47Laboratory's Shigaraki system with Konus Audio Essence speakers was one of three single-driver demos (the others being Cain & Cain and Rhethm) that made music in a very non-audiophile but palpably organic, fun, consider-the-lilies-in-the-field fashion of carefree enjoyment. Do you assume -- as did I, shame on me -- that a 4-inch Jordan driver by its lonesome couldn't do very respectable bass? Think again. I admit such a statement smacks of nonchalance or calcified hearing. But, the sound here was weighty, properly scaled and anchored. It never had me wishing for more - even with Techno-type fare.

And guess what? After half-a-year's wait past my original interview with Sead Lejlic of Konus Audio, the entire show system is being shipped to yours truly as we speak. Can't wait. There's a story waiting to be told, about a very different take on audio. This will fly right past some folks like a bat on acid in the night. You either get this presentation or not. I ran into people at the show that had been to this room. They didn't get it. That's cool. I don't get certain things either. It's what makes audio go 'round and 'round.

This room, by the way, also happened to be one of two non-oversampling, nada-digital-filter front-end approaches (see Zanden Audio for the other) that exhibited this non-pasteurized, non-homogenized, "enzyme-rich" sound. How to explain it? By comparison, other CD playback may appear as though pieced together of thousands upon thousands of tiny little elements like a constituency. This presentation was of one piece, ruler and ruled one and the same. It had an admirable quality of natural breath. Ease. To the point. Sounds esoteric? Truly, your ears/heart perceive it as a very down-to-earth thing. But - these weren't the only rooms that had it. As usual in audio, it's not so much what religion you subscribe to, what technical trickery you pander. It's about whether you know how to make your personal hotline to the aural deities ring where it matters - in the real world of performance in your living room. To hell with the upper ethers of ideals and fancy explanations. Give me the raw meat of feelings any day, here & now!

Japanese luxury maker Airtight collaborated with Odeon to introduce these massive 300w tube amps sitting tall between the Odeon No. 26 ($16,000/pr) modular three-way with spherical wooden horns here finished in a custom lacquer.

By the time I popped into this room, I was quite in a rush and neglected to find out specifics on the amps except to see that the amps' bottom sections are pure power supply. Raw window shopping on this picture only, sorry.

DeHavilland was showing with Alon by Acarian's open-backed Lotus SE Signature three-way speakers with dual 8-inch woofers each in their own sealed subenclosure while the mid- and high-frequency units are derived from the firm's Grand Reference.

Art Audio's high-power Adagio monoblocks (from $18,000/pr) offer 44/60 watts of single-ended zero-feedback muscle depending on whether outfitted with the KR 52BX (or, optionally, the new EAT Euro Audio Team 52B for yet better dynamics and superior S/N ratio) or the 60-watt capable KR T-100. They were showcased in the
Eggleston Works room. Having heard speakers by that company on numerous occasions now, I can't say that they ever roll up my sleeves, curl my hairs or raise any goosebumps. However, they seem to enjoy special favor with many high-profile recording studios. Maybe that's why we don't exactly see eye to eye in bed? Too clinical? I would have loved to hear these amps with, say, Verity Audio Parsifals?

After my disappoinment when Antique Sound Lab's KT-88-based MG15 SI DT integrated didn't cotton onto the wicked impedance of my AKG K-1000 headphones, I'm happy to report that their new TwinHead-2 ($1,600) headphone amp/preamp drives them beautifully, apparently delivering the requisite control voltage despite its counter-intuitively low power for this application. It's a 2A3 direct-heated design with dual-mono valved power supplies and OTL and transformer-coupled outputs and even sports a direct input for the K's 4-pin socket. Ditto for a forthcoming model dubbed MG 32.

Importer Tash Goka's speaker setup with his Reference 3A Virtuoso 2-ways and ASL AQ1010 DTI 18wpc parallel 300-B SET integrated ($2,199, above, with dual tube-regulated and choke-filtered power supplies) was easy on the wallet and even easier on the ears, impressing me far more than many hi-falutin' trophy audio rigs. Add that Tash played real music and not audiophile-approved dreck and you see why I liked this room. This particular amp from the ASL lineup is his personal favorite with the Reference 3A speaker. I can appreciate why. Tash also didn't attempt to do more than this space could support. There is merit in moderation, what the Buddha called The MiddleWay. Give me a superior two-way any day of the week before assaulting me with ill-integrated full-range fire and brimstone.

The Audes Orpheus speakers ($4,699) from their reference line are 97dB efficient dynamic 3-way designs with side-firing woofers driven here by their $3,999/pr NS1.0 twin EL-34 6-watt Class A, push-pull monoblocks. Good sound, good price, good looks. The amps sport two inputs and a passive attenuator for direct-drive duties.

Audio Aero's new Prestige AV Player (pricing TBA) joins Bel Canto Design's and MSB's latest entries into the universal platform players. With Anagram's 32-bit, 192kHz re-sampling STARS process, subminiature output stage and analog-domain attenuators for the front left/right channels, this player supports multi-channel SACD and 24/96 DVD. It also does CD/CD-R/CD-RW/CDV but makes no mention of DVD-A. Perhaps it's not entirely universal? The ugly Klingons remain outside the confederation for now if they attempt to beam in by way of France.

Audio Analogue introduced their Cinecitta Pre-Pro (pricing TBA as well). It flaunted their usual impeccable construction details. The matching remote-controlled Cherubini tuner (($1,095) rounds out the present line which, since CEDIA in September, also includes the Cinecitta 6CH 6x150 multi-channel amplifier at $5,995. In a way, something in my gut wrenches watching small two-channel-focussed companies embrace the considerable commitment required to enter the surround-sound jungle. With all the licensing fees for Dolby and DTS alone, how many sales for expensive, relatively invisible High-End specialty home theater products could exist to justify this -- apparently inevitable -- move?