Monthly Archives: January 2013

THX-tune-up new

Our friends over at Guydster – “the guy’s guide to everything” just posted news of the new THX Tune-Up app for smarphones/tablets which guides users through a basic TV picture calibration.  It’s available for free only until February 4th so hurry up and download it today!

Check out www.guydster.com for more detailed info.

4K Resolution.indd

HDTVs are an integral part of many consumers’ homes and with the recent switch to digital over-the-air broadcasting in Canada, back in September of 2011, many consumers now have access to free, high definition content (1080i) without needing to go through a satellite or cable provider. Thanks to the ever-decreasing price of HDTVs, coupled with the proliferation of high definition content via Blu-ray as well as online services such as the iTunes Store and Netflix, many consumers have ditched their standard definition displays and upgraded to 720p and 1080p capable sets to take advantage of all this crystal clear content.

As with most technology, things don’t stay the same for long and manufacturers have already started incorporating the next high(er) definition format into their offerings: 4K resolution. This new designation refers to vertical lines of resolution as opposed to horizontal lines as with previous designations (720p and 1080p refer to horizontal lines of resolution). This is due to all the different aspect ratios that each studio utilizes for their content (e.g. 16:9, 22:9) so instead of the varying lines of horizontal resolution, 4K refers to the fixed 4,096 lines of vertical resolution. When multiplied by the various horizontal resolutions, this gives more than four times the current pixels of today’s 1080p displays: 1080p displays contain 1,920 x 1,080 = 2,073,600 pixels; 4K displays contain up to 12,746,752 pixels (4,096 x 3,112).

First, a primer on resolutions and why 720p and 1080p are “high definition” as opposed to previous standard definition formats. While there are different methodologies and numbers thrown around, the general consensus is that to be “high definition” the screen must show an image where individual pixels are indistinguishable by the human eye (at an appropriate viewing distance). The average human being has 20/20 vision meaning that from 20’/6.09m away, they can read letters approximately 0.35”/8.8mm tall on an eye chart. Translating this to HDTVs, the required resolution to produce pixels that are small enough to be indistinguishable varies depending on the distance a viewer is seated from the HDTV as well as its size. At a viewing distance of 8’/2.4m, the average person cannot distinguish between pixels that are smaller than 0.065”/1.65mm.  This means that for displays 50” or smaller, 720p resolution is indistinguishable from 1080p resolution. Typically consumers are advised to sit at a viewing distance that is approximately 1.5 to 2.5 times the diagonal measurement of their screen. For example, for a 50” display, consumers would sit 75-125”/1.9-3.2m away. This is to prevent eye strain from the flickering image as well as to fill enough of the viewer’s field of vision with the image.  Higher resolutions only become necessary if viewers want to sit closer to their televisions or have larger screens (which have larger pixels). This limit to visual acuity can actually save consumers money since they don’t have to purchase a more expensive 1080p HDTV if an equivalent 720p set is available (for sizes smaller than 50” or viewers who prefer further viewing distances). 4K resolution will allow consumers to purchase smaller television sets while simultaneously sitting closer to the screen and still maintain the crystal clear image that many of us have become accustomed to.

As with any new format, there are both upsides and downsides. The most obvious downside is the need for a new 4K display. Initially, these television sets will command a premium over similarly sized 1080p displays but as always, the price difference will shrink as time progresses. Toshiba, LG and Sony have already shown off prototypes as well as production models (destined for Asia) in sizes ranging from 55” up to 84”, with both 2D and glasses-free 3D capabilities.

Sony and JVC have also both released 4K projectors for the home, allowing well-heeled consumers to bring the 4K movie theatre experience home. Sony’s VPL-VW1000ES 4K 3D-capable home projector has an MSRP of $25,000 USD, accepts all current 4K formats (except 4K 3D) and will upscale any non-4K content to 4K (including 1080p 3D). At CES 2012, Sony stated that over 10,000 movie theatres worldwide are utilizing their commercial 4K projectors and the number is increasing daily.

