23.5.22

Munich High-End 2022 and the letting go


The largest and slickest hi-fi show on the calendar, Munich High-End, ends its four-day run for 2022. It’s the first time the event has taken place since 2019, this year with 500+ exhibitors in tow: so enormous is its scale that first-time attendees arriving with the intention of ‘seeing it all’ are quick to have their expectations adjusted. The High-End show’s super-smart professional image is why many of the larger manufacturers make their biggest product announcements in Munich. On a more personal note, the High-End show is one of only two public-facing hi-fi events that make me proud to be an audiophile.

This year Alan Parsons is the Brand Ambassador at the International Hi-Fi Show. With this move, the organizer is upholding its theme, launched in 2018, of enlisting a prominent artist to underscore the symbiosis between music and technology. As a veritable master of good sound, Alan Parsons has been successful worldwide for decades. With his superb recording technology, he is extraordinarily successful at bringing the magic of his compositions to our living rooms.

Helping press members like yours truly more easily put show reports together this year were two trade days (instead of one). The second punter-free day, combined with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, made for a less busy Friday than I’d seen in previous years but the 30C weather made for some uncomfortable conditions under the M.O.C’s glass roof, especially in the afternoon.

Regular readers will know that I hadn’t originally planned to attend this year’s Munich event. COVID case numbers are still too high in Germany and the Bavarian government recently dropped its mask mandate. The 4.5-hour train ride from Berlin to Munich made light work of my last-minute change of mind.

Fear of missing out (FOMO) won out over the fear of COVID: a mask glued to my face would limit the risk of infection and I’d only turn up for the two trade days (instead of all four). Both proved to be sound calls. By my reckoning, only 5% of High-End 2022 attendees wore face masks; a low percentage that made many of the Americans that I spoke to anxious about getting home. Only a negative test would put them on their return flight.

Munich High-End organiser Stefan Dreischarf
Adversity being the mother of invention, I decided not to cover High-End 2022 in the usual fashion. YouTube’s copyright scanner picking up music anywhere in a video – even in the background – would put that video’s ongoing publication at risk. And the traffic generated by this website is now too great for Vimeo’s recently revised business model. Vimeo is no longer interested in being the indie YouTube.

Still to come to Instagram (and these pages) are a few manufacturer-specific videos. A podcast review will then try to stitch a red thread through everything that I saw during this year’s event. This more selective approach to show coverage afforded me more time on the show floor to talk with people, some of whom I’d not seen since the pandemic booted real-life events like High-End to the curb. I also had a most illuminating conversation with show organiser Stefan Dreischarf (pictured above) to whom I confessed that I am not a fan of Steven Wilson’s music but that I am a religious follower of The Album Years podcast that he makes with Tim Bowness.

Chatting with exhibitors and press friends also meant walking right past many of the listening rooms that wrap around Atrias 3 and 4. This is where exhibitors focus on the active demonstration of their wares at the expense of everything else. Here, meaningful conversations that transcend the usual small talk are extremely rare. Perhaps not coincidentally, these same rooms are where many of the more expensive esoteric brands exhibit and for whom direct contact with the buying public is critical to a high-price-low-volume sales model.

I found myself much more content in the big open halls downstairs where passive displays dominate, listening is relegated to prefabricated cabins and chin-wagging returns to the top of the agenda. This enables more casual conversations with exhibitors that often turn up crucial tidbits of information that their formal announcements often miss.

Make no mistake: even though hi-fi shows like Munich High-End suffer little of the model train enthusiast vibe of the hotel-based events that pepper the hi-fi show calendar, they aren’t exposing as many new people to the hi-fi world as Instagram coverage of the same. This then begs the question: should I start a Darko.Audio TikTok?

Further information: High-End Society

John Darko
UNITED PHOTO PRESS

22.5.22

High End 2022: Yamaha RN-2000A



Super exciting integrated amplifier with streaming and DAC.

We asked Yamaha if they could make this – and they did! A fully integrated amplifier with power galore, wireless and analog with digital input, turntable input, and audio calibration system.

All in one box, weighing around 22 kg, and looking exactly like the high-end amplifiers in the 3000 and 5000 series.

It’s equipped with the Yamaha Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer (YPAO), which, like the receivers, uses a microphone to calibrate the sound in the room. It worked, you can say, for just where yours truly sat, I had the calibration turned off and on, and the sound was clearly best with it activated.


RN-2000A. (Photo: Lasse Svendsen, L&B Tech Reviews)

The amplifier, which also comes in black, has HDMI input with audio return (eARC), turntable input for MM pickup, a 32-bit, 384 kHz ES9026PRO DAC from ESS, USB DAC input, two optical and one coaxial digital input, Ethernet, DAB radio, subwoofer and pre-out.

It also has Yamaha’s MusicCast, which is their wireless variant with streaming over Wi-Fi, and it supports AirPlay 2, as well as pretty much every streaming service.


RN-2000A from behind. (Photo: Lasse Svendsen, L&B Tech Reviews)

The amplifier part of the RN-2000A, is a mix of the integrated A-S1200 and AS2200, with fully symmetrical built circuitry, a quite generous toroidal transformer, and components of a quality not found in the more affordable Yamaha amplifiers.

RN-2000A in silver finish. (Photo: Lasse Svendsen, L&B Tech Reviews)

The design is classic Yamaha, with a black area below the switches and potentiometers, where among other things an OLED screen shows setting selection and input. Yamaha specifies the power at 2 x 100 w in 8 ohms, or 185 w in 4 ohms.

The amplifier will not be in stores until the third quarter of 2022, estimated price is around 3500 Euro.
NS-2000A

Around that price also the upcoming NS-2000A, a pair of floorstanding passive loudspeakers. A pair will end up at 7000 Euro.


RN-2000A and NS-2000A. (Photo: Lasse Svendsen, L&B Tech Reviews)

The speakers, like the amplifier, should be loyal to Yamaha’s True Sound concept. Which is about creating lifelike and harmonious sound, with realistic dynamics. In concrete terms, this means that the loudspeaker has Yamaha’s Harmonious Diaphragm, which is a combination of the artificially produced material Zylon, and spruce in the diaphragms.


Keen readers may notice that the NS-2000A has a completely new midrange driver, an 8 cm dome, which, together with two 16 cm woofers, and a 30 mm dome tweeter, makes up the speaker’s drivers.

NS-2000A. (Photo: Lasse Svendsen, L&B Tech Reviews)

Which also features Yamaha’s J-shaped acoustic absorber on the inside of the piano lacquered cabinet, which should manage to attenuate standing waves while not having to cram the speakers full of damping material. That also dampens the dynamics.

Yamaha specifies the frequency range to 34 Hz-65 kHz (-10 dB), the crossover frequencies are at 750 Hz and 3.5 kHz.

The dimensions are 33 x 113 x 46 cm and the weight 32 kg.
NS-2000A. (Photo: Lasse Svendsen, L&B Tech Reviews)

Lasse Svendsen
UNITED PHOTO PRESS



High End 2022: Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4


Imagine you’re at a Las Vegas magic show. Fantastic, unbelievable apparitions are popping up right in front of you. You’re aware, at a keenly conscious level, that what you’re seeing is impossible. Yet there it is. Eventually, you suspend disbelief, sit back, and just enjoy the show. Seeing is believing.

