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Acapella Atlas speakers on a snowy morning

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 by Mike

We finally bit the bullet and moved our rack back between the front speakers. It has been over 10 (12?) years since we have done this [usually the rack is over on the side of the room. Better soundstaging, typically, and more convenient.]

This allows us to experiment with short cables again [before, with the Coltrane Supreme speakers, we could swap out the meter or meter and a half cables between the crossover and the amp[s]. We’ve always found that the best way to hear what a cable is doing is [usually, some small signal cables notwithstanding] to put the cable between the amp and whatever is driving the amp.

It also allowed us to get rid of a balanced to single-ended CARDAS connector, since our long 10 meter run is balanced and the amps are single ended.

It just allows us more flexibility.

So we are now running a 100% ODIN system [except one pair of ELROD PC on the M9], with the EMMLabs XDS1 CD player driving the Audio M9 two box preamp and Audio Note 300B high-gain Kegon amplifiers.

We discussed putting our larger HRS MXR rack up front, but after a long period of indecision, I just alleyooped the SXR up front and here you see it.

A full report on Odin versus Acapella cables, and on all the different settings for the Atlas speakers and how the Kegons 18 watts likes each one [or not] is forth-coming.

[Amazing how easy it is to flash back to how the Acapella Triolon speakers sounded here and of course the Supremes and to compare and contrast. Fun too :-) ]

CES 2014: Most Interestings of Show (part four)

Thursday, January 16th, 2014 by Mike

[Similar to the RMAF 2013 show report - we will put the politically correct version for all ages and levels of audiophile, along with well over 1000 photos, over on Ultimist - and we will put the more opinionated report here on the blog, which we will call ‘Most Interesting of Show’, for people who are focused on Pursuing the Ultimate Music Experiences.]

There were actually quite a few rooms this year that we thought were interesting. Interesting sometimes due to an intriguing pairing of different brands of gear together and sometimes due to interesting sonics, and there were also a couple of exceptional sounding systems as well.

In no particular order:

Kharma Elegance DB11S speakers on Kharma electronics and cables, dCS digital

I wasn’t happy with Kharma’s room last year at THE Show. It was cold and analytical. Not Kharma-ish at all.

This year’s room at the Venetian was way different. That old Kharma excitingness was back.

I have spent a lot of time trying to quantify and qualify this sound and what makes it different. It is definitively more exciting than most other speaker sounds [I used to compare it to how one feels about one’s girl (boy) friend versus how one feels about one’s wife (husband) - and I know none of us have girl (boy) friends, of course, but I think we can imagine just what that would be like just fine ;-) ].

Is the midrange and upper bass slightly more dynamic than the rest of the frequency band? Are the mids more harmonically rich? I don’t know, but I do like it; although to hear it best I kind of have to sort of turn my mind’s ear and point it toward the 6th dimension [I don’t know how else to describe this].

Anyway, a bold sound, a little too much for the room but it worked much of the time. Very dynamic and powerful, especially in the upper to mid bass. Very harmonically rich and engaging. Uneven and not very linear top to bottom, however, and a little wild. But it was fun and exciting, so I liked it, especially in the context of the show where a lot of systems sounds are, whether good or bad, just plain boring.

Theorem Imaging Science speakers on Lampizator electronics

These guys are so infuriating. We only got a very little time to listen to these before they drug us over to the next room to see their smaller system that was not playing any music. Argh.

I think this system is interesting because it did sound pretty darn good. Maybe they do wonders with cross-overs but I suspect it is the fact that the cabinets are made from granite and are so inert and stable that there is not much box coloration at all. And this is seemingly very, very important if you want to elevate your playback into state-of-the-art territory. All of the energy for each note goes into the note and not into warming up and vibrating some large chunk of wood or fiberboard or composite material. Lots of good separation and dynamics. Speakers that start with an aluminum, granite or perhaps carbon fiber cabinet enclosure have a real advantage over those that do not.

The harmonics also seemed quite rich [but not too rich] and musical as provided by the Polish Lampizator company.

