When Audio Aero closed their doors suddenly and without warning
several years ago, it was rather devastating for me. I have been
The Audio Aero agent since 2001 when I saw them in Canada and
realised I had never heard a digital source like it.
The reason they closed was internal politics, not lack of extraordinary products. It would be funny if it was not so serious.
Audio Aero designed the Capitole CD Player to outperform all SACD players, by using standard CDs, and they easily achieved that level of performance. Nothing I had heard in my 14 overseas shows as a seller and 2 as a buyer even came close.
It was interesting that most rooms at the CES in Las Vegas, who were not selling CD players, were using the Capitole. Several times on walking into other rooms, it was obvious without looking, that a Capitole was being used, even when I had never
heard of the other equipment before. There was a constant across most of these rooms. A big relaxed analogue sound, with a huge soundstage and inner detail, and a stunning musicality, which was lacking in most of the other CD players on offer.
I knew that I had to have one despite the somewhat knee trembling price (to me). My customers were then able to experience this phenomenon for themselves, allowing me to sell about 60 Audio Aero products, despite the cost. Once heard, not forgotten.
A few years before the end, they released the absolutely stunning La Fontaine and La Source. In Europe, the La Fontaine was the same price as a VW Gulf, and the La Source was about twice that. When I got my first La Fontaine, I was just stunned
at how much better it was than anything. I was very concerned about the price of the La Source, as it was the price of a good car. I just could not see how it could be much better than the La Fontaine. But after selling two of them without ever seeing one
unboxed, and what a magnificent box it was, I decided I had to bite the bullet and get one. It was some trepidation that we first sat down to listen to it. My doubts and fears were swept away. It was chalk and cheese to the La Fontaine and every other
CD player I had ever heard. The amount of information on a CD is just staggering. Most CD players and DACs only allow you to identify the tune.
A year or so ago I was contacted by the head of Vermeer Audio. The designers of the La Source and La Fontaine had managed to buy the rights to Audio Aero after lengthy bickering in the French Courts. (Anything done in the French Courts is lengthy)
to tell me that they had been working on the Model 2 for the past two years and it was ready for production. The Power Supply for the 2 and the main board were interchangeable with the La Fontaine boards, so there was an option to upgrade the
La Fontaine to a Model 2, with the benefit it would still play CDs and SACDs. So, except for looking a bit different and being falsely branded, it is a Model 2 Vermeer. Because of my long and enthusiastic association with Audio Aero, they wanted me to
continue with Vermeer, which I was and am delighted to do. Now I don't have to go without the ultimate front end, and neither does any other discerning music lover in this Country. The sound is quite staggering.
37. (28.01.17) I have posted this on my Facebook page, and am reproducing it here.
Do cables make a difference?
This is a debate that has raged for many years, and it is a perplexing one. When I started the "Never ending Journey" of seeking the best sound possible, no one had really considered such a thing. When it was first suggested, it was widely debunked in most Hi Fi Magazines. Stereo Review in the USA, which was the largest circulating Hi Fi Magazine in the World at the time, were very scathing for many years at the very suggestion. Hi Fi is an oxymoron in regards to a large percentage of Audio Magazines worldwide. They are really Consumer Audio Magazines who would not know Hi Fi if it fell on them. A lot of shops put up a big Hi Fi sign out the front, mainly because a Low Fi or at best, Mid Fi sign has not got quite the same panache. Hi Fi of course, stands for High Fidelity, or the faithful reproduction of the original sound, something few systems approximate, but I digress.
When the debate first started, Monster Cable released the first "Audiophile" Cable. I bought some and did a careful listening test on my reasonable impressive system which was worth at the time, about a year's pay at the average salary level. I compared it to the preferred cable of the day, which was a reasonably heavy figure 8 automotive cable. I could not hear any difference at all. I then increased the figure 8 wire to a 30m length, but still could not really pick much difference, so I considered it as mere bunk. But then I started making my own speakers and I tried some different cables again and was shocked at the obvious and dramatic differences. I then realised that there were in fact two camps. Those that had systems of high resolution where tiny differences were apparent, and those that had low resolution and relatively subtle differences just did not make it through. A classic case of this was a customer who borrowed a Consonance Droplet CD player, to compare with his top of the line Rotel. He was running them into a $3000 Rotel pre amp into an Electra Amp and a pair of B&W speakers. He rang me the next day to say that although the Droplet was slightly warmer, there was little difference. I told him it was his pre amp, to which he protested, telling me of its reputation and great reviews. I lent him the cheapest Consonance Pre and he tried again. This time the difference was stunning. The Consonance wanted to throw a huge 3-dimensional soundstage with all the instruments separated from each other, so that you could easily pick the individual voices in a choir, but the Rotel was going to have none of that. 2D and everything in together was what it did, and that is what you were going to get.
So, when people say that they compared something expensive with their relatively cheap version and there was no difference, what they are often saying is that my system cannot resolve the differences between the two.
Although, I have had surprises. A bloke from Shepparton rang and said he had a Richter Centre Speaker and a Yamaha amp. Would a Datalink Centre cable make an improvement? I said I doubted it, but he came and got one. A week later he was back and bought a set of speaker cables and his mate bought a complete set. He said the cable had transformed the sound and nearly everything he had not liked before was gone. Another rang and asked if a Silverlink would help the sound from his Foxtel Box to his amp. I also doubted it and advised him to take the pair that he had off his CD player and try them. He was over the next day to get another pair because it was just a stunning difference. I have learned to never be surprised!
Years ago, I was able to borrow several very expensive cables from various stores and compare them. There were considerable differences, and I ended up with some what I regarded as expensive Audioquest and some Analysis Plus Cables from the US. Speaking to a couple of manufacturers at the CES in Las Vegas, I realised that there was terrific mark up in cables and that sometimes there were hundreds of dollars a meter difference between models, when the actual cost of making them was a couple of dollars a meter. This was proven to me when I bought some cables from a manufacturer who was offering big discounts to fellow Exhibitors. I bought some of his middle of the road cable, because the top model was $400 a meter length more expensive. I quite liked the cable, so went back to get some more. I was dashed to hear he had sold out and he only had the expensive one, and since I wanted 2 pairs, I was not going to pay another $800. I was shocked when he handed me two pairs of the "expensive" cable for the same price. I protested that I didn't want him to make a loss, but he assured me that there was only a couple of dollars in it and he was still doing fine. There was a prominent local Audio Shop a while ago selling a pair of Speaker cables for $1000 for a 3-meter pair. They sold heaps. What they did was use standard house electrical cable. They peeled off the white external insulation, twisted it and put a nice sheathing on it and nice Banana Plugs. About $60 worth, and a nice profit.
I then spent several years sourcing different type of wires and making up speaker cables to try. Some were exotic and some every day varieties. Then I found a combination that outperformed the very best I had heard. I started selling this as the Osborn Datalink Speaker Cable. I was confident enough to offer a Lifetime money back guarantee, if anyone could find a better cable at any price. I have sold over 3500 pairs and have yet to have to give any money back, and I have had people compare them to cables costing fifty times as much.
It is a very neutral cable with extended, natural highs and a solid and extended base and it does not seem to add or subtract anything from the audio signal.
After this I started searching for the perfect interconnect. I found silver cables gave a very nice transparency, but often had poor bass, and often sucked out the midrange leaving vocals brittle and harsh. Copper cables were usually more neutral, but were usually more veiled and constricted than the best silver. Then I found a place who could make me a very thin pure silver wire, that was extruded in continuous lengths and it was done cold. Most silver cable is extruded hot which apparently damages the crystal structure, resulting in the thinness and harshness I had been hearing. This new interconnect was just wonderful. It had wonderful top end extension and clarity, but a glorious midrange and powerful and articulate bass. This is the Osborn Silverlink. I have also sold around 3500 pairs of these with the same Lifetime Guarantee. So far, I have had only one pair returned, but he did tell me that the ones he had suited his system slightly better, but he was embarrassed to tell me just how expensive they were, so I was not offended or disappointed. No component suits all systems.
I have often had arguments with very smart people, who were Engineers with PHDs in Metallurgy and Nuclear Physics, who tell me that if two cables measure the same, then they will sound the same. My opinion, after listening to a lot of cables, is that if a difference cannot be measured, we are measuring the wrong thing.
There are many things in audio that just do not make sense. I have learned over the years to be philosophical. If it cannot possibly make something sound better, but it does, then use it. But I always go back a while later and remove it, to make sure that what I heard, or that I thought I heard before, is still there. Many people buy something that is raved about on the internet, put it in and assume it is better, and leave it there, oblivious that it is detracting from the sound and is responsible for why they no longer enjoy their sound as much.
A really perplexing cable is the Power Cable bringing electricity from the wall. When the power has come hundreds, if not thousands of kilometres to the house from the Power Station, stepping down voltages several times in huge transformers along the way, why should the last meter from the wall to the amp or audio source make a difference? Surely the best power cable would be a length of house wiring to keep it all the same. Although house wiring doesn't sound bad, it isn't the best. So why do quality power cables make a considerable difference? I have no idea. They are certainly not just facilitating the flow of electrons from the wall, as one may imagine. If you plug a 10m Extension Cord into the wall and the quality lead into the end of that, the difference is still there. Why on Earth? All I can say is that something is happening in that lead that improves, or at least affects the sound. I just accept that it happens, and don't delve into Quantum and Particle Physics that I have absolutely no idea of, and even people who do, could probably not explain.
People often ask about what exotic cable they should use from the wall to the Power Board. I tell them that the normal lead that comes with the Board will be fine.
I have experimented with lots of Power Cables and have found that cost is not related to the way they sound. Some very expensive and quite huge leads did not sound as good as the giveaway lead that came with the component. I was using some US$1500 each Power Cables, but when I compared them to the Consonance Ella Babies which I sell for $210, the Consonance one was clearly better, so the expensive ones are now used on Home Theatre and less critical components. The only Power Cable I have found that are obviously better are the AM ones. These are huge and at $1650 each a bit knee trembling, but if you want an obvious improve in an awesome system, that is what you pay, and a recent comparison against power Cables costing 3 times as much, that were just crushed by them, shows that even at that, they are a bargain.
