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 Home Entertainment 2004
Hi-Fi and Home Theater Event

Back In The New York Groove
Part III
By Chris Boylan
Click here to e-mail reviewer

 

  Although a little harder to find, there were some excellent systems down in the basement, ahem, I mean "Concourse."  JVC was showing a professional line D-ILA projector (DLA-HD2K - $30,000) on the biggest screen at the show - a 135 inch diagonal Stewart Film screen.  At over 11 feet from corner to corner, I expected to see some sort of artifacts, but on HD source material (mostly clips of the Tonight Show), there were none to be found -- excellent color purity, no rainbow or screen door effects, no motion trailing and no visible pixels. It has some impressive specs - 3 D-ILA chips, Faroudja processing, 1920x1080 pixel resolution and a rated 2000:1 contrast ratio.  To my eyes, it was the best video image at the show.

 

JVC D-ILA proector
JVC's D-ILA projector produced the most impressive HD video at the show.

 

Ah... the ole "spell-it-backwards" trick.

When I walked across the hall to the Accent Technology room, I felt like Alice through the looking glass.  The Nóla Pegasus loudspeaker ($45,000/pr). Designer Carl Machisotto split with his Acarian Systems partner earlier this year, so he formed a new company, Accent Technology to sell new loudspeaker designs under the named "Nóla". The speaker were driven by not one but two condrad-johnson Premier 140 stereo amplifiers ($7,000 each), the Nóla's were producing some wonderfully smooth sounds. (This is an updated, corrected report -- Editor).

Nola's Proteus Loudspeakers
Nola's Pegasus (not Proteus as incorrectly reported earlier) loudspeakers sounded great driven by a
pair of conrad-johnson stereo tube amplifiers.

Conrad-Johnson's Premier 140 stereo amplifiers
Conrad-Johnson's Premier 140 stereo amplifiers

Back on the sixth floor, I was able to catch up with Alan Yun of Silverline Audio demonstrating his Bolero ($8500/pr.) and new Sonatina III ($5,000/pair) loudspeakers, driven by his new Moto integrated amplifier ($15,000).  The Moto is a very interesting design, using a combination of 300B tubes for rectification and 805 tubes for the final output stage, producing 21 watts/channel of pure tube nirvana.  Fortunately, these Silverline loudspeakers are very efficient (92 dB rated sensitivity), so they took that 21 WPC and ran with it.  A very natural and liquid midrange and excellent microdynamics.  In the demo room, I preferred the sound of the Bolero, with a slightly beefier low-end, but the Sonatinas gave them a run for their money at a 40% lower cost.  Definitely worth a listen.

 

Silverline Audio Bolero and Sonatina III speakers and Moto amp
Silverline Audio Bolero and Sonatina III speakers and Moto integrated amplifier.

 

Silverline Audio Bolero and Sonatina III speakers and Moto amp
Silverline's Moto amplifier - there's nothing like the warm glow of tubes.

 

Let's Play AC/DC On Electrostats... REALLY LOUD... And See What Happens.

Up one floor from Silverline was the EarsNova/innersound room.  In case you've been living under a rock for the last few years, innersound are the "upstart" young electrostatic speaker manufacturers who are challenging Martin-Logan for the title of World's Best Panel loudspeaker.  EarsNova is their exclusive New York City dealer -- they came along to help with the demos.

 

innersound Kachina and Tehya center
Innersound Kachina loudspeaker, DPR-500 amplifier and Tehya center channel speaker.

 

In one room, innersound was displaying their Kachina ($12,000/pr.) loudspeakers and Tehya ($6,000/each) center channel speaker, driven by innersound amps, of course.  And in their other room were the Kaya Reference loudspeakers ($20,000/pr.) bi-amplified, no less, by two of innersound's 500 WPC DPR-500 Reference Amplifiers ($13,000/each).  All of innersound's current loudspeaker models feature their patented "Ultrastat" panel, mated with a transmission line woofer to handle the low-end.  Innersound has also announced plans to release a full range electrostatic panel as well as more compact ribbon-based loudspeakers in the future.

