KIH #63. Dynamically challenged? Being referred to as dynamic speakers makes the breed distinct from planars like classic MartinLogan, Quad and Magnepan. Following nomen est omen, one might conclude that dynamics would be a dynamic speaker’s greatest forté. But speaker designer Pat McGinty of Meadowlark explains why they’re more challenged than you might think.

Nepotism

…the practice among those with power or influence of favouring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs…

Because I worked as Pat McGinty’s national sales manager before I began my reviewing career, you might suspect some form of nepo behind today’s showcase feature. But the only tie-in there would be his Irish-sounding family name and our now living in Eire – tenuous at best. The real reason I felt like writing about him now is actually a seeming disconnect between Meadowlark v1 and v2. A break if you will.

Six moons, six publisher’s picks for the year. As an elevator pitch, it had a ring to it. Not having an elevator meant right back down to earth, in this case my main review system. As it turned out, there had been six hardware additions/changes I made this year which since became a regular part of my tool kit. Aside from enjoying them like any other audiophile would his/her new toys, they’re also most useful and practical in my work. The better or more varied my tools, the more detailed the findings become which can only make them more relevant to the readers. Being year’s end where we customarily look back to give thanks, this Sixes Feature was the perfect opportunity to acknowledge these makers for their contributions to my work going forward…

There are many kinds of audio shows. On one end there’s a dealer renting a suitable location like a small castle, a clubhouse on a golf course or other venue that by itself already makes the journey attractive. Distributors often have somewhat larger budgets to organize an event for their dealers across a few hotel rooms. Then come the big commercial shows run by companies or organizations which make their living from shows. Now exhibitors have to dig deep into their pockets as exhibit space gets costly but the organizer’s name and fame attract many visitors. These visitors could be exclusively trade, just consumers or a mix of the two. Entrance fees are mostly fair since the exhibitors cough up the bulk of the costs plus then some…

Living in style. The two young designers of Deeptime Ltd. from the Czech Republic believe in it. They also believe in organic shapes and exploiting hi-tech 3D printing to build their 3-piece speaker system from the most ubiquitous material on the planet: sand. The 87dB passive Spirula speaker fits a 3″ bamboo-fibre widebander into an inert sealed enclosure for 75Hz-20kHz bandwidth. Like Vivid’s tapered absorbers, the continuously narrowing always round Spirula cabinet spirals down upon itself to a point. Three metal cones deal with gravity…

Moscow 2018. Once again—the way it had been 7 years ago—Moscow’s Hi-End Show became the main cultural event of this year’s fall in the Russian capital. For three days in November (11th to 14th) , the Moscow Holiday Inn Tagansky hosted the MHES® show. Among its exhibits were premium systems and components. Home cinemas and ‘smart home’ systems were conspicuously absent. Unusual novelties and thoroughly thought-out solutions, famous brands and ingenious designs bearing less-known names (and sometimes none at all, being just prototypes), abundant albums of mostly vinyl and reel-to-reel tape, a relaxed atmosphere, active involvement of visitors, their keen interest and communications, excellent sound quality and lots of music — that’s what MHES 2018 was all about.

Slovenia. Finland. Today’s two speakers come from very different parts of the world. Just so, their designers worked in some kind of sync considering. What are we considering, you ask? Dipole line-source radiation. Skinny sound beam atop big woofer cabinet.

Petite but potent. Today, we look at three compact speakers which all sound a lot bigger, go lower and do it louder than they look: the Boenicke Audio W5, the soundkaos Vox 3 and the Gravelli Bespoke Audio Virtuoso. The first two are from the land of not milk and honey but chocolate, cheese, watches and banking. The last one is from Czechia. That’s also one of the last bastions of boutique Western tube manufacture. Think KR Audio, Emission Labs and EAT. And now Gravelli.

There are many ways to execute speaker design. Today we look at two speakers which to my mind offer unusually attractive solutions to mend the often contradictory hopes of marrying compact size, 20Hz bandwidth and high undistorted SPL. Should your notions on the ideal house-trained speaker add the narrow-most baffle for the smallest visual impact and about 1 metre of height to not obscure your views out the window – cast your eyes at Æquo’s Stilla from Holland; and Sottovoce’s Stereo 3 from Spain.

Show reports. Looking around, it seems that journalists who attend hifi shows feel obligated to produce some type of report afterwards. Having done many of those over the years myself, I’ve given this topic some thought of late. Now things no longer add up. Here’s my knock-out 1-2-3 combo as to why.

