HiFi & Stereo System News
A review of the new Sony TA-A1ES integrated amp. The song played is called Great Imposter by Heather Maloney.
For the most current news from Adirondack Audio & Video, follow our Facebook page. It’s there that I post (sometimes daily, but at least once a week) information about what’s new in the showroom, or noteworthy discoveries, or just random thoughts about the hifi hobby. There is a Facebook link on our homepage, or you can find us here:
Recently, Adirondack Audio & Video had a company called Patio Enclosures install a SoftWall Finishing System in one of our listening rooms. The acoustic benefits of the SoftWall system are truly profound. Previously, the room had been an acoustic nightmare, with four windows, bare walls, and a square form contributing to a harsh and extremely “bright” listening environment. It was completely unsuitable for the serious auditioning of audio equipment. Three days later, the room not only looks amazing, but the transformation in acoustics is almost unbelievable! With the walls absorbing so much of the stray sound waves, the imaging and soundstage created by the stereo system is now breathtakingly accurate and perfectly balanced. It makes every recording sound so much more natural, revealing, and—in a word—musical. This system works wonders for 2-channel stereo, but it would undoubtedly offer just as dramatic an improvement for multi-channel home theater applications, too. In the end, stereos and loudspeakers will only sound as good as the room they’re in, and the SoftWall Finishing System provides a comprehensive acoustic solution that looks as good as it sounds—and that’s not something that can be said for many acoustic treatments. It is definitely a product that I will recommend without hesitation to those customers who are serious about improving the sound quality of their home music and theater systems.
One of the latest arrivals here is Hegel’s new P20 preamp, a lower-cost alternative to their reference-level P30 that is nevertheless one of the most transparent and one of the best sounding preamps I’ve ever had in the store. It’s the first time I’ve had a Hegel preamp to accompany my H20 Hegel power amp (200wpc, fully balanced design), and the combination highlights the benefits of brand synergy. This is not surprising, as manufacturers will naturally use their own products as ancillary equipment when developing new components. What you may find surprising, though, is that the H20 power amp sounded much better with the P20 preamp than it did without ANY analog preamp at all (using the HD25 DAC as a digital preamp). One might think that removing a component and simplifying the signal path would naturally lead to better sound quality. But this did not happen. Wiring the P20 between the HD25 and H20 led to obvious sonic improvements in both dynamics and soundstage. This fact reminds me once again about how important the preamp is in the signal chain from source to speakers.
I’ve often heard it said that the preamp is the most difficult audio component to make. Not only is it switching sources and providing volume control, it is doing so when the signal is at its most vulnerable to noise and distortion. It’s a delicate operation: while the amp is like a power tool, the preamp is like a surgical instrument, gingerly performing its tasks without hurting the health of the “patient” (in this case, the signal that is destined to be transformed into music by the loudspeakers). Since every model of preamp is unique in its design and construction, the results from brand-to-brand (and even between different models of the same brand) vary significantly. All other variables being equal, it’s amazing how different a system sounds when swapping preamps. Detail, transparency, dynamic range, soundstage and imaging: all these areas (and more) are deeply effected by the choice of preamp. But don’t take my word for it: come in for a listen and let your ears convince you.
Adirondack Audio & Video is proud to announce that we are now an authorized dealer for KEF, one of the world’s most famous and innovative loudspeaker manufacturers. Renouned for their Uni-Q single-point driver, which incorporates a tweeter and midrange driver in the same assembly, KEF has well-made, stylish, and (most importantly) GREAT-sounding speakers for just about any budget. From under $300/pr to $30,000/pr, KEF loudspeakers represent the pinnacle of engineering and sound reproduction at each price-point. They also have great on-wall, in-wall, and outdoor speakers. Here in our showroom, we have examples from KEF’s C-series, Q-Series, and new R-series (pictured). If you value transparency, great imaging, and a three-dimensional soundstage (and, honestly, who doesn’t?), then you really have to listen to KEF before you purchase your next speakers. Perhaps the most astonishing thing about KEF speakers is their price: considering the quality of sound they produce, they are true audiophile bargains. But you don’t have to take my word for it: come in and hear for yourself!
What do you get when you mate a 14″ woofer with a huge horn-loaded midrange driver and a tiny horn-loaded tweeter? The JBL Synthesis 1400 Array! This is truly a FULL range speaker that provides startling dynamics right down to the lowest octaves. Is is also capable of wonderful delicacy, even at low volumes. It looks like an awesome rock-and-roll speaker (and yes, it can ROCK!), but it is equally impressive at making full orchestras sound like they are RIGHT THERE. The start of Richard Strauss’s “Also Spracht Zarathustra” (you know, from 2001: A Space Oddyssey) sounds better and more natural through these speakers than I’ve EVER heard it before; the sound of those kettle drums will blow you away! Stop in and listen for yourself…
Ahhh…tubes. What is it about tubes that makes music sound so…musical? Most amps today are designed to use transistors and associated “solid state” technology to amplify the audio signal. However, Audiophiles have continued to appreciate the unique beauty of tube sound–and many high-end amp manufacturers have continued to offer tube electronics as an alternative to solid state. These very special amps tend to have rather premium pricing.
Then, in 2003, PrimaLuna appeared. A Dutch company, PrimaLuna created a tube amp that was built to a very high standard, offered the lovely sound that tubes are famous for, but also incorporated state-of-the-art engineering that eliminates the hassles usually associated with tubes. Adaptive Autobias, for instance, automatically and continuously biases the tubes for optimum performance. And all this performance and convenience (and reliability…and physical beauty) is offered at a very moderate price–making PrimaLuna a compelling option for anyone looking for a high-quality sound system. Today PrimaLuna manufactures an entire range of tube electronics, including amps, preamps, integrated amps and even CD players. And we now have PrimaLuna available here, in the showroom, for demonstation. Come in and be impressed!
Adirondack Audio & Video is now a dealer for Clearaudio turntables from Germany. Clearaudio is one of the most respected names in turntables, with models ranging from $1500 to $170,000! All are hand-crafted in Germany and feature the latest in turntable design. Yes, Clearaudio’s engineers are still perfecting the record player as a fine audiophile instrument for superlative sound reproduction. We have a Clearaudio Concept turntable in our showroom (with moving coil cartridge) that will rival the sound quality of digital sources costing much, much more. There’s nothing quite as sublimely musical as a clean record playing on a good turntable. And Clearaudio makes some of the best in the world. Bring some of your favorite LPs and have a listen!
Check out my video introduction to Amphion loudspeakers from Finland: