One of the most important services a high-performance audio dealer can offer its customers and prospects is not only demonstrating the sonic differences between components, but also educating them along the way. During a recent seminar at Bay Area audio retailer AudioVision San Francisco, three manufacturers helped a standing-room-only audience hear the differences some of their newest products make in a high-quality audio system comprised of a Clearaudio Ovation turntable with Lyra Kleos cartridge, Triangle Signature Alpha Speakers, a sleek Devialet “do everything” integrated, a JL Audio subwoofer, and Nordost cables and power products. The ’table and Devialet sat atop a Still Points ESS “The Grid” rack.
First up in this engaging seminar was Matt Reilly (pictured above) from Audio Plus Services, the importer and distributor of the stunning Devialet electronics. A single elegant piece, the Devialet D170 integrated amplifier not only handled the phono stage, preamplifier, DAC, and wireless streaming chores, it drove the speakers very well, producing a remarkably clean and detailed sound with tight control over the Triangle speakers’ woofers. This is one innovative amplifier sporting Devialet’s ADH hybrid technology: while the Class A section supplies the voltage, the Class D portion (running in parallel) supplies the current. The ADH approach sure seems to utilize each technology optimally while avoiding any ill effects caused by switching. Its overall transparency, dynamic punch, and lack of grain are quite shocking for such a relatively small, sleek, and, for what it offers, reasonably priced unit ($9500 loaded up).
I had the pleasure of seeing the board inside a Devialet integrated at the Munich Show and was quite impressed by its modular design and “forward thinking” approach. It accepts modules to increase the base design’s functionality while helping to avoid obsolescence. For example, the 170 includes both USB and Ethernet connections, yet offers a Wi-Fi module as an option.
After the formal part of the seminar concluded, Matt took me to Devialet’s online “Configurator” which enables you to easily configure each of the Devialet’s inputs and outputs, the power output of the amplifier, the Wi-Fi settings, the functions of the beautiful remote’s buttons, the phono stage settings (MM and MC), including cartridge loading, and more. Owners can save their personal settings on an SD card that the Devialet accepts and reads when it is powered up. Check it out yourself at: http://en.devialet.com/configurator/welcome/
Next up was JL Audio Rep Jim Knight, who demonstrated what a single JL Audio Fathom f112 subwoofer ($3500 in gloss) could do when inserted in and out of the system. This sealed-enclosure subwoofer system utilizes a single 12-inch driver powered by a 1500-watt amplifier. Jim explained that this all US-made unit (including its internal electronics) was awarded seven (7) patents on its driver technology alone. The f112 was gently crossed over in this system at 30Hz. While I expected it to add more bass slam and extension—which it did—what I didn’t expect was the enhanced bass control with the sub in the system. Another surprise was the expanded soundstage from just a single unit. I can only imagine what two of them (my preferred approach) would do for soundstaging!
Perhaps the way for me to go might be to use a pair of JL Audio’s new E-Sub powered subwoofers, which start at $1500/each for the e110 model. Jim described how they utilize all new, purpose-built, proprietary JL drivers designed by Lucio Peroni (the “L” in JL), sport dual spiders, and are enclosed in an aluminum chassis. The new E-Sub e112 powered subwoofer ($2100 in gloss), was demonstrated in a system in another room with a Devialet 110 Integrated/DAC/Streamer, Triangle Signature Theta Loudspeakers, Nordost Red Dawn cables, and QB4 Power Distribution. Unfortunately, I spent too much time checking out Devialet’s online configurator, so by the time I got to the room, all the seats were taken and I had to stand in the doorway. Consequently, I couldn’t make any meaningful sonic comparisons, but Jim assures me that the E-Sub is “All JL.”
Having already heard the significant difference between the original Nordost Valhalla and its new, reference-grade Valhalla 2 cables at a recent audio show, I half-expected to sit through that jaw-dropping demo again. Though the entire system in AudioVision San Francisco’s main room was wired with the remarkable Nordost Valhalla 2 speaker cables and power cords, what really surprised me was how effective some of Nordost’s far less expensive products were. Nordost’s Mike Marko demonstrated what relatively inexpensive Nordost Bronze Ceramic Sort Kones ($139.95 each) could do when placed under a Norodst QB8 A/C Power Distribution strip. The Sort Kones are designed to channel vibrations away from the chassis of the power strip or sensitive electronics. This inexpensive tweak resulted in a noticeable increase in clarity and fine detail retrieval and focus.
Mike also talked about the importance of precise leveling between the speakers and how it affects soundstaging—particularly centerfill and focus. Nordost’s Sort Füt ($350/ea) resonance control devices are designed to replace the standard spikes used to decouple loudspeakers and racks from the floor. Mike suggested that some of those spikes could do more harm than good. The Sort Füt is a sophisticated resonance control device that provides a direct ground path to eliminate spurious vibrations. Additionally, each Sort Füt allows for precise leveling, and Nordost offers a “Premium Pack” ($1500) that includes 4 Sort Füt units, an adjustment tool, an innovative laser leveling system so both speakers can be precisely aligned, and some threaded adaptors. It seems like a great way to boost system performance.
Antonio Long and Randy Johnson at AudioVision San Francisco should be congratulated for offering such an engaging seminar. Such seminars are a great way to learn more, hear new components and music, interact with manufacturers and other audio enthusiasts, and improve one’s system.