Belgrade, November 16-17th. Largely unknown to wider European audiences, the Belgrade Hi-Files Show hosted by the eponymous Serbian A/V magazine is the most resilient showcase of hifi and home cinema in the Adriatic region. The 15th edition at the Holiday Inn saw an unprecedented number of exhibitors, amongst them established brands and the lively landscape of regional designers and small manufacturers.

When 6moons launched in June 2002 built in Adobe GoLive, I didn’t foresee that by 2018, market analysts would state that more than 60% of all web traffic now originated on mobile devices. Back in 2002, a website 700 pixels wide was quite standard. It accommodated all then current sizes of laptop displays and PC monitors. As displays began to grow whilst pricing for big screens dropped, I scaled up our site width to 1200 pixels across. This made for a bigger visual footprint with less lateral dead space. Somewhere in there, I also transitioned to Adobe DreamWeaver. Not that readers would have noticed that behind-the-scenes bit. What those who eventually insisted on reading 6moons on a smartphone did notice was its static nature. The layout wouldn’t adapt to their far smaller displays. It would require a major makeover of the site’s software platform to evolve from static to dynamic behaviour…

It was back to the Park Lane Hotel for the Chester Group’s New York Audio Show 2018. Hot on the heels of the Capitol Audio Fest, it was not surprising that the number of exhibitors was well down. Still, for those of us north of NYC, it is a much more convenient show to attend. Fellow Connecticut Audio Society members Jay and Dean accompanied me again. Because show reports that play endless litany of who was there are boring, I focus here not just on rooms that stood out for sound quality but also for other aspects I found interesting. In other words, there’s nothing whatsoever egalitarian about my brief report. Steve plays favourites instead…

Growing a set. There are, as Allen C. Guelzo quotes Gunther Schuller in his article on conductor Arturo Toscanini, “seven kinds of hearing: for harmony, intonation, dynamics, color, rhythm, balance and the architecture of a composition. Good orchestra leaders will have two or three of these ‘ears’; a great conductor will have four or five. Toscanini had all seven and even those who cursed his arrogance had to admit that they had never performed under a director who could get them to play so far above their own expectations.” When audiophiles discuss sound, they often assume that everyone hears as they do. That’s not the case. If we take the above quote as a starting point, we might translate “architecture of a composition” as a listener being keyed into music’s structural elements. This includes how the elements of melody, harmony, rhythm and timing interweave, how they create tension, release, transitions and peaks and what instruments/voices perform them…

Friday’s opening of the Toronto Audio Fest 2018 marked an auspicious beginning for a re-emergence of a dedicated audio show in the GTA. Though quite successful in its own right, the move to a broader show CES style had drawn mixed reactions from the hardcore audiophile contingent over the past few years who would have preferred an exclusive audio venue. Organizers of the Montreal Audio Fest Michel Plante, Sarah Tremblay and Benjamin Scarcelli heard that murmur of discontent and decided to bring their style show to the Toronto area. And so on October 19th, the Toronto Audio Fest opened its first exhibition at the Westin Toronto Airport Hotel…

Spain. Flamenco and Gaudi. Tapas and sherry. The Alhambra and Jerez de la Frontera. Artesania Audio and Artesania Audio. Dedicated to high-performance racks which at international hifi shows appear in large numbers of ambitious exhibits and have graced our own listening room since their review, this company in Barbastro do things differently. To learn how, Srajan & Ivette will take the short flight from Dublin to Barcelona in early October. This follows up a longstanding invite by Mr. Castellano now timed to coincide with their release of a new and very different-looking line of equipment supports. This was first previewed at this year’s Munich show in the alternate Hifi Deluxe venue with fellow Spaniards Kroma Audio of Granada loudspeaker fame and covered in our report on the show…

X-rated Fi? – September 22 and 23 was when the Dutch XFI Premium Audio Show opened its doors to the public. The Koningshof in Veldhoven near Eindhoven is conveniently located not just for Dutch visitors but also audio enthusiasts from nearby Germany and Belgium. More than 60 rooms showcased hundreds of brands from big names to innovative newcomers, among those many originating from The Netherlands. That XFI in its 8 years of existence has become the show in the low lands is due to the amount of product premieres. Examples this year were Metrum’s new baby DAC, a brand-new speaker by B&W and one by Klipsch. Next to speakers very big and small there was ample room reserved for the other way of listening: the headphone. A dedicated Headspace showcased a plethora of brands. Also this year the tradition of listening to live music continued and on every show day there were two concerts. For those who still are or just recently got into vinyl, there was be plenty on offer too. A so-called Vinyl Route led the followers along the many exhibits of turntables and associated gear. Of course there were also  various options to acquire music on vinyl. Senior contributors Marja & Henk toured the event to provide a report for those who could not attend.