Fortunately, for some consumers, the only component they will need to upgrade to enjoy 4K content is their TV because much of their existing 1080p components may already support the new format. Any device that supports the latest HDMI v1.4 specification is already capable of either processing or at least passing through 4K resolution signals. This includes everything from HDMI cables to Blu-ray players to AV receivers. For example, Onkyo’s TX-NR809 receiver, which was released back in Q2 of 2011, includes a Marvell Qdeo video processor to upscale existing content to 4K and other manufacturers have also been quietly building in 4K support in anticipation for the upcoming format. When Sony announced the release of its 4K home projector, it also stated that the PlayStation 3 will be receiving a firmware update in the coming months to support output of 4K still images. YouTube also already supports 4K video files.

4K brings another advantage but this one won’t have immediate, discernible effects for consumers in the short term: movie studios won’t have to spend time and money downscaling or reformatting movie theatre content (much of which is already shot in 4K). This should eventually make its way to consumers via faster and hopefully cheaper Blu-ray releases. To get all this 4K content to consumers, physical media will be the only timely option due to the vast sizes of 4K content (up to 4x current 1080p content). Sony has been in talks with the Blu-ray Disc Association to finalize a standard for compressing and storing 4K content and hopes to be able to release the next Spider-man movie on disc in 4K (due out summer 2012). The existing Blu-ray format already supports up to 50GB on each side (dual layer) and the upcoming BD-XL format supports up to 128 GB on each side (quadruple layer) – though this disc format isn’t compatible with existing Blu-ray players.

For all the consumers who will complain about the inevitable re-release of titles, 4K resolution will likely be the last format for much of our existing content. A 4K scan of 35mm film (what 95% of movies are/were filmed on) will max out the resolution of the medium and any higher resolution will be superfluous. The only exceptions to this are IMAX and 70mm films, which would require an 8K resolution scan to fully capture the negative. (Less than 1% of movies are filmed in IMAX and 70mm film was discontinued in the 80s.)

4K is the unifying video format that will erase the line between what is shown in movie theatres and what is available in the home (eventually). It will allow users to purchase smaller screens with higher resolution for use in tighter spaces while hopefully ending the video format evolution for the foreseeable future.

The 4K TV discussion continues on the CANADA HiFi Forum here: http://canadahifi.com//forum/showthread.php?983-4K-TV-Benefits-and-do-you-really-need-one-4K-versus-1080p&p=7119#post7119

Glow Amp Two

Glow Audio, a manufacturer of unique audio products, has just begun taking pre-orders for its all new Glow Amp Two push-pull stereo tube amplifier. The Glow Amp Two is rated to produce 15 watts per channel with the use of EL84 power tubes.

Like the classic Glow Amp One, the new Glow Amp Two is hand assembled using point-to-point wiring, just to ensure durability, reliability, and superior performance.

The Glow Amp Two has been designed to provide the punch of a good push-pull amp, without the graininess of many push/pull amps in the Glow Amp Two’s price range.

The Glow Amp Two will be made available in two color choices: gloss black and gloss white and is currently available for preorder at an introductory special price of $1,308 U.S.. The regular MSRP will be $1508 U.S.

Look for more details on this product at: www.glow-audio.com.

 

Audio Vibration Products 01

Audio is a wonderful hobby that brings great pleasure to millions around the world through their aural senses. However, few audio enthusiasts will deny that our wonderful hobby is plagued by a few product categories that flatter only to deceive. These are usually promoted by charlatans who talk such a great game, their mesmerizing sales pitches actually brainwash us into believing that we can hear sonic improvements that are non existent. This is why, I am reluctant to listen to a sales pitch before I hear any audio component, based on the premise that if there is a genuine sound improvement, my ears will detect it and I don’t need a sales pitch that could potentially brainwash me.

Having said that, there are a lot of audio related products that seem to fall into the category of snake oil and voodoo but on further scrutiny, they turn out to be the real McCoy after all. The subject of this article deals with such an audio product category, namely, products that help our audio components perform without being subjected to structural and airborne vibrations.

I first encountered this category of products, when my good friend Donald Jeffrey Casser (better known as DJ) tried to get me to try out his vibration busting products. My first reaction to DJ was “I prefer not to waste my time with snake oil”. For the longest time I resisted even trying them out, convinced that it was just not worth my time. Then one day DJ just decided to ship to me his Black Diamond Racing ‘The Shelf’. I was still skeptical but gave in to DJ’s argument that I had nothing to lose by trying it out. I placed the ‘The Shelf’ under my CD player, quite convinced that I would not hear any difference.