The old adage applies. Listen to things before you buy them. Go back and listen with and without them later, and if the difference is still there, accept them.
36. (14.08.16) I have posted this on my Facebook page, and am reproducing it here.
Does something sound better because it is famous, glowingly reviewed, or extremely expensive?
It is interesting to see how everyone sees and hears something
different in reproduced sound. I reflect back on my 35 years in
the pursuit of a goal, and that I had no idea of what that goal
was during a lot of that time. Expensive systems that I lusted
over and dreamed about 30 years ago, have shocked me when I have
heard them again some 25 years later. They don't sound good at
all. I guess to a certain extent it is like having a drive of
a car that was the icon when we were young. Mind numbing performance
at that time is easily matched now by family cars. Huge thundering
V8s are now left standing by economical diesels of all things.
When I first started I was impressed by big sounds, and loud. High efficiency and lots of power. I ended up with a pair of Kenwood LO8 200 W Mono Blocks, which were widely considered the ant's pants and a Pair of Klipsch Cornerhorns. These speakers had an efficiency of 106db/watt and an absolutely huge sound. They also had surprising delicacy and clarity and incredibly low distortion, and were favoured by Opera fans for those reasons. Playing the 1812 Overture on a 200w amp actually upset the breathing rhythm and literally took your breath away when the cannons fired. But I noticed that as I improved my electronics, the speakers failed to show the improvements. I was experimenting with my early speaker designs at this stage and I noticed that the Klipsch gave a huge wall of sound, but there was very little imaging, and the sound came from everywhere. At this stage some people started to notice that cables and interconnects sounded different. This was ridiculed by many of the major Hi Fi Magazines and all Australian Publications. These same people also touted the line that all competently designed amplifiers sounded the same, so there was no need to buy expensive ones as there was little to no difference. By this stage I had perfected the Mk 1 Epitome and was stunned at the imaging and soundstage that they projected. It was also painfully obvious when comparing cables and any other component that there was a World of difference between them. I was shocked at one stage when I only had a pair of the Mini Monitors, which were a smaller 2 way and the forerunner of the Titan, later to become the Eos, and my Klipschorns. The Mini Monitors were stunningly better than the Klipsch. So I sold them and have never looked back. It stunned me then, that something that I sold at the time for under a thousand dollars could so easily outperform one of the best speakers available and costing more than a year's salary. This is something that I still wonder about 30 years later. Since then I have done over 60 Shows, 16 of them overseas. I have heard so many systems that if I sold my house, I would have a nice deposit. One would think that at the price, size and complexity of these systems, that the performance would be spectacular, but it rarely was, in fact often it was quite unimpressive.
I have been really surprised so many times over the years that when I have done side by side comparisons with speakers costing from 10 times to 40 times the price of mine and they didn't even go close. This was never shown more obviously than when the Sultan of Brunei did not like his US$200,000 speakers and after searching the World and auditioning speakers up to $750,000. They bought the best they had heard, a pair of my Reference Epitomes for $6500 at the time. This sort of thing has happened so many more times since then.
I remember at a CES in Las Vegas one year, David Manley from VTL and then Manley Products was running around bringing the captains of the industry to our room, telling them that they had to hear these Aussie speakers, and that he had never heard anything like it. He asked me if I was a genius, but I assured him it was something else. In fact, I have never done a comparison that I did not win.
This happened again at the last Stereonet Hi Fi Show at the Mercure Hotel last month. The Show was about an hour and a half from the end on the final day, when two blokes came in and stayed until it was time to pack up. He had been pursuing a standard of performance for many years, but he had come to the conclusion that it was not attainable. He had been right around the Show, coming into my room last, but had not heard anything that he was remotely impressed with, compared to his system, which consisted of a very well-known English brand. He had a pair of extraordinarily highly regarded speakers that cost $90,000. An amplifier that was reviewed as just sublime and easily worth its $150,000 price. It was fed by a more reasonable $10,000 preamp. His CD Transport and DAC were older models, obtained second hand, but still at an eye watering price. New, the DAC was $55,000 and the Transport about $18,000. His Turntable was new and was only $15,000 with a Pre pre to match the low output $10,000 cartridge. All this equipment was designed to go with each other, so one would expect a fairly awesome sound, and it did sound pretty good, but without the spine tingling realism and musicality I am more used to. After he came out to our house a few days later, after I had managed to reassemble everything, he had another listen which left him pretty convinced. A couple of days later I loaded my van to the gunnels and took the couple of hour drive to his home.
We lugged my $22,000 Grand Monument Reference Speakers in and placed them against his $90,000 speakers. Immediately, there was a stunning difference. The sound was much bigger, more separation, more ambience, more richness, more scale and a lot more dynamics and extension, but most importantly, musicality. The speakers stayed. The last thing we played using his amplifiers, was the first two tracks of Pink Floyd, The Wall CD. It sounded really good. Then we replaced the amps, keeping his pre amp, with the AM (Audio Music) 833M. $14,850 compared to $150,000. The difference was just stunning. The Wall went from sounding good, to thrilling, and it was an emotional experience. This resulted in my next trip down bringing the big brother AM 8333S ($21,550) and the AM RT-3 Pre Amp which I seriously doubt would be approached in performance by anything at any price. ($8,590) Again the differences were so dramatic, that they stayed. This was the same system shown in my Masthead at the top of this page.
We plugged in the Consonance Reference 8-20 Streamer DAC ($2,960) so we could play his Flac files on his HD. Comparing the files with the CD from which they were ripped from, playing on his $78,000 combination, the Consonance was clearly better. We then compared his CD combination with the $3,400 Consonance Droplet CD player, which was again clearly better. Next we went analogue and tried his turntable on the Consonance Reference 40 Phono stage ($1,295), with which he was already really happy. Then we put on the Consonance Die Walküre Turntable. ($3,690 with arm). Previously I had carelessly, and very annoyingly ripped the stylus off my cartridge. I posted the cartridge body back to Dynavector for repair, but it went missing in the post, so it was an expensive exercise in clumsiness. Since I did not have a cartridge, I removed the 30 year old Clearaudio cartridge from my old turntable that I had not used more than twice in the last 15 years.
It was with some trepidation that I lowered the needle onto the last played record. The difference was immediate and dramatic. The removal of the vail across the soundstage, the separation, the transparency, the clarity, the purity, the musicality. It was overwhelming.
I left him several pairs of the AM Power Cables that I consider exceptional, but looked on as expensive at $1,650 each to compare with his. He assured me that mine were cheapies compared to his and that if he switched to the AM, it would save him a fortune. He has since ordered a bunch of AM cables as he said it was the same old thing. Like opening a window, with the veil further removed and the detail and transparency and musicality clearly better.
So all in all. It was a good day for me. But there is a moral. I could go one, but this is getting long enough. There is a reason why as a one-man enterprise, I have sold 3500 pairs of speakers in 16 Countries, all by word of mouth. Audio Music is similar to me. Just one bloke who gets his brother to help him when he is really busy, but his products are second to none, but so much more affordable.
I never planned to sell electronics, but I chose brands which were just exceptional, to the point of World Beaters, but reasonably priced, without the just crazy prices which abound in this industry. Many of those prices are mainly extraordinary mark ups. This can be seen by the AM833S (Silver) costing over £30,000 in Europe, and $21,550 here.
There are a few great audio products out there, and no doubt a few more that I have not heard. But a lot of them are great Hi Fi Systems. They have clarity, transparency, dynamics and great separation, but most of them lack musicality. Many people prefer it that way. I don't, and fortunately a lot of other people don't have to either. Otherwise I would have had to keep working somewhere where I was a lot less happy that I am doing what I do now. If you are used to listening to real instruments, in a proper setting, unamplified, then you know what that is. It is a sweetness in the sound, the emotion in the music, the richness in the tone of both instruments and voice. If you feel at the end of the performance that you have had an emotional experience and feel emotional. That is musicality. That is what I love, and what I have continued to strive for and design, for over 30 years.
The best advice I can give to anyone, is never buy anything that you cannot return, that you have not carefully auditioned and unless just impossible, in your own system. Don't fall for the idea that if it costs more, then its better. It often definitely is not.
Consonance has won the Prestigious Plus X Award
from Germany which is an all industry, Worldwide award for excellence
for the quite stunning Cyber 880i integrated Amplifier for its design and performance excellence. This amplifier has been
a favourite of mine since I first heard it, and it is what I use to demonstrate my speakers, up to the Epitome Tower Reference.
For its price, it is unbeatable by anything remotely close to it. and a lot has to be spent to beat its towering performance.
Now the World has suddenly noticed it as well. This is the first time an Audio product has won this award.
The demise of CDs
For a long time people have been predicting the imminent death
of Cds. Pointing to the convenience and vastly better selections
from sources like iTunes and the like and the nowadays the new
streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, For a long
time I was not a fan. At Shows when people asked me if I had a
way for them to plug in their phone, so they could play one of
their tracks, I always said no, because I had made sure that I
didn't. Once at a Home Show at Jeff's Shed, one of the other exhibitors
came in and asked to play a CD on my big system. I had connected
it, but had not played it at that stage as I had ben using the
small system, which was sounding great. I put on his Cd and it
sounded just awful. We went from track to track and we were both
devastated. He had heard great things about us and was very disappointed,
and I was suspecting all sorts of major problems in the system.
He went away quite dejected. I then put on my normal CD and it
sounded fabulous. I searched through my collection and found a
song that he had played and once again it was fine. Fortunately
he wandered back in the next day and I asked him where he had
got that CD. "I burnt it last night from my iTunes."
When I played him some normal CDs, he spent $18,000. Had he not
wandered back in, I would not have had that sale.
