GTT Audio’s Big Guns
In the larger GTT room (in terms of the cost of the system), were Kharma Midi Exquisites ($75,000), again the Kharma Ce-Sb-1.0 subwoofer ($9,500), Lamm L2 Reference Line Stage ($14,400), Lamm LP2 Deluxe Phono ($7000), Lamm M1.2 Reference mono amps ($20,000), the dCS digital stack consisting of Verdi LaScala ($17,500), Elgar Plus ($17,500), Verona ($7,900), Kharma Enigma Cabling, TAOC Audio Rack, Kuzma Stabi Ref with Stogi Ref Arm ($9450), Shelter 90x MC cartridge ($2700).
The Nacks in Kharma-land
Effortless control: that about sums up what set this room apart. A lot of what I heard in the smaller GTT room was here, too, but Hilary’s violin on the Bernstein was focused and full of nuance with great string tone through the dCS stack, a world-reference front-end. Similarly, LPs spun on the Kuzma Stabi Ref were stunning, performance on par with the mega-buck tables—and this isn’t even their top-of-the-line product! The reissue LP, Martha Argerich Spielt, was typical DG from the 1960s—dry, very direct, and midrange dominant—but very accurate piano sound, with uncommon subtlety and low-level information. The sound in this room brought to mind those high-end advertisements with graphs of cable response, where cable A (the GTT room) better approximates the square wave while others are rolled off in one way or another.
The joint was really jumpin’ in the Continuum room where their fabled turntable ($48K) with its Cobra tonearm ($12.5K) made from banana wood (?) was pumping out the R&B. This extraordinary design is both massive and retro/deco, exuding quality that matches its high price. A window in the front of the base allows you to gaze at the inner workings. Special isolation footers indicate the attention given to resonance control. In fact, the Castellon Isolation Stand ($20K) featured a top shelf that was magnetically levitated. It looked like a Continuum preamplifier with separate power supply, but I didn’t press for details here. Lamm ML 1.1 monoblocks on Stillpoints Component Stands ($800 ea.) drove the Peak-Consult Empress loudspeakers ($25K) imported from Denmark by Chris Sommovigo of Stereovox. Taking a page from Sonus Faber, these loudspeakers had the most impressive fit and finish of any wood enclosure loudspeaker at the show, tastefully complemented by the leather baffle. The low sheen finish is much more impressive in person than the photograph indicates. Overall, the equipment in this room not only looked right together, but the sound was among the Very Best Rooms at the show. I only wish I could have reduced the level of humanity in this room for a better listen, selfish as I am. I would hear the Empress and its big brother later on in the show, but this was the presentation that really stood out in visual, mechanical and musical quality. Lamm reviews include Model LL2 preamplifier (Deluxe) and their LP2 Phono preamplifier. http://www.enjoythemusic.com/hifi2005/becker/
Lamm Industries had a pair Vitavox cornerhorn two-way loudspeakers of being driven by their ML2.1 monoblock amplifiers ($29,290). Simplicity in visuals conceals some very high-end inner-workings. While a pair of Russian 6C33C-B produce 18 watts, a 12ax7, 6N6P, 5651, and 6AK5 round out the tube compliment. In fact our very own senior editor Dick Olsher reviewed Lamm’s LP2 phono preamplifier (click here) and LL2 (Deluxe) line level preamplifier (click here).
David Karmeli of Damoka LLC, (another New York based dealer), put on another unusual showing (doesn’t he always?) featuring the best of what is both old and new in high-end audio. His circa 1956 Vitavox Corner Horn loudspeakers looked quite odd loaded into each corner of the room but nonetheless sounded gorgeous. Feeding these ancient behemoths were all new tube technology that featured Lamm’s ML2.1 mono amplifiers, L2 preamplifier and LP2 Phonostage.
Keeping nostalgic, Karmeli also chose the Thorens Reference as his ‘table of choice among the many dozens he has in possession. Contemporary electronics included the Weiss Medea dac and CES TL1 transport when things digital were called upon. The rack used is one of my references in the Acoustic Dreams 4-tier reference ($6,000). Cabling used throughout was all Purist Audio Dominus. Overall, the sound was sweet, rhythmic and inviting. This is a sound that is not easily acquired. To understand its sophistication will take time. But given time and commitment one can be very easily seduced by its overall purity quotient and musicality. Jerry Gladstein, former owner of FI magazine and personal friend of Karmeli and I, uses these very electronics except for the CEC TL1 transport: Jerry chose their reference CES TL0 as his own. And it is was there in Gladstein’s listening room where I learned about the very art of seduction.
www.stereotimes.com(HE 2005, Part 1, Clement Perry)
The second-best part of attending HE2005? Spending time with fellow moonificences Marja & Henk, Jules Coleman, Paul Candy, Ken Micallef, Kari Nevalainen, Michael Lavorgna, Chip Stern and Steve Marsh, meeting other friends and making new ones. Finally exchanging a few words with my pen hero Art Dudley during the press junket for Moscode’s new amplifier was one of the highlights in that regard. Speaking of highlights, two exhibits deserve special mention for providing musical entertainment and education as part — or main stain — of their efforts. The first one of these was David Karmeli’s Damoka LLC room in which he and Vladimir Lamm of Lamm Industries played a pair of Vitavox corner horns such as were used during the hay days of Western Electric movie-house amplifiers in auditoriums for 500 – 600 viewers. Seeing that neither the vintage pair of speakers nor the Thorens Reference turntable are available for purchase (well, perhaps the show samples were), this exhibit epitomized the spirit of education which dealers of old used to provide.
Vladimir [above insert] mused over how HighEnd audio has pursued a dead end for decades. The living proof thereof was the utterly effortless and natural presentation of this exhibit. It played at subdued and very civilized levels yet held one’s attention. Audio from the days of WE, Siemens and Altec-Lansing arguably did certain — very vital — things far better than most of today’s audio. Those writing off such statements as rose-colored reminiscences of a past that wasn’t nearly as good as memories would have it only had to step into this sizeable room to be taught an important lesson: Our predecessors half a century ago knew what mattered. If they perhaps didn’t capture all the details and suffered certain colorations in turn, they honed in on the musical essence which we all too often miss today.
Elina Lamm [left] was present as well to greet visitors, provide hand-outs and answer questions while David Karmeli announced the imminent opening of a new large show room in New York.
If the Grand Opening’s date doesn’t wreck havoc with my schedule, I shall accept Karmeli’s invitation to attend and report on it. Anyone with so keen a focus on music (rather than HiFi) as was clearly demonstrated here deserves all the publicity available. We shall do our best to contribute.
GT Audio & Video
GTT Audio & Video did as they always do, make superlative sound with Kharma speakers. And as has been the case in the past as well, I thought the system with the $21,000/pr 3.2E Reference Monitors outdid the adjacent one with the $75,000/pr Midi Exquisites. Both rooms had the $9,500 Ceramique sub going while amplification and front ends diverged. The smaller system used the dCS Verdi LaScala/Elgar+/Verona trio, the larger one the EMM Labs CDSD/DAC 6e combo. The smaller system used the Nagra PL-L linestage and Kharma’s own diminutive MP150amps, the larger one a full contingent of Lamm L2 line stage, LP2 phono stage and M1.2 Reference amps, with a Kuzma Stabi/Stogi and Shelter 90x handling vinyl duties. And yes, the MP150s are Class D, and yes, they’re proprietary and not based on ICEpower, Tripath, Toccata or anyone else’s scheme.