Cuttin-Edge, On-the-Spot Reporting

March 22-25, 2012

All prices in Canadian dollars unless indicated otherwise

MBL 126 Loudspeaker: The Inimitable Radialstrahler

There's no ignoring the obvious: a fine line divides the unique from the obtrusive, and the styling department of Germany's MBL has no qualms skirting it. The company's room was littered with gear from their Reference line of equipment, and its all-white finish was hard to miss, as were the logos adorning the monoblock 9011 amps, which were large enough for the legally blind to see.

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Gradient SW-S -- And Now for Something Completely Different

Confident claims in audiophile literature are commonplace. More rarely seen, however, is confidence that's entirely devoid of embellishment, from someone looking you unerringly in the eye. Tim Ryan of SimpliFi Audio displayed this borderline-unsettling conviction as he explained the theory behind the Gradient SW-S ($6990 USD per pair), a triangular, non-ported dipole bass module with two 12" drivers, maneuvered by the included external crossover.

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Zellaton: From Munich to Montreal, By Way of Manhattan

Raise your hand if you've heard of Zellaton speakers. I don't see many hands out there. That's OK -- I hadn't heard of them either, but I should have. The genesis of Zellaton speakers lies way back in 1930, when Emil Podzus patented a speaker cone made from foam solidified on a substrate and coated with a very thin film layer. Podzus also pioneered the use of differing speaker diameters for reproducing specific frequency ranges.

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A DeVore Diversion

The breakneck pace of show coverage is anathema to the goals of high-end audio. We assemble a stereo system to -- presumably -- create an environment where we can relax and enjoy a musical performance in the comfort of our own homes.

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exaSound: Eight for the Price of Two . . . and Bring Some Headphones

I think I'm in the majority when I say that if I don't like the way an audio product works, I'm far more likely to bitch about it than to go and try to build something better.

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Dynaudio Xeo -- Liberated Fidelity

No one actually wants big amplifiers and preamplifiers on tall equipment racks. Nor, perhaps especially, conspicuous cables. They're just necessary. But do they have to be?

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Inebriated, Bipolar and Axiom-atic DSP Love

Ideas born in a bar rarely bear fruit that doesn't involve butchered pick-up lines, petty violence, or obnoxious yelling (that's probably redundant). Yet speaker designer Andrew Welker . . .

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Ayre QA-9: Spin'n'Rip

You can't play your LPs in your car, nor on your iPod. LPs are perhaps the least portable media format that's ever existed. At least you've got a fighting chance of playing back reel-to-reel tapes in the car . . .

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Computer Audio: Let's Get It Together

The state of the union in computer audio is a complete farce. As it stands right now, you've got the choice of using a computer with a digital output to stream music to a DAC, some sort of DLNA server shooting bits out to a UPnP client, or some variant of the two. With the exception of Sonos, which is elegant but quaint and antiquated, that's about it.

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What a Strange Way to Do Business

By far, the oddest room that I encountered on my first day at the show was that hosted by Lys Audio, a new company from Montreal, Canada.

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