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Nancy Wilson Gets to the Heart of the Matter

It only took 46 years for Nancy Wilson to get around to making her first full-fledged solo studio album. Fact is, the bulk of Wilson’s recording and performing career since the pioneering female-led rock band Heart’s debut album Dreamboat Annie first made waves in 1975 has been spent playing guitar and singing alongside her sister, multi-octave vocalist extraordinaire Ann Wilson. During that timespan, Nancy has been able to carve out some time to compose film scores, spearhead the occasional Heart side project The Lovemongers with aforementioned sister Ann, launch the soul-inflected Roadcase Royale rock collective with onetime Prince protégé Liv Warfield at the vocal helm in 2017, and even release an acoustified one-off live set performed at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, California, albeit back in 1999. But the 12-track statement piece dubbed You and Me (Carry On Music) is truly the first time Wilson has been able to put her own name front and center on an original studio LP marquee.

“The condition this world is in right now enabled a sort of forced introspection to create, if you will. And the creative space is a good place to go to if you’re in lockdown during a pandemic and there’s no touring or other hard business to do—and no Heart vortex to get sucked into,” the ever-genial Wilson says with a laugh. “The lockdown has definitely been the perfect time for me to close off and dream up a new album. It’s been a blessing inside a curse.”

Mainly recorded in a home studio located above the garage in Wilson’s Northern California home, You and Me balances astutely heartfelt—pun intended—originals (the controlled resignation of “Walk Away,” the dreamy fingerstyle reverie of “We Meet Again”) alongside some choice, hand-selected covers. Said covers include Wilson’s poignant duet on Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” with (yes) Sammy Hagar gamely tackling the angelic Art Garfunkel role, and a singular twist on Bruce Springsteen’s epic “The Rising” that shifts its male resolve over to a more nurturing and aspirational POV, given the song’s now-female perspective. When it comes to the overall content of You and Me, Wilson decrees, “Expect the unexpected!”

Though Heart topped the charts when Nancy took the lead vocal reins for their first No. 1 single, “These Dreams,” in early 1986, Wilson felt the need to improve her singing chops in order to properly headline You and Me. Enter Sue Ennis, a lifelong writing partner for both Wilson sisters. “Sue’s a really great vocal coach because I approach singing as a player more than as a singer,” Nancy admits. “And she’s given me the best tips. She’ll say, ‘I feel like you’re trying to push it or prove it more than you need to here. You don’t want to sound like you’re trying to come up to the Heart level of vocalizing—you want to tell your story and be more interior with it, instead of taking it too big.’” 

Ennis’ guidance has greatly assisted Nancy in better defining her own vocal lane. “I’m not gonna compare myself to my sister, because there is no comparison,” she acknowledges. “Nobody can compare to that voice. It’s something I’ve gradually come to terms with in my own image of myself as a singer. But we do have that certain sisterly blend—that sibling kind of vocal blend like The Bee Gees had—even though we can also sound different in different song situations.”

With decades of singing and harmonizing under her belt, Wilson recognizes her strengths. “I’ve finally come to understand more of what my persona as a singer is, which is more about storytelling,” she notes. “It’s more like being a character actor in a movie, because the character of who’s telling the story doesn’t have to be Ethel Merman or some other huge powerhouse singer. It’s more about which story you’re telling, and how you tell it. It’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it.”

Wilson Audio SabrinaX Loudspeaker

I must admit that I didn’t use to be a huge fan of Wilson speakers. I must also admit that saying this is an awkward way to begin a review of a Wilson speaker. But a positive review from a nay-sayer turned aficionado speaks volumes about that product’s performance and capabilities. So, let us, together, go on a journey of discovery and realization. 

David Wilson is rightfully considered one of the fathers of the high-end audio industry. He built a speaker-manufacturing empire and one of the most recognizable brand names in the business. When the world lost David, his son Daryl stepped in to shoulder the weight of what Wilson Audio had become. Daryl took the wheel of the Wilson engine and, while always respecting where he and his company came from, chose to move forward with his own vision of what Wilson Audio should be and where it needed to go next. Part of that new vision is a maturation of the Wilson sonic signature, one that better represents Daryl, rather than David; yet, my intuition tells me that the path Daryl started on was initially paved by David’s WAMM Master Chronosonic. 