Listening to the new Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 is a lot like that. This is a modestly sized stand-mounted speaker, and we all know that such devices have inherent characteristics and limitations. But, somehow, the 805 D4 banishes many of those preconceptions. In fact, the speaker pulls off several magic tricks. As you listen, you’re intellectually aware that what you’re hearing shouldn’t be possible. Yet there it is. Ultimately, you suspend disbelief, relax, and embrace the illusion. Hearing is believing.
Description

For those not keeping count, we are now in the seventh generation of Bowers & Wilkins’ storied 800 Series, which originated in 1979. Like Leica’s M Series rangefinder camera, now in its eleventh iteration, many aspects of the 800 Series’ philosophy, design, and technical choices have remained constant over the decades. In particular, Bowers & Wilkins has remained committed to employing separate, optimized enclosures for each driver type. This enables both time alignment between drivers and minimal baffle diffraction. Just as Leica M cameras are instantly recognizable to the photo enthusiast, an 800 speaker of any era is easily distinguished by the standalone tweeter perched atop one or more larger boxes.

As with the Leica, each new generation of 800 speakers brings upgrades, even while hewing to the original formula. Recent-generation 800s have boasted a diamond-domed tweeter in a tapered, solid-aluminum housing; a “reverse wrap” main cabinet shape that enhances stiffness and further minimizes diffraction; and layered beechwood construction that’s internally braced by birchwood and reinforced with strategically deployed aluminum.

Now comes the D4 versions, with improvements that are both subtle and significant. There’s more aluminum—on the top plate and behind the front baffle—for greater stiffness. The crossover, previously lodged inside the speaker, has taken up residence on the rear panel. This aids heat dissipation and frees up precious internal volume, which in turn increases bass extension. The tweeter housing has a longer taper than before, which gives the driver more room to breathe, and the turbine head is better de-coupled from the cabinet below. Finally, a dashing touch of gorgeous leather now graces top surfaces.

Entry to the latest 800 D4 Series comes via the 805 D4. The only stand-mounted speaker in the line, the 805 D4 is a traditional two-way design with a diamond tweeter and a 6.5″ Continuum midrange/woofer. The cost, believe it or not, is just under $8000 a pair. You should also budget $1250 for the matching stands, which definitely improve sonics and, in a thoughtful touch, provide a hidden path for cables. Despite the under-$10k total, the 805 D4, with just one exception, boasts the same technology, parts, materials, bespoke fit-and-finish, and tweeter as the rest of the line, including the flagship 801 D4.

The exception pertains to the mid/bass driver. Pure midrange units in the 800 D4 Series receive a “biomimetic” suspension in place of the usual fabric spider. A spider, for those not familiar with this relatively obscure driver component, is a flexible ring that connects the voice coil to the basket, thereby holding the coil in place but allowing it to move freely back and forth. During its research for the D4 line, Bowers & Wilkins was surprised by how much changing the spider composition decreased distortion. Alas, the new spider isn’t compatible with the necessarily greater excursion of the 805 D4’s mid/bass driver. Maybe we’ll see that in the next generation.

On the other hand, there is one respect in which the 805 D4 has changed more than its bigger brothers. Those models have had the difficult-to-manufacture reverse-wrap enclosure since the previous generation, but Bowers & Wilkins hadn’t figured out how to scale that process down to an 805-sized enclosure. In the intervening years, the company has overcome this limitation, so now the 805 D4 reaps the benefits of this superior structure.
Setup

Upon arrival and initial setup, the 805 D4 was none too impressive. This was despite a break-in period that included continuous playing over the better part of a week, while I was out of town. After returning, I got more serious about positioning, Tube Trap placement, etc. Yet the speaker continued to sound strangely incoherent.

However, only a few days later, the trouble simply evaporated. Apparently, my break-in protocol had been neither long nor loud enough to get the job done. Once the 805 D4s had some high-octane blood pumping through their veins, they gelled. Likewise, after I finalized positioning, I never felt the urge to fiddle with it.

Specifically, the speaker ended up with its back just over a foot from the front wall. Given its compact proportions, this meant that the 805 wasn’t imposingly jutting out into the room. The nearby wall no doubt added some useful bass reinforcement, too. A touch of toe-in completed the setup.

The 805 D4 proved to be a benign load. Both the CH Precision I1 and the T+A A200 had no trouble driving it to high volume levels. Each speaker has two sets of binding posts, so naturally I compared the sound with and without biwiring. As is usually the case, the advantages of biwiring were myriad and immediately obvious.
Magic Tricks

Although the 805 D4’s first magic trick is a predictable one, like a magician divining what card you chose from a deck, it’s nonetheless remarkable. I refer, of course, to its ability to disappear. Small, two-way speakers are famous for being able to do this; yet the Bowers & Wilkins pulls off the feat with unusual alacrity. As a result, I never once heard the 805 D4 as a sound source. Instead, I heard only musicians assuming their rightful places on the soundstage at the front of my room. Their images were never vague; nor were they unnaturally etched. As I said, this ability to disappear is common among good two-way speakers. But the 805 D4 goes a few steps further.

For one thing, the soundstage these speakers create holds steady from a wide variety of listening positions. No narrow sweet spot here! Further, even when positioned close to the wall behind them, as they were in my room, the 805 D4s deliver plenty of convincing depth. On the Decca LP of Mahler’s Second Symphony, for instance, the Bowers & Wilkins places the woodwinds in the opening movement convincingly behind the speakers. This trait makes these speakers a natural choice for a compact reference system, where soundstage depth and convenient placement are often at odds. With the 805 D4, no compromise is necessary.

Doing all this takes a lot more than a two-way architecture. To start, the speaker must also be highly coherent. If the drivers don’t meld seamlessly, the speaker will give itself away. Sure enough, once the 805s had fully settled in I was never aware of any incongruity or disparity between the drivers. The speaker sounds of a piece.

Minimizing diffraction is another key to achieving a complete disappearing act. Ideally, a speaker’s front baffle will be no wider than its drivers. This is precisely why Bowers & Wilkins uses different enclosures—and therefore different-sized front baffles—for the 800 Series. On the 805 D4, the tweeter has no baffle whatsoever. Meanwhile, the mid/bass driver’s baffle is barely wider than the driver itself. Also, thanks to the reverse-wrap design, the mid/bass baffle is set back and curves away from the driver, which reduces diffraction still further. All these elements work together to essentially shroud the 805 D4 in a cloak of invisibility.

Let’s turn now to magic tricks that aren’t so common. For example, the bête noir of small, two-way, stand-mounted speakers: bass performance. Many small speakers lack both bass quantity and bass quality. Not the 805 D4, which excels in both respects. Indeed, bass is one of this product’s greatest strengths. I’m not saying it plumbs the deepest depths (the speaker is rated down to 42Hz at -3dB), but I am saying that the 805 D4 produces bass to kill for.

The superb low-end performance starts with attacks. They are pinpoint, going from nothing to room-rattling in an instant. You can hear this particularly easily when watching movies. Film sound engineers have become fond of inserting a single, deep “thud” into films right before something calamitous happens. With the 805s, this effect not only has the necessary heft, but it also comes out of nowhere—exactly as the filmmaker intended.

