You never know what you’re going to find at an audio show, who you’re going to run into — or who is going to run over you. This year, for me, it was Sony’s Jon Lin who ran me down in the hallway, threw my ass rather unceremoniously across his bumper, and drove it (and the rest of me) across the hotel where he dumped all me and my bits, bruised and bleeding, in front of a pair of Sony’s $20,000 SS-AR2 speakers. When I had the audacity to complain, he promptly bludgeoned me about the head and face with a bamboo switch he twirled into existence while insisting I be silent. Okay, maybe he didn’t, but I can take a hint. So there.
In this cavernous space — easily one of the largest demo spaces at Newport this year — the second-tier Sonys were set up way out from the front wall, 10′ or more, and still, there was 20′ to the first row of listeners. Each speaker had another 15′ or more to each side wall, and 30′ to the back wall. The ceilings were at least 20′ high. Did I mention that this was a big space?
So, even with the crap-ass air-core sliding walls and no real bass trappage of any kind in evidence, I heard no serious room issues of any kind. At all. Bass was tuneful, detail was very good and the treble was airy and sweet. Dynamics were just excellent. I happily hung out here.
The SS-AR2 uses all Scanspeak drivers — an Illuminator AirCirc tweeter, a 5.5″ Revelator midrange unit and a pair of 8″ Revelator woofers. And in case you were wondering, gentle reader, yes, that’s $1,000 worth of parts-cost, per speaker, just for the drivers alone. Yikes.
Frequency response on these 4ohm speakers is rated flat from 42-60kHz. Which seems odd to me. I would have said “lower”.
Cabling was from the new Kimber Select line.
The electronics were from Pass Labs, including the two-chassis $8,600 XP20 preamplifier and the gigundous $22,000/pair, 132lb each, X600.5 monoblock amplifiers, which were happily putting out 1,200 watts into each one of those Sony speakers.
Music came courtesy of Cookie Marenco’s Blue Coast Records. Blue Coast has been quietly leading the charge for DSD file downloads, and sells quite a few captured-in-DSD recordings for sale at Downloads Now. The demo here showed the potential superiority of DSD as a high-res format, over, say anything else. The source material, some of Cookie’s own stuff happily captured on an SACD sampler that Sony was giving away to showgoers, was also available via a computer source. Which meant that we were able to listen to both the SACD material, played back via SACD from a $25,000 Meitner Designs XDS1 SACD/DAC, and the same material coming from a laptop into a $1,500 Mytek Digital Stereo192-DSD DAC.
While the Meitner sounded superb with just about every source material thrown at it, and I heard quite a few CDs and SACDs thrown at it, the conversions that machine made were simply not as transparent, open and holographic as the little all-DSD Mytek, when playing the same material, with one encoded as a DSD computer file and played back from a computer source. Let’s just say that this was counter-intuitive and move on.
But that Mytek is now on my list for must-collect. And, unfortunately, I’m now a convert to the DSD-file crowd. Here’s to hoping more material becomes available in this format.
Watch out for these two: Sony’s Jon Lin and Blue Coast Records’ Cookie Marenco.