Art’s Second Report from CAF

I began the second half of my Friday in the room sponsored by Tone Imports and Connecticut dealer Old Forge Studio, enjoying a mix of the familiar and the unfamiliar. In the former category was the enduringly recommendable PTP Solid 12 turntable (2950 Euros, available direct) from the Netherlands—a cleverly refurbished idler-drive Lenco with a smart Corian plinth—with a Thomas Schick tonearm and an EMT TSD 75 SFL cartridge ($2100), itself driving the EMT-specific version of Auditorium 23's step-up transformer ($2200).

In their first US show appearance in recent memory were electronics by Shindo Laboratory—their line-plus-MM-phono Aurieges preamplifier ($5495) and Montille CV391 power amp ($6995), the latter a variation on the standard Shindo Montille that's designed to use NOS British CV391 beam-power tetrodes, delivering 20Wpc in push-pull architecture. Also from Shindo was their Mr. T isolation transformer/power conditioner ($2200). The support is a double-width rack by Box Furniture, in sapele ($5250).

The loudspeaker in use was one that I've been anxious to hear: Auditorium 23's Hommage 755a ($11,500/pair), designed by Keith Aschenbrenner around Line Magnetic's reissue of the classic Western Electric 755a full-range driver.

What I heard from the title track of Leonard Cohen's valedictory album, You Want it Darker, was an abject lesson in leaving one's prejudices at the door: The sound was wider in frequency range than one might expect from a single 8" driver, and far more dramatic/dynamic than the uninitiated would think possible from a 20W system. But that's just sound, and that's not what held my attention while listening to this system: All I could think of was the strange beauty of the choral arrangement, the meanings of the words, the emotional emotionlessness of the delivery, and every association I have with this artist after more than a half century as a Leonard Cohen fan. I even started to cry a little. Gear that can do that is extraordinary.

Was the experience refreshing or draining? Yes, and in the best ways.

In the room sponsored by the Fulton, Maryland-based dealer Dr. Vinyl, selections from an LP by the the National Symphony Orchestra sounded lovely—warm, liquid, and completely satisfying at the moderate volume levels I prefer—on a system built around the distinctive Larsen 8 loudspeaker ($6995/pair), which I reviewed earlier this year. Also in the system were the Pear Audio Blue Reference mono amp ($6495/pair), Reference preamp ($6495), and Kid Howard turntable with Cornet 2 tonearm ($4995), plus a Bob's Devices Sky CineMag 120 step-up transformer ($1225) and a Hana SL low-output cartridge ($750), plus cabling by EnKlein.

I had a remarkable experience in the listening space put together by High Fidelity Cables—the company, headed by Ric Schultz, that is pioneering the use of magnets as audio-signal conductors. Perhaps the look of the gear added to this experience: loudspeakers that were imposingly large, but in a different manner than most such things—like stage sets obscuring some hidden mechanism, and power cables that looked like James Whale designed them, and some things whose purposes couldn't be guessed. Perhaps the very clever lighting and the scented candles played some role in shaping my reaction. Whatever the peripheral enhancements, the abilities of the system itself were beyond doubt: music emerged from this great bramble of gear like a voice from deep in the woods, and I found the experience very moving. In fact, I left only because I had to make my way to the next exhibit. (The recording I heard was by the duo Angus and Julia Stone.)

The young man who conducted the demonstration didn't have any information on product prices or even model names, but he informed me that every element of this unique system was made or modified by High Fidelity Cables. Special note was made of the company's original power amplifier (the very large piece of gear on the right in the photo above), only a few of which have been manufactured to date.

In the Volti Audio/BorderPatrol/Triode Wire Labs room, I was entertained by a system built around the Volti Rival loudspeakers ($7900/pair and up, depending on finish), the demonstration pair of which so impressed an opening-day customer that he bought them on the spot.

Also in the system were BorderPatrol's DAC SE D/A processor ($1350), used in tandem with a CD transport whose name I didn't catch, and P21EXD power amplifier ($13,500), which uses two 300B triodes per channel in push-pull for 20Wpc. All cabling was by Triode Wire, including their Spirit analog interconnects ($349/1m pair) and Spirit 75 S/PDIF digital cable.