Now, with the “from the mind of” Daryl Wilson’s Alexx, Alexia2, Sasha DAW, Chronosonic XVX, SabrinaX, and just-released Alexx-V, it is clear that Wilson Audio is, indisputably, a Daryl Wilson corporation. And without showing any disrespect to David Wilson’s accomplishments or skill as a speaker designer, my tastes definitely lean toward the flavor of Daryl’s designs. 

I bring this up because I speak to seasoned audiophiles every day, who say that they “never liked Wilson speakers,” and subsequently have essentially written the brand off—going so far as skipping Wilson rooms at audio shows, not listening to them at stores, and even speaking poorly of the brand in audiophile circles.…Ummm, ok.

Let me take a moment out of your friendly neighborhood review for an audiophile public service announcement: To audiophiles everywhere, many of the products from more seasoned manufacturers, which previously had reputations of sounding a specific way, no longer do. Forget your preconceived notions based on a demo from a decade or more back, or what a friend once told you about a brand. In fact, try an olive or mango again. You may find you now like them, as well.

OK. I feel better. I hope you do, too. Now, let us talk about the Little Engine that Could.

Prelude to Dawn

Pianist Bruce Levingston’s latest release has such a satisfying symmetry, logic, and consistency of tone that makes it hard not to listen all the way through. Levingston programs music by J.S. Bach, Johannes Brahms, and the contemporary German composer Wolfgang Rihm. He also plays chorale preludes of Bach and Brahms transcribed by Busoni, plus Brahms’ arrangement of Bach’s Chaconne in D Minor, originally for solo violin. It’s that last selection that’s the album’s highlight. Brahms has reimagined the piece for left hand only—just as the violin plays double, triple, and quadruple stops to rough in the harmonic underpinning of the Chaconne, Brahms has his soloist arpeggiate chords with the five fingers seeing action. There’s a necessary focus on melodic line and dramatic shaping and Levingston responds with subtle dynamic contouring and judicious pacing. The two Rihm Preludes are brief early works with movement and momentum, but also a weighty solemnity. Levingston concludes quietly, yet majestically, with Brahms’ Theme and Variations in D Minor, Op.18b. Sono Luminus is an all-around audiophile label but their piano recordings are best—an ideal blend of percussiveness and resonance, with an outstanding sense of the volume and mass of the Steinway Model D. 

Audio Research: Making the Music Glow by Ken Kessler

Where would the high end be without William Zane Johnson, the founder and, for better than forty years, chief designer of the Audio Research Corporation? Well, I’m not sure. Maybe in a year or two somebody just like Johnson would have come along. (He was one of those visionary figures so seminal to any movement that if he hadn’t existed, sooner or later, someone would surely have had to invent him.) But I can tell you for certain where I would have been as an audiophile in a world without WZJ: Nowhere.

Even though he was famously upbraided by an irate engineer when he introduced his Dual 50 tube amplifier at a trade show in 1970—“You’ve set the audio industry back 20 years!” the fellow shouted when he spotted all those old-fashioned glass-bottle 6L6s, 12AX7s, QA2s, and 6FQ7s sprouting from the chassis—the consumer world didn’t see it that way.

With the subsequent introduction of his SP-3 preamplifier in 1972—probably the single most important debut of the high-end era—WZJ changed everything: minds, prejudices, the market, the competition, the future. That preamp hit the audio world like a bombshell, provoking not just outrage from AES types wedded to solid-state but an agonizing reappraisal by audiophiles of exactly where that great new thing—the silicon transistor—for all its superior measurements and greater convenience had actually left them.

Oh, there had been plenty of stirrings of discontent in advance of ARC’s arrival on the scene. Early-gen transistor gear was, for the most part, terrifyingly unreliable and downright amusical. While pouring negative feedback on inherently nonlinear quasi-complementary circuits generated the great THD numbers that AES (and Stereo Review) loved, it was like applying a Band-Aid to a compound fracture. As Bart Locanthi would famously note when he developed the first truly symmetrical circuit for JBL’s SA-600 amplifier, an audio circuit has to be linear to begin with. Otherwise, negative feedback only exacerbates problems, rather than fixing them.