Imagine my surprise when this product not only proved me wrong, but also did so very emphatically. I apologized to DJ and thanked him for being so persistent. Sadly, DJ succumbed to lung cancer in January 2012, but the legacy he left behind, lives on. Following that experience, I promised myself never again to dismiss any audio product as voodoo without trying it first, irrespective of how outlandish it looks or how improbable the performance claims are. Thus began my fascinating journey into the world of platforms, stands, cones, pillows, discs and other products that protect audio components from airborne and structural vibrations.

The difference that these products make is not in what they add to the sound but rather what they eliminate. Unbeknownst to most listeners, there is a fair amount of grunge in the sound of most audio systems, which our brains attempt to tune out so that we are not so aware of it. However the effort by our brains to block this grunge does expend energy, which results in higher listening fatigue. A good example to illustrate this point is the ambient noise picked up by our ears and vibration picked up by our bodies that we are exposed to when traveling on an aircraft. After 5 to 10 minutes on the aircraft, our brains tune this out so well, we are not aware of it anymore unless someone brings our attention to it. However, just because we are no longer aware of it, does not mean that it is not taking a toll on our bodies, which is evidenced in the jet lag that we feel after a long flight. If you use noise-cancelling headphones on long haul flights, the jet lag is significantly reduced, thus proving the point.

Today, I use these products extensively in my reference system and I can vouch for the positive impact that they have on the sound. One of the more obvious improvements that I could easily perceive is the reduction in glare (especially with digital sources) while retaining the resolution in the music. There is also a perceivable improvement in the reproduction of the subtleties and nuances in the music, obtained by dropping the noise floor.

The sound stage also benefits quite dramatically, becoming wider, deeper and more holographic. The air between the instruments also becomes more obvious. In short, it makes good audio components sound more musical and therefore reduces the fatigue factor quite significantly.

As I journeyed through this world of vibration busting products, I discovered that some components benefit more than others from their use. Source components like CD players and turntables benefit the most. Components with moving parts also register a greater degree of performance improvement when compared to their counterparts without moving parts. Amplifiers (especially tube) are also able to perform closer to their optimum level when isolated from structural and airborne vibrations with the most perceptible improvement detected in the bass, which becomes more tuneful.

Although the goals of all vibration isolation products are the same, the modus operandi to reach this goal varies widely amongst various manufacturers. Getting back to my late friend DJ, I have to credit him with developing one of the more effective methods. The technological path that DJ chose was to tap into the unique properties of carbon fiber and its ability to provide vibration and resonance isolation. I remember asking DJ why he chose carbon fiber to which he replied “carbon fiber has five times the tensile strength of steel, I can’t think of any other material that would be better for use in vibration isolation”.

BDR products use aerospace grade carbon fiber, which is crafted to military specifications. The modular system of BDR products offer a very good upgrade path in that, they can be used in isolation and in combination with other BDR products. There is a boon for those with limited budgets as you can start with the affordable BDR cones, pillows and discs and then slowly build up to the shelves. This means that you can ease into the world of vibration isolation as quickly or as slowly as your pocket book will allow.

Moving up the food chain of vibration isolation products brings us to Harmonic Resolution Systems whose stands cost more than many total high-end audio systems. Mike Latvis, the brains behind HRS, took a path to vibration isolation that is quite different to the one adopted by BDR.

Audio Vibration Products 02

According to Mike, the vibrations that plague audio systems come from multiple paths and over a broad frequency range. In his view, the best isolation systems should reduce vibration across the entire spectrum of input frequencies and from all sources. The two primary sources of performance degrading vibration are structure borne and air borne. Structure borne vibrations are either transmitted through adjacent structures of audio equipment or can be inherent within the design and construction of the component itself. This vibrational energy undergoes modification as it travels to the sensitive circuits in the component and can be amplified when the stiffness of the supporting structure or the component itself has a natural frequency near the invading frequency.