This system charmed me with Madeleine Peyroux's "J'ai deux amours," her voice full-bodied and present, the double bass and twin acoustic guitars put across with very good tone and touch. And when a showgoer brought in his copy of Skip, Hop & Wobble by Jerry Douglas, Edgar Meyer, and the great flatpicker Russ Barenberg (the latter from the '70s band Country Cooking, which also gave the world Tony Trischka and Pete Wernick), and we listened to the fiddle tune "The Big Sciota," I was bowled over by the system's great sense of drive. A darned good way to end my Friday.

COMMENTS
mrkaic's picture

Do you people know that every decent amplifier has a regulated power supply. Good ones,like Micromega M-one, have two, one for each channel.

Read a little about voltage and load regulation and then think about the benefits of power conditioning. What exactly do you get out of them that you don’t already get from built in power regulators?

supamark's picture

Lightning strikes and other severe power spikes/surges - rather give up the power conditioner than my system.

Purpose built (with exceptionally large transformers etc.) are more effective/thorough than what you can fit in a component.

Should also extend the life of the power supplies in your components as they'll see a smoove steady diet of 119V/60Hz. so, yeah.

mrkaic's picture

Surge protectors do what you describe for a tiny fraction of the cost of an audiophile "power conditioner".

But you might be right. Please see some easy questions for you below.

Could you please cite some studies that show that life of power supplies is extended due to the steady diet of nice sine wave power?

By how much is the life extended in this way?

Is it cost effective to buy audio power conditioners? Studies?

Why is it only audiophiles that feel the need for power conditioning and not serious people who might also possess expensive electric equipment?

What are your references in power electronics?

supamark's picture

you can get a very good power conditioner from Furman for well under $1k (several in fact).

The rest of your post is just you being a dipshit troll. Look, we all know that you don't have a clue what you're going on about and are just talking out your ass to gain attention, just give it up already.

mrkaic's picture

Instead of answering the relevant topical questions you are trying to hide your inability for logical thinking and lack of knowledge by spewing insults. I gave you one last chance to prove that you can make a valuable contribution to this forum. You blew it, so I will stop wasting my time on your worthless uneducated posts.

johnnythunder's picture

but your recent appearances in what are very nice, pleasingly written show reports is unwelcome. You're negative, snarky, argumentative, and I wish you'd go back where you've came from. I hope I speak for others. There is a way to disagree without being one of those typical negative audio trolls who simply wants to sh-t on what other people like or what doesn't fit into your narrow idea of what constitutes great audio engineering.

mrkaic's picture

What gives you the preposterous idea that you can tell people to go where they came from? Just who do you think you are? Obviously you are into censorship, that much is obvious.

johnnythunder's picture

and I have every right to call out pretentious a-holes.

mrkaic's picture

Why don't you stop polluting this forum with your hateful irrelevant posts? You obviously don't have a clue about audio, so why are you here?

ChrisS's picture

...inspire reactions of scorn and ridicule.

mrkaic's picture

What inspires such reactions is the inability of some individuals to come up with answers to technical questions.

Just one final thing -- read the posts carefully and you will see that I was always called names first, only for asking questions that people were unable to answer.

ChrisS's picture

...not asking in the right place and of the right people.

You provoke people to respond to you with scorn and ridicule.

You are trolling.

mrkaic's picture

Why would this not be the right place? Why not the right people?

This is a preeminent audio forum and the participants should be bursting with knowledge about engineering, electronics, physics.

ChrisS's picture

...tongue in cheek!

You are trolling.

Baiting and bullying.

ChrisS's picture

...legitimate questions and still be a bully.

ChrisS's picture

johnnythunder's response to you is an honest one.

johnnythunder's picture

in my feelings about the bullying tone of his posts.

ChrisS's picture

...posts throughout this forum, you'll see a pattern.

mrkaic's picture

Your need to seek comfort and validation with like-minded audiophiles is an implicit admission of an ignominious defeat.

ChrisS's picture

Your behavior, shameful.

You invite scorn and ridicule to yourself.

mrkaic's picture

“Great spirits have always encountered opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly.”

ChrisS's picture

People recognize that you are a bully.

ChrisS's picture

...throughout this forum for all to see.

Look at the pattern.

Bait and bully.

ChrisS's picture

Your behavior

Even your quotes

Mark you as a bully.

mrkaic's picture

To translate your lamentations into ordinary English -- it bothers you when I ask questions that you and your pals cannot answer. Instead of saying an honest "I don't know" you and your pals start calling me names.

So, who is the bully here? I would say it is you and your pals, because you mask your insecurities and ignorance with vitriolic personal attacks.

