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The Listen Up/Bluesound/PSB/NAD room featured the unveiling of Paul Barton's latest gem, the Imagine T3, and what an debut it was. The Lenbrook Group NAD/PSB system had me extending my stay well past the time I try to allot myself for individual rooms. Many people vied for the listening chair, so I took photos while waiting for my turn in the "driver's seat".

First song up was from a Chesky Gold Series recording, Tchaikovsky: "Concerto in D for Violin & Orchestra. Strings were rendered so sweetly, complex passages unraveled and laid out, each instrument placed properly and clearly audible. Already, I could tell I might be planted in this chair for a while.

Bryan Bromberg "Portrait of Jaco" showed the Imagine T3 capable of reproducing the subtlety of the upright bass instrument while retaining the power.

Moving on to an unknown artist, a piece with electric bass and percussion, which cemented my first impression of the system's ability to play loudly while maintaining composure. Each string pluck/slap and every percussive hit remained distinct and separate with no blurring.

Another recording, played for us by Mr. Barton himself, was of an electric guitar playing though an old Leslie Cabinet. The slow swirl of the Leslie was mesmerizing, it actually sounded like the sound was being thrown around in a circle, with the accompanying trumpet playing from dead center. Very cool!

The NAD electronics did a great job of amplifying the signal without seeming to add any character or limitations of their own, and were perfect companions for the speakers. The Imagine T3 uses a fairly complicated 5-way transitional crossover, with a titanium dome tweeter, 5 1/4" midrange in it's own enclosure, and triple 7" woofers, also in their own enclosures. Starting with a 100 Hz crossover for the bottom woofer, the Butterworth 18 dB/octave filters cascade, allowing the next woofer up to play to 250 Hz, with the top woofer rolling off at 500Hz. The midrange handles frequencies to 1800 Hz, where it hands off to the tweeter with a phase and amplitude correct Linkwitz-Riley 4th order slope. In room sensitivity is rated at 91 dB.

Bringing this all together resulted in the most dynamic cone/dome speaker I have ever heard, barring 10 times and 20 times more expensive Wilson Audio and Focal loudspeakers, the dynamic impact rivaling high efficiency horn speakers. An emotional connection was made with each song played for me, and with the NAD/PSB system it was very easy to put aside the fact that I was listening to machines. The experience is etched into my mind.

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Discussion Starter #22
RHA Audio


  • RHA Audio T10i High fidelity, Noise Isolating In-Ear Headphone with Remote and Microphone: $200 each
RHA Audio

Trying the T10i In-Ear Headphones from RHA Audio was one of the first experiences I have had with an in-ear headphone which was entirely positive. On other occasions I have found myself having reactions like:
  • Not too bad.
  • Better than that other ones I tried awhile back.
  • There are only one or two minor annoyances.
  • I might be able to stand these.
But none of these phrases applied to the T10i. The only slight negative with the experience was that something about the shape of my left ear makes it more difficult to get the left ear-piece seated properly than the right, which can hardly be held against the in-ear device itself. Being right-handed does not help the "seating" situation, either.

First thoughts:
  • This is an in-ear device that I could really enjoy listening with, without feeling like I had to put up with it.
  • The bass goes deep, and is smooth, not boosted.
  • Very comfortable.
  • Good balance, there is real imaging going on.
Noise isolation was fair, but should improve with trial and selection of the best-fitting ear tips. My ear canals are large, so the stock size is usually too loose a fit for me. An over-the-ear hook, reminiscent of the pro devices that musicians use on-stage, was comfortable and helped hold the T10i in place. These could even be used in bed comfortably, I could like on my side reading or watching the tele without the bulk of normal headphones getting in the way. The carrying case that comes with the metal-injection-molded, hand-polished stainless steel T10i holds seven different ear tip type/size variations. Three pairs of Tuning Filters accommodate flat, adjusted bass, and adjusted treble frequency response profiles. I did not try either of the filter sets, the stock flat sound was quite well-balanced.

The T10i comes with remote, mic, and 4-conductor plug for iPhone. Model T10 has a 3-conductor plug.

Even for airline travel, I have gravitated toward conventional headphone use because of the seemingly inevitable annoyances of in-ear devices I have tried or owned in the past. The T10i from RHA could be the device to change my habits.

A full review of the T10i will be forthcoming for Home Theater Shack.
 

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Discussion Starter #23
Pendulemic

  • Pendulemic Stance S1 Bluetooth Wireless Headphone: $200 each
Pendulemic

BlueTooth® technology has its place, and has managed to squeeze its way into all kinds of devices. It is not been thought of for high-end audio quality, though, until now.