Many audiophiles, weaned on the great Marantz, McIntosh, Citation, and Dynaco tube designs of the Golden Age of Hi-Fi, knew that solid-state wasn’t right. Yes, it had measurably lower total harmonic distortion than tubes. But the distortion it did produce was odd-order, rather than the more pleasing even-order harmonic distortion of those disreputable glass bottles. Yes, glass audio didn’t have the sheer drivability of solid-state (the current and the low output impedance and the bandwidth); yes, it ran hot; and yes, its tubes eventually failed. But those tubes were fast and sweet and musical, and you didn’t have to use as much negative feedback (or any) to make them work.

For a whole lot of us, the better “specs” of solid-state—and the reviews in the mainstream audio magazines that paraded those specs as if they were all that mattered—had failed us. The bass of solid-state was good; the neutrality was good; the resolution was good. But the overall sound wasn’t. And then along came William Zane Johnson with his SP-3 and D-75 (followed by his D-76, D-76A, and D-150 amplifiers) to show us that tubes didn’t have to sound like the fat potatoes of the past—that they could be neutral, high-resolution devices, too. And that on acoustic music they could give us a level of realism and musicality that transistors couldn’t then approach, much less match.

Paul McCartney: McCartney III

There are Paul McCartney albums, and then there are self-titled Paul McCartney albums. The latter are his DIY projects. On these releases, Paul writes the music, sings the songs, plays every instrument, and handles production chores. Until now, there were only two: 1970’s McCartney, which was Paul’s first solo release, and 1980’s McCartney II. Now, 40 years later, they are joined by McCartney III.  

Recently, it’s become fashionable for critics to look back on the first two McCartney releases, which originally received mixed reviews, with a forgiving eye. The albums, these critics say, weren’t sloppy; they were a refreshing break from the perfectionism of the Beatles. They weren’t self-indulgent; they were boldly personal. Hogwash. McCartney and McCartney II were half-finished, poorly performed, lazily produced, self-important affairs. Time hasn’t changed that.  

Indeed, listening to the first McCartney today is every bit as unsatisfying as it was 50 years ago. This isn’t an album of songs, it’s a collection of musical doodles. Tracks start promisingly, then simply trail off. Or they’re instrumentals that don’t go anywhere. Or there are just a few lyrics, repeated over and over. Or there are plenty of lyrics, but they’re nonsense. The playing is merely adequate, save for the drumming, which is embarrassingly amateurish. The exception to all these failings, of course, is “Maybe I’m Amazed,” a song that hit it so far out of the park it single-handedly rescued the album and catapulted Paul’s solo career.

Ten years later came McCartney II. After the success but ultimate dissolution of his band Wings, Sir Paul was feeling experimental. So instead of doodles, we get dabbles in genres ranging from blues to New Wave to big band jazz. Yet, except for “Blue Sway,” which benefits mightily from Richard Niles’ orchestration, these forays feel unconvincing. More successful are the opening pop hit, “Coming Up,” and the catchy second track, “Temporary Secretary,” which features a synth backdrop straight out of Kraftwerk. After that, the album goes downhill precipitously. 

Understandably, then, I greeted McCartney III with trepidation. My worst fears seemed realized with the very first track, “Long Tailed Winter Bird.” The instrumental is dominated by a repeated acoustic guitar riff that Sir Paul seems to find absolutely fascinating. It’s mildly appealing the first couple of times, significantly less so by the 25th.

But the second track caught my attention in a far more positive way. By the sixth track, the album had won me over completely—and it never let go. Unlike its predecessors, McCartney III is a batch of real songs—fully realized, proficiently played, and confidently produced. Furthermore, they’re uniformly pleasing songs, encompassing a wide variety of styles, moods, and subjects. In that respect, the album carries echoes of the Beatles’ White Album.

