High End 2017: CP Report - First Impressions
AudioNec of France has won me over each and every time I've had the luxury to hear them. Can't believe it's been seven years since I reported my first-time encounter with this remarkable French transducer (photo right - read that blurb here). What separates AudioNec as a brand, isn't the company's whole-system approach that includes in-house manufacturing of their own music servers, amplifiers and DAC's. It's the built-in sophisticated digital crossover options in addition to room and speaker correction software. Moreover, these components are designed specifically to perfectly sync with one of the most unusual high-frequency drivers I've seen and heard. This double-cylindrical-membrane wideband driver has become the face of AudioNec (while Audio Consulting of Switzerland uses a similar cylindrical membrane driver as well with dizzying results). Designed solely as a mid-and high-frequency driver that easily operates between 200 Hz and 20 kHz, this widebander also boasts an efficiency quotient of nearly 100 dB sensitivity.
The AudioNec Crystal loudspeaker ($50k above), is the latest model launched eariler this year by its design team headed by Francis Chaillet. Designed for smaller spaces this 93 dB, 8 Ohm transducer is designed to sound much bigger than it looks. It also comes with a passive or active crossover option with the optional room-correction, bells and whistles. In terms of sonic capabilities, this is one of those systems that I wish I had the opportuntiy to hear at home. It's that intriguing and that excellent a performer whose special qualities remain with me long after I've left the room.
Angel Despotov, chief architect behind the gorgeous Analog Domain, is an unusual guy. He's a real music lover which is not very common among designers. They seem to care how products measure and will listen to whatever. Despotov is different. He listens to the soul behind each artist and then seeks to find out more about that particular artist in relation to the genre of music they come from. I know this because he tested my brain on a recent loaner I gave him of jazz classics.
I think his latest line of electronics bare a close resemblance to his innate passion for things that produce more than a flat frequency response. He wants soul! His latest model Isis M75D integrated ($20k, third from top), is a 250 watter that will go toe to toe with some of the best separates. In addition, the newly introduced Analog Domain DAC1 ($20k) equipped to resolve DSD tracks automatically and the Stark Audio Jane loudspeaker ($22k), offered up a sound that was surprisingly well lit in the upper frequencies: a tad light in the bass but overall enchantingly musical and worth a return visit!
It was that burnished flaming orange hue that drew me into this suite. I've got to admit, Alluxity of Denmark put on quite a performance at this year's show alongside a pair of Joseph Audio's Pearl loudspeakers. It wasn't because I expected otherwise, it was because usually modest priced systems don't leave you scratching your wig and wondering why isn't this system far, far more expensive. Compliments of the Alluxity Media One touch screen Music Server ($7500), it certainly sounded like one of those uber-mega systems despite the fact that you'd spend around $100k for the entire arsenal. Alexander Vitus Mogensen, who is the chief designer behind Alluxity, is also the son of Hans Ole Vitus, as in Vitus Audio. So, expect excellent craftsmanship, some healthy competition and perhaps some nifty trade secrets between father and son. In the final analysis, we benefit big time.
Another rewarding performance from a non-over-priced source that featured Sven Boenicke's newest sleek and active (bass only), model W13 loudspeakers ($30k). Driven by his own E2 Integrated ($15k) and Computer Audio Design (CAD), digital source that also included their GC1 Ground Control device (which our own Greg Voth wrote very highly of here). All cabling was by way of The Chord Company which, I am unfamiliar with, but am quite sure has to be quite good in order to win over Sven's ultra-sensitive sonic perceptions. Also of note: when Sven saw me walking into his suite, he gave me that look you see here (photo right), that I captured on camera. It was a look that anyone could see. His eyes read "YES, c'mon in my friend and hear this latest sonic wonder of mine!" Unfortunately, due to the size of curious onlookers also in the room. It was nearly impossible to render anything besides these mental notes: "wonderfully rich, spot-on imaging with great sense of musicality."
Speaking of active loudspeakers, Wiener Lautsprecher Manufaktur or WLM is anther German loudspeaker/electronics manufacturer that I only recently got to hear. From the looks, feel and performance, I would go on to say they're nothing to take lightly. Their products, like the spiked ribbon-tweeter atop their Franz loudspeaker (above left) is a marvel to behold in terms of its cabinet build and driver assembly and sheer ability to reproduce music. Powerful and very life-like in appearance, they've captured my attention and imagination once again. Bravo!
DJ, Leif Olofsson (above photo), operating a modified Thorens TD124 table with a Schick arm and ZYX cartridge, also serves as the chief curator behind the newly updated Marten Design Coltrane Tenor 2 loudspeakers. Based solely on what I heard, Olofsson should be quite pleased as to what a remarkable loudspeaker he's created here. Driven by the all-new and equally beautiful Eric amplifier from Engstrom and all top of line cabling from Jorma and also digital from MSB, the sound was quick-footed, three-dimensional and sweet on the ears.