Lamm ML3 amps, LL1 linestage, LP2.1 phono, LP1 phono on Verity Lohengrin II speakers with Kubala-Sosna cables and HRS (under the TechDAS turntable) and Kanso rackage

We have a friend customer who has the ML3 amps on these the latest Verity Lohengrin II speakers [with Jorma cables instead of Kubala-Sosna and Audio Aero La Source front end, all on RixRax equipment racks with Harmonic Resolution Systems M3x isolation bases under everything]. His goal was [more or less] a sound that was always musical and never aggressive, otherwise with as high a resolution and as much accuracy as possible. That system succeeded wonderfully for him. He could spend 2 or 3 times as much and get something better [IMHO] but, heck, this is pretty gawd darn expensive already.

As I sat in this room and heard how much of the wonderfulness of the ML3 amps was not getting through to my ears, I still thought our friend bought the right thing… for him. But for me? I want to hear that amp. I know it to have wonderfully detailed and subtle harmonic and dynamic transitions that add so much [for me] to the music. And more.

But the speakers, and to some degree the cables, and perhaps even the unfamiliar Kanso equipment rack, were softening up the sound enough that I did not feel as engaged here as I did in previous years, or even as much as I did in the Lamm M1.2 amp on the Wilson Alexia speakers room next door.

[Vladimir Lamm swapped back and forth between the LP2.1 phono stage (which debuted this show. yes we have photos on the inside of the chassis to be posted on Ultimist) and the more expensive LP1 Signature phono stage, several times by using the two tonearms on the TechDAS at the same time [say what? this was fun]. With two very slightly different cartridges it was a little bit of a Fuji apples to Braeburn apples comparison, but the short and quick is that if you didn’t hear them back to back (the more expensive LP1 being smoother, less grainy, and just more of that good old analog wonderfulness) you would think you were already listening to the LP1 when it was in fact the less expensive LP2.1 all along (the original LP2 has been a giant killer among phono stages here at the Fed, at least until you get up into the $20-$30K range of the competition).]

Acoustic Zen Crescendo Mk. II Speakers on Triode Corp electronics

It is funny [or not] when I read the better show reports and how they report on these rooms setup by Acoustic Zen and Triode Corp at all these shows. They point out something like that they heard a slight issue with the sound of a part of one of the tracks they played here. Ah, then this, they imply, can’t be best of show then.

What this really says to the perceptive reader who reads a lot of these things and thinks to themselves a little bit is that, hey, these rooms are such reliable performers, and it is so boring to keep awarding them the accolades they deserve, that they will dig deep down and find something [anything!] wrong so they do not have to put them somewhere on the BOS list yet again. The Lamm rooms experience this same thing.

Show reporters get so bored with seeing the same things each show [most of the gear, the setups, the people… it is all 98% the same from show to show] that they need to mix it up once in awhile and pick someone else as BOS, someone else to talk and rave about. And heaven forbid that they bore the readers [equals less traffic equals less ad revenue] by talking about the same old boring rooms that sound good, that perform well, each show after show after show.

And the speakers are only $18K? And the electronics are actually fairly reasonably priced?? BO-ring. Can’t get any more boring than this. Show reports got to be exciting wiiiild stuff, man…

They played music here. It sounded like music. It did nothing egregiously wrong and got a lot just right. It was immensely enjoyable. Like freaking always.

Well, I guess [and after all I am kind of a show reporter too…] I am also a wee tiny bit bored :-) .

Yah, you know, each show it is the same… I can’t ever afford to spend a lot of time here [and this is what sucks about being a show reporter who actually goes to all the rooms (otherwise you have prejudged the show before you even arrive! Having decided what is best by the choice of what rooms you omit even visiting)]. You know I have to go and check out all those other rooms…


CES 2012 - Harmonic Resolution Systems

Thursday, January 19th, 2012 by Mike

HRS introduced an upgrade to their SXR equipment rack, called the SXR Signature and showed off their prototype of a new inexpensive rack, the RXR

The HRS SXR Signature rack [metal] and prototype RXR rack [wood sides].

The HRS SXR Signature adds very solid and heavy ’struts’ to the plain SXR rack. There are two for every shelf. There are also miner changes to the coupler/washers as well to increase the firmness and stability of the rack - especially those assembled in the field as well as over the course of long periods of heavy use.