BlueTooth® 4.0 with the aptX® codec bringing us the ability to handle 44.1/16 audio uncompressed, true CD quality in a portable Bluetooth device, with a 30 hour battery life? Okay, you have my attention, I am interested. And I was told that the phones themselves were designed by Chunbeng Quek, who has designed a number of headphone models for Sennheiser.

Features:
  • Use it wireless or wired.
  • 30 Hours wireless playback via rechargeable battery + AAA Backup.
  • CD-quality wireless sound.
  • BlueTooth® 4.0 aptX codec.
  • Easy auto pairing.
  • Range up to 50ft.
  • Built-in phone control.
  • Over-ear design.
They did sound good, very good. I am used to a $200 headphone being a full-sized around-the-ear design, but the Stance S1 was made to be highly portable. It comes with a nice, durable case for throwing in your backpack, looks tough enough for real portable use, even studio use. It had a very smooth, even frequency response and a clean sound. It had real possibility. I will be receiving a pair to review in the near future. Bluetooth? Was not sure it would ever be a part of my system. I am starting to visualize that possibility.
 

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Discussion Starter #24
Dynaudio


  • Dynaudio Xeo 4 Compact Loudspeaker: $2,500 per pair
  • Dynaudio Xeo 6 Floorstanding Loudspeaker: $4,350 per pair
  • Dynaudio Xeo Hub: $365 each
  • Dynaudio Xeo Link: $220 each
  • Dynaudio Xeo Extender: $220 each
Dynaudio

Dynaudio is another speaker maker I cannot pass up. The new Xeo 4, a compact two-way model, sounded big enough to make me think it was the tall Xeo 6 standing beside it. The first time I read about Dynaudio prices, I found it hard to believe a two-way compact speaker could command that much respect. Then I heard them. Now they have my respect. I do not know how they do it, how they get that kind of sound out of a small design, but they do. No doubt many other speaker makers listen to Dynaudios and say, "That is not fair." To quote a fellow HTS member, "Boo hoo!"

To make it even more unfair, Dynaudio has developed their own lossless wireless technology to transmit at up to 24/96 (no upsampling) from their hub to their speakers wherever they are placed in the room. Get that, no wires! My wife would love them. Using wifi frequencies to do this, three frequencies can be chosen among so they can avoid computer wifi traffic in situations like RMAF.

The bigger Xeo 6 had no problem simply disappearing in the sound field. What a delightful experience to witness. And their dome tweeters - Dynaudio makes all their own drivers - are simply great, smooth, transparent, and easy to listen through.

Every time I start to write about Dynaudio speakers, I have to do an objectivity check. Have I fallen victim to some sort of spell involving the Dynaudio mystique? The answer is always the same: Maybe a little, but they are terrific speakers all the same. The Xeo 4 and 6 models certainly fit that description.
 

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Discussion Starter #25
Sennheiser


  • Sennheiser HD 600 Headphone: $400 each
  • Sennheiser HD 650 Headphone: $500 each
  • Sennheiser HD 700 Headphone: $750 each
  • Sennheiser HD 800 Headphone: $1,500 each
  • Sennheiser HDVD 800 Fully-Differential Headphone Amplifier: $2,000 each
Sennehiser

The Sennheiser table, first one facing the entrance into the Can Jam room, had its own way of saying, "Thinking about headphones? Think Sennheiser first." That is what I do. While there are many good models of headphones out there, it is hard to beat Sennheiser when it comes to first-rate dynamic transducer headphones.

They had provided a lineup of their top headphones, two each of the HD 700 and HD 800, one driven with a normal cable link and the other driven by their HDVD 800 fully differential amplifier through differential cables, and one each of the HD 600 and HD 650.

I have reported elsewhere that in a comparison between my HD 600 and a HD 650 set, the HD 650 had a very subdued high end compared to the HD 600. Upon asking about this, I was informed that the HD 650 design had been updated and was now closer to the HD 600 profile. That is indeed what I heard sitting at their table, and I will amend my comments disparaging the HD 650 design as inferior to simply state it is a slightly different profile, not as flat as the HD 600 profile , but with a little scoop out of the high end to keep it from being harsh. I am also told the HD 650 transducer has lower distortion than the HD 600. Therefore, the place of this HD 650 in the lineup now makes more sense. I still prefer the HD 600.

It was my first chance to hear the HD 700, which I hope to review in the near future, along with the flagship HD 800. The HD 700 sounded fantastic, very worthy of its place near the top of Sennheiser's commanding lineup. The HD 800, as one would expect, are magnificent headphones. It is not difficult to see you why some have dubbed it the best headphone in the world.
 

