High End 2015

High End 2015: Ypsilon, Bergmann, Perfect8

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HE15_Logo_GB_01Ypsilon Electronics gave another excellent performance this year with their complete line up of tube hybrid amplifiers and sources. An upgraded version of the Aelius mono power amps ($36.000), with silver interstage transformers, and driven by the 100 PST Mark II pre-amplifier ($37.000), performed very well on the classic “Mr. Bones” by Steve Strauss on LP.

Ypsilon brought their CDT 100 CD transport and DAC 100 converter, but I focused on the analog front end, which is rarely absent in the Munich top floor rooms. The turntable came from Bergmann, their Magne System, which is among the few modern designs that offer exquisite minimalistic aesthetics, serious engineering and great sound, all at the same time. The Transfiguration Orpheus MC cartridge was singing through Ypsilon’s VPS 100 phono stage and matching step up transformer while speakers were sourced from Swedish company Perfect 8.

The Point MkIII (website still has the MkII model) priced at $100.000 is a rather peculiar design made from glass panels and not the typical MDF wood, and there is no sign of internal treatment as well. An open dipole with 2×7” magnesium midrange drivers and air motion tweeter sits on top of a pair of 10” woofer housed in a glass box which also contains a 400Watts class D amp for each bass driver.

Finite Elemente provided the beautiful Pagode APS racks while cabling was a mix of Kubala Sosna and zip cords! At first sight the speakers would have you expecting a cold and maybe soul-less sound, but as I already mentioned this was not the case. Instead, guitar strings were reverberating in the room in almost “live” fashion, with ambience and texture during the playback.

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Aurender is the Proud Sponsor for High End Munich 2015

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Zurich 2014

High End Swiss 2014: KEF

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By Norman Williams

HE_Swiss_Logo_14Interesting room where they were showing off the speakers now available in more colour combinations by an actual KEF representative from the UK.

When I told him I much prefer the LS-50 to the Blades, he seems genuinely puzzled and said that he had heard similar comments before and all he can say is that they must not have been set up right (Zürich 2012 with Soulution amps, I think). He emphatically said that if he had set them up, there would have been no such equivocations as he thinks the Blades and Blade 2s are far better. Dunno, as they failed The PTA resolution cricket test on “Roadhouses & Automobiles” while the LS50 passed with flying colors! However, given how emphatic he was. I will give it a 2nd chance when next I meet the Blades.

The floor standing KEF Reference speakers did sound good in that small room though.

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RMAF 2014

RMAF 2014: Lansche sparks interest with Corona tweeter

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By John Stancavage

Logo - Blue VectorNormally, if I said to you, “Man, those tweeters are on fire!” you probably wouldn’t interpret it as a good thing.

In the case of Germany’s Lansche Audio, though, it would mean the company’s high-frequency units were working as intended. Lansche, you see, has developed the Corona plasma tweeter, which uses an 8 mm long arc, combustion chamber and high-voltage outer electrode to form an ionized gas field.

Sound is generated by the burning plasma’s direct stimulation of air molecules. Yes, this means your tweeters literally are fire — you can see the purple-colored flame in the center. This strategy may sound nuts, but according to Lansche, it’s safe. Moreover, it promises to eliminate the distortion introduced by mechanical membranes and magnets, and greatly increases speed.

The general concept of using this “singing flame” phenomenon for a speaker dates back to the 1940s. Lansche started making its version in 2008, and has made the Corona available only for its own line of speakers.

I’ve heard the Corona tweeter before at RMAF in some of Lansche’s huge floorstanders, but the company brought its mid-size 5.1 ($50,000 a pair) to the 2014 show. When I walked into the AAudio Imports room, the attractive speakers were playing Melody Gardot’s “My One and Only Thrill” on vinyl. The New Jersey-born Gardot’s faux-French accent sounded charming and the acoustic guitars and string section were particularly lush.

I settled into the center seat and listened for several cuts. The 5.1s had no problems creating a large, deep soundstage in the large room. Outfitted with two 22-cm woofers, the Lansche speakers provided a tight, slightly lean, bottom end. In between was a 155-mm midrange driver which the company says has an ultra-low-mass cone (just 7 grams) to better match the quickness of the Corona.

The drivers were housed in a beautiful light-toned wood cabinet that Lansche has gone to heroic lengths to brace.

On some other systems, Gardot’s recordings can sound a little edgy, but the Corona tweeter instead projected a warm ease. The many subtle instrumental touches in the songs, such as guitar fills and percussion, seemed clearer and more prominent in the mix, while her voice was palpable and dead-center. Cymbals, which with conventional aluminum tweeters in particular can take on the sizzle of raindrops hitting a hot frying pan, were shimmering and seductive.