A better photo of the new SXR Signature struts unobstructed by the top shelf.

The underneath view of a new HRS SXR Signature strut

The HRS SXR Signature (left), inexpensive RXR prototype (right) and top shelf (M3X) on the floor in the foreground.

The prototype of a new inexpensive rack from Harmonic Resolution Systems: the RXR.

The prototype of a new inexpensive rack from Harmonic Resolution Systems: the RXR.

The prototype inexpensive RXR rack from HRS has adjustable shelves like the old top-of-the-line HRS MXR racks

The top view of the prototype of a new inexpensive rack from Harmonic Resolution Systems: the RXR.

HRS at CES 2012

Saturday, January 7th, 2012 by Mike

[HRS will have their equipment racks and platforms in a ton of rooms this CES, 14 by my count. We should have good photos of them all, if everything goes as planned. Of particular interest to us is the new SXR Signature Frame System. A lot of our customers really like the flexibility of the SXR rack system. Now, we can get the SXR Signature: Higher Performance. Same Great SXR Flexibility. ]

“Harmonic Resolution Systems (HRS) Inc will be displaying our existing and new product lines at CES 2012 next week. Our company is 12 years old this year and we have been attending CES ever year for the past Decade. We are very pleases to be working again with many excellent companies to build some great sounding demo systems for your to see, hear, and enjoy.

HRS is participating in 14 rooms this year including 13 active systems and one static display meeting room. Please find below a complete listing of demo rooms using HRS products this year. Please stop by and visit these excellent rooms if you are attending CES. Please also stop by the HRS static display room (Venetian 29-203) to speak with our company representatives.

We are introducing a number of new products this year at CES including:

1. The prototype of RXR frame system. This new frame system that will be about 40% lower price than the SXR frame system. Right now we have a target price of about $3295 for a RXR-1921-4V (four component stand). We will be putting final performance and cosmetic changes in place on the RXR after CES and it is scheduled for production shipments around end of March early April 2012. We will be taking orders and deposits on first production shipments the week after CES.

2. SXR Signature Frame System - We will show two production SXR Signature frame systems at CES for the first time ever. This new frame is an upgraded version of the SXR series. You can order the SXR Signature frame as of the first day of CES. During final development of the SXR Solid Brace Insert product line we looked at many ways to take advantage of the Solid Brace insert to not only increase load capacity of the frame but also increase frame performance. The results of this development effort are very positive. The performance gains achieved in the Signature SXR by use of the new SXR Solid Brace Inserts, located at each level in the frame, justify this new model and closes the performance gap with our reference level MXR frames.

3. New ADH Analog Disk Heavy - We will have prototype version of the new ADH Analog Disk (heavy - “H”). This is a non magnetic stainless steel version of the ADL (Analog Disk Light). The ADH has approximately three times the mass of the ADL and has been optimized for higher mass non suspension turntables. This new model will only be available in natural precession machined stainless steel finish

Harmonic Resolution Systems CES 2012 Reference Level Audio Stands Listing:

Aesthetix (The Venetian Suite 29-221)
- SXR-1921-4V Double Wide Frame (Black Finish) with M3X and R1X Isolation Bases

Audio Research/Sumiko (The Venetian Suite 30-105)
- SXR-1921-4V Double Wide Frame (Black Finish) with M3X Isolation Bases

Ayre Acoustics (The Venetian Suite 34-310)
- SXR-1921-4V Double Wide Frame (Silver Finish) with S1 and R1 Isolation Bases

Bel Canto Design (The Venetian “ Suite 29-140)
- SXR-1921-3V Frame (Black Finish) with M3X Isolation Bases

BSG Technologies (The Venetian Suite 34-210)
- SXR-1719-3V Frame (Black Finish) with R1 Isolation Bases

Constellation Audio (The Venetian Suite 29-132)
- SXR-1921-4V Frame (Black Finish) with M3X Isolation Bases

dCS (The Venetian Suite 29-131)
- SXR-1921-4V Frame (Black Finish) with M3X Isolation Bases

