My favorite sound of the show goes to Ars Aures of Italy, imported by Lee Landesberg of Landes Imports. These speakers have no crossover on their twin 4.5" mid/woofers and a simple 1st-order network on the tweeter. Fit'n'finish and cosmetics are of Ferrari quality, with the lacquers in fact originating from that very factory. The Mini Sensorial [$9,400/pr] is a d'Appolito two-way of 89dB sensitivity, claimed response of 60-30,000Hz and a nominal 4-ohm impedance. Ken Micallef is scheduled to do the review honors. The Midi Sensorial [$19,000/pr] adds an internal 11" band-pass woofer and, hands-down, produced the best bass in the Hilton's 9th and 10th floor rooms. While everyone with less than stellar bass blamed the room for boom and lack of articulation, these gents remained mum, with designer Maurizio's halting English the perfectly gentlemain excuse to instead smile mysteriously as to why this room lacked boom and blur altogether.

The indefatigable Joe Fratus of Art Audio provided valved push-pull electronics by way of his Adagio and Quartet monos respectively, the latter finished in the same royal Ferrari blue as the speakers [Fratus & Landesberg above].

Besides looking like a million buckaroo banzais, this room -- fronted by a Yamaha hard-disk server -- had it all: Dynamics and full-range splendor demonstrated via the Wilhelm Tell Overture; a unique combination of ethereal float and well-grounded heft; and an overall mien that can only be described as ravishing, elegant and sensual. When the Midi Sensorial becomes available, I'll do the review honors. Life's tuff sometimes...

Gill Audio's new Alana replaces the motor-driven pot with a digital numerical display while KR Audio's mighty T100 triodes graced Fratus' high-power Adagio, with the speakers' designer looking on pleased that high voltages aren't part of his professional liabilities.

My next-favorite room was hosted by HighWater Sound, the importer for Hørning and now DaVinci and Tron, the latter replacing the previous Kondo electronics which this distributor fancied for past demos. Besides introducing Graham Tricker's valved electronics to our shores, Jeffrey Catalano added the DaVinci tone arm and Sound Engineering's SE-1 turntable from Nashville to his stew of musical goodies. The SE-1 [$5,495] features brass and hardwood components, a high-mass platter, isolated DC motor assembly and tone arm pod, inside and outside record weights and an optional fly wheel assembly [$500 surcharge]. The DaVinci tone arm adds $5,000 while a second tone arm pod and arm board assembly weigh in at $775, a custom-designed Silent Running Audio isolation platform at $1,150 and a custom DC motor umbilical at $299. The Outsider record weight rim is $495 in stainless steel and $535 in brass while the Insider record weight is $249 in stainless and $269 in brass.

The medium-sized Hørning Perikles proved the perfect fit for the room and performed far better than last year's bigger Agathon. Meanwhile, the Tron Syren preamp and Cantata 300B monos put more meat and body on the proceedings than Kondo's somewhat otherworldly and disembodied sound of 2004.

The DaVinci tone arm had our own Jules Coleman aflutter while vinyl heathen yours truly appreciated the sound and Swiss manufacture but otherwise felt completely ignorant about what to think or how to put things into context. It's something I leave to our tribal elders to sort out and report on.

Did the vinyl here sound better than the 47lab digital? You bet - but I'm still a digital dude so I'll have to settle for second best. Most exciting new loudspeaker introduction in the dear reaches of the show? Gershman Acoustics' new $30K+ Black Swan three-way. It combines a 2-way in a tent-like super structure with a completely separate bass enclosure that not only affords sonic isolation but also provides for time alignment.

The 48" tall Black Swan [upper right with Eli & Ofra Gershman] supersedes the previous Opera Sauvage flagship whose ovoid shape with the flat baffle -- the giant egg -- had drawn mixed responses from the audiophile public. The new model continues the fabulous appearance of the firm's AvantGarde and Gap models and in the spirit of makeover, the entry-level Cameleon floorstander accompanies the Opera Sauvage into discontinued oblivion. Powered by Victor Sima's Linar electronics [review of his stereo amp forthcoming in due time], this room had the usual Gershman sound: warm and ballsy and thus fit for day-long listening sessions. Viva la swan noir.