There’s no bass overhang, either. Combine that with spot-on pitch definition, and the result is bass lines that are incredibly easy to follow. Check out Jim Fielder’s work on “Spinning Wheel” from the eponymous Blood Sweat and Tears album (ORG LP). The initial bass line is complex and worth appreciating, both for its own sake and as a perfect counterpoint to the horn and vocal parts. But then, in the song’s middle section, Fielder suddenly shifts style completely. Now he’s riffing on a walking bass line. Through the 805 D4, this musically significant event is crystal clear.

You’ll also be hard pressed to find a speaker—of any size—that delivers more sheer bass information than the 805 D4. With this product, no two bass instruments sound alike; rather, each has its own distinctive timbral and transient characteristics. The best high-end speakers offer this level of timbral diversity in the midrange, but many fall short in this regard in the bass. Not so the 805 D4.

Finally, any speaker described as having “good bass” must have low-frequency grunt. Given its size, the 805 D4 is absolutely shocking in this respect. You get a hint of this when, on the opening of “Spinning Wheel,” the left hand of the piano has more weight than expected. Then you put on something like “The Man in the Long Black Coat” from the MoFi One-Step, 45rpm LP of Bob Dylan’s Oh Mercy. You should hear gut-wrenching, room-energizing bass—the kind you’d think could only come from a large, multi-woofered floorstander. Yet again, the 805 D4 does this with ease.

In fact, of all my bass torture test tracks, the Bowers & Wilkins failed just one. The speaker sailed through the bass line on the outro of Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up” from So, as well as the repeated kick drum wallops in the title track from the old Flim and the BB’s Tricycle CD. Only when confronted with the descending organ pedal tones on the Rutter Requiem’s “Pie Jesu” (Reference Recordings) did the 805 D4 fall short. But even then, the speaker delivered a soul-satisfying rumble, even if it couldn’t quite resolve the lowest pitches. All of which is pretty amazing for a speaker this size.

It’s not just bass that will fool you into believing the 805 D4 is a much bigger transducer. In perhaps its most amazing sleight of hand, the 805 D4 can produce musical scale that’s completely at odds with its stature. In particular, the 805 excels at conveying height. Combine that with the outsized bass performance, and you have a speaker with an uncanny ability to mimic a full-range floorstander.

For example, on a big orchestral work such as the aforementioned Mahler, most small speakers shrink the scale of the soundstage—in every dimension. In contrast, the 805 D4 delivers an appropriate chimera of a grand ensemble. You can even tell that the string section is larger than usual. Or perhaps you’re watching a movie and the screen is considerably higher than the tops of the speakers, as is the case in my listening room. No worries. The 805 D4 can project an image every bit as tall as the top of the screen.

I asked Andy Kerr, Director of Product Marketing and Communications at Bowers & Wilkins, how the 805 D4 manages to pull off this hat trick. He replied: “It’s a combination of the cabinet’s shape and the mechanical properties of its construction. Acoustically, the curved cabinet, with its mid/bass drive unit forward of the baffle in a separate aluminum pod, reduces the cabinet baffling effect, allowing more of the mid/bass drive unit’s energy to radiate freely into the room. The decoupled tweeter-on-top assembly does the same thing for high frequencies, arguably to even greater effect because the structural element in, around, and behind the diaphragm is reduced to the smallest possible area.”

“Also,” he continued, “mechanically, the cabinet minimizes wasted energy by mounting each drive unit in a stiff, well-braced construction with very little vibration. This comes from the combination of the cabinet’s material properties, its curvature, its internal matrix bracing (which is superior in the D4 to that of the D3), its aluminum bracing, and its improved high-frequency decoupling assembly.” Now you know the secret behind the apparition.

I’ve already alluded to the 805 D4’s last magic act, which is its price. At well under $10k, including $1250 for the matching stands, this is another area where you just have to shake your head in disbelief and ponder how Bowers & Wilkins does it. My guess is that there are two parts to the answer.

First, Bowers & Wilkins is a heavy user of computer modeling to predict the acoustic behavior of driver, cabinets, and other factors. In this way, engineers can vary shapes, sizes, and even materials, then assess that change’s influence on accuracy and distortion. This is all done without having to build an endless series of expensive and time-consuming prototypes. Of course, once those computer models are perfected, the company constructs and extensively tests physical prototypes, but by then, a lot of time and money has already been saved.

Next and most importantly, Bowers & Wilkins has the benefit, unique among high-speaker manufacturers, of very large economies of scale. Between its extensive dealership network for audiophiles and its near-universal embrace by recording studios, Bowers & Wilkins is likely the world’s largest maker of high-end speakers. As such, it can leverage suppliers for lower prices. Further, the company can share many components across a given product line. For instance, the diamond tweeter used in the 805 D4 is the same unit found in every 800 D4 speaker. This practice leads to further economies of scale.

Most high-end speaker manufacturers don’t have the product breadth or the sheer sales volume to match Bowers & Wilkins in these respects. Consequently, what costs $8000 in a Bowers & Wilkins speaker could easily cost twice that—or more—from another manufacturer. Keep this in mind when you audition the 805 D4. This is no mere magic trick, where unseen corners have been cut. It’s a true bargain.
Overall Sound

I’m fairly familiar with the sound of 800 Series speakers. In an earlier life, I owned a pair of 801 Matrix IIIs. More recently, I reviewed the D3-generation’s flagship model. I’ve also learned a lot about Bowers & Wilkins’ culture and sonic priorities from visits to its North American headquarters and in meetings with the company’s senior engineers. What I’ve deduced from all those sessions, listening and otherwise, is that Bowers & Wilkins will stop at nothing to remove sources of distortion from 800 Series speakers.

Given this philosophy, it’s not surprising that the line tends to be self-effacing in nature. The folks at Bowers & Wilkins aren’t interested in creating a particular sound; they’re into building good drivers and giving them the best possible environment in which to thrive. The 805 D4 is firmly in keeping with this tradition. Its cabinet is the quietest it’s ever been, and the drivers are more linear and well-behaved than ever. As a result, you don’t hear them.

That’s not to be construed as implying that these speakers are dull. Far from it! They have a wide dynamic range and plenty of rhythmic pizzaz. But they also allow more subtle musical flourishes, such as tiny dynamic nuances, to emerge in a natural, unshowy way. I suspect this is down to the diamond tweeter, which isn’t as extended as some I’ve heard but is incredibly smooth and never etched.

Indeed, this is the one area where the Vegas magic act analogy crumbles. Such spectacles are invariably flashy affairs, whereas the 805 D4 is more interested in not calling attention itself—the better to get out of the way of the music. If you’re looking for a speaker that emphasizes detail, the 805 D4 probably isn’t for you.
Conclusion

Combining all these characteristics—an absence of distracting traits, dynamics big and small, propulsive rhythm, etc.—adds up to a speaker that is incredibly musical. Like the flagship 801 D4 that Andrew Quint reviewed in the February issue, whatever you play through the 805 D4s, whether an audiophile recording or not, is immediately engaging. Along with the music, you’ll revel in the sound’s scale, timbral richness, and authoritative bass. Then you’ll remember that you’re listening to an affordable, small, décor-friendly speaker. You may find that hard to accept. I did. But hearing is believing.

