Since we write for a few Dutch magazines and websites about audio [right with Gabi Van Der Kley of Crystal Cable - Ed.], we were asked for some Primedia HE 2005 show articles with an emphasis on budget equipment. You know the Dutch - always on the penny. In 1964, Peter Stuyvesant gave up Nieuw Amsterdam to the Brits because they promised to leave the Dutch businesses and business interests alone. It saved Peter a battle and thus money. And now we represent a handful of articles to save these same Dutchies some expensive euros.
|Just before we left for New York, we received a phone call from a Belgian importer. He asked us to specially stop by the Moscode room as he is importing the new 401HR amplifier as soon as it is
|available for the Benelux market (Belgium, Holland and Luxemburg). During our initial planning, we reserved some time to visit the grave of a dear friend during our trip to the States. This friend is Harvey Rosenberg aka Dr. Gizmo who passed away in 2001. We could not make it then for his funeral and were only able to visit his grave later that year. At that time and following the Jewish tradition, no headstone had been placed yet. Our current trip enabled us to pay our respects to the now completed grave and put a tube on the headstone and say Mitzwah. Another
|Jewish tradition is to put a pebble or little stone on a grave you visit. Carl Jung named events that happen by apparent accident synchronicity, adding meaning to happenstance. Harvey would just say "shit happens". Now here is the rebirth of Moscode, which Harvey -- as heir of the Jules Futterman ideas -- started with his New York Audio Labs. Moscode, now run by George Kaye, named the first production amplifier 401HR, where HR naturally stands for...
|We received our badges early on press day from Lucette Nicoll who is in charge of publicity for HE 2005. This gave us time to peruse the floor plans of the 5 floors that the show
|occupied in the Hilton on Manhattan's 6th avenue. Our conclusion was to start from the top and work our way down while trying to focus on whatever budget systems we might encounter. With five floors and roughly 14 hours on hand, we calculated the average time we'd be able to spend in each room.
Wrong! Early on in our professional life, we learned the magic mantra "failing to plan is planning to fail". That has worked for us on many occasion yet synchronicity -- or shit happens -- kicked sand into our eyes again in New York. The first room we happened upon was May Audio Marketing's where Combak presenting their new rack system. With a price tag covering a first-class return ticket from Amsterdam to New York and for two, this isn't really meant for budget-restricted audio palates. On the other hand, it shows what can be done when target price is no issue. Simultaneously, the room showed some ultra tweeters atop Kiuchi-San's Bravo monitors. What's more, the Bravos were coupled to matching subwoofers disguised as integrated stands. The result was not what we expected from hearing the Bravos before with and without the subwoofer at fellow moonie Jules Coleman's Village apartment last year. The addition of a super tweeter did something to the perception as though a bone structure in the head was excited.
|And then it happened. Upon leaving the room to proceed in a structured fashion with our plans, we bumped into moonies Srajan and Paul [left with George of DeHavilland HiFi who was roaming the show as an attendee for a change]. This resulted in saying farewell to organization and a combined stroll around the 10th floor was the outcome for the rest of this day. Shit happens!
|The next room worth mentioning was the combined Chord/Tetra exhibit which introduced the new Chord One CD player with matching Prima and Mezza pre- and power amplifier in a compact 45-degree tilted three-layer rack, albeit on static display. For Chord standards, this $20K outfit was budget-friendly and on top of that, it is true eye-
|candy which might help to raise the budget of potential punters a little. Adrian Butts of Tetra now employs his artist sister who promptly decorated his Manhattan loudspeakers in a Sergeant Pepper-inspired theme. We took note of the musicality of this system and the extended bass from these medium-sized loudspeakers that use the stand as part of the speaker cabinet.
Next on this hallway was Moscode's room. A rack containing black and clear-anodized 401HR amplifiers combined with Von Schweikert's smaller VR4-JR was arranged in a 45° setup by Gage Rommel. At the time we visited the room, the setup wasn't completely dialed yet and standing waves played their dirty little tricks. Nevertheless, the 401HR was a very promising amplifier and we look forward to reviewing one. The driver tubes can be rolled at will (as long as they remain identical pairs for the outer and inner positions) and tuning the sound of the amplifier to one's liking or the music played thus becomes child's play. The market is full of various makes of 6GU7, 6FQ7, 6DJ8, 6922, 12AU7, 12BH7 and 7730 tubes, each with their own tone. Tweaker's paradise with the Moscode amp is just around the corner and no soldering iron is required to attend this party.
|At each show, Gilbert Yeung of Blue Circle brings his musical girlfriend MaryLou and many visitors are giving her more than a quick look, with her cleavage enhanced after her latest boob job. And since men always want to know what's behind something, here's Srajan inspecting the rear end of a planar-ribbon speaker in the Analysis Audio room.
