Electrostats are awesome. There. I said it. They’re fast, detailed, and revealing — front them with different gear, and they’ll provide you a clear window into what it is that your other gear does. Match it right, and the you-are-there feeling is unrivaled. Well, at least in my experience.
The downsides are pretty obvious — they tend to be big. And as is the problem with all panels, there’s really no way to get chest-thumping bass out one — cones just have the advantage here. As for dynamics, well, that’s really all about horns, now isn’t it? None of this is terribly new — this is a well-traveled path. But here’s the thing: so what? Panels are wonderful. And the fact that they might not be all things to all people is just part of the fun.
Some of the best-sounding and most affordable ESL panel speakers being sold today come from King Sound, and AXPONA treated us to the $14,995 King III. This is a remarkable price for a speaker cable of making such beautiful music, and if I was ever in the market for another big panel, I know I’d be calling Roger DuNaier, the US importer for King Sound, for his nearest dealer.
Also in this setup was some very nifty gear from Purity Audio Design. Joe Jurzec pointed out his company’s newest bits, including the $10,995 Reference Preamp, a Class A, fully-balanced Transformer Coupled line stage. Their entire line of preamps have won awards from various and sundry, and Joe’s been promising me a review sample of the twice-as-expensive Statement Preamp for about 18 years or so, now. Nudge, nudge.
The $5,500 Harmonia sat directly above it — that’s a 300b-based tube buffer. Available as single-ended or balanced, the Harmonia is said to do, well, what buffers do — color the sound of the incoming signal in some pleasing way. Given that the Trigon CD II player and the M2Tech Young DSD DACs were what was upstream, I’m guessing that this was the offending party that needed the boost.
My current favorite from the World of the Power Amp sat in the middle of the stylish Roy Smith audio rack: the $15,000 Hegel H30. Not much to look at, this Hegel, but the output is a very robust 350w into 8Ω and 675w into 4. I’ve been told that this amp is really intended to be used as one in a pair, as a mono block, but I’m not sure that’s necessary. The H30 is one of the most musical amps I’ve ever had the pleasure of spending time with and is on my short-list of coveting. Mmmm mmmm! Tasty.
The sound in here was really sweet — very natural, warm and almost lush. Romantic. I’m guessing the Harmonia Buffer had something to do with that. Definitely something of a departure from my experiences with the King Sound speakers! Very impressive for a system who’s anchoring price seems to be no more than $15k/piece. Expensive, for sure, but also kinda real-world in more than a little way. If I were working with someone on building a system, I might end up with something quite similar.
On the floor, in front of the loudspeakers, were a pair of new amplifiers from Purity, their Musica. The Musica appears to be a tube-hybrid amp, mating 300b tubes to a Class D output stage. Interesting, but I never did get to hear it. Dana Cables were used throughout.