Associated Equipment
Analog source: Lyra Etna cartridge, Goldmund Studietto turntable, Graham 2.2 tonearm
Digital source: Bryston BCD-3 CD player
Electronics: CH Precision I1 universal amplifier (phonostage, DAC, streamer, linestage, power amplifier)
Speaker: Metaphor 1, Stenheim ALUMINE 3
Cables and Cords: Empirical Design
Room treatment: ASC Tube Traps
Footers: Goldmund Cones

Specs & Pricing
Type: Two-way, vented-box, stand-mounted loudspeaker
Recommended amplifier power: 50Wpc–120Wpc
Frequency range: 42Hz–28kHz (+/-3dB)
Nominal impedance: 8 ohms
Sensitivity: 88dB/2.83V/1m
Maximum SPL: 113dB
Drivers: 1″ diamond dome tweeter; 6.5″ Continuum mid/bass
Dimensions: 9.4″ x 17.3″ x 14.7″
Weight: 34.2 lbs. each
Price: $7999 (matching stands are an additional $1250 per pair)

Bowers & Wilkins North America
5541 Fermi Ct. N
Carlsbad CA 92008

Alan Taffel
UNITED PHOTO PRESS

High End 2022: Acoustic Signature Tornado Neo Turntable with TA-2000 Neo Tonearm


I have had multiple experiences with setting up and/or listening to the original Invictus, Invictus Jr., and Ascona ’tables from German turntable specialist Acoustic Signature. Since then, the company has updated its entire lineup of nine turntables, from the Invictus to the lowest-cost Maximus, in addition to refurbishing its complete tonearm catalog. The word “Neo” is applied to all models in the new series. Briefly, Acoustic Signature says that the across-the-board Neo improvements are an accumulation of at least 25 years of industry experience, along with the present-day implementation of its innovations in areas of vibration control, platter-bearing design, and constrained-layer damping.

The subjects of this report are the Acoustic Signature Tornado Neo turntable ($7495) with TA-2000 Neo tonearm ($3495). The Tornado is one of three similarly shaped turntables within the full Neo series: the other two are the more costly Hurricane and Typhoon. The Tornado Neo is made of anodized aluminum and is available in silver, black, or a combination (platter/chassis) of the two colors.

The chassis of the Tornado Neo is 1.7″ thick and machined from a single billet of aluminum, including the three-point integrated supports for footers. The chassis is cosmetically machined with outer grooves along the edges to break up the visual appearance and provide a look of three pieces of stacked material, when, in reality, the chassis is a single piece of aluminum. The feet of the Tornado Neo are all adjustable for leveling and also gel-damped to minimize the effect of external vibrations from the support shelf.

The top of the chassis has a machined recessed area (hidden by the platter when installed) to incorporate what Acoustic Signature calls the “Dura Turn Diamond” bearing, sub-platter, and fully isolated dual-belt-drive AC motor. The main platter is a 1.97″-thick, solid piece of aluminum with four brass damping elements, called Silencers, imbedded 90-degrees apart from their nearest neighbors and evenly spaced at a distance, when viewed from the top of the platter. The platter is supplied with a record mat that adds an additional level of constrained-layer damping; bonded to the underside of the platter is a similar type of material.

The motor used in the Tornado Neo is a dual-coil, 24-pole, AC synchronous model. Acoustic Signature uses the DMC-10 Digital Motor Controller to monitor and custom-adjust the in-phase and in-quadrature (I/Q) drive signals of the motor, automatically stabilizing and further reducing vibrations in real time. The I/Q drive-motor signals involve the use of two sinewaves that have identical frequency and a relative phase shift of 90 degrees. The result of this signal processing and real-time motor-specific adjustment approach is much quieter rotation with reduced vibration (as I’ve also observed in other loosely similar applications), which translates into significantly lower motor noise when subjectively observed or objectively measured.

The Tornado Neo components arrived well packaged and secured between custom-cut layers of high-density foam within a double-boxed container. Once the items were removed from the container (the turntable, motor controller, control unit, accessories, and installation manual), I began the assembly and set-up process.

Quickly covering this procedure, I set the chassis on a level surface and removed the motor cover-plate as instructed. Next, I leveled the adjustable feet under the chassis and carefully installed the sub-platter with its attached upper portion of the bearing into the lower-bearing section already mounted on the Tornado Neo chassis. Then, I installed the twin belts around the sub-platter and the dual-groove motor pulley. After the motor cover-plate is reinstalled, the main platter is carefully placed on the exposed sub-platter, after ensuring there is no dust or debris in the mounting location that would diminish the turntable’s precision when operating. The motor controller (DMC-10) is then connected to the Tornado Neo via a D-Sub connector cable, which runs from the turntable chassis to any of the three available D-Sub connectors on the DMC-10. I chose the “Motor 1” D-Sub connector. The control unit for power on/off and speed selection (33.3/45rpm) gets connected to the DMC-10 via a supplied RJ-45 patch cable at the remote panel-connector identified on the motor controller (as outlined in the manual). The final connection is the 120VAC wall-outlet power cord to the IEC inlet of the motor controller.

At this point, the manual instructs you to turn on the DMC-10 and use the two buttons on the wired control unit to start/stop the platter rotation and select speed 33.3/45rpm. Additionally, the manual explains that when an LED on the wired control unit is blinking it indicates the target speed is in the process of stabilizing. The LED stops blinking and becomes fully illuminated when the target speed is locked. On the control unit, a green LED indicates 45rpm, while a red LED indicates 33.3rpm. No LED illumination on the control unit indicates that the platter is inactive. The wired control unit can be placed in any location the user prefers for ease of use (within the limits of the connecting-cable length). I ended up with the control unit placed partially under the front of the Tornado Neo below the label and out far enough for the control buttons to be easily accessed.

The 9″ TA-2000 Neo tonearm was shipped in its own double-boxed package with all the necessary tools and items for installation. The tonearm was set up using the attached SME-style mount. One of three cartridges used was installed and aligned via the supplied alignment tools. Additional documented adjustments available on the TA-2000 Neo include overhang, offset angle, arm height (VTA/SRA), and anti-skate. Azimuth adjustment is also available, but the procedure is not documented in the installation manual. Later in the evaluation, I also completed cartridge-installation adjustments using the more thorough and time-consuming procedure I regularly apply for completeness during an evaluation.

I encountered a small hiccup when using the 5-gram Hana SL cartridge. The TA-2000 Neo specifications list acceptable cartridge balance-weights of 4 grams to 16 grams. Unfortunately, the Hana SL could not be balanced to 2 grams of tracking weight. This brings up the additional consideration needed to properly balance your cartridge. The combination of the cartridge “balance” weight and the required tracking force may be what sets the minimal weight with the cartridge in question. For the Hana SL, the tonearm would not allow the cartridge to reach its intended tracking force. The TA-2000 Neo’s minimal “balance” weight is 4 grams. The Hana SL weighs approximately 5 grams. The tracking force required for proper operation of this cartridge is 2 grams. The result (measured and verified) yields nearly 1 gram of tracking force with the balance weight at its lowest weight setting. In order to use the Hana SL, I had to add a headshell weight to achieve proper tracking force. (Both horizontal and vertical cartridge-resonance-frequency performance parameters were still within the generally accepted 8–12Hz range when completed.) The key takeaway is that the TA-2000 Neo specifications list the cartridge “balance” weight. Therefore, the user should account for the additional tracking force required for the cartridge to be used. The other two cartridges drafted for use during this evaluation (Hana Umami Red and Lyra Etna) worked without issue. [Acoustic Signature now offers a lighter counterweight for low-mass cartridges. —Ed.]