If you read the opinions of "experts" on the internet, they will tell you there is very little if any difference between mp3, mp4, 320kb/s, Cds or Hi Def files. If you listen on an iPod or phone over cheap headphones, or on a cheap stereo system, then there is in fact, very little difference. (I must add that by "cheap", I mean low resolution. Many systems you can buy nowadays are nor cheap, but they are low resolution) There is in fact not a lot of difference between mp3 and cassettes for sound quality.
Also it does not follow that the higher the resolution of the recording, the better the sound quality. A bad hi def recording will still sound bad, it is a bit like phone cameras which now have huge megapixel cemos. The limiting factor is the $10 lens. I would suspect that the resolution of the lens would be reached with a couple of meg. All the rest just makes a huge file. I have a wonderful professional lens for my camera which weighs 1.6kg and is 19cm long and costs over $3,000, and the camera can exceed its resolution, Higher bit rate recordings will only sound better if it is a well produced and executed recording. If it is a popular piece done by a major label, sadly, it probably will not be. Many times I have been shocked when people bring their expensive music servers here and we rip one of my Cds onto the HD and then play it back, and then I play the same CD in a modest CD player and the difference is amazing. Even when we connect the server to the same DAC in the CD player being used, there was a noticeable degradation.
So for the past couple of years, I continued to use CDs for all my demonstrations. But recently as a matter of convenience, I ripped all the Cds I use regularly onto a HD and connected it to a Consonance Reference 8 Media Server.
It will connect to any HD on the network and will accept several HDs plugged directly into it. It is also an Internet radio. Consonance in their wisdom, and despite my protests, make it network only and not wi fi. My complaint is that wi fi is necessary to use a phone or pad to control it. Their argument is they don't want people to stream by wi fi because the quality drop is too much. All that is needed is a $20 USB dongle to give it wi fi, and they do supply power outlets on the rear to power them. The sound quality is frankly excellent. The on board DAC is now as good as in the Droplet CD5 CD player, which is outstanding. The new Reference 8-20, which signifies the Companies 20th anniversary, is a step up again and it will process 128kb files, when someone records anything in that format. It is a better processer as well, but sadly costs a bit more, which is to be expected.
We recently had a very careful listening session on a very high resolution system, using the cheaper Figaro streamer, but bypassing its excellent DAC, using the DAC in the US$25,000 Audio Aero La Fontaine Music Centre into the AM RT-2 pre and the just overwhelmingly extraordinary AM 833M Mono Blocks feeding a pair of my Epitome Tower Reference. We switched back and forwards from listening to the same tracks on the CD played by the superb transport in the La Fontaine and the ripped copy on the Figaro. It was virtually identical every time. Every now and then we would detect slight differences, mainly in imaging, but we could never say which was better, or worse. It was still awesome, just slightly different.
I now have a server on my 3 different systems and use them all the time. It is so convenient not having to go hunting for a not often played CD which has disappeared and can't be found. On my everyday system, I also use the Consonance X1. This has a high quality CD ROM with some proprietary software that allows it to outperform much more expensive transports so that the combination works like a normal CD player, and a HD slot which will take any normal DD. I use an adaptor and a Kingston SSD, which has superior sound quality and ample space. If I want to add to it, I just push the button, eject the drive and plug it into my computer. I considered getting a Wi Fi drive. so I didn't have to do that, but how lazy do we need to be..
It is a strange thing, which I have seen documented in credible publications and opinions and confirmed myself, and poo pood by the on line "experts" that the type of storage actually does make a sound quality difference, SSD usually sounds better than a disc HD, but not always, it depends on the operating system of the drive. HDs will sound better than USB sticks. Why? Who knows? but the speed of a HD is usually a lot faster than a stick, or it could be the operating system again.
I have ripped all my Cds as WAV files, because I don't need to save space. All the experts insist that there is no difference between a WAV or a FLAC file, but a FLAC is a compressed WAV file and the player has to un-compress it as it plays. I have a lot of downloaded FLAC files and I would not claim to hear a difference, but I asked the engineers at Consonance which ones to use and they said WAV, so if there is no other reason, I will continue to do so. Apparently FLAC is better as a download as WAV is more easily corrupted during the download process. I have joined HD Tracks and have quite a few albums in 24/44, 24/96 and 24/192. Most of these are pretty good to excellent, some not so much. It is interesting that they offer a free sample track that actually sounds terrible. Good marketing strategy?
As for the streaming services: For convenience, they are great; For variety and content, also great. But for use on a quality, high resolution system? Background music only.
So. I am pleased to say that Digital Storage has grown up and the main limiting factor is the DAC. Many people use sound cards or cheaper plug in DACs which are fine if your expectations are low. However many will argue that they have achieved audio perfection this way. Good for them. I cater for the people who can hear the quite astonishing differences that are there to be heard.
Amplifiers - Affordable Excellence.
Take a couple of steps - Less affordable, but absolutely extraordinary.
In my Facebook post of a couple of weeks ago I discussed just how ordinary sounding many, if not most amplifiers are, relatively regardless of their price. Then there are a select group of extraordinary amplifiers that are relatively affordable in the $2,000 to $4,000 range such as the amazing Consonance Cyber 100 - 15th Anniversary Model and its big brother the Cyber 880i. Both of these seriously embarrass other amps in the $10,000 to $20,000 class. Most of these justify the price in size; weight, appearance; build quality and power, but not sonically. As far as I am concerned, this is the only criteria for judging.
In my 32 years in this Industry, exhibiting at over 45 Audio Shows, 16 of them overseas, and even visiting a couple as a buyer (Very different as a buyer than as a seller) I have heard a lot of stuff. I have been to countless really High End Audio shops in several Countries, but despite the appearance, size and eye boggling cost of some of these systems, and with very high expectations, I have surprisingly listened to very few that really moved me.
Since I am a Loud Speaker Manufacturer, I never intended to sell Electronics. I only did so because I came across some truly extraordinary products and my customers wanted then too. Because of this I have sold over 1750 Consonance products, Over 90 Audio Aero Products, which is pretty good since they started at $8500 and go to $40,000, 11 CAT ($10,000 to $24,000) and around 25 AM/Stereo Knight ($4500 to $24,000). Most of my prices average about half the rest of the World, as there are some impressive mark ups out there.
Above the unbeatable for the money sit the AM Music RT-1 and RT-2 Pre amps and the 805M Monoblock amplifiers. These are very modestly priced by have easily beaten some of the World's most highly regarded amplifiers costing many times more. It is not a surprise that everybody who has tried a pair so far has bought them.
Before this week, my top class amplifier range jumped from the AM805M, starting at $5,600 to the mighty flagships the massive and imposing 833S, starting at $23,250 a pair. (Which compares nicely to the $45,000 price elsewhere)
But then AM came out with a slightly stripped back, single chassis Monoblock, weighing a svelte 50kg each. Picking them up to ease them into the rack, I thought that old age was finally catching up to me, before I checked the specifications. I just let them warm up for a couple of hours and had a listen. Straight out of the box, with never switched on before valves, all I can say is they are just EXTROADINARY. Orchestral pieces that sounded a bit constricted and lifeless on exceptional amplifiers just came to life. The Soundstage, the silence in the background, the stunning clarity of sounds and instruments around the rock solid soundstage, the sheer depth, the bass, Oh! The bass, so tight, so fast, so defined. Voices just standing in front of us, the timber, the breathing, the air, the liquidity. I need a Thesaurus. I have run out of superlatives. I have only ever heard this level of refinement once before and that was with the big brother AM833S, but as truly awesome as these are and at the quite ridiculously low price I sell them, a lot of people would buy a nice car.
I would seriously doubt that there is a better amplifier than these. I would be quite happy to put them against the Super Amps in the $100,000 class. Only the 833S has slightly better bass control and refinement, but at the price of these, I cannot see why anyone would pay more, or less.
Once you have heard what information there is in a recording. It is very hard to listen to that recording again with a good percentage of the musicality removed. I really feel honored and privileged to own these things. I can't wait until they run in.
Suzanne portable Music
A Super High quality portable, or connect to Hi Fi Music Player.
This is an awesome little player that will play any high quality
format with superbly musical results. It can be connected to a
Hoi Fi system via RCA or plug into a DAC, if you happen to have
one better than the on board one. Teamed with the optional Dock,
it becomes a full music server, with connections for an external
HD up to 2 Terabyte, or Digital radio, and full remote control
using a phone or tablet.
The people who have jumped in early and bought one are ecstatic.
PCM up to 32bit/384kHz, DSD up to DSD128(1bit/5.6M)
Ready for DSD 2.8M/5.6M.
Support DFF, FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIFF, APE lossless formats
It is always nice to get complimentary feedback (I have not had any that was not, since I started all this 31 years ago)
This email was from new Zealand from the last person to buy a pair of Grand Monument References. I already knew this, as I have heard the Focal Grand Utopia in several different locations and systems, when it was cheaper at $139,000, than it is now. Plus this was also the opinion of J. Peter Moncrieff of International Audio Review in the US, and Martin De Wulf from Bound for Sound Magazine in the US, and David Wurtz from Secrets of Home Theatre and High Fidelity, and also from the US and Canadian Distributor of Focal, and also from Audio Aero, who always used the Grand Utopia at the CES in Las Vegas, but after heating them alongside the Grand Utopia, asked to use the Grand Monuments at the CES instead. But it is always nice to hear it again.
All I can say is WOW!!!
These are truly fantastic speakers
I had a set of the focal Grande Utopia BE for 12 months previous to the Grand Monuments- I'm not joking when I say Grand Monuments sound better.
Just more right, and way, way easier to integrate.
Obviously the Grande Utopias are great speakers, but you could only play them in big rooms and very, very picky - with source and amps.
Your speakers just seem to get on with it and play music how it should be. Very, very impressive.
Thanks for all your help.