The main source of air-borne vibration is the sound generated by your loudspeakers. Other sources can be loud human voice and vibrating devices, which generate sound waves that reach the audio components. Like structure borne vibrations, the frequency range of airborne vibrations is broad and complex. These vibrations can travel from the source through the air and directly impact the outer shell of the audio component or they can be transmitted through the structures used to support your audio equipment. A portion of this air-borne energy is converted into mechanical vibration when it contacts the audio equipment and support structure of your system.

Audio Vibration Products 03

The HRS Isolation Base minimizes input vibration, provides significant levels of isolation, and controls residual energy by employing optimized geometry, mass, impedance, and a proprietary elastomer formulation. According to HRS, this eliminates harmful vibration across the audio spectrum by maximizing energy dissipation and by converting chassis noise to heat.

To control airborne vibrations and resonance, HRS offers damping plates that are placed on the top of components. These employ mass, stiffness, and a proprietary elastomer formulation to convert into heat, the airborne vibrations that pollute the chassis of the component.

Another highly regarded brand of vibration busting products is Critical Mass Systems, which was founded by Joe Lavrencik. I had the pleasure of dealing with Joe a few years ago and he proved to be a very knowledgeable and passionate individual.

Rather than trying to dampen the vibrations that plague audio components, Joe decided to take a completely different route, which he calls direct coupling. In this methodology, Joe’s design functions like an antenna in that it actually attracts airborne and structural vibration and then forces it to travel evenly in all directions so as to dissipate literally into thin air, without allowing it to adversely affect audio components. According to Joe, this is a superior method to the vibration dampening method used by many of his competitors.

Joe claims that the filter utilized in the direct coupling method wicks the unwanted energy between the rack and the component. This system establishes a two-way link between the components and the floor. This allows a lightning fast exchange of energy between the floor, air and the component which is managed by the patented filter to allow audio components to reproduce sound that is perceived as “live” by the extremely complex and sophisticated human hearing mechanism.

There are many other brands of vibration busting products in price ranges from just $10 to $10,000 and beyond. If you decide to obtain the benefit of these products, I would suggest that you try them out before you pull the trigger. This is because with this category of products, price is not always the best indicator of performance level. I have come across many reasonably priced products of this genre that totally outperform their counterparts that cost 7 to 10 times their price.

It would also be wise to choose a product with a price that is in line with the cost of your audio system. For example, it may not be too prudent to invest $ 4,500 in vibration control products when your audio system costs $7,000. You may also want to weigh the option of upgrading your component against buying a vibration control product that will set you back for the same amount.

For instance, if you own a $500 CD player, upgrading to a $1,000 CD player might be a better option than buying a $500 vibration control platform to place under it. That is not to say that the platform will not make your $500 CD player sound like a $1,000 model. Rather, what I am recommending is that you try out both options to gauge which one will give you bigger bang for your buck.

I was surprised to discover that the better vibration control products have better than average resale value in the world of audio. These products, when listed on Audiogon or CAM sell really fast even when they are priced at 50% to 70% of their brand new price. This in itself is a testament to their proven performance.

MK Sound MK150THX Speaker System

Have you ever wondered about what kind of audio systems professional studios use for engineering movie soundtracks?  MK Sound has long been a popular choice for professional studios and over the years has made its way into thousands of home theatres around the world. MK Sound speakers have been used for sound mixing and editing of countless blockbuster movie soundtracks such as Star Wars Episodes I through III, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Pearl Harbour, Black Hawk Down and Iron Man – just to mention a few. It is also the speaker brand of choice by companies like Dolby Labs and DTS.  Heck, even the famous Skywalker Ranch is equipped with an MK Sound system.  The company attributes much of the success thanks to its MK 150THX System which we’re looking at in this very review.  There really is a lot of history to get excited about here.  For those of you who haven’t heard of MK Sound before, here’s a brief background.  The company’s origin dates back to the early 1970s in California, where the company was founded under its original name – M&K Sound – by an owner of an audio store and an audio designer.  Among its many accolades, in 1997 M&K Sound introduced the industry’s first internally powered subwoofer.   In 2007, after countless accomplishments and nearly forty years in business, the company closed its doors but was quickly resurrected by a Danish company with a refined name of MK Sound.  Luckily, instead of redesigning the product line completely, the new owners decided to stick with the original speaker designs, with only slight updates.

