Full Report

Denver Show

High-end Audio

September 15th, 2006

* Denotes a product carried by Audio Federation

Copyright © Audio Federation, Inc.. All rights reserved.
All pictures in this report are freely copyable and distributable.



















Vandersteen loudspeakers, Esoteric CD / DVD player, Audio Research amplification, Richard Gray power conditioning, Kubala-Sosna cables

In a dark room. Playing a James Taylor Live DVD.

Competent sound, missing a little body, neutral, accurate within the frequencies supported, missing a little life and emotion.

















Nola loudspeakers and subwoofer, Plinius amplification, SIM2 Grand Cinema c3X projector

Played the House of Flying Daggers DVD [Everybody is playing the same scene where the female protagonist dances in the circle of drums.]

Ignoring the screeching an collapsing of the sound when the beans are thrown out onto the floor before she starts dancing, the sound was refined, pleasingly-balanced across the frequency spectrum, with a nice soundstage. Sophisticated and Enjoyable. Somewhat Emotional and Impressive.

The video had visible static and was low resolution. This $20K projector has a good reputation... but....

























SoundSmith loudspeakers and amplification and cartridge.

We heard a pair of the medium-sized monitor speakers. The sound had too much unique character in the midrange for my taste, upper-mids were fairly well defined, the monitors produced some bass - but not remarkably so.
























Eminent Technology loudspeakers and fan-driven SUBwoofer.

Played a number of scenes from famous movies to demonstrate the bass we have never heard before. Also clips of sounds at various LOW frequencies [4hz, 8hz, 12hz, etc.]. Very well done demonstration. The midrange and higher frequencies were refined with lots of detail but lack some emotion and body.

The subwoofer works! Fairly seamless integration with the rest of the frequencies (unlike the subwoofer setups across the street at CEDIA).

The room is the limitation. The creaks and whines and rattles of the room distracted from the movies. To use this subwoofer, you better have a well-built house [not sure ours is up to it, myself].

You can see the mouth of the subwoofer on the right there.












This is the room for the subwoofer that they build on one side of the room. It is about 40% the size of the original room.






The subwoofer would most likely be installed in a basement or attic. Bags of sand were used to hold down the wall so it does not tip over....




















YG Acoustics loudspeakers, Delta Sigma amplification, DCS digital front end, Kimber Select cables.

We played a couple of our test CDs (Janis' Rachmaninov and Sailing to Philadelphia) which were both stopped in the middle by the room's host.

The YG Acoustics website does not work with Internet Explorer, and for those few who use that browser, or those that use Firefox that do not want to be forced to sit through Flash animations to get to the good stuff, here is a link to the technical stats PDF file:


The claim to fame for these speakers is their reported accuracy in frequency response: +/- 0.7dB. Sure sounded accurate to me.

Listening was an interesting experience here. The flat frequency response allowed part of my brain to relax while listening, a part which does not usually get to relax. Yes, our Marten Design Coltranes are a reported +/- 2dB - but there was an apparent audible improvement heard here. The musical passages of the Rachmaninov flowed better from one to the other, each being of a more appropriate, more real, loudness with respect to what came before and after. This is the good news - and the advantages of a really flat frequency response is something I think we will both attribute more importance to whenever we audition a loudspeaker in the future.


A cautionary note: specifications usually, including those for this speaker, list a frequency response without detailing at what SPL the response was measured at. As an obvious example of how misleading this is, the response may be flat to 20Hz at 1 watt, but at 10 watts it may be down 8dB at 20Hz. Another specification qualification that is missing is what kind of frequency wave was used - was it a pulse or a smooth sweep?

What is missing in these specifications is also a consistency of frequency response dynamics - which has at least three dimensions:

1. Consistency: For say, one watt, does the shape of the response to a pulse at, say, 30Hz match the shape of the response to one at say 5000Hz.

2. Accuracy: how closely does the shape of the response to a pulse match the shape of the response itself

3. Dynamics: How consistent are #1 and #2 at different wattages? [We talk about this in general terms as how well a speaker handles micro-dynamics, midi-dynamics, and macro-dynamics]



The construction of these speakers out of what looks to be aluminum also seemed to minimize cabinet colorations. Most high-end loudspeaker manufacturers are getting pretty good at this these days.

OK, the bad news. There was a real lack of separation between the notes here. They all kind of blended into each other. No doubt part of the cause of this is the low efficiency of the midrange / tweeter assembly (a reported 85dB). This assembly is the box at the top of the speaker. It is being bi-amped by a 800 watts/channel stereo amplifier.

The subwoofer, the largest part of the speaker, is self-powered. There was some disconnect between the bass and the midrange. There was also a severe lack of transparency and imaging - there was no way either if us were able to convince ourselves that there was a real piano between the speakers somewhere.

My guess would be that in constructing the crossover so that the flat frequency response was achievable, they not only reduced the efficiency of the speaker quite a bit, but comprised some of the other aspects of frequency response, as described by the 3 points above.

Anyway, a mixed bag. These speakers are very popular in Japan.

[PS. We received this email Dec. 4th, a few months after this report:

Dear people of Audio Federation,

I have carefully inspected your CEDIA / T.H.E. Show “show report” section.

I have not found the customary clarification used by publications at both the top and bottom of the page, which clarifies when a column is written by someone with commercial interest (this is normally written in large, readable letters).

Since you are an audio dealership rather than an independent publication, I kindly request that you mention this at the top and bottom of the page. Otherwise, it may confuse readers who will believe that you have no commercial interest in the matter.

I am asking you this as a sign of good faith, with no legal implications at this stage.