 

Rick Becker of Enjoy The Music and Wes Bender of Innersound
Enjoy The Music's own Rick Becker chats with innersound's marketing director,
Wes Bender who gives Enjoy The Music an enthusiastic "thumbs-up."

The source components in the "Kaya" room included a Linn Unidisk 1.1 ($10,995) universal disc player handling the silver discs and Redpoint Audio "Testarossa" turntable ($7,500 in Ferrari red, of course) handling the black ones.  Volume control and switching was performed by the elegant RCP-1 Reference Preamplifier, which has simply the coolest volume control ever (click here for video to see what I mean).  Rives Audio contributed their PARC (Parametric Adaptive Room Compensation - $3200) to help with the ever problematic room-speaker interface.

 

innersound RCP-1 reference preamp
Click to view the RCP-1's gain control in action.

 

As I said last year, in addition to their transparency and delicacy on more refined source material, the innersound electrostats kick out the jams on hard-core rock and roll. This year, I tried some more Pink Floyd, and yes, even some AC/DC, but I just could not get these puppies to lose their edge, even when driven to "painfully loud" levels.  The innersound electrostats simply play louder and cleaner than they have any right to.  Of course, it didn't hurt that they were being driven by 1000 Watts per side (500 WPC, bi-amplified) and that they are rated at 98 dB sensitivity.  While playing the rock tracks, the room lights were dimming in time with the bass drum.  Hey, all this and a free light show!  To say they impressed me would be a gross understatement.

 

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Back down on the sixth floor, Silicon Optix offered an unusual product for videophiles -- Image AnyPlace scalers ($2495 for basic model or $3995 with "image warping" software).  These are designed to help integrate front projection televisions into environments that may not be "projector-friendly."  In addition to robust video scaling features, the Image AnyPlace devices include geometry correction technology to adjust for odd projector placement or non-standard screen shapes.  These go way beyond standard lens-shift and digital keystone correction allowing you to tuck your projector completely out of the way, or project onto a curved or irregular surface and still get a perfectly shaped image.

 

Silicon Optic Image AnyPlace scalers
Silicon Optix cappuccino-powered Image AnyPlace scalers.

Silicon Optix had two demos running: in one a front projector sat nearly on the floor, at least 30 degrees off axis from a standard rectangular screen in the middle of the opposing wall; in the other, the projector was about 45 degrees off the perpendicular, projecting onto a concave screen.  Both of the resulting projected images displayed perfect ruler-flat screen geometry. Most of their customers will probably not need correction this radical, but if you need to place your screen in a less-than-ideal location, it's nice to know that this device will allow you to do so without having to sacrifice picture quality.

 

Chilling with Alice In Chains

Every year, one room catches my ear because there's something out of the ordinary coming  from within -- non-audiophile-approved demo material, e.g., REAL MUSIC.  This year, it was Naim's home theater room (suite 606).  Naim showcased their new DVD/CD player, the dvd5 ($4700). This player includes full support for DVD, DVD-Audio, and red book CD, but (interestingly enough) not SACD.  The Naim rep with whom I spoke considers SACD a flawed format and doesn't see Sony really pushing it in Europe, which is where a large percentage of Naim's customer base resides.

 

Naim does Alice in Chains
Naim wasn't afraid to forego the traditional audiophile
fare when introducing their new DVD/CD player.

When I passed by, they had the "Alice in Chains: Unplugged" DVD fired up on the DVD5 with video duty performed by a 42 inch Fujitsu plasma. This $25,000 system (excluding plasma) presented a seamless blend between the channels, superb vocal resolution and excellent dynamics.  I kicked back for around 15 minutes and enjoyed the music, which is rare at these shows.  Thanks, Naim for allowing me to remember what all this is supposed to be about in the first place.

