The SoundStage! Network’s multi-author blog about hi-fi, home theater, and more.
On October 31, 2019, I attended the grand opening of the first North American Focal Powered by Naim store, in sunny Scottsdale, Arizona. With stores already open in Seoul, South Korea, and Lyon, France, Focal’s and Naim’s French parent corporation, Vervent Audio Group, seeks to further expand the global footprint of these two well-known European audio brands by building a worldwide network of stores to showcase their products. (The Lyon store is called La Boutique du Son.)
At the 2019 Toronto Audio Fest, to be held October 18 to 20, Simaudio will publicly display for the first time its new Moon 680D DAC-streamer, which is priced at $9000 (all prices are USD). On October 2, however, I visited product manager Dominique Poupart at the company’s factory in Boucherville, Quebec, Canada, to see the first 680D that came off the production line and learn more about it. I felt it important to go there because Simaudio has long been known for producing some of the best-sounding digital-playback products in the world.
In August of this year, the New York and Long Island audiophile societies, respectively known as The Audiophile Society and The Audio Syndrome, hosted Andrew Jones, vice president of engineering for Elac. Each audio society’s events are typically well-attended; however, this meeting, held at a member’s home, was packed to the proverbial rafters. This was due not only to the attendance of members from both clubs, but the opportunity to witness Jones demonstrate Elac’s newest active speaker, the three-way, floorstanding Navis ARF-51 ($3999.96/pair, all prices USD), and provide insights concerning its design.
On September 17, the audio world sucked in its collective breath after Amazon announced a new streaming service offering lossless CD-resolution and high-resolution music. Amazon Music HD has over 50 million CD-resolution tracks, plus “millions” of “Ultra HD” tracks with higher-than-CD resolution, up to 24-bit/192kHz.
A recent business trip took me to Canada’s national capital, Ottawa. In addition to being the political center of Canada, it’s the home of the National Research Council, where SoundStage! performs its loudspeaker measurements. It’s also the location of electrostatic loudspeaker manufacturer Muraudio.
Thirty years ago, audio manufacturers often conducted product demonstrations at audio society meetings. At these demos, the manufacturers gained exposure for their products, had the time to discuss the products in some depth, and happily for all, offered the demo samples at a discount at the event’s conclusion. But at some point, it became harder and harder for many of the societies to find manufacturers who were willing to hold demos, and the number of them gradually decreased.
It was early in the morning of July 27, 2019, at New York City’s PlayStation Theater, when Aub Driver, Discog’s public relations lead, told me that he and his team, readied for the Crate Diggers Record Fair and Concert, were there for the long run. The event occurred in two parts. First, beginning at 10:00 a.m. and running throughout the day, an almost countless number of retailers sold records, tapes, CDs, and assorted musical paraphernalia from tables stacked with crates, thus the event’s name. That part of the event, which featured several live DJs, was free.
In June of this year, I attended an interesting product pre-launch event at a unique venue. Let’s take the product first.
Audio retailer Larry Borden (Distinctive Stereo in River Vale, New Jersey) and I recently paid a visit to Ralph Glasgal at his large, ultra-modern New Jersey home. Ralph, the inventor of three-dimensional (3D) imaging digital signal processing technology Ambiophonics and founder of the Ambiophonics Institute, is generally not known for aiming low. In fact, he hopes that Ambiophonics will succeed the stereo and 5.1 surround-sound formats. Before proceeding, though, I should address Ralph’s interesting background.
I’ve been to a couple of dealer events over the years, and they’re all pretty similar. There are free snacks and usually alcohol. Two or three rooms might be set up for group listening, with a couple of talking heads -- sales guys or someone of note from the manufacturer -- giving a brief spiel, before talking through several pieces of well-trodden jazz music. Questions are encouraged, with brief answers the norm.
Last week, Bowers & Wilkins announced its new Formation line of wireless products, which I first read about on our SoundStage! Australia website. It really piqued my interest.
There wasn’t much advance notice, but it wouldn’t be a pop-up if there were. Recently, New Jersey-based Gingko Audio extended a last-minute invitation to a few audiophiles and fellow manufacturers to attend a pop-up audio demo on March 23. Word of the event was also spread to the New York and New Jersey audio societies.
For whatever reason, it’s been only recently that I developed a profound appreciation of Joni Mitchell’s music. I was therefore looking forward to the “Linn Lounge Presents -- Joni Mitchell” event, held on March 2 at Accent on Music, which is located in Mount Kisco, New York, about an hour north of New York City.
As I wrote before on Soundstage! Global, my past visits to New Jersey’s VPI Industries, a maker of turntables, phono stages, and record-cleaning machines, have been to the company’s showroom, VPI House. During this latest visit, I also toured the company’s factory, located less than five minutes from that location.
Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) is an annual event that is focused primarily on custom-installation (CI) audio/video systems (i.e., in-wall, on-wall, and in-ceiling speakers, as well as home-automation electronics and video displays, etc.), with this year’s show held from February 5 to 8 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. It was there on the second day of ISE 2019 that I met and interviewed Livio Cucuzza, who holds the title of chief design officer at Sonus Faber, the Italy-based manufacturer well known for creating speakers that look every bit as good as they sound. We talked about the launch of the new Palladio custom-installation speakers -- Sonus Faber’s first major foray into this market.
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