A second problem, while minor, prevented me from using a couple of my phonostages with the TA-2000 Neo’s supplied tonearm cable. The available distance between the left and right RCA connectors used to connect to the phonostage would not allow the supplied tonearm cable to spread far enough apart to complete the input connection on two of the three phonostages I have in-house. Prospective users should check the distance between the phonostage inputs and ensure the supplied (or desired) phono cable will spread far enough apart to make the connections

Once the issues mentioned above were addressed, the Tornado Neo with TA-2000 Neo performed and operated flawlessly during the evaluation period. The primary buttons on the wired control unit for start/stop and speed selection were fully operational and easy to use. Additionally, cueing the tonearm when playing vinyl records was simple and straight-forward.

With the trio of cartridges, the Tornado Neo and TA-2000 Neo produced excellent sound in most cases. The Hana SL displayed the majority of its overachieving performance, as did the outstanding Hana Umami Red and the always first-rate Lyra Etna. The known differences and scaling of performance between the cartridges installed on the Acoustic Signature combo were apparent and observable.

If nitpicking, the one area where this vinyl playback combination held back the performance of all three cartridges was a wee bit of shaving off of the visceral force and impact of dynamic transients, particularly in the bottom octave. While other admirable performance characteristics in this area were on display, the Tornado Neo didn’t quite capture all that these cartridges are capable of delivering. Regardless, the Tornado Neo and TA-2000 Neo were generally well behaved and very enjoyable to listen to.

Mighty Sam McClain’s album titled Give It Up To Love (AQ-LP1015, AudioQuest Music LP; APB 1015, Analogue Productions LP) serves as a good example of the excellent playback of the Neo combo of Tornado and TA-2000. Both LPs played well and showed most of the power of the bass drum with bass guitar overlay, while both parts of Kevin Barry’s dual guitar playing on overlaid tracks were identifiable in their individual space, as selected at the mixing board for this multitrack, all-analog recording. The combo revealed McClain’s unique and identifiably soulful vocals with plenty of emotion, while the timing of all songs was spot on. Particularly, during the playback of “Too Proud” via either version of the LP listed above, the Acoustic Signature combo exhibited Bruce Katz’s Hammond B-3 organ saturating the soundstage in a steady and controlled, yet fully attention-capturing way. Riding on top of the organ were the sometimes penetratingly dynamic bluesy guitar licks and powerful, but slightly less-intense-than-usual drum whacks, which still sounded impressive.

The overall spatial presentation on both albums was very good in terms of in-room energy and instrumental clarity. By comparison, APB 1015 pressing showed its characteristic additional warmth and fuller lower register, while the AQ-LP1015 version displayed more clarity and transient speed, and greater openness. The Tornado Neo and TA-2000 Neo combo was capable of delivering the unique characteristics of the individual LPs, while staying true to the performance of the recorded material. Well done.

For a steadfast display of dynamic energy and the ability to unravel complex musical passages, Malcom Arnold’s overture to “Tam o’ Shanter” was selected from two different albums: Witches’ Brew (LSC-2225, Analogue Productions reissue) and Mephisto & Co. (RM-2510, Reference Recordings). The Overture to “Tam o’ Shanter” offers a thrill ride of full-on orchestral power with delicate instrumental details woven within the performance. The music and orchestration gives one a look into the ability of a vinyl playback system to transparently parse, focus, and portray intensity and delicacy, along with the potential emotional roller-coaster ride that is available with such performances. With a capable cartridge and phonostage, the Acoustic signature combo proved to be up to the task of satisfying all criteria.

Both album versions of this overture (different orchestras, conductors, locations, and recording equipment) had nearly identical overall timing, yet provided appropriately unique sound signatures when played back with the Tornado Neo and TA-2000 Neo. The Witches’ Brew LP had a more forward presentation with additional upper-midrange emphasis (think strings, woodwind, brass, and non-bass percussion), while maintaining excellent clarity and dynamic agility. Timing and pacing, as presented by the combo, were as good as expected and proved to be a conduit for a bundle of energy when called upon. The Mephisto & Co. version of “Tam o’ Shanter” presented additional fullness and power in the lower registers of all instruments (especially in the bass region), while maintaining the rhythmic pacing of the performance. Energy was excellent, tilting a good bit towards the lower register of any instrument used during reproduction. This contrast is normal for these recordings and consistent on any of the playback systems I have in-house. The Tornado Neo and TA-2000 Neo combo reproduced the expected differences in these performances with relative ease.

With an already solid construction supported by the Neo advancements that Acoustic Signature has implemented across the board on all products, the Tornado Neo and TA-2000 Neo provided near-exceptional performance in its price class along with countless hours of musical enjoyment.

Associated Equipment
Analog tape: Otari MTR-10 Studio Mastering (¼” 2-track) tape deck with custom Flux Magnetic Mastering Series repro head and secondary custom tube output stage, Studer A820 Studio Mastering (¼” 2-track) tape deck (x2), Studer A80VU MKII Studio Mastering (¼” 2-track) tape deck, Stellavox SP7 (¼” 2-track) tape deck with ABR large-reel adapter, ReVox G-36 (¼” 4-track) tape deck
Analog vinyl: Basis Audio Debut Vacuum with Synchro-Wave Power Supply, Basis Audio 2800 Vacuum ‘tables; Basis Audio SuperArm 9, Basis Audio Vector IV (x2), Graham Phantom III tonearms; Lyra Atlas, Lyra Atlas SL, Lyra Etna, Lyra Etna SL, Lyra Titan-i, van den Hul Colibri XGP, Hana SL, Hana Umami Red cartridges
Phonostage: The Raptor (custom), Ayre P-5xe, Musical Surroundings Phonomena II+ w/Linear Charging Power Supply
Preamp: Dual Placette Audio Active linestage
Amp: Custom/modified solid-state monoblocks
Speaker: Vandersteen Model 3a Signature with dual 2Wq subwoofers and dual Sub Three subwoofers using M5-HPB high-pass filter
Cables: Assortment of AudioQuest, Shunyata, Tara Labs, Acoustic Research, Cardas, and custom cables.
Racks/accessories: Minus-K BM-1, Neuance shelf, Maple wood shelf, Symposium Ultra, Aurios Pro, Pneuance Audio, Walker Audio, Klaudio RCM, Kirmuss RCM, VPI RCM, Clearaudio Double Matrix Professional Sonic RCM
Room: 18′ x 8′ x 43′

Specs & Pricing
Tornado Neo
Type: Belt-driven turntable
Motor: AC synchronous
Drive system: RPM-regulated double-belt drive with speed fine adjustment for the sub-platter
Tonearm base: Up to 3 (one supplied)
Dimensions: 17.8″ x 6.26″ x 18.1″
Weight: 58.4 lbs.
Price: $7495

TA-2000 Neo
Type: 9″ tonearm
Pivot to Spindle Distance: 222mm
Effective length: 239.3mm
Effective mass: 9.6 grams
Price: $3495

ACOUSTIC SIGNATURE
AS-Distribution GmbH
Hillenbrand Strasse 10
73079 Suessen
Germany
+49 7162 207 97 0

Andre Jennings
UNITED PHOTO PRESS

21.5.22

High End 2022: Dyanudio unveils Focus range of active wireless stereo speakers


Three models, prices start at £4399 (€5000/$5500).

If you want a mix of modern and traditional for your next hi-fi system, then you might want to consider a pair of active streaming speakers, like the new Dynaudio Focus.