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Discussion Starter #26
JPS Labs



  • JPS Labs Model AB-1266 Abyss Headphones: $5,500 each
JPS Labs

If you are going to spend $5,500 on a pair of headphones, they had better be something special. The Abyss headphones did indeed sound special. Special worth $5,500? Above the $500 mark, it gets a little hard to determine those differences when you are talking about high-end headphones. Above $2,000, it become somewhat like choosing between different super-expensive monoblock amplifiers. Just what is it you are getting for those additional thousands of dollars? Do you really want to know?

The Abyss headphones are different from conventional headphones in a number of ways. They are not meant to rest against the ears, are actually suspended and spaced a fraction of an inch away from each ear. The bracket which hold them in place, resting on top of the head, can be adjusted so they are positioned slightly forward of the ears while aiming directly at them, almost like loudspeakers. As a result, you can get a real speaker-like soundstage, although without the benefits of room reflections.

The transducer technology is magnetic planar. They are well constructed, and they are big. No excuses are made for the size. You will not throw these into a backpack to haul to school or the office. You will not take them on a flight or for a jog. They will be plugged into an expensive amplifier at a special listening station, perhaps even in a special room of your house.

They are a good-sounding device, no doubt about it. I guess the question in mind for me was, would they equal the listening experience of a $5500 pair of speakers properly set up and amplified, but with the benefits of headphones, the ability to transport that listening experience to any chair or sofa in the house, even outside perhaps, while sipping one's favorite drink on the veranda? They might, it would take an extended evaluation to determine if that could be so. As the JPS Labs team is not looking for more reviews at this time, or, to be more accurate, they were not interested in having Home Theater Shack review them, I will not have that opportunity. For a few months anyway. That is OK. I have already started my todo list for AXPONA next April, and will give them a complete review on the premises.
 

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Discussion Starter #27
Tidal Audio


  • Tidal Audio Piano Cera: $24,000 per pair
Tidal Audio

This is Tidal Audio's entry level speaker, the Piano Cera. I liked its ceramic tweeter, which, when combined with a slightly forward voicing, had the effect of beckoning one to listen without ever being harsh.

The Piano Cera reaches DEEP to deliver solid base. When asked to play loud, however, they had a tendency to hold back. They might have been under-powered for what I was expecting of them. Tidal Audio does not exude a "Time to rock, let's crank it UP!" vibe. But simple, honest, clean - these things they did well.

Their products area hand-made in Germany with exquisite precision from the finest components. The beauty of their enclosures was second to none.
 

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Discussion Starter #28
Acoustic Zen


  • Acoustic Zen Crescendo: $18,000 per pair
Acoustic Zen

At AXPONA in April I reported that the Acoustic Zen Crescendo was one of the most together, speakers at that show, totally at peace with the music, its environment, and the listener. I spend a few minutes with the Crescendo at RMAF to verify that its performance and delivery were as impeccable as I remembered from April. They were.
 

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Discussion Starter #29
EMRes Technologies


EMRes Technologies

EMRes Technologies develops technologies for licensing in products by other manufacturers. They were showing two experimental projects they have been working on.

Their medium-sized bookshelf speaker enclosure - with a completely unique shape due to the nature of what was inside - packed a 6-foot long Nautilus spiral horn for rear-loading of a 2.5-inch full-range driver into an incredibly small volume. The spiral was 3-D printed, so it presented no imperfect, approximated angles like a folded horn would do. Its exponential opening finished the coupling to the room and helped deliver the rest of the powerful and smooth bass from the modest driver and enclosure. With their driver of choice, they were experiencing efficiency in the neighborhood of 98 dB.

Bass response was very smooth and natural, with no artificially-tuned peak to compensate for the lack of a lowest end.

A tiny boombox-sized enclosure contained a three-foot-long Nautilus spiral rear port for its driver, and also managed to kick out an impressive amount of bass for its size.

Their Rev 33 Headphone Cleaner, for lack of a better term, was an entirely passive in-cable device that worked to improve the clarity of headphones. Also experimental, it had been tested by musicians on stage to reduce ear fatigue and improve the clarity of their in-ear monitors while performing.
 

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Discussion Starter #30
HiFiMan



  • HiFiMan HE-560 Headphone: $900 each
  • HiFiMan HE-6 Headphone: $1,200 each
HiFiMan

HiFiMan makes planar-magnetic headphones. I experienced their new HE-560 phones, noting that the mid- and high-end had a very clear, open sound. But I also tried on the HE-6 flagship model, and it was easy to hear that its high-end was very refined. In asking if I could review the HE-6, I was informed that it was about to be replaced. We shall patiently awaiting said replacement, and hope to be able to review it for HTS.
 