HRS Static Display and Meeting Room (The Venetian Suite 29-203)
- RXR-1921-3V Frame (Dark Finish) with R1X Isolation Bases
- RXR-1921-1V Frame (Dark Finish)
- SXR-1921-3V Signature Frame (Black Finish)
- Mix of 2012 M3X Isolation Base, S1 Isolation Bases and R1X Isolation Bases
- Analog Disk, Damping Plates and Nimbus System

LAMM Industries/HRS (The Venetian Suite 35-305)
- SXR-1921-3V Double Wide Signature Frame (Black Finish) with M3X Isolation Bases

On a Higher Note (Mirage Casino & Resort)
- SXR-1921-4V Frame (Black Finish) with M3X Isolation Bases

Redpoint Audio Design (The Venetian Suite 30-323)
- SXR-1921-3V Double Wide (Black Finish) with M3X and S1 Isolation Bases

Sumiko/Wadia Digital (The Venetian Suite 30-111)
- SXR-1921-4V Double Wide Frame (Black Finish) with M3X Isolation Bases

TAD/Pioneer Electronics (The Venetian Suite 34-208)
- MXR-1921-4V Frame (Red Birds Eye Maple Finish) with M3X Isolation Bases

Vandersteen Audio (The Venetian Suite 29-201)
- RXR-1921-4V Frame (Dark Finish) with R1X Isolation Bases

HRS SXR double-wide equipment rack: changing the height (or adding a shelf)

Friday, November 4th, 2011 by Mike

The happy owner of a new HRS SXR equipment rack wanted to change the height of the first shelf of the rack, from 10 inches to 12 inches, so that he could put his Lamm ML2.1 amps on the bottom shelf.

So we ordered up some new posts and went over to swap out the 10″‘ers for the 12″‘ers. I brought my camera.

A lot of photos but this whole procedure only took about a half hour, though I did forget to time it… so I could be off by a bit [i.e. don’t feel bad if it takes you longer, and if you do it faster? The heck with you :-) ].

These racks are like audiophile erector sets: you can, by screwing and unscrewing posts, make them taller, wider (single-wide, double-wide, triple-wide and on and on), add more shelves [we’ve only seen them go as high as 4 shelves, but…they go down to 1-shelf which is amp-stand height. In fact single-wide 1-shelf tall SXR racks are exactly that: amp stands. Everything is interchangeable, and everything is so tightly spec’d, it just all works, no matter what your assortment of pieces parts is].

We turned the rack upside down and removed the screw on spikes.

Next we remove the nuts that hold on the bottom shelf. Here we are using the wrench that comes with the SXR to loosen a nut.

Once they are loosened, once anything is loosened, the precision construction allows us to just use our fingers and spin the nuts up off of the post [this is actually quite fun, just make sure you slow down when the nut nears the top of the post so it doesn’t go flying :-) ].

Next remove the special polymer washers. The polymer used by these washers appear to be similar to the polymers used in the feet of the HRS platforms and in the Nimbus Couplers [soft hockey-puck-like things that go under a component chassis to control nastiness-causing brightness-causing blumpy-bass-causing vibrations - it consistently works really really well unlike everything else we and our friends and customers have tried]

Lifting the bottom shelf off the upside-down SXR rack

No, it is not all that heavy, per se, but the tolerances are tight enough that you have to lift it STRAIGHT up.

Put the bottom shelf to one side…

Next is to remove the posts that connect the bottom shelves to the, in this case, top shelf of this two-self rack.

This orange doohickey wrench thing is a really cool thing:

1. It allows up to loosen the posts which are screwed on tighter than finger tight
2. It will not mar the posts in any way
3. It allows is to tighten the posts exactly the right amount, acting as a torque wrench [if you try and tighten the post too much, it will start to slip… i.e. the coefficient of friction of the rubbery material of the wrench is just perfect to allow us to tighten the posts p-e-r-f-e-c-t-l-y].

These are bigger than the wrench that was shipped with the early racks, and, along with the bright orange color you would think we would not possibly misplace it. Yeah, you would think that [we did find it but it took a minute of looking - and I do NOT remember it being underneath my chair that I spent most of this process lounging around in ;-) ]

I went around and loosened all the posts. Here Neli was being fancy and unscrewing 2 at once.

All the posts have been removed.

These bolts sticking out of the shelf are the same as the bolts on the end of the posts. Everything works with everything else because of these kinds of consistencies and extreme attention to detail.

