30 January 2002
During my travels in and around NYC, I happened to run across a new audio store called "In Living Stereo," located at 13 East 4th Street, in Greenwich Village. You may ask why this in itself is notable but, given the trend over the past few years of high- end audio store closings in this area, I think it is a big deal. This is a small store that features products by Epos, Creek, Music Hall and Straight wire. They have an abundant supply of very good entry-level gear. Moving up the line, you will find the new amps from the French manufacturer Kora. Given their sonics and visual appeal, I think that you will be hearing a lot more about the Kora line of electronics in the near future. The store's top shelf offerings are from Conrad Johnson.
Of particular interest were the Gibbon ll loudspeakers by DeVore Fidelity, or DeF for short. These are a small, stand-mounted, two-way design that produces a very large sound with a surprising amount of low-end extension, given their diminutive size. I hope to get back to "In Living Stereo" very soon for another listen to some of the other speakers in the DeF line. I would suggest that, if you are ever in the area, drop in and pay a visit. I wish them all lots of luck.
Bruce Moore Audio Design Companion IIB Vacuum Tube Line Stage
Frequency Response: 1 Hz to 200 kHz +0, -1dB
Maximum Output: 25V RMS
THD: < .05% @ 2V RMS out
Input Impedance: 100K ohm
Output Impedance: 1000 ohms
Noise: -97dB below 2V RMS output
Absolute Phase: Inverting
Tube Complement: 2ea 6DJ8/6922
Optional Extras: Goldpoint Stepped Attenuators and/or Wood side panels
Power Consumption: 15 watts
Dimensions: 3.1" (79 mm) H × 15" (381 mm) W × 9.5" (241 mm) D
Shipping Weight: 12 lbs.
4 Line Inputs, Main Out, Tape out and Tape input
Recently I came across several products that I think deserve a closer look. Roy Harris is a friend and someone that I consider a true golden ear. During a conversation, he told me that he had the Bruce Moore Companion IIB in for a listen. He was aware that I had reviewed the Companion III preamplifier and thought that I might like to give the IIB a listen as well. I agreed, and soon after, the proverbial box from UPS arrived and the listening began.
Having fond memories from the time spent with the C-III, I rather expected to be somewhat disappointed with the sound of the IIB by comparison. Well, right off the bat, I was quite pleasantly surprised by what I heard. Before I go any further, there is one caveat that I must bring up. Because this line stage is phase inverting, you must be sure to reverse the speaker terminals, either at the power amp or the speaker. Don't misunderstand me, nothing will blow up nor will your system crash if you fail to do this. However, you will not hear the best that this unit has to give.
The Companion IIB is positioned at the bottom of the Bruce Moore line. Priced at $1,650, it is not very expensive for an entry-level tubed line stage. Cosmetically it looks very much the same as the rest of the Bruce Moore line. The volume controls are clutched rather than stepped as on the C-lll. While the dual volume controls give you a balance control at the same time, I find that these controls make it more difficult to set the balance correctly. I would opt for the more expensive Goldpoint controls that negate this problem and should deliver a sonic benefit at the same time.
Once I patched the C-llB into the system, I found the sound to be quite pleasing. I would judge the tonal quality to be warmer than its larger sibling. Its sound staging abilities, along with its rich tonal presentation, let you know that you are listening to tubes. Where it falls short of the C-lll is in its openness and delicacy. It lacks a good deal of the air and high-end extension that the C-lll readily exhibits. The C-lll is more detailed overall and is better at resolving low level details. An example of what I am referring to can be heard with female voice. The "Menuet pour la petit gnomide", from Marc Antoine Charpentier, Divertissements Airs et Concerts, William Christie Les Arts Florissants, [Erato] features a beautiful soprano solo that is a real test for any system. With the C-ll, there is a slight loss of extension here. Unless you compare this line stage with a much more expensive one, you probably will not notice it.
While the C-llB falls short in these areas, I don't mean to say that it is, in any way, bad sounding. These are attributes that you only miss in comparison to the much more expensive line stages. When taken in total, I have to say that I find this to be a musical sounding unit. When given the choice, I would rather contend with errors of omission as opposed to the other way around; fortunately that is the case here.