Before we dive into specifics, this category isn’t new territory for Dynaudio. The Focus XD range kick-started the company’s journey in this particular market back in 2014 and it’s this line that the new Focus family replaces.

Launched at High End Munich 2022, Dynaudio’s new Focus range boasts three models, all of which use a high-end streaming platform that supports Tidal Connect and Spotify Connect, AirPlay 2 and Google Chromecast.

Bluetooth and UPnP support is also included and the speakers are Roon Ready should you want to manage and control your music collection through this software.

Dynaudio also provides coaxial and digital inputs and a set of analogue audio inputs for connecting external sources, although there’s no HDMI socket. Wirelessly they’ll natively play up to 24-bit/96kHz hi-res tracks, but you’ll need to use a wired connection to get full-fat 24-bit/192kHz playback. They’re also WiSA certified should you want wireless sound from a compatible TV.

The system can be controlled either through the Dynaudio app (which also helps with set up and positioning) or the Bluetooth remote included in the box. They’re also Dirac Live ready which means for a fee, you can use Dirac's advanced room calibration to fine-tune the sound for your room.

All the speakers in the line are also powered by amplifiers already used in its professional studio monitors and use Dynaudio’s Cerotar tweeter.

There’s an adapted version of the Dynaudio logo on the front of each speaker which lights up depending on the function it’s doing and the Focus range can even sense when you’re using the grilles and alter their EQ settings to compensate.

The first speaker in the line is the two-way Focus 10 £4399 (€5000 / $5500). It’s a sealed box design (as are all the Focus speakers) with 280 watts powering its 14cm woofer, with 110 watts assigned to the 28mm soft dome tweeter.

Focus 30 £6499 (€7500 / $8250) is a two-and-a-half-way floorstander, which adds a 14cm mid-bass driver, while the Focus 50 £8699 (€10,000 / $11,000) is a three-way floorstander which uses two 18cm woofers, one 14cm midrange driver and a 28mm soft dome tweeter.

The new Dynaudio Focus range is available in four finishes: white high gloss, black high gloss, walnut wood and blonde wood.

Andy Madden
UNITED PHOTO PRESS

High End 2022: New iron speaker with exciting technology



Finally, there is a larger edition of the excellent Jern. And with absolutely wild luxury components.

Munich is the world centre of hi-fi these days. First and foremost at the MOC exhibition centre, where High End 2022 is taking place, but also elsewhere in the city. At the nearby Marriott Hotel, they’ve set up a mini-fair called HiFi Deluxe.

Here you can meet Danish Jern (Iron) Speakers. We have previously tested Jern 14 DS, which distinguished itself by a particularly clean and resonance-free reproduction. This is partly due to the cast iron cabinet material. The name Jern 14 simply means that the speaker is made of iron and weighs 14 kg.

From this it is not difficult to guess the weight of the new model, the Jern 35, which has just been presented in Munich. The cabinet looks like a larger version of the Jern 14. The special “Barbapapa” cabinet is created to minimize diffractions.

The new model (tv) is a larger version of the Jern 14. (Photo: Jern Speakers)

The larger cabinet allows for a larger woofer – and potentially deeper bass. And the units in the Jern 35 are out of the ordinary. the 6.5″ woofer is from Danish Puri-fi, and easily recognizable by the “curly” surround that gives the unit an extra-long linear diaphragm excursion. It’s a special edition, made just for the Jern 35, where the small cabinet presents challenges. According to Ole Lund Christensen from Jern, they have managed to get good bass – and still maintain a “fairly respectable” efficiency.

The speaker units are Danish, expensive and very special: a special version of Puri-fi’s 6.5″ woofer and a Scanspeak Elipticor tweeter. (Photo: Jern Speakers)

The tweeter unit is also special and Danish, namely Scanspeak’s Elipticor dome, which we’ve only seen in frightfully expensive speakers so far. And yes, we also think the unit should be rotated 90 degrees for better horizontal sound dispersion. But Ole Lund Christensen insists that it should be turned like that – so you still get good treble, even if you slump down on the sofa.


Jern Foundation F500 subwoofer (Photo: Jern Speakers)

Also on show is the Jern Foundation F500 subwoofer (we hope it’s NOT the weight!) with two opposing woofers and built-in amplifier.

We’ll be back with a test when the Jern 35 is available. But at the time of writing, there exist only two sets in the world. The price will from the outset be €20,000 for at pair.


John Hvidlykke

UNITED PHOTO PRESS



High End 2022: Show Report



Rob from Magna Hifi presents Holo Audio May KTE R2R DAC and Serene KTE discrete preamplifier with Arya labs



Above and below: Arya Labs has developed the AirBlade which is a broadband, low distortion, high power, linear phase, and linear impedance driver that does not become directional towards higher frequencies.





Grimm Audio LS-1 with MU-1 server. Jos and Rob from Magna Hifi reported the following: “We have heard it many times before and it is still one of our favorite sound systems. The authenticity of this system gives you goosebumps.”





Estelon Extreme MkII with MSB. Magna Hifi commented: “With the remote, you could raise or lower the top part of the Estelon speakers to adjust the radiation of the sound. Nice toy!”





Steinway & Sons. Jos Schellevis of Magna Hifi commented: “My daughter would love to have the Steinway grand piano. I would be fine with the speakers;-)”









Transrotor Tourbillon. Jos Schellevis of Magna Hifi commented: “Too bad I don’t have any L.P.’s anymore, otherwise, I would have bought it for sure!”



Audio Research advertisement. Jos Schellevis of Magna Hifi commented: “Where are the smoke extraction system and the anti-static wristband?”



Western Electric 91E amplifier with AirBlades broadband drivers from Arya Labs – Impressive sound, according to Jos Schellevis of Magna Hifi.



Pathos Inpol integrated amplifier – note the cooling fins, extruded in the shape of the brand name.



Photos by Jos Schellevis and Rob de Brouwer of Magna Hifi

Magna Hifi Website

Christiaan Punter


UNITED PHOTO PRESS

20.5.22

High End 2022: Rogers LS5/9


Most card-carrying audiophiles understand the BBC developed the LS3/5A loudspeaker in the early 1970s and, early on, licensed the design to several manufacturers. What they may not be aware of is that, British engineers being British, the nomenclature for BBC-designed equipment was anything but arbitrary. In the case of the iconic LS3/5A near-field monitor, “LS” stands for “loudspeaker” and the “3” that follows indicates that the transducer was for “outside” use, a non-critical application designated as Grade I by the Beeb. They were intended for monitoring a non-studio performance from a broadcast van or some other location where listening with headphones might not be ideal.

The “5” after the slash is the model number and the “A” indicates the one and only revision this long-lived design has ever had. Take ten minutes at a holiday party to explain the code to a stranger who didn’t ask. It can be pretty much guaranteed that you won’t be invited back to that party next year.

This information isn’t especially hard to come by, but it was new to me when explained by Andy Whittle, for the past four years the head design consultant at Rogers Audio, historically the most prolific licensee of BBC loudspeakers. Whittle had worked at Rogers as technical director in the early 1990s. When, under new ownership, manufacturing relocated to Asia, Whittle moved on, most recently to a nearly 13-year stint at Audio Note, UK. After the production of Rogers speakers overseas petered out, Andy Whittle was recruited to re-introduce the BBC designs, and with the stipulation that the loudspeakers would again be manufactured in Great Britain, he agreed. For several years, Rogers has been building Classic and Classic Special Edition versions of both the LS3/5A and the larger LS5/9 loudspeakers. Priced at $7495, the SE version of the latter, is the subject of this review. (The standard Classic is a thousand bucks less.) An updated version of the active LS5/8 is also in the works.

