Living Voice Vox Olympian & Elysium
Living Voice has not taken the Vox Olympian to a show before so it was good to see and hear these fabulous speakers being appreciated by the audiophiles that flock to the High End. LV's founder Kevin Scott had brought the whole shooting match to ensure a decent result, including a massive battery power supply. There were two complete systems, one to demonstrate the Auditorium OBX-RW floorstander and a full on Kondo system to go with the mighty Vox Olympian horn and its partnering Vox Elysium stereo subwoofers (they are behind each Olympian above). This Vox system did what big expensive systems never do at shows, it sounded as good as it looks, and if you don’t like the looks it sounded better! Don’t take my word for it, ask visitors to the event many of whom made a point of encouraging me to hear it. I didn’t need any and I wasn’t disappointed, not with the effortless dynamics, the spot-on timing nor the room filling soundstage. The system consisted of a CEC TLOX CD transport, KSL DAC, M77 preamplifier, Gakuoh monoblocks and Kondo silver cable. What was equally refreshing was the choice of programme, not a beat of Keith Don’t Go or Diana Krall was to be heard, instead we got Funki Porcini, Schubert and Manu Katche. Living Voice was truly a room to get stuck in.
Constellation Audio Virgo II
No sooner had I finished a review of Constellation Audio’s Virgo pre and Centaur stereo power for a British magazine than Peter Madnick goes and upgrades the preamp to II status. Apparently it’s not as alarming as it sounds as both models will run concurrently, but at a mere $5,000 extra it’s likely that the completely dual mono Virgo II will take the lion’s share of the market from its single box sibling. The dual mono aspect is mainly related to the power supply, the signal side was that way before, now there are separate mains transformers for each channel and these inhabit a second chassis. Total price stateside is $29,000.
Peter also showed a prototype of a DC power filter for preamps and source components. Something that if done well, and Constellation seems to major in this department, benefits pretty much every device that it feeds.
Amphion's Ansi Hyvonen came to the High End with a notion. He is of the opinion that the pro and consumer sides of audio appreciation have become divorced from one another, that although both camps have the same goal more or less the equipment used on either side needs to be more similar if we the audiophiles are to appreciate what engineers are trying to achieve in the studio. This is the thinking behind the Amphion TWO15, a speaker that is designed for both the studio and the living room. The TWO15 has two 15cm woofers and a tweeter arranged D'Appolito style and in place of a reflex port there's a pair of passive radiators on the rear, this in order to make it easier to site near walls or in smaller rooms. Ansi suggests it can be used in a 10m square room (90 square feet). What makes it closer to a pro monitor is a flat response right up through the treble which is a rare thing in domestic loudspeakers because it requires a clean source and equally smooth tweeter not to sound bright. Ansi's theory is that now we have high res files that are very close to what is heard in the studio we need monitors that reveal their full bandwidth. The TWO15 costs €3,000 per pair and he played them in a system with an Antelope Zodiac Gold DAC/pre and a Lindell Audio AmpX, that looks very pro, using Audirvana Plus on a Macbook, the result was pretty convincing. There are two two-ways in the range as well, the ONE12 and ONE18.
Audiovector has realised that the world and especially its wife would rather not have cables in the home so has developed a wireless active system that can be used in a number of its models. Discreet consists of a compact wired and wireless hub (for Bluetooth) that sends both a digital signal and 24 volts of power to modules in each speaker, Audiovector presumably got this idea from Naim, a brand it distributes in Denmark. What's astonishing is the size of the 70 watt per driver amp and digital crossover modules, they are tiny even by digital standards and it wasn't surprising to hear that they were developed by a company in the mobile phone industry. Discreet adds between €1,000 and €3,380 to a pair of Audiovector speakers and can be retrofitted to current models in the field.
Roberto Torlai is an Italian cartridge expert who takes off the shelf cartridges such as the Denon DL 103 and Benz Micro and give them an AMG style upgrade. At the High End his jade bodied Benz (€6,500) was sitting on a massive V.Y.G.E.R. Indian Signature turntable with an air bearing arm. It sounded beautiful through Grandinote amplification and Leonardo full range ribbons.