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I've known Mark for a few years, now, he always brings his A game when demonstrating his gear. This time was no exception. Even in light of short set up time in a small hotel room, The Seaton Sound, Inc./MiniDSP/Dirac Live room was literally a showstopper.

The main attraction was the Catalyst 12C loudspeaker in Black Maple finish. Capable of a 19-20,000 Hz +/-3 dB range, with 10 Hz in room possible, the Master of the Deep needed none of his famous subwoofers on stage for this 2 channel system. Supported by the new MiniDSP DDRC-22DA w/UMIK-1 microphone and Dirac Live room correction software, the sound was dialed in to a "T".

Heavyweight sound that packed the punch of a champion, I watched a guy jump right out of his chair when one demo song started to play! Mark gave a quick on/off comparison of Dirac Live. I noticed that when on, the room seemed to disappear and I was transported to a much larger space. Reverb and hall sound really came through. A convincing example of the control that the DDRC-22DA gives the user over the listening room.

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Wayne's Comments

I have learned to never miss an opportunity to hear Mark's room at a show like this. It always ends up being a special experience in some unexpected way.

A pair of Catalyst 12C powered (2000 w per enclosure) full-range loudspeakers were set up two-channel style. Mark had chosen miniDSP with Dirac Live room correction to support the configuration.

I am neither proponent nor antagonist when it comes to speaker equalization or room correction. When it is done well, involving the right technology and implementation approach, the result can be completely invisible, as I witnessed in three different rooms at RMAF. In other words, the result was so natural that there was no sonic evidence of EQ or room correction taking place, except, of course, that the speakers in question sounded truer and more accurate.

I jotted in my notebook that the soundstage was GREAT (with double under-line), a break-down-the-walls soundstage with super-tight image clarity. And what gave me a special thrill in this case was the dynamic nature of the sound. Every note stood out with an impact of its own. Every sound in the sound field was being presented by way of special delivery. This does not happen by accident.

Mark talked about the Dirac Live mic setup pattern that he used, and it was clear that a thoughtful approach had been employed. I have seen him at work and he knows how to make speaker and room work together. The room earned one of my four Wow! Awards, and my single Most Dynamic Speaker award for the show.
 

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The TigerFox Sound System is a room within a room, it's intent is to allow the speaker to perform it's best by providing an ideal acoustical environment, while reducing sound outside of the enclosure so as not to disturb others.

I found the experience bizarre, with sounds coming at me from all sides, but especially from the rear. I was told it is a great way to get surround sound out of 2 channels, and it certainly did project a surround soundfield, but not in a way that multi-channel is normally mixed. It did make the speakers "disappear", none of the sound could be perceived as coming from the two monitors used in the display.

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Discussion Starter #33
Legacy Audio


  • Legacy Audio V Speaker with Wavelet Processor: Price TBA
Legacy

Legacy Audio's new model V is a technological tour de force. It comes with their new Wavelet processor, including onboard preamp, a four-way crossover with time alignment, complete speaker and room resonance correction (by Bohmer Audio), and a high-end DAC with apodizing ability (to eliminate pre-ringing). Frequency response smoothness was awesome and clarity was impeccable. My first experience with Legacy was at AXPONA back in April. Now I can not pass their room without hearing what they have to offer.

The Legacy "sound" is not at all shy about including a high end that is a little bit in your face, and by that I mean flat. Legacy sets the pace for giving you a high end that is so smooth and so clean that you don't mind it slapping you around a little bit. I often wonder if the trend in some circles toward a high end that gradually droops from 1 kHz on up, following some expert's idea of an ideal target curve, is a result of listeners trying to avoid annoying peaks and distortions in lesser-quality speakers. The Legacy V keeps it all flat and clean and perfectly timed, and it sounds just wonderful to me, as fresh as mountain spring water.

Sub and bass sections are powered with 1400 watts of internal power, and the two channels per speaker requiring user amplification are 98 dB/watt efficient, very easy to drive. Does all that DSP for basic operation bother you? Get over it. Today's top DSP technology is as high-end as anything else you can call high-end in audio, and in the Wavelet processor is just plain invisible, except for its positive effects.