The 5.1-channel MK 150THX system that I examine in this review consists of five S-150MKII speakers ($1,500 each) and the MX-250 subwoofer ($1,950).  As the system’s name implies this is a THX Ultra2 certified system, guaranteeing that it meets the rigorous THX standards for accurate sound delivery.  The total price for this systems amounts to $9,450.  Two other speaker models are available in the MK 150 series – the S-150T Tripole speaker and the MP-150 on-wall speaker – as well as a larger subwoofer called the MX-350MKII.

Unlike most speaker manufacturers, MK Sound does not offer a choice of finish or colour.  What you see in the picture above is what you get – a black satin finish.  Instead the company focuses strictly on the performance of its products.  The five S-150MKII speakers are almost identical to each other, with the exception of driver configuration.  There are two configurations of this speaker – a Left channel model and a Right/Centre channel model.  Each speaker is nearly a perfect cube – measuring 12.5” x 10.5” x 12.5” – and weighs 21 lbs.  Removing the cloth grille reveals that these speakers don’t follow a conventional design.  The front baffle houses two 5.25” polypropylene woofers and an unusual number of tweeters – three 1” fabric-dome tweeters to be exact.  The tweeters are arranged in a vertical stack, each housed within its own dampened chamber, and separated on the outside by foam ridges.  This tweeter array presents a wider than usual horizontal dispersion and promises outstanding accuracy and detail.  It also results in a narrower vertical dispersion which comes with a benefit of minimizing reflected sound.  The S-150MKII has a built-in proprietary Phase-Focused crossover which combines three key design elements: Time Domain Analysis, Frequency Domain Analysis and Point-in-Space Analysis.  Unlike other crossover designs which consider frequency response on one axis, this design takes into account various angles along the vertical and horizontal planes.  As a result this speaker claims to present a very smooth frequency response over a wide listening window and a better focused and coherent on-axis performance.  The S-150MKII has an impedance of 4 ohms, therefore a powerful enough amp needs to be mated with it.  It has a frequency response rated from 77 Hz to 20 kHz (+/- 3dB) and a recommended power handling of 25 to 400 watts.

MK Sound MK150THX Speaker System 01

The MX-250 subwoofer included with my review set is the smaller of the two models in this series.  It utilizes a pair of long-throw 12 inch, coated pulp cone, magnetically shielded drivers that function in a push-pull configuration, housed in a sealed enclosure.  As the model name suggests, this subwoofer is powered by a discrete 250 watt on-board amplifier which uses MK Sound’s Balanced Push-Pull Dual Drive Amplifier technology, with proprietary Headroom Maximizer IV circuitry to prevent amplifier clipping.  Its in-room frequency response is rated down to 20Hz (+-3dB).  The back panel offers both speaker level and line level connections for maximum compatibility with all home theatre components and a three position power switch (on/auto/off).  Dials for Phase, Low Pass Filter and Bass Level round out the rear panel.  The MX-250 can be daisy-chained with another subwoofer for those who wish to incorporate two subwoofers in their setup.

But enough of the technical stuff.  The real test is of course how they perform in a home theatre environment.  In most cases, including mine, setup of a speaker system like this will require five speaker stands.  The front and rear L/R channels can be placed on any speaker stands with a large enough base.  The centre channel is far too large for my TV stand, or any conventional TV stand for that matter, so I had to place it in front of the stand on a temporary stack of books.

It needs to be noted that the S-150MKII speakers are rated at 4 ohms and present a more challenging load for an amplifier.  Therefore these speakers need to be matched with a suitably powerful amplifier or AV receiver.  I used two AV receivers during my tests – a Pioneer Elite SC-07 and an Arcam FMJ AVR600.  The Pioneer worked perfectly well with the MK Sound speakers but the Arcam definitely pushed the sound performance to a much higher level.

