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ModWright, Daedalus Audio: ModWright is another room which seems to have good sound every year. A ModWright tube-modified Oppo BDP-95 was featured on the top of the rack. Other components in play were the ModWright KWI 200 integrated amp driving the Daedalus Athena speakers. The sound was nicely balanced and quite impressive for a relatively budget-oriented system.

Veloce, YG Acoustics, Kubala Sosna: The YG Acoustics Carmel and Kipod speakers were used in a lot of rooms.  As I mentioned before, I feel they need some warming up with proper selection of associated electronics. At the same time one has to be careful to preserve their high resolution.  Here was a perfect example of how to do it right using the Kipod II Signature speakers ($49.000/pr). The Veloce line stage ($18.000) and Veloce V-6 mono amps ($15.000) use tubes for gain right to the output stage of the amp which is solid state. The Veloce electronics are lithium battery-powered for the critical circuitry, giving the sound a very clean and quiet background. The YG speakers thrived on this combination and I feel that they put forth their best in this room.

Emerald Physics, Peachtree Audio, Sumiko, Wyred4Sound, Jolida: Here was another of the few rooms demonstrating how good a modest system can sound. I was told that the entire cost of the system we listened to came in under $5.000.  Point well made! I found the demo quite convincing.

Audioquest: A number of excellent cable demonstrations were carried out in this room, the complexity of which are too much to explain.  Suffice to say that Audioquest made a convincing sonic argument for a number of their cable products, as well as their silly-looking Q feet under the hard drive (the most difficult to believe but it was audible).

Bogdan Audio Creations, Densen Audio, Trueharmonix: Bogdan speaker designs started out as one man’s passion to build his own. Bogdan Petrescu has been building his own speakers for the past twenty-five years and taken his creations to DIY speaker competitions and won. He has two models, the flagship Petra and the Catalina two-way monitor. Both were demonstrated but the larger Petra really needs a much bigger space to deliver its goods. Our own Glen Wagenknecht reviewed the Catalina and had high praise for them.  I skimmed over his review and think he assessed their strengths very well.  This is a fine speaker of the highest order in the two-way monitor category.

Daedalus Audio, First Sound, Avatar Acoustics, ModWright, Bolder Cable, Linkz Design: Speaker designer Lou Hinkley had his Daedalus Ulysses speakers maxed out in this large room with two partnering Bow subwoofers. Associated equipment was the First Sound preamp, AMR CD77 CD player, ModWright KWA 150 SE amp and Bolder speaker cables. I had a lot of fun with the music selections in this room as Lou had a varied selection on his hard drive. I noted that the choral work being played when I walked in was warm and detailed with tremendous soundstage width and depth even though it was playing at low volume. Lou indulged me and even played some old New Riders of the Purple Sage. It was refreshing! Allison Kraus’s voice can test a system as it can sound pinched and unpleasant. Not here! I heard her in a number of rooms and she sounded best here. This is straight-ahead honest audio design from a down-to-earth seemingly regular guy.

Usher Audio, Pugent Sound Studios, JPS Labs, HOLM acoustics ApS: I’m giving this room an A+ for acoustic treatment effort which paid off! There was no bass resonance from the interaction of the Usher Dancer Mini 2 speakers ($4.999/pr) with the room. Nor did I hear any other anomalies from room reflections. Driven by Usher amps and connected with JPS Aluminata cables, the sound was sweet and rich. Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan both sounded excellent.

Sjofn HiFi, Hegel: For the second year running I am compelled to award Sjofn HiFi’s The Clue speaker my best of show budget speaker at $999 delivered! With the Hegel electronics and speakers up against the walls (with acoustic traps behind them) this system delivered more than a lot of systems at any price. These speakers (and presumably the rest of the associated electronics) are no-brainer recommendations for anyone looking for great sound on a limited budget. This should be the official speaker for the Occupy Wall Street movement - a speaker for Everyman!

First Sound, AMR, Daedalus Audio: Emmanuel Go has been in the business a long time and knows how to set up a good system.  In his room was the AMR 77 CD player with two AMR amplifiers, his First Sound Paramount Plus preamp, Daedalus Athena speakers and Q-Audio cables.  Emmanuel played some exotic music that was very ethereal in nature. I did not get the name of it.  The speakers completely disappeared and there was remarkable depth and air. Next up was some Dire Straits. The system showed great resolution on Mark Knopfler’s guitar.