The SoundStage! Network’s multi-author blog about hi-fi, home theater, and more.
I was in Munich at High End 2012 when KEF officially released the LS50 bookshelf-type loudspeaker, which the company designed to celebrate its 50th anniversary. It was being marketed as a modern-day version of the BBC’s LS3/5A minimonitor.
Linn recently held a press event via Zoom to announce the launch of the next-generation Majik DSM single-box network music player and integrated amplifier ($3835, all prices USD). A similar event for customers was held shortly after. Linn states that the Majik DSM is an entry-level network player aimed at both first-time hi-fi buyers and existing ones who want to bring audiophile sound to places in their homes that are outside of their main listening rooms.
Italy’s Sonus Faber just released its newest speaker line: Lumina. The lineup comprises the floorstanding Lumina III, priced at $2199/pair (all prices USD); the bookshelf Lumina I for $899/pair; and the center-channel Lumina Center I for $699. They are all available in Walnut, Wengè, and Piano Black finishes. It’s only a three-piece series right now, but because there’s a jump from I to III for the main speakers, it’s obvious that Sonus Faber has allowed some wiggle room to produce a Lumina II, which could be another bookshelf or floorstanding model, and perhaps even a Lumina IV on top of it all. Time will tell.
On July 30, 2020, speaker manufacturer Alta Audio held a brand and product relaunch event for retail dealers and the press. The event was a precursor to a similar event for customers, and it introduced several new and updated products scheduled for release this month. Attending the press event on behalf of the company was Michael Levy, the firm’s founder and chief executive officer, as well as Adam Sohmer, its public relations representative. Also present was Krell Industries’ chief operating officer, Walter Schofield, who spoke about his experiences with Alta’s speakers.
I first became aware of Finland’s Amphion Loudspeakers from reading SoundStage! founder Doug Schneider’s review of the company’s Argon2 two-way minimonitor almost two decades ago. Back then I wasn’t yet a contributor to SoundStage!, but I read the sites regularly. While most of my audio magazine reading was for entertainment, Doug’s Argon2 review piqued my curiosity. It was early in my audio journey, and I was on the upgrade path -- besides which I had moved into a smaller place, and the big and bassy Mirage OM-10 bipolar floorstanders that I had been using just weren’t appropriate.
Located in Brooklyn, New York, Bache Audio mostly manufactures audiophile speakers. On July 5, 2020, Greg Belman, Bache’s founder, invited me over for a listening session. It was my first face-to-face audio meeting since the global pandemic’s start.
The times have changed. If not for the global pandemic, I would have been reporting recently from audio events that were scheduled to be held in Germany and Switzerland, not the least of which was Munich’s High End 2020 show. Of course, those events were cancelled, and SoundStage! Global, which covers worldwide audio happenings, has had to at least temporarily scramble to find content. So on June 26, 2020, I attended an Audiophile Society Zoom meeting during which members of Krell Industries gave a presentation. Truth be told, since I am a Society member, I would have attended the meeting and reported on it anyway.
Doug Schneider, the SoundStage! Network’s founder, isn’t much into audio gimmickry. He’s seen a lot of products in his 26 years as a journalist, and he pretty quickly separates the wheat from the chaff. Products that are based on suspect or imaginary technologies don’t get much attention from him.
On February 14, Andrew Singer, proprietor of Sound by Singer, an audio store in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood, hosted Denmark’s Gryphon Audio Designs for a demonstration that asked a simple question: could Gryphon’s statement Ethos CD player/upsampling digital-to-analog converter ($39,000, all prices USD) compete with a high-end turntable?
Having only one unallocated day left to meet with audio manufacturers during my planned January 2020 trip to Japan, I called Andrew Jones, Elac’s vice president of engineering, for a manufacturer recommendation. Before joining Elac, Jones designed speakers for Japan’s Pioneer Corporation and its high-end subsidiary, Technical Audio Devices Laboratories, better known as TAD. Perhaps not surprisingly, Jones suggested that I contact TAD’s Tokyo headquarters, which I did. Shortly thereafter, January 16 was confirmed as the date of my visit.
I’m always on the lookout for interesting companies to tour when I visit Japan. On this last trip in January, I thought it would be informative to check out Asahi Kasei Microdevices (AKM), maker of, among other things, digital-to-analog converter (DAC) chips. AKM doesn’t sell directly to audiophiles, but rather to many audio manufacturers who incorporate the company’s products into their components. However, despite AKM’s industry-wide reach, it’s known only vaguely, if at all, to most audiophiles. As it turns out, I had no idea just how interesting my visit would be.
Thanks to an introduction made by Canadian distributor Audio Alliance, Accuphase Laboratory was the first stop on my January 2020 trip to Japan. Traveling from my hotel in Tokyo’s bustling Ueno area in the Taito district, I arrived at a local train station to meet Kohei Nishigawa, Accuphase’s international marketing supervisor. “I came to pick you up in the Accuphase car,” Nishigawa offered. Sure enough, he directed me to the station’s parking lot, where we got into a white Toyota SUV bearing orange Accuphase logos on its sides and rear.
On December 16, 2019, I visited Synergistic Research’s headquarters and factory, located in Santa Ana, California. Glad to avoid the unwieldy Los Angeles International Airport for the smaller and virtually painless John Wayne Airport, which is located only about ten minutes from my destination, I was greeted curbside by Andy Wiederspahn, Synergistic Research’s general manager.
Shortly before the beginning of 2018, Soundstage! Network founder Doug Schneider visited Magico founder Alon Wolf at the company’s headquarters and factory in Hayward, California, to hear the then-new Magico A3 loudspeaker ($12,300/pair, all prices USD). On December 17, 2019, almost two years after Doug’s visit, I arrived at Magico to hear the company’s new A5 loudspeaker ($21,800/pr.).
I was back at New York City’s Chelsea Wine Vault on October 19, 2019, for another audio event, this time featuring product demonstrations by Dragonfire Acoustics and Theoretica Applied Physics. As I have written before, the Chelsea Wine Vault mixes a gorgeous retail wine store with high-end audio. Now-retired Wall Street tycoon Andrew Hoover III, who stores his wine collection in the Vault’s commercial wine-storage facility, has so many high-end audio systems that he uses the Vault as his system overflow space. High-end systems are everywhere!
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