Am Fang, who is AM Audio, is always reaching
for the stars. After coming out with the quite extraordinary AM
805M, which causes problems for anyone selling them in that they
easily outperform all other amplifiers, at any price, so how are
you supposed to sell the much more expensive brands? He then designed
the absolute ultimate amplifier, the AM 833S. This stunning amplifier
shames the rest of the World's super amplifiers with their "silly
money" price tags. But even at the ridiculously low price
that I sell them for, they are still verging on the border of
expensive, even if the value for money is unsurpassed. There is
one other slight down side, and that is they are quite big, and
dammed heavy, with the two amplifiers and their two matching power
supplies weighing in at 150kg.
The power supplies are 40kg each which means they can be moved and set up without too much drama, but are a struggle for the elderly and infirm. Another small problem is where to set them, as with their matching RT-3 preamplifier, they weigh 200kg, which can tax some cabinetry.
So he set his mind to the problem of performance/cost/weight/size and has now released a more normal version of the Cost and zero compromise Flagship, the AM 833M. This is virtually the same amplifier section as the 833S, but with a still substantial, not absolute reference power supply. This allows them to be fairly normal sized mono amplifiers, and they are of a similar size to the 805M, but with even better sonics. It is actually pretty hard to believe that anything could sound better, until you hear it.
I have absolute confidence in Fang, and believe him when he tells me that the performance is not that far away from the monster 833S. I have ordered a copper pair and look forward to their arrival within the next month.
We are having a very rare sale across the range until the end of the Financial year. Click to go to Specials Page for details.
Click to go to new Facebook Page I finally decided to get with the times and start a Facebook page for the business. It is very frustrating in what it won't allow you to do.
Just in case my existing 42 model lineup was insufficient, I decided to introduce the T10 Music Subwoofer. Most Subwoofers use a subwoofer driver, which means they have larger than usual surround, to allow a long throw on the cone, so they can move more air. This is fine for a lot of rumbling on a Home Theatre Track (Although even here they are often bloated and have little relationship in their output, to what is happening on the screen).
When they are asked to play music, especially in an attempt to add some depth and extension to the sound of smaller and Bookshelf speakers, they do not perform well, giving a bloated and disjointed sound, and smearing the soundstage. They lag along behind the music, as they are just too slow to react fast enough. The T10 is a slightly smaller version of the T12, except it uses the same 10" Bass driver from the Epitome, and Epitome Tower speakers. This is one of the finest bass drivers available. (Not a subwoofer driver) It has slightly less authority and sheer "wallop" than the T12, but is faster and more integrated, and will make a small pair of Bookshelf speakers, sound like a pair of medium sized Tower speakers, with a bass extension down to 20 Hz..
Most "other brand" subwoofers also employ a lot of boost in the bass area. This is why they have massive, poor quality amplifiers; this introduces a whole lot of new problems. This is again so they can move more air, but then in a massive contradiction, they roll off the very low bass, below 40 Hz usually, in order to protect the low quality amplifier and driver from over driving. This makes the very name false as "Sub" means sub harmonic, which is below 30 Hz, where they don't go. The Redgum amplifier used in the T10 does not do either of these, so remains fast, coherent, and musical.
We exhibited at the Hi Fi Show at the Intercontinental Hotel at the Rialto. I am quite pleased. Michael Fremer, Senior Editor from Stereophile, visited many rooms at the hi fi show, but was only impressed enough to write about 2 of them on his blog. Fortunately one of them was mine. The initial meeting was a little embarrassing, as I mistook him for a bloke who had been in a dozen times. The fact that he mentions it in his article is sort of funny. Some of the music that people want played is pretty awful, and I didn't want him coming in to a cacophony. I would have loved to have two room so the Monuments could have been optimally placed, and the other equipment in the other, but being one amn with low profit margins, makes that a dream.
The reaction from the visitors was
overwhelming. Over 60 people told me that we were the absolute
stand out there, and 9 people after listening to my $9000 system,
went to listen to a couple in the $100,000 toi $360,000 range
and reported back that they were not even close. It is
always nice to hear. I do tend to wonder who buys these systems? Someone must?
I don't know how many hours this RT-3 That
I received today has run, but I unpacked it and set it up alongside
the RT-2 running the 805 Silvers into a pair of my Reference Epitome
Towers, and gave everything a couple of hours to warm up. First
track I played was Lou Reed with "Take a walk on the Wild
Side" and the shakers on both sides were quite eerily spread
right along the walls on both side of the room and were actually
extended slightly behind me. I had never heard that from a CD
source before, they were so clear that it was disturbing. I went
back onto the RT-2 and they were clearly audible along the wall,
but although I had played that combination and that track many
times, I had not really noticed. Playing several more tracks found
the same thing. Things were clearly there on the RT-2, but startlingly
so on the 3. Vocals also had a little bit more "air"
The main differences are in soundstage width. If the track doesn't have much of a soundstage, then it isn't changed that much, things are only a bit clearer on the 3. It there is a big soundstage, then it is huge on the 3. Really noticeable were choirs behind the singers.
The difference overall, I suppose, isn't a really big difference as the sonic signature is so similar from each of the versions of this preamplifier. It is one of those relatively small differences that is indispensable once heard and the sound goes from "Excellent" to "thrilling". It is such early days, so I look forward to some more running and slotting it in with the 833 Silver Editions on my Grand Monuments.
Well done Fang.
Whilst reveling in the sound of what I consider to be the best pre amplifier available, the AM RT-2 (Silver Edition) AM announced that it had perfected their absolute Reference Preamplifier. The mighty AM RT-3. The RT-1 and the RT-2 were, I thought, quite heavy at 35Kg. But the RT-3 weighs in at a portly and impressive 56Kg. There are not many large and powerful amplifiers with the power supplies of this preamp. Virtually all the internal wiring and the umbilical cords are gold coated pure silver wire. There are several upgrades and modifications to the Preamplifier section, and there is now one Power Supply unit module per channel and twice as many transformers as there is in the Power Supplies of the RT-1 and the RT-2. This results in a 3 box design. I have secured the first production model outside China, where several have already been sold to wildly enthusiastic owners, and I should have them next week.
AM tell me that it is the best sounding and musical Preamplifier they have ever heard or made, and that the sound is approximately 30% better than the RT-2. I know that it is pretty well impossible to put a percentage value to the sound of anything, but better is better and often, it has been my experience that after hearing a slight improvement in some components, it is just impossible to go without it. And if the sound is significant .well. I very much look forward to getting it, and I will report back later.
One problem with having components of this AM quality, is that using other components that I thought were just outstanding is very unsatisfying.
Click to go to RT-3 page.
Excellent new review of the RT-1 by Hi Fi+ in the UK. The RT-1
seems pretty unbeatable, until one hears the RT-2 and then the
RT-3. Aything that is a "No Brainer" at £5,500
certainly is at the price here of $4,990
Great new Hi Fi+ (UK) review.
I am absolutely delighted that to announce that after being blessed with what I seriously believe to be the best amplifier available today, at any price. I now have something even better. The mighty AM 833 Silver Edition, where virtually all the internal wiring and the Power umbilical cords are gold coated pure silver. This amplifier is even more refined and musical, creating a new absolute benchmark. Physically identical to the normal AM833, they are slightly heavier and have an even better tube. The difference is quite audible, but there are logistical problems in doing a direct comparison. Firstly there is the size/weight problem and where the hell do you put them, and secondly, both pair on together would overload the electricity supply. I am more than happy to run one pair at a time.
I also have a pair of the new 805M Silver Editions, which are the next best amplifier I have ever heard after the 833. This amplifier has been an absolute hit, with everybody who has seriously auditioned it, has bought one. It is the absolute bargain extreme performance amplifier available today. At 45 watts per channel running in Pure Class A, Single Ended, it is perfect for almost any application. To go with this I have a AM RT-2 Silver Edition to drive the 805M Silver Editions. This is the best preamplifier I have ever heard, and I have heard and owned the best.
JL-5 Stereo Amplifier (100W Class AB or 50W Pure Class A Triode) (All new model - Coming February 2014)
CAT realised that there was a considerable need for an amplifier that could fit on a shelf, and not be out of the range of a large percentage of keen audiophiles.
Many people insisted that they needed high power and many others (like me) believed that extreme performance was more important than brute power. If this
was required, then get the JL-2. However both camps have been catered for in the JL-5, as you can select to use 100w/ch in Class AB, or 50 w/ch in Pure
Class A Triode, just like the JL-2. Feedback from the CES and people who have heard it in New York is that this is really something else in this price point.
It is going to be available in 2 version, the standard JL-5 and the JL-5 Amorphous Core (Which is the Signature version)
JL-5 Amorphous Core $13,750
I am really looking forward to getting mine. They are scheduled for release in February 2014, but I have learnt that release dates can be subject to
delays at the last moment. Especially as they are already being swamped with orders. I was fortunate to secure 2 Amorphous Core versions fairly
early, so I am hoping I get them early. One has already been sold, and the other will need to be my Demo unit. I am very excited as this unit will fill
the hole in the middle priced area of my lineup. It is just going to cause a problem of finding a spot on my already groaning Display Benches. But I
have a plan to increase the area for "Hooked up" equipment.
Well. My large pile of very heavy boxes finally arrived. One needs to be fit, or require a willing assistant to unpack and assemble these rather imposing beasts. I had used the time in between ordering them and receiving them to construct a sturdy shelving unit with castors, to allow it to be moved between my 2 systems. It was interesting that the heavy duty steel castors with solid nylon ball bearing wheels, only held 30kg each, making them inadequate to the task. By the time casters became big enough to support the crushing weight, the shelf would have resembled something like a Monster Truck. Strangely, those rather annoying and fairly flimsy looking, black plastic castors fitted to Office Chairs are rated at 55kg, and were the only option, and so far have been working well.
Once up and running and warmed up for only an hour, I had a listen to a couple of my familiar tracks and was very impressed, even at such an early listening. I then ran them, pretty well all day and evening for 3 days before lugging them into the Show.