Screw the new [taller in this case] posts on the upside-down top shelf.

Next put a tiny amount of oil on the threads of the new posts so that everything goes together silky smooth [seems to work :-) ]

All the posts have been screwed on.

The bottom shelf has been alley-ooped back on the rack…

After putting the polymer washers back on, we put the nuts back on with Neli then tightening the nuts with the special wrench [again, a lot of manly spinning of the nuts onto the posts like they were tops on strings or something. Great manly-man fun :-) ]

After we screwed the spikes on to the posts.

Ta da!

Because the floor was actually flat here, unlike our built-by-guys-on-drugs mid-70s home, the rack was perfectly level and there was no need to adjust the spiked feet to level the rack.

Took about a half hour I think, with most of the time spent by Phil and I unwrapping the new posts and re-wrapping the old posts in packing material sufficient [forgot to take photos! :-( ] to guard against…well….

You know, after WWIII and we are all dust and after the radioactive wastes cool down, our 6-eyed descendents will have some kick-ass equipment racks to play around with.

Lamm ML2 amps on bottom shelf of HRS SXR equipment rack

Friday, October 28th, 2011 by Mike

In order to form a more compact system one can do several things, many of which, however, lead to a compromised system sound.

Compact systems are still desirable for a number of reasons: ease of use [being able to walk right up to the source components], aesthetics [components strewn about can result in a geeky aura around your system ;-) ], and they just help make more room for other things in the sometimes all-too-crowded listening room.

Lamm amps on a SXR rack

Here is something that improves the sound AND reduces the footprint of the system components: Putting ones amps on the equipment rack itself.

Here is an example where we put Lamm ML2.1 amps on the bottom shelf of a Harmonic Resolution Systems SXR rack. The bottom shelf is 12 inches tall [it was originally 10 inches, but we ordered replacement 12″ posts and swapped them out in about 1/2 hour(?) - photos forthcoming]

Lamm ML2.1 amplifiers on a SXR rack

The reason this kicks ass is that the HRS amps stands [which have no peers performance-wise based on our experience with the top contenders to-date and work as normal amp stands that sit out in the middle of the floor], are the EXACT same components as used for the bottom shelf of the SXR.

So essentially we are morphing, Transformers-style, an equipment rack into a combination first-class amp stand and equipment rack.

And, because the amps are somewhat better protected by the rack, and more out of the way of the speaker sound waves, this is probably an even better place for them than the traditional amp stand location [a less sturdy rack, however, might itself pick up vibrations from the sound, and then transfer these negative vibrations to the amp through the rack, something a stand-alone amp stand would not do].

And it looks cool too.

And it takes up a lot less space :-)

HRS damping plates on Audio Aero CD players

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011 by Mike

[And here we answer another question, this time about HRS damping plates on Audio Aero Capitole CD players]

Dear Sirs,
I contact you because I´ve just bought an Audio Aero Capitole Classic CD Player (Similar to the Capitole Reference without preamplifier section. I Attach a photo).
I red that you strongly recomend the HRS Dampening plates. (you wrote: “The player’s sound was somewhat improved with a mid-size damping plate centered on the top of the unit especially with respect to the detail and articulation in the bass extending up into the midrange.. Unfortunately, this requires moving the damping plate every time the door is slid open to put on a CD - but putting the damping plate on the side of the unit resulted in a diminished soundstage and incorrect imaging.”)
As you saw, my AA Capitole Classic doesn´t have the door problem as the Capitole Reference.
I want to know if you still recomend the mid-size damping plate for my AA. I saw other AA owners that use many damping plates.
I will apreciate your recomendation.

Hi X,

The optimal position and number of damping plates on top of the Capitole, or any component for that matter, is usually only found through a process of trial and error. I think this may be because the vibrations found at the top of a component is so unpredictable, depending on the chassis and other aspects of the component, as well as the feet used under the component, as well as the equipment rack itself. The top of a component is kind of the end of a ‘vibratory chain’:… floor -> rack -> feet -> component -> top of component…

We usually recommend that you start with the HRS Nimbus (feet) first. an HRS Isolation Base (if your budget allows) and then tune the final result using the damping plates. The Nimbus feet give an immediate, predictable, no fuss improvement in just about all aspects of the sound - especially under the Audio Aero players.