Burning Amp Festival 2021 Set for Oct. 16 & 17

The following is a press release issued by Burning Amp Festival.
San Francisco, CA | July 2021 — An expanded Burning Amp Festival 2021 returns after a year of Covid lockdown, October 16th & 17th at Fort Mason Center on the bay in San Francisco.
This will be the 13th Burning Amp, which has since 2007 provided a forum for Do-It-Yourselfers and audio hobbyists to meet, learn, and show off their projects. It is a two-day event.
Saturday will feature seminars by Bob Cordell and Demian Martin. Bob Cordell is an engineer and author of “Designing Audio Power Amplifiers”.  Demian Martin is an audio product designer and holds numerous patents.
Also Saturday will be a Build Camp (see photo below from 2019’s Burning Amp) of a new amplifier design by Nelson Pass featuring unique devices and a super simple circuit.
Sunday is the main event with DIY’ers showing off their projects in Building C, and presentations in the Firehouse, capped off by an auction and raffle for donated items.
Confirmed for Sunday presentations are Steven Dear on the science behind audio perception, and as always, Nelson Pass updating the “Greedy Boyz” on his latest designs for the DIY community.  Steven Dear is a researcher in audio neurophysiology and perception.  Nelson Pass is well known in the audio industry and his current companies are Pass Labs and FirstWatt.
Check burningampfestival.com for updates and ticketing information.

Goldmund Telos 590 Nextgen II Integrated Amplifier

Let me be honest. Right up until this very review I haven’t been much of a fan of integrated amplifiers. Cramming a preamp, a power amp, and, nowadays, a digital source component into a single box just never seemed like the wisest engineering choice to me. Not only does doing so greatly increase the risk of electro-mechanical interactions among the three different circuits; it also makes coping with the vastly different power-supply, shielding, and grounding requirements of each component section a much tougher proposition. There are sound reasons (excuse the pun) why most of the manufacturers who make integrated amplifiers also make large stereo and monoblock amplifiers, preamps with outboard (physically and electronically isolated) power supplies, and stand-alone DACs and phonostages (many of them also with outboard power supplies).

Thus, my review of the Goldmund Telos 590 Nextgen II—a 215Wpc (into 8 ohms) Class A/B integrated with built-in 384k/32-bit DAC (no phonostage, alas)—is something of an experiment. Having read in these pages about the strides made in integrated amplification—and having a genuine curiosity about the sonic merits of today’s finest compact components (polar opposites of my sonically incomparable, but also incomparably large, complex, and expensive MBL system)—I decided to take the plunge with a company whose products I’m familiar with and like.

To say that I’m glad I did this would be, perhaps, one of the bigger understatements I’ve committed to print. As you will see, the Telos 590 Nextgen II is a standard-setter. This isn’t to say that I have no reservations about Goldmund’s integrated (I will come to them in due course). What I am saying is that in direct comparison with first-rate separates that, collectively, cost more than four times what the $29,750 Telos 590 Nextgen II costs, the Goldmund unit didn’t just hold its own; it excelled, particularly in the bass and power range (but also, in some respects, in the mids and treble). And it did so without provoking the big reservations about soundstage dimensions, dynamic range and impact, detail retrieval, and noise levels that, in the not-too-distant past, inevitably popped up in reviews of integrated amplifiers.

On the outside, the Telos 590 Nextgen II looks identical to its predecessor, the highly praised Nextgen I—a stout, 45-pound, rectangular aluminum-and-steel box with an LED display in the center of its front panel. The display reads out exactly three metrics: on the left, the number of the input that has been selected (ranging from “1” through “8,” and all stops in between); on the right, the volume level (ranging from “00” to “99”); and dead center, the power status of the unit (a lighted pair of horizontal bars confirms that power is on and the integrated is ready to make music). There are metal knobs on either side of the LED display (two total). Rotating the one on the left changes the input; rotating the one on the right changes the volume. The knobs are relatively lightweight for a unit of this price, and show next-to-no resistance when turned.

Though input and volume adjustments can be made directly via the two front-panel controls, Goldmund also includes a small metal remote, which allows you to do these same things (and several others) via pushbuttons. In addition to changing input and volume level, the remote allows you to mute the preamp (which also turns off the volume light on the right side of the LED panel) or to put the unit in standby mode (which also dims the entire display).