Acapella's Brian Ackerman escorted us up to the 10th floor to demo the large LaCampanella horns. We have to confess to liking the smaller Fidelio in this room much more. Not as bass-endowed as the big siblings and without the horned directness in the mid and highs, they were very pleasant to ears and eyes.
|Attending a show is not only for listening purposes. Human relations are just as important. On our way through the trenches of the 10th floor, we met with several people who stamp the industry with their personalities. Albert von Schweikert and Kavi Alexander of
|Lily Acoustics were just a few. For various reasons, not all
|companies are able to exhibit at a show like HE 2005. The important part is that their principals are at the show and accessible to anyone. We have to thank all exhibitors who put out the money and invested the time to make a show like HE 2005 work and thus become de facto sponsors for their fellow industry members.
Various rooms used EquaRacks as their preferred means of resonance control. Joe Ciulla was roaming the hallways showing off his latest tunable footer. This go-between is based on the visco-elastic properties of tiny blue nubs. These are placed in 3 to16 holes that are drilled along two concentric circles in an aluminum plate. This plate is topped by another plate with two concentric milled grooves. Together they form a sandwich able to transform vibration into heat. The necessary weight matching of component to visco-elastic optimization is accomplished with the number of decouplers used. The heavier the equipment to be suspended, the more "blue pills" must be used.
Von Schweikert occupied three rooms in a row. The middle room really stood out during our time visiting. The VR4-SR was combined with the same Oracle CD player and VAC Beta amplifier as at CES last January. Now housed in a smaller room, the musicality was the same just as the effortlessness at producing the music, this in contrast to the third room where a pair of big VR9 speakers had the task to radiate the music from a hard-disk recorder and Meitner preamp amplified by a pair of DarTZeel monoblocks. A real pity this setup had to be crammed into a small standard-sized Hilton bedroom. Isn't there an ARSPCA for audio equipment?
|Now we lost our fellow moonies for a while and went to what turned out to become a very controversial visit. Mark Levinson -- the man as we now have to say -- has a new venture. Mark has always been an ardent opponent of digital music. Of late he has refined his stance to oppose PCM/Redbook/DVD recordings and accept and even like the DSD format as used for SACD recordings. He's now discovered something that makes PCM and even MP3 128kbps playback acceptable for him. What happened? Mark discovered Dick Burwen's Bobcat software, a plug-
|in for Windows Media Player 10 that works in conjunction with a dedicated USB DAC build by Daniel Hertz. The whole package of software plus DAC is just $1,500.
|Mark organized closed-door demos during the day for twelve people per session. He began by playing a 128kbps MP3 track and asked the attendees' opinion. Nobody in our group was too enthusiast. No surprise there. Then he switched in the Bobcat which, as per Mark, is neither an equalizer nor filter though he later revised that statement and admitted that some EQ and filtering are part of the process. Regardless, the switching between Bobcat and no Bobcat was more than obvious. Sounds -- still at 128kbps MP3 livened up with more body and grew into a more credible soundstage. So far so good. That was a nice trick that can be done with CoolEdit or any other mastering tool plus some creativity and patience. Bobcat, to be fair, includes a variety of preset values depending on the processing needed to fix up a recording. Then Henk had the temerity of expressing
|skepticism towards the whole affair. Mark accepted this and asked for Henk's participation in a test for which any electronic equipment had to come off the body, including the cellphone, digital camera and digital watch. Mark now played a Bobcat track at a very low levels and asked Henk to raise one arm laterally at 90 degrees, with the other hanging relaxed from the shoulder. Mark announced that he was going to try to push Henk's arm down and that Henk should resist which he did. Despite employing reasonable force, Mark was unable to push down Henk's arm. Next Mark switched off the Bobcat software and easily pushed down Henk's arm which left the latter a little startled. A second series of kinesiological muscle tests gave the same results. Levinson's explanation? PCM induces whole-body stress which undermines resisting the push. Inserting the musical stress -- Henk's terminology -- by means of disconnecting Bobcat's software processing makes it easy to push the arm down. The whole experience left us puzzled to say the least.
[When muscle testing is used in alternative medicine -- by having the subject hold some medicine in the free hand to test for compatibility -- the subject's increased ability to resist externally applied force is always viewed as a positive response. The greater the resistive strength on the patient's part, the more positive her reaction to the proposed medication being tested for, the thinking being that this medication builds rather than undermines strength - Ed.]
Descending to the 9th floor -- still a bit off-balance from the previous experience -- we met with Bob Visintainer of New York's Rhapsody audio salon. Bob just expanded into an adjacent space to add a dedicated MBL and Goldmund showroom, which he duplicated for HE2005 with a combined MBL/Goldmund system. Though not exactly budget equipment, there is a certain market for these Radialstrahler in their stylish black with blue LEDs all over.
|Moscode had announced a press junket to introduce their new amplifier and we went downstairs to the 7th floor published in the show guide. When that proved to be wrong, we burst into the pressroom on the 4th floor for help but the lady in attendance didn't know any better either. On the way back up for Moscode's exhibit room on the 10th floor, we passed EveAnna Manley who introduced us to a new and very handy device. The Skipjack may be the ultimate reviewer toolbox. It is a remote-controlled A/B switch with exceptional parts quality originally intended for Manley's internal use (it can even be programmed to do random switching between sources to facilitate double-blind testing as long as one keeps the eyes closed to not see the LED give away the current input). Both Srajan and us were hypnotically attracted to this small but very heavy utensil and ordered one each on the spot. Shit happened - once again.