The LS5 designation indicates that the BBC considers the speaker suitable for Grade II applications, such as determining microphone placement and balances; the LS5/9 model was introduced in 1983. While the LS3/5A is a sealed-box design with acknowledged low-frequency and loudness compromises, the two-way LS5/9 Classic and Classic SE are bass-reflex loudspeakers with a front-facing port. The speakers will not be winning any international design awards; they won’t be mistaken for a product from Estelon or Sonus faber. But the “fit ’n’ finish” (an endearingly quaint term favored by some audio writers) is top-notch. The cabinet is meticulously fabricated from pieces of 9mm Russian birch plywood, the standard veneer finishes being olive and amazique—that last one a beautiful African hardwood. The inner walls of the enclosure are damped with bituminous damping panels. The grille fabric is black Tygan, a heavyweight woven material used largely for audio products that further adds to the utilitarian appearance of the speakers. These loudspeakers are designed to be played with the grilles in place, but tugging firmly on rather indiscreet fabric handles will remove them if you’d care to experiment. Around back, the only thing to see, other than a metal plate identifying the product and providing the serial number, is a pair of 4mm silver-plated receptacles that accept banana plugs—your only option when it comes to speaker-cable connection. “We tend to shy away from big, chunky terminals made from pot metal as they don’t sound any good,” Andy Whittle explained matter-of-factly during an email exchange.

With the grille removed, you’re looking at what is probably the most important upgrade implemented in the LS5/9 Classic SE, as compared to the LS5/9 Classic. That’s the front baffle, which in the SE is made from Panzerholtz, also known as tankwood, as in “built like a….” Panzerholtz is a composite of hardwood and a phenolic resin that can be used as a metal substitute. It offers some definite advantages over metal materials, both in its electroacoustic behavior—there’s less potential for hysteresis—and its mechanical properties, which are also leveraged by Rogers with the Panzerholtz stands available for both the LS3 and LS5 models. Panzerholtz is notoriously difficult to work with, which helps explain the surprisingly high price of the stands, $2195 for those made for the LS5/9 models—nearly 30% the price of the loudspeaker itself.

So long as we have the grille off, note the front-firing port in the baffle’s upper left corner and the two drivers themselves. The tweeter is a Rogers-modified version of a 34mm Audex dome that incorporates a phase-correction plate to provide more even dispersion (in a studio setting, LS3 and LS5 speakers were typically placed firing directly forward). The original design of the LS5/9 woofer was a joint effort of Rogers and the BBC. “What is special about it is the cone profile, developed by the BBC, that uses a PVC material for the surround,” Whittle told me. “The PVC gives the correct termination for the polypropylene cone, vital for natural vocal/midband performance. Practically all woofers these days use rubber or foam surrounds which don’t terminate correctly.” Whittle himself reverse-engineered the woofer from the original; a third-party manufacturer produces the drivers for Rogers.

One last element visible on the front baffle is a vertically oriented tag strip that, in the original studio application, allowed for adjusting tweeter sensitivity. In this version, there’s no user-adjustability, so that precise pair-matching is maintained. Both LS5/9 Classic models employ a third-order crossover for woofer and tweeter, with the handoff centered at 3kHz. The network for the Classic SE version represents an upgrade over the Classic’s, with a wax-dipped, iron-dust-core inductor.

With the two speakers set up to form a nine-foot-per-side equilateral triangle with the listening position in my 225 square foot room, I was ready to rock ’n’ roll. And rock ’n’ roll I did.

During the six weeks the Rogers LS5/9 Classic SEs were the only loudspeakers I listened to in my system, the Tom Petty documentary Sometime, You Feel Free was released for streaming on YouTube after a brief theatrical run. The film, which utilizes recently discovered, archival, 16mm footage shot during the creation of Petty’s highly regarded 1994 Wildflowers album, is a poignant tribute to the great singer/songwriter/guitarist who died in 2017. The soundtrack naturally includes lots of Petty and his musical collaborators playing in a recording studio. Via the Rogers loudspeakers, the unadorned acuity of this artist’s musical and production style comes through clearly. No surprise here: When heard through the kind of speakers that have served engineers and artists so well for so many years, the sonic character of a movie about the making of a great pop record is bound to register as authentic.

In general, if part of the pleasure you derive from listening to recorded music comes from understanding how a song has been realized in the studio, how it’s been shaped into something of lasting value, the Rogers speakers could be just what you’re after. I really don’t especially like mainstream country music but somehow found myself listening all the way through Brandy Clark’s 12 Stories, unexpectedly captivated by the totally predictable narrative and musical tropes. This could have been because the Classic SEs, while never “analytical,” presented the singer’s heartfelt delivery and the every-note-in-place support from her accompanying players with a sense of soul-satisfying completeness. We’re not being honest with ourselves as audiophiles if we can’t own up to the truth—that the ability of our gear to effectively deliver the engineering values of a good recording can sometimes eclipse the importance of musical substance.

My more usual reference selections—orchestral recordings with an especially rich tonal palette, such as the Haitink/Concertgebouw performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 15 on the RCO Live label—were reproduced in their full glory. The entire point of Tone Poems, the 1994 collaboration of Tony Rice and David Grisman playing 17 duets on 17 different pairs of vintage guitars and mandolins, is that a receptive listener can learn to distinguish among the instruments. The LS5/9 Classic SE facilitated this quite well. Perhaps most critically, reproduction of the human voice across the board—individual singers, small groups, small choruses, large choruses—was exceptional. For 1865: Songs of Hope and Home for the American Civil War, Anonymous 4 was joined by multi-instrumentalist Bruce Molsky, who also episodically contributed his bass voice as a foundation for the hymn-like arrangements. The album’s first track, “Weeping, Sad and Lonely” is typical, composed of four verses and four iterations of the chorus. The melody is unchanging, but the four women (plus Molsky) keep things interesting by varying the harmonization and registration. The Rogers speakers reveal all the subtle changes in blend and density as clearly as I’ve ever heard.

So long as your demands as a listener are reasonable—no railroad trains or lightning strikes, please—dynamic musical sounds possess an immediacy reminiscent of the real thing. Well-recorded electric bass plus kick drum, as with Kevyn Lettau’s Songs of the Police, has gratifying punch, if not the gut-wrenching impact you’d get standing 30 yards away from the stage at an outdoor concert. Piano music of all sorts fares quite well. With exceptional recordings like “Professor” Keith Johnson’s Nojima Plays Liszt, the most thunderous passages are rendered with authority and, when the soloist is playing quietly, nuances of touch are exquisitely resolved. Extroverted music for two pianos—Christian Ivaldi and Noel Lee performing Darius Milhaud’s Scaramouche, for instance—is reproduced by the Classic SEs with complete intelligibility.