On the back of the Telos 590 Nextgen II are eight inputs and exactly one set of output binding posts for the amp’s left and right channels. Though these posts are said, by Goldmund, to have been structurally improved, they are the first of my very few reservations about the Nextgen II. 

iFi iPhono 3 Black Label and Chord Electronics Huei Phonostages

In any vinyl-based audio chain, the phonostage is one of the most important components. It takes the teeny, tiny signal from the cartridge and boosts it enough for the preamp and the amp to make sweet music. It’s an extremely sensitive component, doing multiple, insanely important jobs, and I’m picky about my phonostage. Thus, I was very excited to receive two new compact black boxes to play around with, the iFi iPhono 3 Black Label ($999) and the Chord Electronics Huei ($1495).

The iFi iPhono 3 is a long, relatively thin and compact rectangle, with small dipswitches on the bottom. There is no power switch—it remains on at all times. Little green lights glow to let me know it is working. The input connections are at one end of the rectangle, and the outputs at the other. It isn’t the sort of thing I’d keep out on a desk. I love a big shiny silver box, but sometimes it’s nice to declutter. 

The Chord Electronics Huei is also very compact, and it is also black, but it prominently features four glowing lights bumped up along the front with a translucent plastic bit on the top that shows off the guts. While small, the Huei is definitely meant to be shown off. There is a small power switch on the Huei’s back, along with the inputs and outputs, but otherwise it is fairly simple.

Despite their small sizes, both phonostages are incredibly versatile. That is the first thing I look for in a phonostage, especially in this price range—most folks spending $999 or $1499 probably need the ability to run some low-output mc cartridges. Since carts come in all shapes and sizes, most phonostages have multiple loading options to maximize their compatibility. If you only plan on using an mm cartridge or a high-output mc, then great, congratulations, you’re a fully self-actualized human being, who knows exactly what you want forever and will never change, and I’m jealous. But for the rest of us, flexibility is an asset in itself—part of the joy of high-end audio is trying a wide range of equipment, and both of these phonostages will allow for a ton of variation.

Setup was relatively easy, once I understood how the two different phonostages changed their load settings. Starting with the iFi iPhono 3 Black Label, I attached the RCA cables, then plugged it into mains with the iPower X, which was an upgraded power supply and came standard. Easy enough—but next was the slightly complicated part. The bottom of the iPhono is filled with little baby switches and a ton of options. Fortunately, iFi had a super handy online calculator that essentially did all the work after I input my cartridge specs. The iPhono featured loading options from 22 ohms on up to 47k ohms, with six stops between, and either 36, 48, 60, or 72dB of gain. For my Zu DL-103, I chose 60dB of gain with a load of 330 ohms. The online calculator showed me the dipswitch layout and made executing it totally brainless, which is sort of necessary for me, although there is also a physical chart for anyone without access to the website.

Next up, I plugged in the Chord Electronics Huei, fired it up, and took a moment to marvel at the pretty lights. I’m a simple man and I like shiny things. However, the lights did more than make me happy—they were also buttons that changed the settings. Each color corresponded to a different load, and switching between them was as easy as tapping and watching the colors change. A nice, glossy chart explained how it all worked, and I settled on purple for the load, which was 320 ohms, and blue for the gain, which was 60dB. The Huei included a bunch of different gain steps—from 49dB on up to 70dB, with six total stops in between for the mc section, and 21dB on up to 42dB with six stops for the mm section. The impedance can be adjusted from 100 ohms up to 3.7k ohms for mc’s, and is a strict 47k ohms for mm’s. The Chord Electronics also included XLR outputs, which changed the gain slightly, allowing for up to 76dB max with an mc, and 48dB max with an mm. Overall, the Huei was the easier of the two to get set up, and had slightly more loading options—but neither was particularly difficult to use, and both were extremely versatile.

KEF LS50 Meta Loudspeaker

Does this speaker look familiar? It should. The popular LS50 compact appears as fresh as it did the day it first rolled off the production line in 2011, in celebration of KEF’s 50th anniversary (founded 1961). You simply couldn’t beat the looks of this squarish two-way, bass-reflex design. Plus, the superb fit and finish of its enclosure made an ideal platform for the space-saving Uni-Q, KEF’s proprietary coincident driver. A decade later, the success of this Editor’s Choice/Golden Ear/Product of the Year recipient has morphed into a full-blown collection that now includes center channels and active/wireless versions.