That said, around here we occasionally do still use damping plates on the Audio Aero players. However, we use them much more often on the much less expensive Audio Note players [at the bottom part of their line] which have lighter weight chassis than the Capitole.

Hope this helps!

HRS - Harmonic Resolution Systems - News

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 by Mike

[Got a number of posts to… uh… post. So please bear with us!]

Some of this you already know these Harmonic Resolution Systems tidbits - but just so that the blog has a record of all this…

The HRS R1 Isolation Base:

The new R1 Isolation Base at $1095 works in the same frame system as S1 ($1695) and M3X ($2495) Isolation Bases. The R1 and S1 come in 17×19 and 19×21 sizes only (and that would be inches on a side, everybody). We haven’t tried the S1 and R1 yet, but the idea is that the S1 is supposed to be just about nearly as darn good as the old M3.

The standard (for a few years now, I think it is) DPII Series Damping Plates now come in both black and silver finish - purely for cosmetic reasons. Even though most of us Yanks prefer black components - statistically - some of us do have silver finish components, whether we like it or not.

There are now new HRS DPX Series Damping Plates - with more than twice the mass of the DPII. The largest plates come in at a whopping 5.5 lbs. These were added to the product line because people were often found to be using multiple plates on a single component.

Well, we certainly do - and probably would also use multiple of these larger plates too. Why? Because components are often sensitive to WHERE the damping plate is placed, and using multiple plates offers one a lot of customizability. Careful though, one CAN over-dampen a component with the plates [unlike the Isolation Bases or Nimbus Couplers (feet)]. We haven’t tried these new DPX plates. When we use them we mostly use them on the (relatively) inexpensive components - mostly because we do not have an Isolation Base and the Nimbus Couplers for *everything* here. The DPX plates come in black and silver, just like the DPII.

Nimbus couplers are soft [rubbery] pads, and you use two, one on each side of a metal spacer, as feet to couple the component [and its vibrations] to a solid mass - usually an massive Isolation Platform which are about 60lbs on average. We used to poo poo the feet, but they do increase the performance of a Isolation Base by quite a bit - oh, say, 25%? (it varies from component to component. EMM Labs somewhat lower, Audio Note and Lamm somewhat higher, whatever - you get the point, right?)

You can now buy the triplet: 2 nimbi and a spacer, as a single unit, the Couplers being permanently bonded to the Nimbus Spacer using a very highgrade aerospace adhesive system. “The bonded assembly makes handling the units very easy for all applications.” They used to do something like this a long time ago, bonding 1 metal spacer to one soft coupler - which still allowed one to put it under a foot of a component if one desired (not recommended, especially, unless there is no alternative. It sounds better if they are placed under the metal of the component’s chassis; placing them under the component’s feet does improve the sound - just not as much). So, I guess the point that this paragraph was trying to make but doing a lousy job at - is that bonding them together is more convenient - but not nearly as flexible. So unless there is a sonic difference (none that I know of. Neli? Mike L.?) then in most cases you will still want to get the 3-piece feet as separates.

OK, think that is it for HRS!

Seriously, if you want your system to sound a lot better without even having to upgrade any components - this is it. We have found HRS to be a consistent and a predictable performer. Most other isolation products, although often quite popular, are sadly horrible sounding compared to using nothing at all [Is there such a thing as laughably bad. ? Nope, probably not.].

Our Large Audio Note, Emm Labs, Nordost, HRS room at RMAF 2009

Saturday, October 31st, 2009 by Mike

So, I would like to talk a little about the sound in our large room.

As a reminder (it has been a few weeks now. Time flies when buried in 1800 page show reports) we had the Emm Labs XDS1 single-box statement player driving the Audio Note M9 Phono preamp and Gaku-On amps. All cables were Nordost ODIN and all components were on M3 HRS platforms and we also used an HRS SXR rack

We had a little hiccup when one of the 211 tubes arrived in a non-working condition. Phil (thanks Phil!), a local audiophile, loaned us a 211 tube [and the next day Nick Gowan shipped us another pair. Thanks Nick!]. Neli arrived back with the 1st relief of 211 tubes and then left to pick up some HRS platforms we needed for under the Gaku-On amps.