So how would the 833s go? They were largely the work of one fanatical man. He had laboured away for over 10 years, perfecting his craft, leading to the day when he could make the ultimate amplifier. Many of the components in this, and the extraordinary ST-1 preamp, were his own design, and constructed by his own hands, including the amazing transformers in his preamps, and the stunning multi step volume pots. Anything that affected sound quality had been carefully investigated and the best way to achieve the desired outcome found. Anyway, we had a listen to about 10 of our regular tracks that we know so well, and several other varied tracks of classical and jazz that are less often played. This was to see how they coped with various types of music and levels of demand. The 833s were just stunning. They have a "no nonsense" ease that is really compelling. They are fast, articulate and controlled, powerful, delicate and stunningly quiet. They project a huge soundstage, so wide, deep and precise that you can pretty well detect the janitor sitting in the wings. Tracks that we had previously thought stunning, on the very best amplifiers, were now just dammed well thrilling. I have done 18 of the World's largest Shows, the CES at Vegas, London, Montreal, Toronto, and others, many times. I have heard the best, or what I thought was the best, or was reputed to be the best, the most expensive, the downright ridiculous. I have never heard anything like these things. Although they are expensive, they are not outrageously so, especially at my prices. Anything that could be considered competitive is just not an option to anyone else than large company CEOs, Pop Stars, or sporting greats. A serious audiophile could afford to aspire to these, or he could if he gets one before the word spreads and the price goes up to a point where it actually gets profitable for the people making, and selling these things. Some people even worry at the electricity cost to run them. On the scheme of things, it is irrelevant. Any competing amplifier, whether close, or not, will cost roughly the same, or more to run.
So to sum up: Big, heavy, imposing, pretty hot, heavy, pricey, awesome. They are just dammed stunning. The best amplifiers I have ever heard. I love them.
Here is a photo of of one of my AM 833S monos going through
the testing stage. The whacking big power supply is sitting behind
They will be shipping on the 6th of October. Both together should look very pretty in a darkened room. All very exciting.
And now with Power Supply. Pretty.
This is an ultimate, nothing spared or sacrificed design. Standing nearly 50cm high and weighing 75.4kG each. The construction quality is incredible. The Sound quality sets a new standard. Using the amazing 833 valve in Pure Class A, Single Ended configuration, they put out an impressive 120 w/Ch.
When Stereo Knight closed down, I also lamented the passing
of the fantastic all-rounder amps, the M100s. They had a wonderful,
musical performance, but effortless power with their hundred watts
a channel. When the 805SE arrived, I was delighted. All the strengths
of the M100 and them some extra sophistication, but there was
still the gap for the people who wanted amps that would give the
very, very best, but have the sheer grunt to drive any speaker
to any volume. Then AM sent me the art work for the 833S, I was
perplexed. Was this what I wanted? Well yes and no. It appeared
that it would easily exceed my sonic expectations, but it was
HUGE, and EXPENSIVE. How many of these would I sell. I didn't
need amps more expensive, or at least similar price to the CAT,
especially from a "genius" yes, but a relatively unknown
one, only known for revolutionary Company that had not been able
to keep in operation. So, I would think, much to his disappointment,
I did not buy one, because I was one of the big sellers of Stereo
Knight. Then it came to fruition and there were actual photograph
of it. Did I want it? Yes, Yes. Then I looked at my bank balance,
if you can call it a balance, and thought. No, No.
Then I heard that the UK Distributer had jumped the gun and bought one and it was arriving in 2 days. An independent opinion! Would this sway me? Check Bank balance Oh Gowd!
Then I got Iain's opinion:
Got them out of the box last night.
1) They look incredible and the build is up there with the
2) Even cold and not run in they are easily the best amplifies i have heard.
3) The midrange is sublime and human voice effortless and so real.
4) The bass is effortless and incredibly articulate.
5) these will obviously improve as they get played in. Awesome!
6) No noise whatsoever. No hiss ,no hum, no farting noises. Fang really has excelled himself. In a different league to StereoKnight.
7) Inky silent background due to incredible noise floor.
1) Bloody heavy but look stunning.
These really are that good. Up there with the very best
in sound and build.
Hope this all helps and please chime in with your thoughts on price. Most people have guessed at 50K.
So once again. The method I so unsuccessfully recommend to
my customers, the "Crippling Debt" method came into
My glistening, but back breaking pair will arrive in time for the Hi Fi next month. I can't wait.
This quite substantial Preamplifier is an upgraded version of the quite stunning Stereo Knight Magnetic Enigma Silver.
This is a minimalist in operation, but no effort spared, quite over the top, nothing to degrade the audio Preamp. The power supply is a lot bigger than used in most large output amplifiers. The combined units weigh 35kG.
This preamp sets a new standard in sound quality.
When Stereo Knight closed down, I seriously lamented the passing of the amazing Magnetic Enigma Preamplifier, and especially the monstrous Reference version, the hulking 40Kg Enigma Reference Silver. So when I found that the designer had released a new, seriously upgraded version, the AM RT-1, I was delighted. When they sent photos, the insides were astonishing in their execution and quality, but the minimalist fascia design did not grab me and I had words with them. Fang, the designer said that it had been done this way for a reason, as this was an ultimate resolution device and any attempt to use a single volume control, or to make it remote controllable caused unacceptable sonic degradations. I was also not impressed by the input selector, be he insisted it worked well and would look out of place if done otherwise. So I bought the new amps, but not the pre. The amp was everything I expected and has a remarkable performance for a single ended design. The bass is so powerful and controlled, it is hard to believe that it is single ended.
Since then I have missed the performance of the pre amp, and the constant ravings about it by the English Distributor and his stories of it selling so well, despite its price in the beautiful, cold and wet Isle, made me wonder. Then came the very enthusiastic review in Enjoy the music.com, in which my reservations were mentioned convinced me that I should get one. So it is ordered, along with the quite awesome looking and quite intriguing, but bench breaking 833S Monoblocks. The new pre has been trimmed down from the hulking Stereo Knight's 40Kg, to a svelte 38kG.
Both will be here in time for the Hi Fi Show at the Intercontinental Hotel at the Rialto 18-21/10.click to go to page.
R-T1 review in 6moons
Consonance has released this fabulous new vacuum powered record cleaner. They have eliminated the problems with the excellent VPI Record Cleaner that I have been using for many years.
- superior construction - not chipboard.
- better drainage system. Doesn't damage the motor unless you have a knot in the drainage hose.
- more compact, modern design.
-not cripplingly expensive.
Taking up a lot of room in my already hopelessly crowded lounge
room over the Christmas period was a new toy from Consonance,
in an astonishingly big and heavy box. It was the new Die Walküre
Turntable. A very well received and reviewed addition to their
already impressive lineup. Several people asked me about it so
I decided to get one to play with. What a good way to get to listen
to some LPs I bought in Op Shops in the US. Tonight I decided
to get it going, so I could relegate the large box to my large
empty box collection. The bits that came out of the box were most
impressively made, with a real quality feel and all went together
easily. The supplied protractor made T 8 (12") arm set up
simple. It has an external Power Suply and Speed Controller on
an umbilical cord. Although the Turntable is set up to take up
to 3 arms, I have usually found one is sufficient. Just get a
good one to start with. But great future proofing. Fixing my own
personal cartridge, and cartridge I recommend for use on all the
upper model Consonance Turntables, the Dynavector 17D3, which
is easily sourced from Official Dynavector agents, and unpacking
the only Phono Stage I use now, the Consonance R40, all plugged
into the still unbelievable Cyber 100, 15th Anniversary Model
integrated and the Eos Reference that still surprise me every
time I put them on.
I was impressed by the sound straight away. Amazingly detailed and precise, but lacking warmth and bass solidarity, which I expected out of a brand new Turntable, cartridge and especially a valve Phono Stage. The speed that everything picked up was amazing. By the 2nd record, it had improved out of sight and by the 4th, I was once again marveling at the bass and scale that the Eos. Good enough to have me sitting there for 8 records. Something I have not done for a long time.
Once again a stunningly made performance product from Consonance which I feel will be a great seller. It is still amazing just how good a good Turntable and LP sound.
Wow and Flutter Less than 0.03
Rumble Greater than 80dB down
Speed accuracy Within 0.01%
Motor power DV12V - Speed Controlled
Weight. 18 Kg.
Price $3990 with arm.
16. (5.12.12) A new review of
the little Cyber 10 that I raved about in my first post
(1) has just come out. When I first got one, I was really impressed
and thought it would be a big seller, especially when I fitted
Music Tubes, which are well worth the price. But strangely it was not. It was not that people tried it and did not like it, they just didn't try it. The first person that did, immediately bought the one I had. It is good to see that the reviewer agreed with me.
Eos. I am pleased to say, that although the Cyber 10 did not invoke the buying frenzy that I suspected, the Eos did, which I did not expect. After years of nearly zero interest in small speakers, these have been flying out the door, and perhaps also surprisingly, nearly all of them have been the Reference model. I must say that whenever I put them on for people, even I am surprised. Several of them, including several to WA were bought on the 30 day return basis if not up to expectations. Fortunately they have exceeded them and have not come back, maintaining my record of only 2 returns in 25 years.
15. (27.10.12) The
reaction to the Eos has exceeded my expectations. It appears that
I am not the only person who is stunned by their performance.