ChrisS's picture

You just told everyone.

People recognize your behavior.

ChrisS's picture

...mark you as a bully.

Look at the pattern.

Cooking Man's picture

I suggest you search “computer power conditioners”and “medical power conditioners”and you will see it is not “only”audiophiles who require clean,stable power.

mrkaic's picture

Can you provide a reference that describes the actual use of such conditioners in hospitals etc?

Cooking Man's picture

I think you’ll find they make products used outside audiophile circles including recording studios and medical facilities. Anyway I choose my audio equipment using the protrusions on each side of my head,not an oscilloscope and research papers.

ChrisS's picture

...for "studies" and other types of information that may or may not exist.

Whether they exist or not makes no difference.

ChrisS's picture

...that uses "hospital grade" power conditioning!

Why ask here?

mrkaic's picture

Because you forum participants know so much, don't you?

ChrisS's picture

...these products?

Then what you are doing here is called trolling.

daviddever's picture

"Why is it only audiophiles that feel the need for power conditioning and not serious people who might also possess expensive electric equipment?"

Can you prove that this assertion, restated as:

"(S)erious people (not audiophiles) who might (also) possess expensive electric equipment (do not) feel the need for power conditioning"

is true?

Is your point that you feel that all power conditioning products (not just the audiophile ones) are overkill? At what threshold, then would an industrial-grade plug-in power conditioner (e.g., http://www.emerson.com/en-us/catalog/automation-solutions/electrical-com...) be appropriate, for ANY expensive electric equipment?

And what about balanced power transformers? Just curious; asking for a friend....

mrkaic's picture

Some serious people (not audiophiles) who possess expensive electric equipment do not feel the need for power conditioning. I know quite a few who (i.e. some people) have expensive computers, medical devices etc. and do not use power conditioning.

As regards power conditioning, a more appropriate term is load and voltage regulation. Your link points to such a device. If you go to my original post, you will see that I specifically emphasize the importance of load and voltage regulation.

Now let me ask you a question --- how much electrical engineering have you studied?

daviddever's picture

For point of reference, at the time I went to university, most ABET-accredited EE programs in the United States offered a power engineering career track as (optional) 300-level coursework–but I imagine that you'd have known that already.

daviddever's picture

Not all power amplifiers have regulated power supplies; of those that do, not all regulation schemes perform equally well. Some of these perform better with external power conditioning products; whether you consider this to be a design failure is up to you to evaluate.

Some power amplifiers lacking voltage regulation do perform quite well (within certain operating parameters), and of these, some actually perform worse when used with audiophile-oriented power conditioners.

Of course, better / worse is subject to interpretation / measurement, etc.

Your initial post makes an assumption that is both opinionated and fundamentally incomplete, which belies a much greater problem of communication (in English, to wit) that, frankly, comes off as didactic rather than instructive.

mrkaic's picture

I consider a modern (let's not discuss historic amps here) power amp without a regulated power supply an abysmal design failure. What about this statement is incomplete?

Since you appear to be very knowledgeable about the subject, you could kindly instruct (no pun intended) this audience by listing some modern power amplifiers that lack regulated power supplies.

jond's picture

..in the Volti/Border Patrol room but I didn't catch which model.

Cooking Man's picture
mrkaic's picture

Now, this is good stuff! Many thanks.

ChrisS's picture

...looked this up yourself.

ChrisS's picture

...purpose here is to troll and bully people into doing things for you.

ChrisS's picture

...is so great that you come here to bait and bully people on this forum.

Shame.

mrkaic's picture

I am here to learn about audio from technically competent individuals and you know that.

ChrisS's picture

...how you bait and bully people on this forum.

What do you learn from reposts of articles from 1991?

We see your pattern.

Shame!

mrkaic's picture

Chris, you are using very harsh language.

You see, I don’t understand your logic. Is there something wrong with learning from older articles? I learnt quite a lot from reading articles from 1905, written by a certain Mr. Einstein. I’m sure you learnt a lot when you read his articles as well.

ChrisS's picture

...logic nor knowledge.

These articles are available to everybody everywhere at any time.

Your purpose here is to bait and bully people.

We see that.

Shame.

mrkaic's picture

We see? Have you adopted the royal we? Did not know that, your highness.

ChrisS's picture

...have responded to you.

With scorn and ridicule.

We.

ChrisS's picture

...prove anything to you, mrkraic.

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