VBT was finally awarded the long overdue patent for its radial transmission-line/reflex bass loading scheme which leaves former designer Jan Plummer and his offshoot company TBI the "unofficial" version of this very potent recipe for well-damped, fast bass. Those who have followed my reviews of these unique subwoofers will remember that I had bowed out of further reviews until the legalities of this internal parting of the ways had been sorted out. Virtual Bass Technologies' Martin Hogg explained that his new design/engineering team has already expanded
the previous line while "making substantial improvements to our original Magellan VI & VIII units which now demonstrate a marked increase in sensitivity. Port noise has been eliminated and our new custom cast-aluminum, coated paper cone drivers have overcome previous performance limitations."

The product range now stands as follows: VBT Mag VI [single 6"| $650]; VBT Mag VIII [single 8"| $1,300]; VBT 280 [2 x 8"| $2500]; VBT 480 [4 x 8" | $5,000]; VBT 200 [200w amp module | $450]; VBT 300 [300w component-style amp | projected $1,000, design work to be completed and in production by September 2004]. All models are now available in customized finishes. In addition, both in-wall and in-floor units are under development using the patented VARTL technology. The king of the range is the previously mentioned 8 x 15" VBT 815 affectionally nicknamed Big Bugga [$20,000]. The VBT website is under full reconstruction but should reflect the new models with pricing and specs in a few weeks. Make no mistake, this bears serious watching. Count on 6moons to keep you informed.

Using a 5-track 7-minute programmed demo, Von Schweikert's $3,995/pr VR4Jr was fed from VAC's new $19,000 Phi-Beta integrated amplifier fronted by the full-suspension Oracle CD player. With this type of front-end and luxo amplification, you'd expect top performance, and indeed, the petite Juniors delivered, leaving the crowd during my sonic sampling scratching their heads. While previous industry features questioned Albert's creative applications of engineering terms in his marketing propaganda, we've never commented upon the actual performance of his products surrounded as they are by enthusiastic claims and sassy verbiage. While temperaments may converge about these matters, in the end the sonic performance is what matters. And here the VR4Jr must be considered a contender. Perhaps Von Schweikert will overlook our past verbal fencing and dispatch one of these two-box speakers to one of our fellas? Jeff Parks' Southern Cali digs might make such a proposition appealing. It'd allow the designer to set up his creations and rest comfortable that they perform as intended in a formal review context. Care to tango, Herr Von Schweikert?

Lloyd Walker and partner Fred Law had their $27,000 Walker Audio Proscenium Gold turntable in two adjacent rooms hosted by GTT Audio & Video. Curiously, the 'smaller' room around the Kharma 3.2FE [$21,000/pr] and matching Ceramique subwoofer [$7,000] sounded even better than the one using the Kharma Midi Exquisite-DE $75,000 monsters with the Diamond tweeter driven by the new Lamm ML2.1 SET monos [$29,290/pr]. The 'lesser' system used the Lamm M1.2 Reference amps [$19,690/pr]. Cabling was by Kubala-Sosna in the former room, Kharma Enigma in the latter.

Quoting from Scull Communication's press release, "the Lamm Industries' ML2.1 is a full-scale update of the ML2. The new amplifier features important upgrades and modifications, including upgraded power transformer to accommodate 100-230V mains operation; a modified output transformer; upgraded key parts and materials now available in the global marketplace (military-grade low-noise Dale metal film resistors; Electrocube and Roederstein film capacitors; high-frequency switching-grade Cornell Dubilier and United Chemi-Con electrolytic capacitors; Hammond chokes; gold-plated Neutrik XLR connectors; military grade low-noise long life vacuum tubes); upgraded pc-board material of the highest available quality; an additional pair of handles on the rear; and heavy-duty speaker binding posts. The ML2.1 is a single-ended amplifier representing a new generation of high-current, low-impedance 6C33C triode power vacuum tubes in both the output and voltage regulation stages. These big triodes allow an output transformer with a very low turns ratio for extended frequencies and dramatically reduced leakage inductance."

Both systems employed Gingko Audio Cloud 10 platforms. The difference that could have contributed to my preference? The less expensive room used the Walker Audio Reference phono stage [$12,500] hard-wired to the table, the other one the $6,990 Lamm LP2 Deluxe phono stage. I suspect the Walker phono amp is superior. Sitting at the very source, this could have turned the tables in its favor despite the heavier downstream artillery employed next door.

Upon entering room 641, I overheard Lloyd explaining his vinyl front-end to a questioning visitor. I rudely delivered a "stop showing off you asshole" loud enough for everyone in the room to turn their heads. Lloyd whipped around, recognized yours truly and broke out into a huge grin. He plays hard but takes them with equal aplomb directly on the chin - and of course he knew it was in good-natured jest. In the corridor, I caught up with him and Amadeo Schembri of Viva Audio. Lloyd and wife Felicia are planning an extended motorcycle trip this summer, from their native Pennsylvania to the West Coast. My old bike Jones flared up. If we can synchronize our schedules (I'll have my people talk to his people), I may just have to rent an Enduro beemer and join the two for a few days of burning rubber and feasting on bugs and exhaust fumes. Back to audio - Lamm/ Kharma is one of those repeatable recipes that always makes good sound regardless of which show you encounter it at. Elina
expressed an interest in working with us so perhaps a Lamm review will soon appear in these pages. I asked Lloyd to forward Jeff Day's interest in a review loaner of the Viva 300B integrated for his Avantgarde Duos to his pal Amadeo. He promised to make it happen. After his exploration of micro-power SETs, Jeff's ready to embrace real power of the 18-35wpc variety to see how it affects playback in his crib - and having shown with Viva and Avantgarde in the past, Lloyd vouched that the high-voltage Viva wouldn't exhibit any noise issues.

This now concludes my report. Simply, the Damoka system of Lamm ML2.1s, Lamm L2 Reference line stage, Lamm LP2 phono stage, American Sound EMT 927 table with SME 3012-R arm and Siemens Bionor Klangfilm or Tannoy Autograph Pro speakers, as stated much earlier, made by far the Best Sound of Show in the huge downstairs Concourse A exhibit. Contrary to my earlier descriptions and amongst its modern accoutrements, this system also housed Weiss Medea DACs and Cardas cables - but everything else was antique; er, classic or vintage stuff. And David Karmeli actually sold the Tannoys to one lucky showgoer. Should one assume he was Japanese? It seems that our audio friends in the Land of the Rising Sun are particularly appreciative of past design successes and less apt to fall for newness just for newness' sake.

Returning to Taos, 117 e-mails, 15 phone messages and my darling wife Ivette, she proudly displayed her first-ever non-run stretch Nylon doll face [right] without completed body yet. Ivette's made dolls from fired Sculpy for a while but attended a doll maker's workshop in Santa Fe while I did New York. Her benevolent but mischievous leprechaun with the big ears seemed like a perfect exit note: To enjoy your obsession and fascination with audio only requires two things - big ears hard-wired to your heart and plenty of creativity/curiosity. With those weapons, you'll remain a mensch rather than turning into a dweeb and those whom you meet will not only recognize true passion when they see it but relate to it as both a lifestyle and art form. Because assembling a truly satisfying music system is an art form; and the real fun in this hobby is meeting the many wonderful people that make up its rank and file. Cheers to everyone I met in NYC - you are this industry. Some chord to go out on, wouldn't you agree?

PS: According to our own Count Turoczi, the mystery hornspeakers were the French 100dB-efficient Prame HR-2 apparently marketed by HiFiAVSupplies though their current website doesn't show them nor list any further information. However, a quick google search located a French page that adds certain details.