All to say that I was left alone to position the speakers. [Yes!]

So, here we have 20+ feet of front wall space minus the 2 feet or so the rack occupies [also up against the front wall] - and the speakers will probably be fine anywhere.

Then Fred Crowder and Paul arrived. OK good. I moved the speaker and their comments and the expressions on their faces told me if it was for the better or worser. Every so often I would step back into the room and listen for myself. Surprisingly enough, this resulted in at least a locally optimized position for the speakers that was pretty decent. It was surprising to me because we seemed to flail around quite a bit, the sound getting a wee bit better or wee bit worse - but all of a sudden they were both nodding their heads a lot and when I stood back it really had snapped in to coolness. With only a few minor mods it became much more fun to just listen to music than it was to play with the speakers anymore.

—> Position 1.

After Fred Crowder, Paul and I positioned them, about oh, 3 feet from the side walls, and oh, 4 or 5 inches from the front wall. Angled in fairly severely to cross in front of the nearfield listening position.

This worked really pretty darn well. It was very engaging, quick, harmonic, with good soundstaging and imaging. There was enough bass reinforcement to be quite satisfying. And I would have been happy showing the system like this. Several people came and went and they all liked the sound.

Then Neli returned with the HRS platforms and we put them under the Gaku-Ons.

The added separation and tighter bass of the sound now wasn’t quite as engaging. It was ‘better’, but the speakers now had to be repositioned because, essentially, we now had a different [sounding] system and the sound coming out of the speakers reflected that fact.

So, I’m thinking… where are Fred and Paul when ya need ‘em? :-)

Then Mario from the Audio Note factory just happened to show up at the door, and I remember that these guys do shows every couple of weeks in Europe [seriously] and they must have run into largish rooms before.

So we start moving them radically this way and that. What I really wanted to know was: What kind of sound does Audio Note go for with their speakers when they do a show in a big room like this?

I mean, I was pretty sure we could get back to the sound that we heard previously, in setup #1. And it really was quite good. But, hey, we got some time, let’s experiment.

We put them closer and closer to the corners - each time hearing no overtly deleterious effects, and each time hearing slightly more room engagement. They eventually ended up just about as far into the corners as we could get them.

—> Position #2.

The sound was very big, pressurizing the room. No lack of bass, let me tell you. In fact, more bass than we let the Coltrane Supremes have in that room [the Supremes could probably do real damage to the hotel fixtures. I mean 2000 watts, 12 9 inch drivers, very efficient speakers. Give me a break]. Perhaps we have been too shy with the bass on the Supremes [trying to differentiate ourselves from the big boom box systems elsewhere in the hotel - you know, the ones that win all the awards from the newbie and want-free-equipment show reporters], because the Audio Note speakers with their more present bass worked pretty well.

The bass and the dynamics was all hitting the big time [all the components in this system are world-class dynamic champions]. The harmonics were like those never heard before [thanks Gaku-On!]. The soundstage was the width of the room. Huge. The musicians were life size. It was like they were really there in the room. Standing in a line across the stage.

Which is also to say that the soundstage depth was not very deep. It was more shallow than it should have been for many people’s tastes. In some ways, this made it more realistic, but perhaps not as much fun. We think the problem had to do with the fake side wall we made on the left, and the big curtained window on the right. Certainly position #1, away from these less-than-optimal side walls, had no problem with achieving great depth of field.

We stayed with position #2, in large part [from my point of view] to further differentiate it from last year and invalidate any direct comparisons. This was a different system… evaluate it as it is, not as last year’s system with different speakers. This is also part of the reason we did not put the system over on the side of the room: to make the system and room look different than last year [the others being 10 meter ODIN is hard to come by - 10 meters is needed to reach the rack when it is on the rear/side of the room - and we were tired of lugging tons of equipment to the show and back].