On my way out, I made sure to stop by the Krell/Faroudja room for their home theater demo.  These guys put on a great home theater demo year after year, and this year was no exception.  Instead of stacking the deck with HD source material that is still hard to come by, Faroudja opted instead to use standard DVDs to show what real-world material looks like at three different front projection price points.  On display were three of their projectors - one single chip DLP "entry-level" model, the FDP-DLPHD20 ($22,000), plus two D-ILA models - the FDP-DILA2 ($32,000) and FPD-DILA3 ($50,000). Audio duties were handled by Krell electronics and loudspeakers, a mere $125,000 in audio gear, which was a nice complement to the Faroudja video technology.

 

Faroudja front projectors
Faroudja showed three of their front projectors, all featuring
Faroudja's proprietary video processing technology.

 

Because of the different capabilities of the three projectors (light output, contrast ratio, etc.), they used 3 different Stewart screens, optimally sized for each projector.  Graduating from the smaller screen (77 inch) with DLP projection into the larger screen size (120 inch) with the top end D-ILA projector, I was sucked into the films, with each progressive screen size increase making the theater experience more compelling than the one before it.  This convinced me of one thing... it's definitely time to stop messing around with my "little" 38 inch Loewe direct view monitor and set up the basement as a true home theater with a nice front projector and screen to match it.  Kudos to Faroudja, Krell and Stewart for showing DVD home theater as good as it gets.

 

And In The "Too Cool Not To Mention" Category...

The revitalized Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab has begun issuing multi-channel hybrid CD/SACD discs, two of which were available at the show - a Ravel collection (including "Bolero") performed by the Minnesota Orchestra, and Prokofiev's Ivan the Terrible performed by the St. Louis Symphony.  Plus MoFi is also now offering Ultradisc 24K gold blank CD-Rs for home recording and archiving use!  Featuring a 24K gold reflective layer that is designed to retain its reflective properties longer than standard CD-Rs and the way cool Ultradisc jewel box and packaging, Ultradisc CD-Rs retail for $3 each when purchased individually (appreciably less when purchased in multi-packs, or in spindles without the packaging).  Now amateur musicians, hobbyists and tape-traders can all own their own "Original Master Recordings" and studios and recording engineers can entrust their priceless mixes to a more robust archival medium.

 

MFSL Ultradiscs
Mobile Fidelity displayed their Ultradisc CD-R blank
plus two new hybrid CD/SACD releases.

 

Delphi/XM also had some noteworthy news, with the introduction of the Delphi Roady2 XM  satellite receiver. Approximately the size of a deck of cards, and with a tiny satellite antenna (roughly 4 inches square), the Roady 2 gives new meaning to satellite radio portability.  The Roady2 comes with an integrated FM transmitter and car docking station for instant portability. A home docking station is also available as an option.  All this and a mini stock-ticker too!

 

Delphi/XM Roady2
Delphi/XM Roady2, because sometimes smaller is better.

 

And now, ladies and gentlemen, it's time for my own awards for "Best In Show."  It is important to note that kudos goes out to all exhibitors who make this show a success.  I wouldn't want to try to optimize a system under these conditions, but when a vendor manages to beat the odds and set up a nice looking or excellent sounding system, I feel recognition is in order.  All of the systems mentioned in my report did a good job of displaying their wares (otherwise I wouldn't have mentioned them), but a few stood out from the crowd.  Here are my picks for 2004.

 

Boylan's Best in Show:

Best Two Channel Sound: innersound/Earsnova
(suite 739)
Best Multi-Channel Sound: Sony SACD with Wilson Watt/Puppy
(Murray Hill B)
Best Video: JVC D-ILA projector
(Concourse D)
Best Integrated Home Theater Demo: Faroudja/Krell
(Clinton)
Most Enjoyable Demo Experience: Naim
(suite 606)

 

That's all for now, folks... See you at the next show!

 

Click here to see our main 2004 show page.

 

Click here to see a
complete listing of show exhibitors.

Click here to see our 2003 show coverage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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