But ten years is still ten years and a lifetime in the world of audio-product cycles. KEF engineers were aware that its competitors haven’t stood still, either. Rather than taking a winning formula and starting from scratch, KEF chose to innovate its way to a better LS50. To go beyond, and thus, Meta. 

First, let’s revisit the pre-Meta original. Per KEF tradition, the focus of the LS50 revolves around its iconic rose-gold, Uni-Q, coincident tweeter/woofer, a driver that was specifically designed for duty in the LS50. Now in its twelfth generation, it’s positioned dead center in a sensuously curved one-piece front baffle. The mid/bass diaphragm of Uni-Q measures 5.25″ and is made from a magnesium-aluminum alloy. It is installed with aluminum magnet rings to reduce flux modulation, a source of distortion. The 1″, vented aluminum-dome tweeter first seen in the vaunted KEF Blade series uses a similar waveguide design, known as “optimal dome waveguide geometry,” to extend high-frequency response over a wider axis. According to KEF, the distinctive segmented or “tangerine” waveguide uses “radial air channels to produce spherical waves up to the highest frequencies—and this allows for a deeper ‘stiffened dome’ diaphragm, which raises the first resonance, culminating in response that extends beyond 40kHz.” Collectively, these technologies enhance dispersion while reducing driver interference. The crossover point is 2.1kHz and impedance (nominally 8 ohms) never dips beneath a reasonable 3.2 ohms. Still, this is an 85dB-sensitive speaker and benefits from robust amplification with solid power reserves. 

Cabinet construction, as non-resonant as any knuckle rap will tell you, is all MDF, bolstered by optimized internal bracing and constrained-layer damping placed between the struts and the inner walls of the cabinet. The novel curvature and composition of the baffle reduce diffraction effects and reflections.  The elliptical reflex port is offset in the upper corner of the rear panel. The taper of its profile reduces turbulence at high levels, sources of compression and distortion. 

So, what exactly is up with Meta? Acoustic analysis directed KEF engineers to focus their attention on improving the damping characteristics of the LS50. Typically, loudspeaker interiors are lined with absorptive materials (bracing, woolen stuffing, etc.) that damp the cabinet in order to reduce resonances in key frequency ranges and smooth mid and treble frequencies.  KEF rethought this concept and came up with something unique—Meta or Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT). Visually, it appears as a disc of a few inches in diameter with a maze-like uneven surface. At a thickness of only 11mm it sits directly behind the Uni-Q basket and magnet surface, to reduce the back wave output from the driver that would otherwise cause—in KEF’s words—“undesirable” cabinet resonances. According to the company’s white paper, the “key aspect of the successful implementation is the optimal coupling between the loudspeaker diaphragm and the metastructure through a specific conical duct.” Meta’s tuned channels absorb 99% of the unwanted sound from the rear of the driver, “achieving almost a near-perfect absorption spectrum starting at 620Hz,” compared to around 60% absorption from loudspeakers using different approaches. Thus, it far exceeds the damping properties of conventional designs. 

Partnering with the room for low-frequency reinforcement is part and parcel of the set-up experience, perhaps most particularly for compact monitors. As most audio enthusiasts are aware, careful positioning is crucial to achieving wide-spectrum musicality. As it happened, I set up the Meta in a different listening room than the last time I reviewed the LS50. Ceilings are taller at ten feet, and overall dimensions are larger; so, the LS50 Meta was being challenged to fill a room of considerably higher volume. Fortunately, this difference only required placement a few inches closer to the back wall. Once that was done, I recouped the sound signature that I remembered from my initial foray with the LS50—a midrange on the warmish romantic side, and a weighty midbass that provides room-filling energy. 

ELAC Announces the Solano Line of Home Speakers

The following is a press release issued by ELAC.

Orange, CA | July 2021 – ELAC, a leading global provider of high-performance speakers and electronics, today announced the Solano line of premium home speakers. These new models are the perfect solution for the 2-channel enthusiast or the home theater connoisseur.

“Our new Solano series brings the performance benefits of our iconic JET5 tweeter and the meticulous craftsmanship of German manufacturing to an all-new affordable price point” said James Krodel, senior vice president sales, ELAC.

Some of the notable new features of the Solano line-up include.