It really worked and most everybody liked it a lot, in fact everybody except those people who really do prefer a sophisticated and very accurate sound [about 5%, this show is not very kind to these people] - and those [my guess about 20% of the people [NO, I really do not think it is as high as 95%, though an argument could be made… :-) ]] who have no ears anyway and pick rooms they like more or less at random [using a algorithm, in any case, that has zero, nada, zilch to do with the sound. No, I do not think this is criminal - but when you read about what someone thinks about a show, keep these people in mind].


Compared to our room last year, this was a completely different sound.

Last year’s sound, the Marten Coltrane Supremes speakers with the Lamm ML3 amps, was a very, very sophisticated sound. The delicacy and detail, the preciseness of the harmonics, the shade and shapes of the images in a seemingly infinite 3D space was unheard of. Of course, to really appreciate it you had to know what imaging was, you had to be able to hear the harmonic structures, likely being revealed for the first time ever [they were to us], and you had to relax and trust that the system, rendering difficult notes, was going to do it correctly and so you could relax into the music in a way that isn’t possible with most [which is to say all but one or two] systems.

And this years sound, this year it was danceable, approachable, rocking, boogieable [well, it SHOULD be a real word]. Harmonics were lovelier this year, but not as nuanced or delicate. This year the sound was enjoyable, emotional, impressive. Last year it was OMFG. This year it was “Alive!”.

It is very, very much like Leonardo DaVinci versus Picasso. Leo [can I call him that? He ain’t here so…] paints with excruciatingly fine detail, it is amazing that someone could do that. It is more wonderful than real life photography. Picasso [and I speak only of his ink and brush paintings] uses a half-dozen strokes and makes a woman appear who is so evocative of a real actual person it is just amazing that someone could do that. It is more alive than most people are in ‘real life’.

I love both artist’s work - and the bizarre thing is that some people just like one or the other [yes, now we can put this into the context of some people liking our room this year more/less than the room last year]. I, personally, love both.

I think it is too simple to say that one is of the mind, and one of the body. Or right brain versus left brain. But I think it is indeed something like that. Just not that.

Anyway, since the mind and body [according to most people] cannot exist one without the other - we are now trying to build a hybrid system sound that is OMFG Alive!

And I think, I think we came really, really close the other evening - when Kevin, Neli and I ODIN’d up the system, with the Emm Labs XDS1, Audio Note S9, M9 and Gaku-Ons on the Coltrane Supremes. Horn-like dynamics and ceramic and diamond driver preciseness!

Stereophile post on our room at T.H.E. Show, CES 2009

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009 by Mike

Wes Phillips had some very nice things to say about our Audio Note U.K. room [with Nordost ODIN and Acrolink powercords, HRS M3 isolation bases and Nimbus Couplers] at:

Ongaku Means Ecstasy

We thank Wes and J.A. for visiting our room and posting their impressions and are, of course, pleased, especially Neli [! :-) ] who staffed the room by herself for the entire show.

Have to say, this being the first time I recollect seeing these two in action, they really seem to enjoy being audiophiles and playing music. Not all [aka few] show reporters are like this, many coming off as if it is all a lot of hard work [which it is].

[Not sure how I come off . To Constantine Soo (Dagogo), I think I come off as someone who gets in the way of his trying to listen a lot ;-) ))]

Funny thing [or not] while Neli was trying, and trying, and trying some more to find a CD in the folder, I mentioned something like maybe putting CDs at random in the folder wasn’t such a good idea [actually, what I said was probably a lot less coherent], expecting good ole wifey to come back with a witty, if not outright scathing, rejoinder and lighten up the situation a little bit. You know, at least something like ‘ASShole’ with that big smile of hers [no, she doesn’t always smile when she says this :-) ]. But noooooo. So I now wonder if this playfully antagonistic dialog technique between Neli and I is such a good method to lighten up somewhat awkward situations after all. ;-)

And yes, we are still preoccupied with all the optimizations that we did not get time to implement with this particular system . Some other time we’ll write about how we tried [and failed, but we got more ideas] to maintain the coherence and lack of strain and harshness, while at the same time opening up the sound-stage and increasing the separation to suit Florian [who has agreed to write for the magazine] - and of course this was Sunday night… AFTER the show when we didn’t have to worry about ‘getting back to what sounded pretty good before’ if we really messed things up].

Anyway, everybody should congratulate Neli. Congratulations Neli!

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