Since we started with electronics, I thought we would continue by categories, rather than name. It just happened as well that Parasound booth was almost next to Bryston, so it is fitting.
I have known of Parasound for a while but never had a chance to look at their products seriously.
Well, what best introduction than their top of the range "HALO" series: these are extremely well built products in California, with their main characteristic being the absence of capacitors in the signal path, something they share with my beloved Bryston.
They share also a very good reputation in the Pro business, Parasound being a darling of the film industry. Check their website for the full story.
On display were the JC2 BP preamp, new JC3 phono preamp ($2000) with new three-channel A31 amp (at $3000, it is a bargain...) and an impressive CD player, called, you guess, the CD1!
The new Signature Amplifier by YBA HIFI
I will take a break from my review of the CES 2012 to talk about an iconic French brand of electronics: YBA
By a twist of fate, Jullien Thaler redesigned the look of these products before he joined Elipson to design the look of the new 4260, and now the new CEO of YBA Hifi happens to be my good Australian friend Jacki Pugh!. Let me quote their new website:
"Founded in 1981 by Yves Bernard André, an electronics professor, YBA was quickly recognised for its unusual products.
Unusual in that they were so typically French and therefore seen by some hi-fi journalists and consumers alike to be a little quirky, a quirkiness however which gave them great appeal.
No-one denied the brilliance of the designs.
The growing success of the brand through the 80’s, 90’s and well into the 2000’s attested to Yves’ philosophy to produce the reality of absolute true sound as accurately as possible. To do this successfully meant that the manufacture of all products bearing the YBA name was based on discipline, precision and patience.
In designing and manufacturing so many models, Yves never wavered from his philosophy to have owners of his products actually forget the product and hear only the music. There were simple but key objectives in the design of every product, irrespective of its technical capabilities......every piece had to be durable, and importantly, they had to have a clarity and purity of sound which resulted in extraordinary musicality.
Numerous awards were heaped upon YBA, not only it its own French market but from many respected international bodies.
The demand for YBA products continued to grow through the years and so it was that Yves began to consider the advantages of a major manufacturing company involving itself to secure the future. Such an alliance would provide the best of both worlds - financial capabilities together with the manufacturing ability to produce in greater numbers in order to satisfy the ever growing demand, whilst always retaining the French heritage and design parameters.
In 2009 one of China’s leading high end audio equipment manufacturers purchased a significant shareholding stake in YBA. Already manufacturing for some of the most iconic and well respected UK and European companies, Shanling had built a reputation for its quality of product.
Taking time to learn about the products, the market, and importantly to understand what it is that has made YBA such a sought after brand, Shanling has taken time to re-launch internationally. A new CEO who has a lifetime of experience in the audio industry has been appointed to drive YBA forward and to rightfully reclaim its position as a market leader in the hi-fi world.
The first public showing of the new YBA products will be at the High End Show in Munich in early May 2012."
And, if you so happen to read the French version of the site, then have a little thought for me, as I was appointed to translate it from the English version! small world, isn't it?
If you are interested, then book yourself a ticket to Munich for the High End Show there in May!
Well, you know my addiction for Bryston, hence why they were my first visit - and also because they had a spread of 4 meeting rooms on Level 2.
They were introducing their new headphone amp, and also featuring their surround sound processor and DAC.
The headphone amp is quite something else, built like you could send it to the moon and back in one piece, but mainly designed for us, mere mortals on Earth, and capable to drive ANY headphones, including the famously difficult to drive Stax.
What impressed me most though, was the demos conducted by Mark Waldrep, of Aix Records, using five channels HD recordings of his own making on Blu-Ray, and played via an OPPO player and appropriate (lots of...) gear from Bryston and a new Thiel speaker CS2 paired with an USS/PX05 subwoofer and passive crossover for each of the five channels (5.0 combination, rather that the popular home theater setup of 5.1).
The way the music is recorded and then played back via such a system completely alleviate the sweet spot syndrome, and gives the listener a DIFFERENT perspective depending where you are in the room.
It is like being in the studio with the musicians, completely immersed in what they are playing, and capturing every nuances of the music and every detail of the ambience in the room.
Very difficult to put in words, but certainly some of the most rewarding listening of recorded live music I have experienced so far.
I will take the liberty to quote Mark from an email correspondance we had after the Show, relating to his experiments with DACs (OPPO vs BRYSTON). Interesting to say the least:
" I was very interested in the Bryston converters and especially the multichannel version that resides in the SP-3 processor. I didn’t realize that the converters in that new box are the same as in the stereo dedicated box. After speaking with James Tanner about a multichannel piece, we hooked up the Oppo via HDMI to their SP-3 and I listened again to many of my tracks using their conversion rather than the Oppo Sabre ESS DACs of the previous few days. I cannot say definitively that they were better but knowing Bryston gear (I’ve owned their power amps for decades), I look forward to getting a unit in my studio to check it out."