I was asked to play them at the Sydney Show, and so plugged them
in after placing them, badly located on top of a pair of Eclipse,
which were tilted back a bit, as people always stand up at Shows,
but rarely listen to music at home whilst standing. They were
way too far from the back wall. Due to the myriad of wires,
I thought I had the right cables, but when I fired them up, I
was stunned by the size of the sound and they sounded remarkably
like the Eclipse we had been playing earlier. When the bloke had
left, i went to plug the Eclipse back in, to find that I had plugged
the cables coming from the CAT in, and it had in fact been the
Eclipse playing. Feeling rather chagrined by this unintentional
deception, which would have been quite normal to some of the people
in the industry, I immediately admitted it to the bloke who did
return later, having been so impressed. However after connecting
them correctly, I was stunned to find there was not much difference,
the soundstage being so remarkably big and the bass so powerful
and extended. It is astonishing what can come out of such a small
The first person to buy a pair of Eos, wanted them as rears in his Home Theatre system and as occasional front speakers in a smaller music system. So impressed with them, he relegated them to rear speaker duties and immediately ordered a pair of Reference Eos to be permanently in a small dedicated stereo system.
the second was a person in Mt Tom Price in WA, who wanted to downgrade from his much larger floor standing speakers (not mine) to a more compact system. he used a subwoofer with these larger speakers, but when he receive the Eos Reference, he found the sub unnecessary. Here is his unsolicited email.
Hi Greg, the Eos arrived today and right out of the box they are amazing. Nothing whatsoever to complain about, and I'm expecting them to get even better with some running in. I'm very glad I chose to get the reference model: the tweeter really is amazing and without being harsh it exposes the finer timbre of hi hats, cymbal and even hand claps have incredible detail and variance between each clap. The bass is extraordinary. I've turned off my subwoofer to just enjoy the Eos. It's not about them being "great for their size"... they're superb in comparison to any sized speaker.
I've got a really difficult room - an old brick house with fibro sheets internally rather than plaster, so very boomy and reflective at the same time. No matter how I set up the subwoofer I couldn't tame the bass, but the Eos don't care and just do their stuff.
I gave away trying to build up a good surround sound system some years ago, and have never regretted sticking with two-channel stereo. Who needs surround when stereo can be portrayed with both width and depth?
Now I'm happily working through all my old favourite recordings and wallowing in the extra detail and finesse. Day two and I'm still almost disbelieving of what these little speakers are capable of. And they look beautiful.
I am pleased to announce my first
all new model for some time. Ever since I started making speakers,
my quality Stand Mount has been the Titan. The Titan was a quite
exceptional speaker and I had several people upgrade to it from
Sonas Fabre Extremas and Wilson Watts, which cost between 6 and
20 times as much, and was rated as superior to pretty well any
other smaller speakers by Bound For Sound and Secrets of Home
Theater and High Fidelity, which actually bought a standard and
a Reference pair as References for the Magazine.
However, the bass driver used in it, and that helped a great deal to make it so exceptional is no longer available, and nothing I tried could equal the performance, so I decided to make a different speaker. I was looking for something that would still sound absolutely exceptional and hopefully be a little smaller, and more suitable for shelf, wall or stand mount applications, but still have a gient sound. Several promising mid/bass drivers were tried, and as good as some were, they trailed behind the Titan's performance by quite a margin. However when I tried the driver that I am now using, I was knocked over. This is a very high tech flagship driver from Focal, using their Utopia "W" Cone and a Neodymium magnet for a magnetic field up to 10 times the strength of a conventional magnet assembly.
The sound is out of all proportion to their size and has thrilled everybody who has heard it. One of the first people to audition it summed it up well when he said, "I know it sounds like a cliché, but the hair on the back of my neck is sticking up." It is hard to believe that a speaker 10 times bigger is not playing.
It is available in standard form, mated with the exceptional tweeter used throughout my range, and as a Reference, in a lead lined enclosure and the World beating Beryllium tweeter for an even more exceptional performance.
13. (18.8.12) I am pleased to announce that Jason Parmenter of Parmenter Sound has been appointed as our sole agent for New Zealand. Jason has ordered a pair of Reference Epitome Towers and a pair of Eclipse to get the ball rolling. These speakers will be soon winging their way over to the Shaky Isles. Jason is very excited about their arrival and we are delighted to have him represent us there. Details on Dealers page.
I was fortunate to get a Prestige DAC. This is the DAC section
of the World beating Prestige CD/SACD player, which was discontinued
due to problems with the externally sourced Transport.
Due to customers refusing to give up on such an exceptional DAC, the case and programming were redesigned as a DAC. It comes with the Audio Aero Aerobridge to allow streaming from a computer, or/and a CD player or DVD player can be plugged in as a transport. Or it can be connected to a Music Server, such as the one being released by Audio Aero, which I will be receiving shortly. This automatically rips a CD onto the 1, 2 or 3 gigabyte HD, and re plays it without loss of quality to any system in the house. It also takes files from any other source. Everything is then controlled by an iPad or smart phone.
This DAC is really exceptional. It also has the quite awesome Prestige Pre amp, which allows volume control and balance and phase switching, and has 2 RCA and one balanced input and a myriad of Digital ins and outs. See Fortnightly Specials page. Plugging quite exceptional CD players into it, then using their transports to play CDs, and switching back and forwards between theitr DAC and the Presteige DAC is a real eye opener. This is the perfect way to upgrade your CD player, or get an exceptional one if you are using a DVD player.
This was a popular item and sold quickly.
My new amps have finally arrived. I was rather stunned to see
that they have a completely new chassis and are deeper than the
Cyber 880A on which they are based. This is to accommodate the
4 Rectifier Tubes per side. This makes them rather big, but it
is amazing that Consonance would be happy to go to all the trouble
to design and make a completely new amplifier, as a one off for
me. They no doubt hoped there would be more, but making an all
new prototype does not mean that it is going to sound like I hoped
it would. I am very relieved to say that IT DOES. This
amp is a revelation. I had previously compared the Cyber 880A,
which impressed me greatly, at its price point, especially with
the Full Music Tubes. Comparing it with the Cyber 845S with the
impressive 845B tubes. (This is a fantastic amplifier and is
amongst my best sellers), the 845S were clearly better than
the Cyber88A, even with the Full Music tubes. This is to be expected.
The 845S are a completely "No Compromise" design, and
are Monoblocks, each one weighing as much as the 88A does as a
stereo amplifier. It was my hope that the new Monoblocks would
be closer, or even comparable with the 845S in sound quality,
but with heaps more power. If they had been in the same sonic
class as the amazing Stereo Knights (Sadly no longer available)
then I would have been thrilled.
This didn't happen. What did happen was that the Cyber 880AM Monoblocks thrash the 845S, and I am positive that they are better even than the Stereo Knights. These are pretty well easily the second best amplifier that I have ever heard. (Nothing beats the CAT). I started running them in, in my Big Room so I could shut the door on the noise, but almost straight away I was surprised at what I was hearing in there. The soundstage width was amazing, and I started to wonder if I had ever heard inner detail like that.
I lugged them into my Lounge Room this morning and connected them up to the Reference Epitome Towers and the R1.3 as a Pre and the Droplet CD5 and Audio Aero La Fontaine. I am very sensitive to sound in that room, as I do all my design and evaluation in there, but straight away it was obvious that this was a whole new Ball Game. A good customer called in to pick up his new centre speaker, which was going with his Reference Eclipse Towers and Cyber 845s and Droplet. He was as impressed as I was. I then swapped back to the Cyber 845S and we were both stunned. One of the most detailed, openly transparent and musical amplifier I have ever heard suddenly sounded a bit clouded and congested. It always amazes me how ordinary something exceptional can sound, once it has been bettered. Now one was great, where the other was just stunning. The inner detail, the soundstage width and precision and the clarity of each note, and the silence around them, and decay of instruments in the recording room were stunning. I love these things, and am now very confident that they can fill the gap between the Cyber 845S and the CAT. (Which is a big one financially) They are also a great replacement for the Stereo Knights who's passing was a great loss to me and many customers. Sometimes things do go right. These amps are quite affordable with the normal Electro Harmonic A3As, a bit less so with the Full Music tubes, but I couldn't go any other way. I must really thank Consonance for following through with my (now) brilliant foresight and for making such an impressively awesome product.
Price will be $5490 with EH tubes and $6890 with the Full Music or TJ tubes.
I am getting excited. When I saw how good the Consonance 880A Stereo amp was with the Full Music A3A tubes, See article 2. It started me thinking. "Imagine how good it would sound as a pair of Mono Blocks with 60 watts per channel instead of just 30. So I asked Consonance if there was any possibility of making such an amplifier using two of the same chassis. They could not see why not and asked for a month or 2. Well it has taken 3 months as there was new tooling to do, because after they said they could, I asked if it would be possible to fit valve rectification to these, as there would be a couple of spare holes, to which they also said they could not see why not. What wonderful people to deal with. Most manufacturers won't even reply to you, let along putting themselves out like this. However I could see that these could be a real winner. Hopefully they could as well. The amps are now all up and running and doing their final testing before setting off on their journey to my system. They just sent me this photo to show how they looked. At the moment they are fitted with the standard valves, but mine will be fitted with the quite awesome TJ A3A, which are just the ant's pants of A3A tubes. I am hoping to get them within the next fortnight. I will let you know what I think, but I am pretty confident that I will think a lot. As yet, I don't know what they are called, or how much they are going to be.
9. (30.3.12) I
never cease to be amazed by the differences in sound quality of
components. This time I am thinking of CD players. Many times
have I heard people discussing CD players and how good the one
they have is and what a bargain it was. They proudly tell me that
they had borrowed such and such CD player that cost $10,000, or
even $20,000 and compared it with their Yamaha or Rotel (or ilk)
and there was virtually no difference at all. To which I tell
them that it is most likely that there is a difference, but the
rest of their system is not showing it. This is usually not well
received. If the CD player is throwing a huge, precise, three
dimensional soundstage and the amplifier will not portray these
strengths, then you get the same bland, flat, "Line between
the speakers" two dimensional soundstage given by their own
pride and joy. The same also applies for the speaker. Several
times I have leant them an amp, or pre amp and then they have
been shattered by the difference between the players. A good customer
of mine with a quite exceptional system recently said to me that
surely there gets a point of diminishing returns, but I said,
this had not been my experience. A sound that appears to be just
about perfect, sounds flat and dull as soon as you hear something
Most people play their music on a common name brand CD player, more often than not a DVD player, which pretty well always make a lousy CD player. These devices allow the listener to identify the tune and follow the words, but most of the treasure that was the original performance is not there. For several years I used a Denon A 11 as my DVD player. This was a $4,500 unit and the flagship at the time. It was praised in the Hi Fi Press as a fantastic DVD player (which it was) and an exceptional CD/SACD Player. (Which it wasn't). Comparing it with a CD on the Consonance CD120, which was around $1100, was just chalk and cheese, to the extent that after a very short time, you just couldn't keep playing it. It was two dimensional, with loose woolly bass, mildly irritating vocals and a overall bloated sound, but against other players of its ilk, and cheaper players, it was great.