JET 5 Tweeter: Delivering true high-definition sound, ELAC’s JET 5 tweeter enthralls with its lightning-fast response and wide dynamic range, offering minimal distortion, lots of headroom and a distinctly wider frequency range than conventional dome tweeters. The ELAC JET tweeter is one of the most legendary tweeters in the industry and has won international praise with its transparent and effortless sound image.

Aluminum Sandwich Woofers: Custom 6″ Aluminum cones are joined to paper cones utilizing a proprietary gluing process which results in a cone that is stiff, precise, linear, and lightweight. This unique driver delivers mid and bass frequencies that are clean, clear, and powerful.

Cast Chassis: Cast chassis have been utilized for all drivers in the Solano series minimizing reflections back to the cone resulting in improved clarity.

Dual Binding Posts: All three Solano series speakers are outfitted with two sets of heavy-duty binding posts allowing to bi-amp or bi-wire each loudspeaker. These binding posts ensure a secure connection to many types of cable and connectors.

Premium Finishes: The Solano speakers come in either high-gloss black or white paint with the bookshelf and floorstanding models featuring lacquered cast aluminum bases.

Downward firing ports: Downward Firing Ports allow for more flexible speaker placement and minimizes ventilation noise. The bass reflex port on the Solano series is directed to the floor, exiting the bottom of the speaker cabinet in a down-firing configuration.

All six models are available at the end of July at ELAC retailers nationwide.




Model Number BS283-GB  


Solano 6” Bookshelf Speaker in Gloss Black


MAP Price

$1999.98 Pair

BS283-GW Solano 6” Bookshelf Speaker in Gloss White $1999.98 Pair
CC281-GB Solano Dual 6” Center Speaker in Gloss Black $1199.98 Each
CC281-GW Solano Dual 6” Center Speaker in Gloss White $1199.98 Each
FS287-GB Solano Dual 6” Floorstanding Speaker in Gloss Black $1999.98 Each
FS287-GW Solano Dual 6” Floorstanding Speaker in Gloss White $1999.98 Each

WBT Awarded The German Innovation Award 2021

The following is a press release issued by WBT-Industrie.

July 22, 2021 – WBT-Industrie has been chosen as the winner of the German Innovation Award 2021 in the medium-sized companies category for its development of the “3D gold-plating of connectors using PVD plasma” process (PVD = Physical Vapour Deposition), internal brand name: WBT-PlasmaProtect™.

With this plant technology it has, for the first time, been possible to develop a significantly more environmentally-friendly process to use instead of the electroplating process used previously. The effectiveness was increased from 20 to 80% by a new 3D process, the energy requirements were reduced by around 26% and resource consumption was reduced by about 35%.

At the same time, the long-term stability and contact quality was improved by a thin but extremely pure (high vacuum) and still elastic layer of gold (Hertzian stress).

The German Innovation Award is one of the most prestigious awards for new developments “made in Germany”, and is jointly presented by Accenture, EnBW and the magazine WirtschaftsWoche. Awards are given to companies that change technology and markets with their innovative strength.


Patricia Barber: Higher

Like most TAS readers, I first heard Patricia Barber, whose career here approaches the 40-year mark, on Café Blue, her 1994 album that made her a star in high-end audio, owing to a superb recording by her long-time engineer Jim Anderson, and also among connoisseurs of innovative, cutting-edge jazz. Although classically trained, she is known for a cool, intense, highly personal style as singer, pianist, and songwriter. Higher, her 18th album and first in the studio since 2013’s Smash, showcases what may be her most ambitious, and surely her most personal, composition yet, Angels, Birds, and I . . ., a cycle of eight songs she frankly calls art songs (she performed an early version with Renée Fleming in 2016). Dualities inform several of them, from lesbian lovers and a woman leaving her wealthy husband (“the sovereign suburban overlord”) for her free-spirited lover (“a wandering albatross”) to those that inform Barber’s own creativity as pianist, singer, and lyricist. Layered with multiple meanings, these introspective songs require and reward repeated listening. Inventive takes on three standards from the Great American Songbook fill out the program. The contributions from Barber’s instrumental quartet are first-class. Immediate, close-up, transparent sonics.