More recently, Mark teamed up with Bryston again and B&W speakers at the AXPONA Show in Jacksonville earlier this month. I was not there, but this interesting and friendly "competitor" was there:
you can read his report here: http://parttimeaudiophile.com/2012/03/14/axpona-2012-aix-bw-bryston/
And below some more photos of the Bryston gear and Thiel speakers.
The Venetian, home of the High End Hifi exhibitors at the CES
I had not visited the CES Show in 16 years, so during that time Las Vegas had a chance to change quite a bit, and although some of the iconic buildings are still there by name, most have been significantly upgraded, and many more have been built since!
From an architectural point of view, you have to give credit to the architects and builders involved, as the quality of construction is second to none, and in particular the quality of the finishes, the "Palme d'Or" going to the Bellagio and the Venetian, with "Honours" for the Paris, although quite tacky, still quite an achievement.
But I hear you say, what this has to do with HiFi?
Well not much really, but my real job takes me to deal with a lot of great architects "down under" and in Europe previously, so these things always catch my eye.
Now, over the next few posts, I will try to give you a good report on what caught my ears, and at time my eyes as well at the CES - only what I saw at the Venetian -and at the more esoteric side show: T.H.E. Show at the nearby Flamingos.
I happened to be in Carmel, California for New Year'Eve and on New Year's Day, I strolled the beach (almost as good as Sydney...) and browse the numerous shops that were open, thanks to the GFC. And I stumbled upon a beautiful antique shop specialising in music boxes and...old gramophones (I am not sure we should call them turntables just yet...)
And amongst all these treasures, I found what I believe is quite rare: an Edison cylinder machine in perfect working order!
Is it the ancestor of our tangential arm? I let you be the judge...
The Russian lady who owns the shop was quite surprised to find a Frenchman, living in Australia, interested in these old things.
(well, I hear you say, likes attract likes...but we won't go there!)
So, here it is for your enjoyement, plus a couple more photos of gramophones.
In 1987, Alain Wacquet introduced the third and unfortunately last installment of his EA series of electrodynamic panels.
He would later introduce a "Transparence" upgrade, but this product never became a proper commercial reality. I understand Alain still have a few pairs of these magic panels. If anybody is interested, let me know via our "Contact Us" page and we will put you in touch with Alain.
But back to the EA 16 now!
Alain sent me a copy of a review of these products in HIFI Video, June 1987 issue, and I will try to extract the useful information out of it for you in English. I will also give you access to the original text.
So, it is confirmed, as I have suspected from day one, that EA 16, stands for 16 drivers, which implies that the EA 11 and EA 12 had, guess how many, 11 and 12 drivers respectively...
We also get confirmation that all the drivers are in a single vertical line, and in the EA 16 at least, the midrange and tweeter are further back from the woofers. From the impedance curve, we can derive that the panel has its main resonance around 70Hz, which correlates well with the lack of rock-bottom bass. However, because of the small diameter of the drivers, the 94dB/1W/1m efficiency, and the proper time alignement, the impulse response and the dynamic range are second to none.
I have found recently that the AUDAX WTF12 is the main driver. Its efficiency is 90dB/1w/1m and its free air resonance 87Hz, which confirms the above, and which shows up in the impedance curve below.
Even the best electrostatic panels have difficulty to compete with the EA16s, not a mince feast. The closest I have found are actually the Magnepan panels.
Alain is a jazz music guru, and these panels are certainly very well equipped to properly render the small jazz ensembles and the intimate venues that are usually associated with them.
I don't think I have ever heard percussions, and primarily skins rendered with such accuracy and realism.
The EA 16 compare in size with the Martin Logan CLX and the KS-10 from KingSound (out of Honk Kong) at 90cm wide by 140cm high (vs 178.6cm × 65.4cm for the ML and 196cm x 76cm for the KS)
To emphasize that the balance, dynamic range and impulse response are more important to the auditive result than a perfectly flat and extended measured response, it is interesting to note that this is the case for the EA16s.
A slight emphasis in the 200 to 300Hz region improves the subjective impression of enough bass, specially when teamed up with a dip in the midrange and a controlled cut-off in the treble (the curve below may not be accurate in the treble due to the large size of the panel and the positioning of the measuring microphone, however it correlates well with the listening experience...)
These were expensive speakers at the time and also because of their size would sound best in a large room where you could have them well away from all walls, but then you would be rewarded by one, an extraordinary wide, stable and accurate image and two, a dynamic range and timbral accuracy second to none.
The reviewer at HIFI Video concludes: "The system has the efficiency and energy of a compression speaker, the tonal balance of the best electrodynamic system and the "finesse" of an electrostatic panel."
The best of all worlds then? Maybe not, but certainly one of most rewarding listening experience in my book!
see original review below.
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.