I have had many people sell their considerably more expensive Arcam, Cambridge and Rega player to get a CD120. But comparing it to the Consonance R2.2 was really surprising. The 120 suddenly sounded cold and flat, but still had that magical 3D soundstage. The difference was so much, that despite being twice the price, the R2.2 has outsold the CD120 at about 15:1. With the advent of Blu Ray and 3D, I bought myself two NuForce BDP 93 NXE players. These were the already fine Oppo, that was modified by NuForce, who replaced the audio boards with their own, much higher quality ones. A quick browse of Google will show numerous reviews comparing it as a CD player with other dedicated players costing many times more and saying how outstanding it is. So after giving it a solid week of burn in, I had a good listen. On HD Audio tracks, the resolution was impressive, but I found myself boring with it, and wondering what was on TV. The sound was very clean and clinical, but not involving. Switching the disk to the R2.2 was like the proverbial "Opening of the window" Maybe in some cases, the absolute resolution was not as good, but for the soundstage, positioning, separation and sheer musicality, the R2,2 was a Gulf apart. However as a DVD player and for 3D performance, it is sensational, so I am happy, as that is what I was after anyway.
So this was audio Nirvana? No. Comparing the R2.2 to the CD5 Droplet, the Flagship for Consonance, shows a huge jump in performance. It is almost like two R2.2s synchronised together. The sound is more solid, weighty, bigger, better separation, bigger soundstage, better vocals. If we are talking about value for money, than this is a great place to stop. One needs to be sensible. There is always going to be something better, but at what cost? And How much better can it get? Right? I have been involved in many, many comparisons with the Droplet against other players costing way more, it has never been beaten, even allowing for the fact that pretty well everything I sell is usually half the price or so than it is in the rest of the World. (I can do this for the same reason as the Internet sellers can undercut the Department stores. Zilch overheads.) But, the cost of going better does rise rapidly from this point.
Comparing the Droplet to the Audio Aero Classic, makes one almost embarrassed by the Droplet. The sound is so analogue, warm, big, lively. Lifelike. But, it's twice the price. Worth it? What is anything worth? Play the Capitole against the Classic and it is clearly and obviously better again, but by a narrower margin, but costs 2 grand more. At under 10 grand, it's performance is astonishing. But then they bought out the La Source, but I just could not afford one. Dammit, it's worth as much as a nice car. It's a CD player after all! For some time I was left to just wonder how good it was. But finally they released the baby La Source, now called the La Fontaine. I sell them at around $19,000 (GST included), which compares favourably with the US price, of $26,000 plus tax which is less than the European price. The La Fontaine was all over the Capitole. A bargain for the performance, but a very expensive bargain. As good as it gets? Then, being fiscally irresponsible, I bought a La Source. Since I got it, I have been using it in my lounge and it is sensational, but I had never compared it to the La Fontaine. I was almost frightened to. It costs a further $20,000 odd, dammit. What if they sound much the same? Just sit down and think how long you have to go to work to buy one of these. Sobering. Just how good is a CD anyway. Today, I lugged it in and sat it on top of the La Fontaine. (Heavy bastard). I played a track on the La Fontaine through the CAT JL2 into the Grand Monument References. How could it get better than that. Sensational. I got Yvonne to come and listen as her hearing is way better than mine. She marvelled at the sound. Then I switched the CD and plugged in the La Source and held my breath. Surely we had reached the end of the road? As soon as the track started, she laughed. The difference was so big. How does this keep happening? The soundstage moved further out, further back, the liquidity! Realising that this is now an $85,000 system is a bit of a crash back to reality, but when one looks at the fiscally ridiculous items out there, a relative bargain. The La Source in the US is $57,000 + tax, so comparatively, another bargain. Overseas reviews say that the way the La Fontaine and La Source play HD large format, high sample rate downloaded files sets a new absolute sound quality benchmark. I have not tried this yet. I would be interesting. I am not saying that everyone will get one, it depends on priorities and abilities. If I didn't sell these, I could never swing it. I recently had a long drive, in the outback, of a 1.2 million dollar R-R Phantom. I was let free to fang it as much as I wanted. Absolutely sensational and better than you could imagine a car like this to ever be, but if I sold by house and cars, and cashed in and sold everything I had, I would still be in "deposit" country. So sad. One needs more in life than a partially paid for car.
But the original question. How much better can it get?.........Lots.
PS. We will be in Europe for 3 weeks,
leaving Monday the 2nd of April, where I will stuggle in the Paris
Marathon along with 40,000 other idiots. I will be in constant
contact by email, so if anyone wants to ask anything.
8. (28.3.12) After
being without my CAT JL2 for 6 months, it finally arrived on Friday.
I was anxious to get it set up, because they are notoriously slow
to run in. An immediate problem. How to get it up onto the nice
new board that I had especially made for it? because it had not
been a good look before hanging over the back of the C5 Centre
Speaker it sits on, being 69cm deep, This put the rear feet dangling
in space, so a temporary solution of a roll of insulation tape
under each side to act as feet became permanent. This is the problem
with temporary solutions that work.
My next door neighbour was just leaving for a funeral when I went to see if he was feeling like some heavy lifting. Some people have no consideration. Anxious wait for him to get back. He was back for 5 minutes and then, OH NO! Gone to work. Frustration. I knew work gets in the way of things that you want to do. That is why I gave it up. Plus as I got older I found I wasn't interested in doing things that didn't interest me much.
Maybe I could lift it. I crouched over it feeling for the perfect centre of gravity and lifted its svelte 83kg about 6" off the carpet and thought better of it.
I talked the reluctant wife into having a go, giving her the lighter end. We were almost on the board when she couldn't do it, so my lovely new board got some minor gouging, then some gut busting to get it straight, and it was on. Joy. I set it running for four days on repeat. This also gave my new set of Grand Monuments some extra running in. I only had a casual listen during that time, but it seemed promising.
At about 11 last night, I decided to go and have a listen. I was using Jean Michelle Jarre's Greatest Hits as a run in disk, running the CAT straight out of the Audio Aero La Fontaine. As soon as I sat down it was just MY GOD, MY GOD! The soundstage was just wall to wall with a precision I had never heard anywhere. The detail, I could blaspheme all night, but what else can one say. I went to get Yvonne, who was just going to bed, as she had an early appointment in the morning. She stayed an hour and a half. I then played my normal demo disk that we have heard 10,000 times. I don't think either of us I had ever heard it before. Bits that had always been a bit flat, weren't. Bits that were a bit bright weren't. Bit's that sounded muddled, weren't. Bit's that had a constricted soundstage, were out through the walls. Thrilling stuff.
I have been unhappy with the sound in my big room for years. No matter how good the equipment, the sound was lost, so much cheaper and lesser equipment sounded better in the Lounge. Not anymore. This Amplifier and this CD player are just awesome. It is not surprising that the Audio Aero/CAT room as the Berlin Show has won Best Sound in Show Award for the last 3 years, and for 2 years at the CES in Las Vegas. One year they used the Audio Aero La Fontaine and the other 2 they used the La Source. I have yet to hook that up, but it is something else. Also not surprising that Stereophile, The Absolute Sound, Audio, Soundstage and Enjoy the Music.com all rate this amplifier as the best in the World. I am so pleased that I have one. The amount of information on a CD is staggering. Most systems retrieve enough to be able to identify the song.
If only I could find a way to swing a set of Signature series JL3 Mono Blocks, which is 2 of these, but with outlandishly expensive transformers and caps. A good test for my centre speaker, to support 253 Kg. Sigh....
7. (12.3.12) Further
to my my enthusiastic report on the Optoma HD83 below. I now have
the updated pricing. The unit retails for $4,299. Up until 1/5/12.
(PS. Due to popularity, I can do one of these beauties for
$3,590, which comes with 2 pairs of glasses. (Click
to Download Brochure)
We sat down as a whole family today to watch Dolphins & Whales: Tribes of the Ocean Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray: which was very impressive and also Puss in Boots 3D. This was just jaw droopingly phenomenal. The picture quality and 3D was just stunning. The sound in my Big Room was pretty mind boggling, even for me. I thought 3D was a gimmick. Not any more.
The little brother, OP-HD33RFGK, that also boasts full 1080P
full HD, and stunning 3D and 2 pairs of glasses included (Click
to download Brochure) retails for $3,097. During this Special.
I can do one for $2,590.
6. (3.3.12) I
am having my first ever sale on the entire Audio Aero range. This
never before Sale on Audio Aero products is to celebrate the arrival
of the La Source, and La Fontaine series, which lifts digital
playback performance to a whole new level. Prices valid for orders
placed before 1/5/12. 20% deposit on order, but delivery can be
delayed by agrement until Christmas 2012. Prices on
Fortnightly Special Page.
5. (3.3.12) I recently decided that my trusty old projector was not helping me in being an Optoma dealer. After all, projectors are like computers. Pretty well worthless as soon as you buy them. No one wants to have a look at a 2 or 3 model old projector as things have moved pretty quickly with the technology. Prices have dropped remarkably when compared to performance. It is an expensive decision to buy a top of the line projector for $5000 to $15,000. If you buy something really cutting edge, as I did some years ago, buying a $12,000 state of the art unit. I did about 150 hours on it and sold it for $3000. This works out to an economical $60 per hour. Since then I have stayed with the best of the reasonable priced units.
