Newport 2012: Teresonic, Musical Surroundings, AMG

Are you a “Lowther guy”? And by that, I mean, are you a single-driver, micro-watt SET amp, all analog, kind of guy. If so, well, I bet you hit the Teresonic room at Newport.

Mike Zivkovic, President and founder of Teresonic, was on hand to show off all the goodies, almost all of which are unfamiliar to me. Luckily, there was a really nifty handout to fill me in on the particulars (excerpted liberally below).

First up, the big $15,000 Ingenium XR speakers. This speaker was carrying a Lowther DX4 Silver driver and has an eye-popping sensitivity of 104dB. A natural match for the 2.5wpc coming out of the zero-feedback, capacitor-less, $15,000 Teresonic Reference 2a3 amplifier. Also on display was the brand new $5k Magus A55, another single-driver design, but this time a stand-mount speaker, with a sensitivity of 98dB, and using the Alnico 55 Silver driver. On both speakers, the cabinets are fully “live” in that they’re voiced like instruments and are meant to resonate.

The analog source was a new turntable, the AMG V12 ($16,500), mounted with a Clearaudio Goldfinger cartridge ($15,000).

Precision engineering and classic design are embodied in the first turntable from AMG (Analog Manufaktur Germany), the Viella 12 or simply AMG V12. Werner Roeschlau, designer and driving force behind AMG, works at his Bavarian factory located north of Munich. All machining is done in house, combining the latest Computer Aided Design and CNC machines with “classic analog” tools including custom lathes and drill presses. His factory has been manufacturing key, precision parts for some of the world’s most highly regarded turntables for over a decade.

This was wired into a Musical Surroundings’ Fosgate Signature ($2,500) phono preamplifier.

Gear I didn’t hear:

Musical Surroundings MYDAC III ($1,800)

The new MYDAC III uses patented digital reconstruction technology. It’s software driven, executed with a FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array), with the ability to recover low-level musical, textural and spatial information buried in digital music files to reveal new levels of musical information and enjoyment. The MYDAC III features 3 inputs including USB for computer audio up to 44.1 KHz and S/PDIF for high-resolution files up to 192KHz. The design allows future upgradability but the strength of this new technology is the unmatched “analog-like” sound it creates with existing Redbook CD.

Baetis Media Server ($3,000):

The new Baetis Media Server provides bit-streaming of all major audio file formats without any Digital-Signal-Processing (“DSP”). This includes WAV, ALAC, FLAC, HDCD, and many others in all major sampling rates up to 192 kHz and bit- depths up to 64-bit! It takes advantage of the zero latency configuration of the Intel iCore Sandy-Bridge processor with integrated audio circuitry, and JRiver Media Center to guarantee pure bit-streaming to the DAC via S/PDIF. It’s super quite with no onboard spinning hard drives, with a proprietary cooling system, and the highest quality, fan-less power supply unit.

All cabling was from Teresonic, including the new Clarison Silver EXP speaker cables ($3,500), Gold XLR Interconnects ($4,000), Clarison power cables ($395), and new Clarison Digital ($395) interconnect.

This fully shielded cables offer unmatched protection against any kind of disturbances: electrical, magnetic or mechanical (vibrations etc). No EMI or RFI will disturb delicate music signal between components – including pure 24ct Gold interconnects offering unmatched sound quality.

Okay, so that’s the list of stuff. The question I would have, reading all that, would be this — how did it sound?

It was brilliant.

I’m not a Lowther fan. But I’m not a un-fan, either. I guess I’m ambivalent about the whole thing, but like most audiophiles, I suppose I’d rather err on the side of neutral than breakup when it comes to the frequency response in a speaker. Which means that single-driver speakers tend to not be my cuppa. And then there’s that whole so-called “Lowther shout” thing, which is supposedly a resonance in the whizzer cone of the Lowther/Lowther-type driver at 2kHz. None of this goes a long way toward convincing me that this path is the best of all possible paths … but the Lowthers I’ve heard have all sounded nice. Better than that. They’ve sounded, well, pretty damn good. As for the “shout”, this has purportedly been addressed with the newest drivers. Jack Roberts, in his Dagogo review of the big Ingenium speakers, has this to say about the Teresonic approach:

As most of you know, Lowther drivers can be forward sounding or as most often stated, they can have that “Lowther Shout”.  Teresonic attempts to deal with this with the use of Helmholtz resonators which are designed for “picking out” particular frequencies from a complex sound. The resonators are purely acoustical, and responsible for the smooth response of Teresonic speakers without the veiling that notch filters can cause. These filters are based on the work of Herman L. F. von Helmholtz from His book, On the Sensations of Tone, published in 1862.

A Helmholtz resonator is a container of air with an open neck, or port. A volume of air in and near the open hole vibrates because of the ‘springiness’ of the air inside. A common example is an empty bottle: the air inside vibrates when you blow across the top. Teresonic loudspeaker uses the Helmholtz resonators to both smoothen out the ‘Lowther Shout’ and to boost the low-frequency response. My understanding from talking with Mike is that there are two resonators in each speaker, with an additional third unit embedded in one of the two resonators. My ear tells me this works incredibly well after the speakers are broken in.

So, what I can tell you about the sound in this Newport room is this: shout, shmout. What I really love about high-sensitivity speakers is the way that the music almost always seems unforced. It flows. Effortlessly. The music can fade away to nothing and then slam back into you with tsunami-like force. And the Ingenium sound is seamless and huge. The sound stage is holographic, the images have all the 3D you could ask from Pixar, and the mid range is as tactile and tangible as I’ve ever heard. The sound is sultry. Sexy. Delicious. Addictive.

I get it! If I ever decide to go the low-power SET route, this could be my first, and last, stop.