Of course, as luck would have it, while putting this article together, the C-llB has been upgraded to the C-llC. The changes include the substitution of Cardas connectors as well as a detachable line cord. There are circuit changes as well as an upgrade of capacitors and resistors. I am particularly grateful for the upgrade to the volume controls. The previously optional Goldpoint stepped attenuators are now standard issue. In addition to the better attenuators, the red power light on the llB has been changed to blue, making it easy for consumers to tell the difference between the older and newer models. I think that the new Companion llC should be something really special. Stay tuned for a full review.
Golden Sound Acoustic Disks, DH Cones and Squares
DH Squares 2"×2"× ½": $10.00 Each
DH Super Cones 1 ½" Tall: $100.00 set of three
DH Jumbo Cones 1 3/8" Tall $70.00 set of three
DH Acoustic Disks $120.00 set of twelve
Golden Sound: P.O. Box 1293, McLean, Va. 22101
Phone: (888) 811-5818
Fax: (703) 442-7966
I came across these Golden Sound products during a listening session at the home of Marshall Nack. The combination of the cones and disks made more than a subtle difference in his system. I was curious as to what effect they would make for me as we have radically different systems and listening rooms. At Marshall's suggestion, I contacted Allen Chang of Golden Sound and shortly afterward I had a full set of their treatment devices.
Starting with the Acoustic Disks, one set will treat the four corners of a typical room. They are the most inconspicuous room treatment devices that I have ever seen. The Acoustic Disks come with a template that makes it very easy to align and place the disks in the corners properly. This is a very easy and straightforward procedure that should only take a few minutes to complete.
The interesting thing about room treatments, and isolation devices as well, is how much the results will vary from one system to another. Since my room is radically different from Marshall's, it comes as no surprise that my results were as different as our rooms are.
I found that the disks generally affected the treble but to a smaller degree than Marshall experienced. Before installing the disks, certain vocal tracks and some saxophones would exhibit hardness during loud passages. After installing the disks, the hardness disappeared. Even when listening at louder volume levels than usual, there were no hard spots, yet there was no loss of detail. This is a pretty neat trick. I found the other areas of the sonic picture were unaffected by the installation of the disks. Overall, I consider the effect on the treble to be an improvement.
As with all things in general, and audio in particular, when a little is good, much more seldom is better. Since these disks are so inconspicuous there is the temptation to use more of them in other than the corners formed by the wall and the ceiling. While there isn't any reason to restrict yourself to use the disks only in the corners of the room, remember that the effect of these devices is cumulative - too many of them will dull the treble and rob the music of any life-like qualities that you may have. Feel free to experiment - add disks first to the top corners. If you feel that you need still more, then start adding them to bottom corners. You can keep going until you achieve the effect you desire. The product literature states that you can also place them mid-wall behind the listening position, on top of speakers and amps, etc. These disks are an effective room treatment device and, at the price, you can afford to experiment.
The cones and pads are another story altogether. The product literature states that the cones should be arranged in a triangular array under speakers or electronics. As I was using the Eggleston Fontaines with their own well-designed and dedicated spikes, I limited my use to the electronics only. The greatest sonic change was achieved by placing the cones and squares under the CD player that I was using as a transport. When I placed them directed under the player, all of the mid to low bass disappeared. Curtis Lundy's "Players Anthem" from the Against All Odds CD [Just in Time Just 129-2], opens with a prominent bass solo. After placing the disks, the upright became thin and thuddy. The bass drum however, took on larger-than-life proportions and became much too loud. The difference was startling to say the least.
During a conversation with Allen Chang of Golden Sound, he told me that removing the pad on the back of the cone would make a sonic difference. I tried this in addition to repositioning them under the transport. The result was not only the return of the sound with regard to low-end fullness, but it was markedly better. The low end was tighter with a greater sense of definition. While I could hear more texture with the upright, the effect was not exaggerated. Personally I find the "detail" thing is too often overdone. Overall the sound opened up, there seemed to be more space between the instruments with a corresponding increase in the focus. It wasn't a jaw dropping, freeze you in place improvement (these rarely happen in the high-end realm anyway), but the difference was as noticeable as it was welcome. By adding the cones under the pre-amp and the power amp, the same kind of improvements were made but to a much lesser degree. The greatest improvement was achieved by installing the cones and pads under the transport.
Given the universe of isolation devices and room treatment devices on the market today, some of them with very serious prices attached to them, Golden Sound has managed to come out with some very effective products at very reasonable prices. As always, you have to experiment since they are room and system dependent. If you choose to do so, I think that your efforts will be well rewarded.
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