seem to be no end of analog turntables at this year's show, but this one is a surprise for me. Michel Cardin of Son Idéal, a Montreal HiFi store, showed me his updated direct drive Technics SL1200 MK II. This one features an Origin Live armboard, a Rega RB300 arm, Rega Exact cartridge, Izonoe feet and a custom clamp, which for a total price of $2,000 Cdn can match anything else at the price, he claims. That sounds interesting, and I've invited Michel to send one along to me for an evaluation.
Just $5500 will buy you the new V002 speakers from Herald, a Chinese manufacturer located in Guangdong. While the styling may remind you of someone else's product, the pricing will not, and I can only tell you what my ears are telling me. This is one serious speaker and with the right distribution, this could be a major upset. Bruce Ng of Kallisto Audio represents Herald in Canada, and also supplied the amplification in this room. The speaker is making its first appearance here and simultaneously in Hong Kong. The sound is big and quick, but low in distortion and realistic in timbre, based on my short audition. Herald has been involved in audio equipment production since 1986, often as an ODM or OEM source. While the English in the brochure reminds me of Japanese camera instruction manuals (His calm and perfection makes people revered / He just there / he is HERALD / THE LORD OF TONE) that impacts the value and the sound not one iota.
The speaker has three isolated chambers for the three drive units and a claimed frequency response of 30Hz to 38kHz. The 1" dome tweeter diaphragm is made from a hardened titanium/aluminum alloy. A 6.5" Kevlar midrange driver and a 12" paper-Nomex woofer complete the picture. The crossover is mechanically isolated to avoid low frequency sound pressure and magnetic interference, and can be seen through an engraved rear window.
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