I was interested in a Optoma HD83 Full HD 3D Home Theatre Projector. I read all the reviews on the web and was a bit concerned as they all stated that it was not the best in class in the area of contrast shadings in very dark rooms, but it excelled in lighter rooms. Most people do not have a completely dark room, painted black, with a black roof to take advantage of the amazing contrast ratios available. If you have a white roof and light coloured walls (like I do) then this appeared to be a good choice. So they need a projector just like this one. All the reviews stated that the 3D performance was exceptional. So I ordered it.
The 3D glasses were not available, so I just got the projector. At 1080P, the performance on my 120" screen was very impressive and clearly better than anything I have had before. TV performance was also great. Whilst I was waiting I bought several 3D disks. My glasses arrived yesterday and last night we sat down to want "The Universe" A doco made for Imax. The picture quality was just stunning. The 3D performance was hard to believe in a domestic settings. Flying through the Asteroid Belt, the rocks actually went past your head, and sometimes, disturbingly, passed through you. The depth behind the screen was like looking outside, and the sun rotating slowly in the centre of the room was most impressive. A dolphin that swam out of the screen and came to within a couple of feet of where we were sitting, then spun around and swam into the distance. You almost felt the wash from his tail. I kept looking at the picture quality trying to imagine how it could be better, rarely successfully. Since the glasses operate on a radio frequency coming from the projector, you can go anywhere in the room and still get perfect 3d. I stood either side of the screen, only a couple of feet from the wall and it was like looking obliquely through a large window. Things still stuck out of the screen in front of you, with no distortion from any angle. Amazing.
I just had a good customer here and gave him a demo. Good to see he was as impressed as I was. I thought 3D was a bit of a gimmic. Not any more. It is a gimmic like "talkies" and "colour" were. When its done as well as this.
I am planning to have a bit of a Special on these. I will put a price up as soon as I get the pricing sorted out.
4. (5.2.12) I was very distressed just before
the last Hi Fi Show to be informed that the quite extraordinary
Focal mid range that I used in all my 3 way drivers, and Centre
Speakers, was being discontinued. It was not being replaced. this
was part of Focal's ongoing policy to stop people using its drivers
in their speakers. This left me with a big problem. Where was
I going to find a mid range driver that matches the performance
of that unit? After trying several possibilities I came down to
a choice where the performance loss was sort of acceptable. It
was quite noticeable to me, but was the best I was going to get.
On a whim, I tried the driver I am now using, and can get. It
is still made by Focal, but not intended for this type of use.
It is their extreme top end "Utopia" driver and a very
sophisticated design with the same "W" Cone construction
as my previous driver, but using a Neodymium magnet, several times
more powerful than before. The only drawback is it's price. But
"No Compromise" means just that. The performance is
virtually identical to what we had, so nothing is lost.
Since I need to only demonstrate exactly what I am going to sell, and not "Sounds the same as this, but it's different" There is a one off sale of my Grand Epitome Reference Tower in Gloss Bubinga, and my Epitome and Bass Units in Jarrah, on my Fortnightly Specials Page for someone wanting a true bargain on a speaker which can, does and has proved themselves to easily outperform highly respected speakers costing up to 20 times as much. There is a reason why, as one man working from home, I have sold over 3,600 pairs of speakers in 15 Countries, all by word of mouth.
3. (20.1.12) It
was a concern to me that as the Audio Aero agent
for Australia, I had a Capitole
Signature and a Prestige DAC and a fabulous La
Fontaine CD/SACD/Music Centre, but I did not have a La
Source. This is the flagship and one of the finest CD players available
at any price, but I had never heard one, despite selling two.
Twice a large heavy box arrived, and then left. Frustrating. Several
times I agonised over it, but dammit, you could buy a great car
for the money. They are $44,000 + tax in the USA, where they are
cheaper than other places. This is quite a lot more than the cheapie
La Fontaine, at only $26,000 + tax in the US. Just how much information
is there on a CD? As a Music Centre, the La Source (and the La
Fontain) use proprietary software to stream any type of file from
a computer asynchronously to the DAC where they are processed
at up to 32 bits/384 kHz. This allows HD downloads to be played
at Master Tape quality, not the Lo Fi synchronous, cheap DAC or
Sound Card that most people use for less than CD quality (Or CD
quality over an el cheepo player).
Anyway. Before Christmas I ordered one. I figured that if you don't have one, you don't sell one. 10 years ago I did not have any Prestige Monoblocks when they made them, as I figured, who would buy $22,000 amplifiers? I finally ordered a pair and sold 6 pair of them. I had had a Capitole amp and sold several, but could not justify having one with the Prestige, so I sold it and for the next 2 years did not sell one. Then I figured if I wanted to have a chance of selling any, I should get one. I sold 10 in the next 9 month because once people heard it, they could not get it out of their mind. If someone asks you if you want to get a $10,000 amp, the immediate answer is the same as the one President Clinton gave when asked the first embarrassing question about Monica. But say "Listen to this" A whole new board game.
It arrived last night. Straight out of the box (and a very impressive box at that) with an hour's warm up, we sat down to have a listen, plugged straight into the Cyber 88A with the Full Music tubes into a pair of Reference Epitome Towers I am running in prior to delivery. I can say that the amount of information on a CD is astonishing. Most players extract enough information to identify the tune. Fewer bring out some of the spaciousness and musicality. As amazing a player the CD5 Droplet is, trouncing many fine players at many times its price and a great seller on its performance alone, it is amazing how much was missed. The detail, background nuances, micro detail and 3D soundstage that the Droplet resolves that other players miss make it a top seller, But I was shocked at how this not run in La Source could turn an empty, almost dead sounding space into an orchestra of delicate instruments and narrow soundstages into huge, full ones. It is a bit sobering. I am really looking forward to getting my CAT so the best amplifier can get together with the best player. Even if I don't sell many, or any. I have it and it's a whole new experience.
2. (20.1.12) Thinking about how good
the Cyber 10 Sig. was with the Full Music A3A tubes, I thought
about the Cyber 880A.
This has alwaysd been a favorite of mine and is a sonic
bargain. I ordered 8 of the Full music tubes. It is just magical. With 30 w/ch, it
has the power to play pretty well anything. Although it adds another
$800 to an already fine amplifier . It does take the price
from $2580 to $3380, but it is almost a better bargain, such is
the performance. It does give an easy upgrade path for the future
if finances are short, you can go with the standard tubes until
things stabilise fiscally.
1. (20.1.12) Despite stocking more
models of Consonance than anyone else in the World, I am always
on the lookout for something outstanding. Since starting with
Consonance, I have always been a big fan of their integrated valve
amps. The M100+ was a revelation when I first heard it, and it
instantly became my demonstration amplifier for the whole speaker
range. It sounded so amazing and was SO cheap. I had several people
buy Monuments and an M100+ to tide them over until they could
afford better, because it was just so much better than the amps
they had, even though they cost 5 and more times what the M100+
did. Customers had the option. If they wanted amazing performance,
that would play anything, at amazingly loud levels, then it was
the M100+. I sold over a hundred without any pushing or advertising.
If they wanted something even more stunningly musical, that was
fantastic with vocals, jazz, instrumentals and classical music,
but not at ear splitting volumes, then it was the M100S+. This
used 300B tubes running in pure class A triode mode for 22 w/ch,
compared to the M100+ using EL34s running in push pull Class AB
for 40 w/ch, but big powerful watts they were.
Then they released the Cyber 100, 15th anniversary model to show what they had learnt in 15 years of making amplifiers. I tried one and it was clearly better than the M100+. Smoother, richer, fuller, better voices and detail. Plus it was fully remote control and self biasing. It had the power and dynamics of the M100+, but sounded better than it and the M100S+.
Sales of the M100 series stopped dead when I got the Cyber 100 - 15th Anniversary model and they started selling like hot cakes. It was interesting to see the faces of people who brought their latest pride and joy amplifier to audition speakers. These included Cambridge, Arcam, Krell, Electra, Redgum, Sonique, McIntosh, Melody, Musical Fidelity, Music Labs, ME, Vincent, Linn and many others. At the completion I would ask if they would like to hear the two grand odd integrated. They always said yes. This was followed by bug eyed expressions, looks of open mouth disbelief and often some blaspheming. About 85% went away with an amp and usually a CD player as well as the speakers. Many people spent ages going back and forwards between their amp and mine, their CD player and mine, trying to find which one made the biggest difference. This was followed by great unhappiness before accepting reality and leaving with an amp and a CD player to rush home and get their past loves onto eBay. Many people took the amp and did not compare the CD players, because they did not want to know at this stage. But they were usually back soon because they went home and found everything sounded 2 dimensional, and not holographic 3D like it did here, so they returned for the CD player. I have seen comments several times on Forums from people who had bought their amps to meetings here, and had it blown into the weeds that my speakers are designed with tube amps and sound better with them. This is not true. Most of them were designed with solid state amps. It is not the match with the speakers that sound better, it is the amps that do. This would apply on virtually any other speakers used in the same circumstances.
Stoked at how this giant killer amplifier was selling, I asked Alium Audio in the UK how they were doing with the 15th Anniversary, as I could not see it on their web site http://www.aliumaudio.com/12419.html
They replied that they would never sell anything except the Cyber10 Signature with A3A tubes, because it was fabulous. Despite the fact that I love the Cyber 880A , I had not considered this amp due to its 11 watt output. But intrigued, I ordered one. To make it interesting I ordered it with the Full Music A3A tubes which cost $100 each more than the standard Electro Harmonics, but are about the best there is. When it arrived I ran it for a few days and had a listen. It was magical. The soundstage, presence, purity and pretty well everything else were noticeably better than the 15th Anniversary model. Anything that was not overly demanding, or didn't have to be played really loud was magically musical. (I have yet to do the comparison with the standard tubes). So we are back where we had previously been with the two M100 models. If you want to play real music, as well as you can at the price point, then it is the Cyber 10 Sig. If you want a fantastic
amp that can play anything, anytime, then it is the Cyber 100 15th.