Please advise as to your planned course of action.


Xaver Obermeyer

YG Acoustics


Well, we certainly want people to know that we are a store. And, even though there are links at the top and bottom of 100s and 100s of pages of show reports, perhaps they are not visible enough and some people do not see them? If so, this would suck. So, we will try to resolve this by posting this on the Blog and seeing what our readers think would help us get people to know we are a store but without being too obnoxious about it (i.e. there is NOT going to be blinking text saying 'We are a store' 'We are a store'.... :-) ).

And as far as commercial interests in the matter go - I guess some dealerships do 'trash talk' their competition, and it kind of tarnishes all dealers as needing to lie to make sales. However, we do have a real commercial interest in going to shows and that is to find the really good shtuff, and talk about it... in our show reports, with you all out there, and with each other. Later we might even try to get it for our store. Most of the product lines we carry were 'discovered' at shows. And in general, the more we talk about what we hear at shows, the more people we meet who have also been hearing the same things we do - but they thought they were nuts because they thought they were the only ones who were hearing these things - that there was something wrong with them because they just... weren't... able... to hear everything as being just won-der-ful. That there are always tradeoffs and some people like making those particular tradeoffs and some don't.

And... 'independent publication'? Love to see one of those someday.]






































Magneplaner loudspeakers in a 5.1 configuration, Conrad Johnson electonics.

Dianna Krall Live DVD

Like the Nola / Plinius room, a very refined, detailed, enjoyable sound. Sophisticated, but in no way real, with some impressiveness and emotion, but in a largely left brain kind of fashion. 

These two systems, but especially this one, are a great HT setup for not all THAT much money and it can be enjoyed by people who have grown out of, or never were in one, their adolescent male stage. :-)







Rear of a rear channel Maggie.












The Conrad-Johnson front end.







PHC - Professional Home Cinema loudspeakers, BAT amplification, Theta DVD player and processing.

Played the House of Flying Daggers DVD [Everybody is playing the same scene where the female protagonist dances in the circle of drums.] Played another couple of clips of a western and of a live Clapton concert.

The speakers are a horn-hybrid using compression drivers from Italy and and external, digital crossover. VERY dynamic, VERY seamless. There were quite a few speakers in the room - I saw at least 3 subwoofers, 4-side channels, two rear, one center, and two front main speakers.

Evaluating the performance during the Clapton piece, the presentation was very 'real', certainly dynamically, but missing resolution and some harmonic content - very different in this regard compared to the Cogent True-to-life compression driver-based horn loudspeakers. Also  missing some emotion (which often arise from the more subtle cues available in a higher-resolution playback). This is not necessarily a fault of the speaker, as we know,  the target HT market of this setup is often unconcerned with the emotional content of sound.

The Clapton convert sounded very much like being at a real concert - but this comparison is kind of interesting, because many home audio setups are better than live or studio setups - better in many ways like resolution, sound-staging, etc. but usually fail miserably when it comes to dynamics. The 'Real' we usually compare things to here at Audio Federation is not the Absolute Sound of what one hears at a concert - but more the sound one would hear in an idealized setup at a concert. The two approaches do converge for, say, during an intimate acoustical guitar presentation when the guitarist and you sit by yourselves alone in a somewhat large room. Where these approaches diverge is for amplified music - in fact the TAS approach chooses to ignore amplified music - with the point of view that nothing can be learned by comparing a system playing amplified music to the real thing.

But lets be real here - 95% of the music 95% of us (or so, you know what I mean) listen to these days is amplified. And we want our systems to reproduce this music as well as possible. Or better. Right?

The concert reproduced here sounded like Clapton was playing through a nice electronics setup into some big, conventional guitar amplifiers and drivers. Not much air at all, not much detail (you are not going to hear too much fret work here, nor the anguish in Clapton's voice - not that he is the most expressive singer in the world, but I digress). What we would love, and it may be possible with a change in cabling or whatever, is to be able to hear more of the content of the music, along with this impressively dynamic and seamless, both top to bottom frequency-wise and directionality-wise, presentation.

OK. The gunshots. They played a western and there were gunshots. LOUD gunshots. Holy Cow! kind of gunshots. Having not heard that many real guns go off in my life (thank goodness) I can only say that it sounded real, but robbed of perhaps some harmonic detail and overhang. Way more real than anything we have heard, including the ISOMIKE setup at HE 2005. The slight deviation from real may not be necessarily the system's fault, but rather the recording medium and or the movie itself. Good reproduction technologies have a tendency to shine a light on the skills and lack thereof of the artists - in this case the director et. al. of the movie. The first gunshot was appropriate and dramatic - after about 10 of them it not only got to be boring - but it reduces the impact of the first one. However, perhaps seeing the whole movie would put things in a better balance. But let's just say that watching a shoot-em-up movie is now VERY intense. [And what is with these people in the audience who giggle when someone gets their heads blown off?]

The other movie clip that was memorable (by me) was Flying Daggers. In comparison to the same movie clip on the NOLA speakers, when the female protagonist was dancing and flinging her scarf(?) around hitting drums - it was much louder (and the composition of the drum was detectable - a nice harmonic there). So much louder that it seemed artificial. I wonder if movie makers jack up the sound of the bass because they are gearing it for people with minimalist HT sound systems (which is most of us) which do not have much bass. Similar to music recording engineers making their music sound good on car radios. Those people with systems like this, and those with the Eminent Technology subwoofer, system might have to Turn Down the bass in order to hear a well-balanced presentation.































Copyright © Audio Federation, Inc.. All rights reserved.
All pictures in this report are freely copyable and distributable.

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