The Rogers LS5/9 Classic SE presents detailed spatial information when it’s on the recording. With one favorite example, Paavo Järvi’s reading of L’histoire du soldat for PentaTone, each member of the septet occupies his or her own specific real estate on the capacious stage of the Großer Sendesaal in Stuttgart; yet, they are clearly playing together in real time, breathing the same air of a large room. The scaling of the seven disparately sized instruments is entirely believable. With the RCO Live Shostakovich symphony recording noted above, the continuity of the soundstage from one side to the other is as good as I’ve experienced, and depth was also good.

Viscerally experienced bass is not to be expected from relatively small boxes, and miracles do not occur with these Rogers stand-mounts. In a medium-sized room, at sensible playback levels, low-frequency information of consequence rarely seems to be missing. You can, of course, try adding a subwoofer, which I did (a Magico S-Sub), but this must be undertaken with care. With popular music and jazz, where “bass” usually means an electric bass or acoustic double bass, complementing low frequencies with a subwoofer does risk creating a jukebox-at-the-corner-bar sort of bass that isn’t terribly appealing. Often, I left the sub off with these musical genres. On the other hand, with classical music, the subwoofer was very helpful in restoring orchestral weight and providing more of a sense of a large venue. If the musical program is orchestral “power music,” full-bore Romantic organ repertoire, or grand opera, dialing in a good sub could be a very worthwhile undertaking.

A word regarding amplification. For most of my listening, I employed a pair of Pass XA 60.8 monoblocks, the amps I know best, and certainly got good results. But I felt I should also attempt powering the Classic SEs with electronics that were more suitably priced for use with $7500-per-pair loudspeakers and borrowed a Bel Canto REF 501S, a Class D design you can carry with one hand that retails for $2200. Honestly, I expected to leave the REF 501S in the system for a day or two, mostly so that I could say I’d tried it. Well, forget all your preconceptions about Class D amplification: The LS5/9 Classic SE’s performance was so impressive with the REF 501S—the bass may have been better than what I realized using the 60.8s—that I listened quite happily to the Rogers/Bel Canto combination for two solid weeks before returning to my reference amplifiers. And then, blown away as I was by the little REF 501S’s performance, I recognized the Pass’s superiority when it comes to musical detail, and its ease of spatial presentation. The point is this: The Classic SEs will sing when driven by a carefully chosen amplifier that doesn’t cost twice as much as the speakers do. But they will reward an advance in the quality of the power sent their way, should that occur.

Be advised. If your history as an audiophile has taken you down a whack-a-mole path of constantly compensating for colorations of your electronics or cabling, the Rogers LS5/9 Classic SE’s won’t save you; in fact, they could make things worse. In terms of the timbral character of voices and instruments, these speakers will only dutifully report on what’s upstream in the audio chain. They can’t fix anything.

There’s an old saw advising that any deficiency of a piece of audio gear should be subtractive in nature—something that isn’t there—as opposed to an obvious distortion or coloration that you can’t get rid of. It’s sound advice. In the U.S. and throughout much of the rest of the world, witnesses testifying in court are required to swear that what they’ll say is “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” The audio universe is not a court of law, and it’s only that third descriptor that holds for the Rogers LS5/9 Classic SE loudspeakers. If you really need bass that will loosen your fillings and undistorted volume levels that will pin your ears back, you may need to consider spending your $7500 elsewhere. But you might come to regret that decision. These loudspeakers deliver the essential character of a recording honestly, without editorializing, as well as some other far more expensive transducers. Give the Rogers LS5/9 Classic SE a good long listen.

Specs & Pricing
Type: 
Stand-mounted, two-way, bass-reflex loudspeaker
Driver complement: Audax 1.3″ dome tweeter, Rogers 8.3″ midrange/woofer
Impedance: 8 ohms
Sensitivity: 87dB
Dimensions: 10.8″ x 18.1″ x 11.2″
Weight: 26.5 lbs.
Price: $7495

LS5 Classic loudspeaker stands
Price: $2195

By Andrew Quint
United Photo Press

High End 2022: Show Report



Fink Team Borg speakers with a full Soulnote system, consisting of the P3 preamp, S3 CD/SACD player, D3 Zeus DAC, Z3 Zeus Network Transport (equipped with the new Pachanko Velvety Ether LAN cable) X3 Zeus Clock Generator, and M3 mono Power Amplifiers. The equipment’s chunky style may split opinions but I definitely love the sturdy super-solid look. An interesting brand from the land of the rising sun that I think is worth investigating.



Photos by Chan King of Pachanko Labs



PMC Room with the very interesting Fenestria speakers driven by a big stack of AVM equipment. See also below stock images.



Photos by Bert Bazuin of Terrason Audio



Vivid Audio’s brand new KAYA C35 center speaker.



Vivid KAYA S12 with wall-mounting bracket.

Photos by Bert Bazuin of Terrason Audio



Grimm Audio room with the LS1 Loudspeaker system and a new variant: Nano legs. With Nano legs, an LS1 can be placed on top of a side table or dresser as seen in the image above. This is an advantage in small rooms where every square meter counts – the acoustic properties of the LS1 make it function great in large rooms as well as small rooms.

Underneath the LS1 Nano legs edition is the ‘Acoustic Mat’ that sits on top of the speaker’s footplate. When placing a loudspeaker on a hard surface such as a side table, reflections occur that color the sound. The Acoustic Mat absorbs the reflection and keeps the sound clean from this discoloration.

The LS1 with Nano legs is a development based upon a ‘special edition’ LS1 we designed for the Concertgebouw Amsterdam studio. Monitor speakers in this small control room need to be placed on top of a bass trap and the ‘Nano legs’ version facilitated that.


The source for this system is the MU1 server that received a new firmware update on April 5th.





Photo by Jean-François Orth of 1877.audio



KAD Audio is a relatively new Dutch brand. Here are the all-in-one Wireless, Active, K7-EVO loudspeakers with active cardioid bass and d’Appolito-based MTM configuration. The speakers are equipped with DSP and 4 separate DAC channels that use two TI/Burr Brown 32-bit/384kHz PCM5242 DACs, one for the MF/HF driver section, and one for the double front and twin rear LF driver section. Amplification is done with Hypex NCore. The speakers can be set up and controlled using an app on a smartphone or tablet. The source at this demo was the Grimm Audio MU1.


Photos by Bert Bazuin of Terrason Audio




Kuzma XL Air with Airline tangential air-bearing tonearm

Photos by Robert Brijde of PUUR Audio, Video & Domotica



Stenheim speakers with DartZeel amplification



YG Acoustics


Above and below: Rockport room with Avior II loudspeakers and Absolare electronics



Absolare power amp tube complement


Lorenzo Design speakers and racks


Voxativ speakers



Piega speakers with T+A electronics


Alsyvox Raffaello full-range dipole planar speakers, Taiko SGM Extreme Music Server, Lampizator Horizon DAC, Jadis JPL MkII preamp, Jadis I70 integrated amp, and Jadis JA30MkII power amplifiers.


Soundspace Systems with Vitus Audio amplification


Marten Design loudspeakers


Peak Consult loudspeakers from Denmark with Audionet Planck CD player and Humboldt integrated amplifier

Photos by Jean-François Orth of 1877.audio



Above and below: Kharma



Mola Mola Tambaqui DAC and Grimm MU1 server


Full Aries Cerat system with the massive Aperio preamplifier and equally massive Janus mono power amplifiers, flanked by the gorgeous Aurora horn speakers, and served by the Taiko Audio SGM Extreme.


Christiaan Punter

UNITED PHOTO PRESS