Overall, it was an impressive demo, although I’d like to hear the 5.1s mated with a really worthy pair of subwoofers — such as those made by REL — that favor speed and depth over boom. In a space the size of what the Lansche speakers were charged with at RMAF, a little fuller low end would have created an ideal tonal balance.

The 5.1s were supported by electronics from Ypsilon, including the Phaethon integrated amplifier ($24,000), VPS-100 valve phono stage ($26,000) and the new MC26L step-up transformer ($6,200).

Playing the Gardot LP was a Thales TTT Compact turntable ($13,200) and Simplicity II arm ($9,200) with an Ikeda KAI cartridge ($8,500).

Connecting everything was an HB Cable Design Powerslave Marble power distributor ($8,995), Stage III Analord Master phono cable ($5,300) and Kraken power cord ($8,400), along with Thanes Line Cables ($2,200). Support was provided by the very modern, vibration-fighting Finite Elemente Pagode APS Hi-Fi rack ($10,200).

I could close here with some would-be snappy line, like the Lansche 5.1s left me with a burning desire to hear more, or say that they set the room on fire. Instead, I’ll just suggest that if they are anywhere in your pocketbook range you should hear them. They may ignite your passions like they did mine. (Whoops, couldn’t resist).

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Zurich 2014

High End Swiss 2014: Ypsilon, Backes & Muller

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By Norman Williams

Ypsilon

HE_Swiss_Logo_14A very refined and appealing sound from the Ypsilon room. I spent enough time to hear a classical song and was impressed. I gave the thumbs up to someone who looked like the owner of the company and asked for confirmation of it being a French brand and he said no, GREEK! Again we exchanged thumbs up. No chance to get back but the speakers were excellent and the electronics all seemed top-notch.

Backes & Muller

I forgot to mention that the Backes & Muller room was one of my favorites, and as they had a big seminar room, they had greatd, balanced sound from some nice looking gear. Most notable is the fact that they had a new digital/analog preamp driving their active speakers. They do a new preamp every 15 years or so and strive to have it aesthetically “different”. This unit seemed like it was covered in acrylic permafrost and came from the wrong side of Castle Black’s wall in “Game of Thrones”. However, this “Wildling” combined with the big active speakers made beautiful classical music.

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RMAF 2014

RMAF 2014 Roundup, Part 3: Big Rooms with Medium-sized Speakers

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by Darryl Lindberg

Aaudio: Lansche, Ypsilon, etc.

Logo - Blue VectorI think this year’s Aaudio system, featuring the Lansche 5.1 ($50K) driven by Ypsilon electronics, was one of the best I’d heard from Brian Ackerman. In the previous two years, the larger Lansche 7s and much larger 8s were shown in the same room and sounded excellent, but, for whatever reason, I found the smaller 5.1s a bit more engaging and better integrated than my memories of its larger siblings (note that I’m talking about sonic memories over the past two years, so I really can’t be certain). As in the past, the Lansches were driven by Ypsilon electronics (Phaethon Integrated-$24.8K, VPS-100 Phono Stage/MC26L Step-$32.2K for both).

Of course, the big deal with Lansche speakers is that corona plasma tweeter, a massless driver that operates by modulating a high temperature ball of ionized air (plasma). The 5.1s were way out in the Larkspur room, far enough away from the back and side walls to essentially limit the room’s influence. Ypsilon’s Demetris Backlavas graciously played one of my favorite choral LPs, Grex Vocalis (For X FXLP 39), on the Thales Compact turntable ($13.2K) and Simplicity II arm ($9.2K), which sported an Ikeda KAI cartridge ($8.5K). The sound was scrumptious: the voices were beautifully rendered and the imaging was pretty spectacular.

In my estimation, one of the major challenges of using the corona tweeter is integrating it with conventional drivers in that its excellence creates the expectation—either conscious or subconscious—of analogous performance in terms of purity and extension from the non-corona drivers. But from what I heard, Lansche has done an exceptional job of integration in the 5.1s, even though cone drivers are, by their very nature, at least an order of magnitude slower than the plasma tweeter.

Audio Limits: Polymer Research, Thrax

Another large room that featured an outstanding sound from a speaker positioned far away from the walls’ influence was the Polymer Research MKS-X ($60K). Although the MKS-X is relatively diminutive size-wise, it certainly isn’t a lightweight in terms of actual poundage (365 lbs./speaker) or sound.

Driven by Thrax electronics the sound was full range and room filling, to say the least. The Polymers have generated a fair deal of buzz in the audio press over the past few months and now I understand why.

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