RIPRest in peace. That’s what many have said or thought about CD already years ago. My recent encounter with the Jay’s Audio CDT2 MkII looked at this reality in perspective; another RIP. Yes, sales of physical CD are down; way down. But the Redbook standard behind them which etched those well-known 16-bit/44.1kHz values in stone remains in place for 99.9999% of all available music. Not only is CD resolution very much alive, it is the de facto status quo. Virtual CD as the .flac, .wav, .alac and .aiff files people listen to are today’s dematerialized silver discs. Same thing, different packaging…

When TAVES began in 2011, it was a courageous leap of faith on the part of its organizers and exhibitors. Toronto had not hosted an audio show in in at least a decade. But the resounding success of TAVES put Toronto back on the map as a HighEnd audio destination. That built the foundation for another 6 years of consumer exhibitions. Venue location migrated from the first outings at the King Edward Hotel, remaining downtown over several years at the Sheraton Centre before moving to outskirt locations at the Sheraton Centre Parkway, and finally the Toronto Congress Centre. As the show evolved…

In your strange bed, you feel like crap. That’s because the bed is in a sterile hospital room, lights biting in bright staccato neon. Just now the doctor saunters in. He is swarmed by a group of interns. A curt nod acknowledges your existence. Then he turns to the flushed acolytes. They begin discussing you in shiny but incomprehensible words of an alien language. The ‘you’ they fumble to analyse is clearly just this blob of aching flesh. Apparently, something with its neural wiring has malfunctioned. As they dissect possible cause to propose various diagnosis, the living breathing feeling ‘you’ recedes into a faraway distance. Whatever lights inside you had flickered before they walked in have now nearly gone out. You’ve already lost touch with yourself. You recede into nothing but a case file for budding medical intellects. The doctor even leaves scribbles to that effect on the clipboard at your feet. It adds further insult to the injury of that gaping hospital gown. As the animated groupies begin to drift out around their white head guppy, your feeling like crap begins to steam like a compost heap. But nobody notices. They’ve left already. Disconnect be damned. Time to check yourself out. Voilà, the usual audio review.

The devil’s vocabulary? That really was the header of a reader email. The contents were even more sulfuric. “A side thought on the FirstWatt SIT-3. I’ve been reading your reviews since you used wood, water etc. similes which I found helpful if a bit twee even back in the day. These last few years you’ve been refining your descriptive vocabulary to the point where it’s actually expressive of the correlations between sounds and words, e.g. the legato/staccato dichotomy and the attendant equivalents you employ in the latest SIT review. I wonder, could you pen a brief KIH listing the words you use to describe the things you hear? It would make amateur reviewing a whole lot more effective than drivelling on about Alpine morns, wine bouquets and the like.”…

Fielding it near, far or mid. Near, far or mid? That’s today’s question. On a recording/mastering console where our music is made, the studio monitor speakers tend to sit at less than 2.5 metres from the listener. Often they sit as near as 1 metre right behind the console.  In the home, 2.5 metres is where things tend to start. They can easily double if our rooms are big. And most audiophiles in fact dream of a big dedicated room as their ideal. From it arise obvious consequences. Sound pressure levels fall off by 6dB with every doubling of distance.  If instead of 1 metre you sit 4 metres away from your speakers, they need to play 12dB higher to sound as loud. That consumes both more power and generates higher distortion, either from the amp, the speakers or both…

M-unique? Another Munich show, here are common observations again which next year might help certain exhibitors. In no particular sequence, here goes:

1/ missing wo/man syndrome. This is in effect when a room with no inside or outside provisions for a sit-down has one or two exhibitors looked inside. Visitors with questions need to either be crass rudniks and talk right above folks who listen to music (unless the room is empty at the time); or somehow compel one of the exhibitors to step outside. Actually, there’s no need for two inside space-manners. Whoever is the iPad DJ has full control over the music and basic people interactions. The one with all the answers to all the questions should stand outside and be clearly identified as being with the company. A show badge alone can be invisible if said person is already engaged in a chat…

M-uniquipality. Nothing new under the hifi sun. Old wine in fancy new goblets. Take your pick. The feeling could be familiar; mutual even. But for HighEnd Munich 2018, it wasn’t entirely accurate. True, it took some digging to deflate but there were signs of true novelty I stumbled across without any plan. And let’s assume that I missed a lot. Let’s start with loudspeaker transducers. We’ve seen omnipolar tweeters before. Think Gallo’s CDT III, mbl’s Radialstrahler, Elac’s 4pi ribbon. There simply aren’t many which counteract the beaming so typical with conventional dynamic tweeters of the 1” dome sort.

The M.O.C. & Marriott had some…