I wandered into
the Oracle Audio room hoping to see something new on
the analog front. Nadda. What caught my eye instead was
Oracle's new silver coffee table. Oh, that's an integrated
amplifier? What's with the legs, and why is it the size of a
Buick? Jacques Riendeau , the brilliant mind behind Oracle's
Delphi turntable, seems to have created a monster in the 1.5si
integrated amplifier. Most audiophiles I know buy integrated
devices to save space and money. The 1.5si fails on both
counts. Dimensions? How about a mammoth 19" x 10" x
20.5" (W x H x D). Coupled with a rack-busting 100 pound
weight, this dual mono, zero feedback, solid-state behemoth,
offering 150 Watts of power into 8 Ohms and 300 into 4, might
be a tough sell. Oh yeah, the price: a mere $10,000.
Definitely for the "what were they thinking?" files.
I was fortunate enough to hear two
stunning demos in Vegas. The first was in the claustrophobic
quarters housing Herron Audio. Somehow, Keith Herron
managed to cram an Immedia RPM-1 turntable (fitted with RPM
tonearm and Lyra Clavis D.C. phono cartridge), Herron Audio
VTSP-1/VTPH-1 linestage/phono stage, Herron Audio's new M150
solid-state monoblock power amplifiers ($5300), Audio Physic
Virgo loudspeakers ($5645/pair), and an Audio Physic Luna
subwoofer ($2995) into this munchkin-sized space. Equally
amazing was the fact that he managed to make it sound so good.
Even in a less-than-ideal seat, the sound was effortless,
expansive and exceptionally musical. A real treat. Equally
enjoyable was the Avantgarde Acoustic room (hosted by
the affable Jim Smith of Avantgarde-USA), which afforded me my
first listen to the stunning Duo Series 2 horn loudspeaker.
Driven by all BAT components, the Duos sounded
glorious, and far less colored than any other speaker I've
heard employing horn-loaded drivers. The sound of massed
choral voices was particularly sumptuous, the speaker
conjuring an eerie apparition of the original event. A true
achievement. Not to be missed.
The Golden Turd
award must certainly go to Martin-Logan's demo of the
much-anticipated Prodigy hybrid electrostatic loudspeaker
had a large suite at its disposal, and a long line of ESL
enthusiasts waiting patiently to be ushered in to hear the
scripted demo. Unfortunately, the demo sucked. Having heard
great things from the company's Aerius, SL-3, and ReQuest
models, I can only blame the choice of demo material and,
perhaps, the associated Theta/Krell ancillaries. The first
piece played was a remastered version of The Beatles' Yellow
Submarine on DVD. This was an unfortunate choice, as the
sound was sub-par to say the least, with a hollow midrange and
an edgy top end. The whole thing sounded oddly synthetic too.
Next! The second piece was the most dreadful rendition of The
Police's Walking on the Moon I've ever heard, played
by a forgettable jazz trio whose obscurity is well deserved.
The sound, which the presenter advertised as "audiophile
grade", was equally disappointing. As my wife and I
looked at each other incredulously, the demo was over and we
were ushered out. I look forward to hearing the Prodigy under
better circumstances. The speaker was, in my opinion, done a
serious injustice by Martin Logan's misguided marketeers.
The Much Ado
About Nothing award goes to Sony's demo of the
much-ballyhooed SACD format and SCD-1 player. Having read the
gushing praise heaped on the new format by many industry
pundits, I was expecting to be knocked off my feet. I'm still
standing. Even with a gaggle of computers crunching the bits
and pieces, the two-channel Miles Davis Kind of Blue
demo left me cold. Sure, it was smooth, and inoffensive, but
Jimmy Cobb's cymbals sounded muted and rolled-off and Bill
Evans' piano lacked presence. Don't sell your six-eye
pressings just yet. The multi-channel demo sounded pleasant
enough - again, smooth and warm, but something was missing.
The music was lifeless and dull. I felt nothing. If this is
the future, stop the world, I want to get off. If you're
looking for a high-resolution, analog-like format that won't
be outdated by the time you read this, has a shit-load of
supporting software, and is capable of providing a stunningly
realistic view into the musical event, then look no further.
It's called the LP. Get over it.