The Legacy V system was supported by:
  • (2) CODA 15.5 Amplifiers - $10,000 ea
  • Ayon Audio CD-07 Player
  • Wireworld Cables
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I've been wanting to lay ears on Cabasse speakers for a while, so I ducked into the Esoteric/Cabasse room for that opportunity. Backed by ne plus ultra electronics, I was informed that this system debuts the Grandioso C1 linestage preamp. This was not a planned stop, so I didn't get specifics on the rest of the gear.

A little warm in the midbass, but without giving a sense of bloat. Deep and wide was the soundstage, with very good dynamics which belies the size of the point source Cabasse 3-way loudspeakers.

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Discussion Starter #35
Von Schweikert Audio


  • Von Schweikert Unifield II Mk-3: $12,000 per pair
Von Schweikert Audio

Von Schweikert Unifield II Mk-3 is a three-way compact speaker consisting of woofer and concentric mid/tweeter. The soundstage was nice, image clarity a bit soft, a pinpoint source appearing about the size of a beach ball. But then some people prefer a bigger softer image.

The concentric mid/tweeter design created a very unified upper frequency range. Overall, the frequency response had a bit of a characteristic contour, free of any annoying peaks, but definitely containing its own voicing. The Unified II Mk-3 reached into inter detail very effectively.

Von Schweikert Audio has done interesting research into sound reproduction over the years. I look forward to hearing some of their bigger speakers.
 

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Discussion Starter #36
oBravo Audio


  • oBravo Audio HAMT-1 Headphone: $2,000 each
  • oBravo Audio HAMT-2 Headphone: $1,500 each
  • oBravo Audio HAMT-3 Headphone: $1,000 each
oBravo Audio

The oBravo Audio headphones combined a neodymium dynamic driver with an Air Motion Tweeter (AMT), a true two-way headphone design. I am a real AMT tweeter fan, and the clarity and smoothness characteristic of an AMT was in evidence in all three models. All the things that are hard about the upper-mid and high-frequency response in headphones, the HAMT series seemed to get right.

Moving successively from the HAMT-3 to the -2 and then -1, it was clear that the tonality was more controlled and refined at each step. Craftsmanship was incredible, it made me think of riding in a Rolls Royce (I never have) with hand-stitched leather and polished fine wood everywhere. They are truly beautiful headphones.
 

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The Tyler Acoustics Taylo Dream Console! Lots of fun for a den or patio.

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I ducked into the Home Audio Sound LLC room to listen to Harman's best. The Everest gave good account of it's self. Never harsh, but I did not get to hear it LOUD like I would have liked, and there was conversation going on in the room, so I had to move on. I sure would like a pair of those Mark Levinson amps.

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The Listen Up/GoldenEar room had it going on, showcasing this latest creation from the mind of Sandy Gross, the Triton One.

I've heard almost all of the GoldenEar speakers at a local hifi hut, and find it amazing they can bring all of these different drivers together to sound as one. I've played the trumpet (and most of the other brass horns, too, when I was younger) and Hugh Masekela: "The Coal Train" played through the Triton One portrayed that instrument as real as any other speaker I have heard. No added warmth, not cold, nor sterile, the Triton One just tells the truth.

Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio: "Misty" was a piece that really brought out the best of this system's capabilities. During the solo upright bass intro, you could hear the fingers on the strings well enough to almost envision fingers plucking away. Piano (an instrument my mother insisted I take lessons on), probably the most difficult of all instruments to reproduce, was almost perfect. Again as good as anything I've ever laid ears on.

While this was a music only system, I have no doubt the dynamic Triton One would be very comfortable in a home theater system as well. Definitely one of my favorite exhibits of the show.

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Wayne's Comments

I have heard so much about GoldenEar in the laast year that I had visiting their room as top priority on my RMAF Gotta Get There list. The pair of Triton 1 speakers was set up along with carefully-placed absorptive panels in the room, and company president Sandy Gross was on hand to answer questions.

Wow! I wrote the word 3 times in my notes. The soundstage was simply gargantuan, with image clarity as sharp and precise as any at the show. The disappearing act performed by the Triton 1 was so complete that you could be blindfolded and never never guess their location sonically. I noted more than once how effective the room treatment was to help accomplish this.

Attention to detail, everything about room and speakers said it. And the tweeters? Throughout the show I was listening for and to tweeters. It was as though the Triton 1 speakers had none, and the treble frequencies were conjured into the air by some other means. The high-velocity folded-motion tweeter was exceptionally transparent.

Getting ready to spend $5,000 on a pair of speakers? If you buy something else, be sure you avoid any and all contact with a Triton 1 afterward, or you will probably just cry.

I was able to listen to a number of my test tracks, and for most of them simply wrote the word [/i]perfect.[/i] That is how good everything sounded through the Triton 1.
 
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