Loudspeaker-wise there seemed to be more than a few tall narrow column speakers consisting of multiple tiny dynamic drivers in a row. One of my crowd reported that his personal demo disc sounded best-of-the-show on such speakers in the MacIntosh room. Also a number of powered speakers, which seem to be having a rebirth – probably due to the proliferation of Class D amp designs, which run really cool and allow mounting the amps safely inside the speaker enclosures. I liked the $8000 Salagar guitar-shaped powered two-way systems.
Tubes galore graced many of the rooms, sometimes greatly reducing the length of time one could be in a room due to the hot, oxygen-starved environment when all bottles were glowing. Prices for high end components continue to have an amazing spread between some very good products at moderate cost and many at stratospheric levels. The former class included some fine two-ways inspired by the classic BBC LS3/5A (The Gini), some very tiny full-rangers for a desktop system (John Blue Audio) and even a tiny tube-powered speaker. The flagship Wilson Audio speaker model is no longer the winner in the pricing sweepstakes: at only $145,000 it is bettered by the Acapella Triolon Excalibur at $170,500 (demonstrated at the Fest) and it is not even the German maker’s top-of-line. That distinction goes to the Sphaeron Excalibur System at $380,700! The Acapella room was decorated extensively with new silver-colored solid-material acoustic panels which looked like they were ripped from the corridors of Starship Gallactica.
Most of us are familiar with the high end hard drive music servers for storing and playing one’s collection as lossless or uncompressed digital audio files – Linn was using their own such system at the show. But a few of the exhibitors were using a new approach that was perhaps the first really revolutionary technique to improve on CD playback since the CD was introduced in 1982. The Nova Memory Player is a complete reevaluation of the playback of CDs. First, it downloads all 98 blocks of data on a standard CD to a solid-state memory (its inventor found hard drives suffer from jitter) while stripping it completely of the standard Reed-Solomon Error Correction Code. Then it retrieves the fragmented audio files in a linear fashion which is said to remove most of the jitter and digital errors. The special software – dubbed RUR (Read Until Right) – rereads the data many times at very high speed until 99% of the discrepancies are corrected. (One exhibitor demonstrated only the Memory Player and a vinyl turntable, saying that he decided not to demo any high end CD or SACD players after comparing them with the Memory Player.)
Another audible breakthru at the show was the first sample xrcd from First Impression Music debuting JVC’s new K2HD Mastering technology, which achieves the closest fidelity to the master recording that has ever been achieved, without any decoding process required on the 44.1K/16-bit stereo xrcds. (Review coming.) [For a complete report – with lots of photos – on this and other audio shows, check out the Official Show Report HERE.]