I normally start my tests with music but this time I decided to begin with a few films.  And what better place to start than Tron: Legacy on Blu-ray, one of my recent sci-fi favorites.  A well engineered soundtrack, along with Daft Punk’s powerful score, is sure to give any audio system a proper workout.  As main character Sam gets picked up by a spacecraft inside “the grid”, my room literally shook as the engines of the craft rumbled.  The MX-250 subwoofer delivered a powerful but well articulated bass.  When the spacecraft flew from behind me on to the screen, the MK Sound system created a frightening, hyper realistic sensation as if something actually flew from behind me and above my head.  Meanwhile the dialogue between the characters was consistently clear.  Not once did I struggle to hear what the characters were saying during the loudest of film passages.  As the games began and the players started tossing the discs at each other, the sound effects travelled in a most precise manner between all of the speakers.  The sonic transitions from channel to channel were completely seamless.  The cheering of the crowd during the games made me feel as if was sitting right there with the audience in the stadium.  Watching scenes from Tron was just sheer pleasure.  It appeared that my reference Monitor Audio Gold GX 5.1 speaker system had met a worthy contender.  Not on the visual side because the Monitor Audio speakers are knock out gorgeous next to the MK Sound speakers, but certainly on the performance side.

Keeping with the sci-fi genre, I thought it’d be fun to watch one of the Star Wars movies that was mastered on MK Sound speakers.  And so inside the Blu-ray player went Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.  Right from the opening credits, accompanied by John William’s score, I knew I was in for a treat.  To say that I was pleased with the sound would be a huge understatement.  I felt that what I was getting here was a truly cinematic audio experience that’s closer to a full blown movie theatre than a home speaker system.  This MK Sound system had an exquisite ability to create a presence of characters and environments, and showed a great accuracy in soundstage control.  I tried all four seats in my home theatre and the uniformity of sound delivery was one of the best I’ve heard in my room to date.  The layers upon layers of sound in this film can make even a good speaker system struggle but that was far from what I was experiencing here.  All of the individual layers blended perfectly together, yet each one had a precise definition.  As the film advanced, I once again marveled at how remarkable this system was at creating truly convincing sonic environments.  Believe me, I’ve watched this movie on many speaker systems but few had engaged me quite as much as this MK Sound system.  Thanks to their generous size, the S-150MKII speakers offered a rich, low-reaching frequency response from the surround channels, much like my Monitor Audio speakers.  This offered a far greater engagement and envelopment in the movies I watched compared to speaker systems that use smaller or more directional surround speakers.

During the time that the MK Sound system spent at my house, I had the opportunity to watch more than a dozen movies.  There was something about the sound of these speakers that kept drawing me back to my basement home theatre.  I also watched several episodes of HBO’s fantastic The Pacific series, which left a lasting impression.  The dynamics of this series make it a really great test for any home theatre system.  I originally watched some of these episodes on the Paradigm MilleniaOne speakers in my living room, but this time around it was an entirely different experience.  The MK Sound system threw me right into the middle of the action.  Planes were flying over my head.  Heavy artillery shells and bullets zoomed across the battlefield.  Conversations between the soldiers varied from shouting to whispering but the dialogue was always clear.  Everything about this presentation was realistic and terrifying.  A war movie buff like myself couldn’t be more satisfied with the experience.  At this point I clearly understood why so many professional studios choose MK Sound speakers.

I then decided to switch paces and listen to some music.  Just a minute into Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here SACD I was completely mesmerized by the awesome surround interpretation of this classic album.  The clarity and detail delivery were terrific.  The speakers delivered a crispy clean midrange with good realism of vocals and instruments.  I really enjoyed the tonal uniformity and balance of the 360 degree soundfield – a benefit of being surrounded by five identical speakers.  In this regard, the MK Sound system surpassed my Monitor Audio system.  The acoustic guitar strings sounded genuine and the drums had the right amount of pizzazz.  While listening to several other multi-channel SACDs, such as the Beatles’ “Love” and Dire Straits’ “Brothers In Arms” albums, this MK Sound system continued to shine in its ability to envelop me in a seamless three dimensional soundstage.

If you use your home theatre system to listen to 2-channel music, you’ll be pleased to know that this speaker system also does well here.  I listened to discs of various genres, ranging from classical to rock to vocal.  The S-150MKII pair delivered a clean midrange with great details and stereo imaging.  Both voices and instruments were delivered with a good amount of authenticity.  Compared to my reference Monitor Audio Gold GX 200 floorstanders, I did however find the MK Sound speakers to be a little less musical in their presentation.  Their presentation wasn’t quite as three dimensional when playing as a stereo pair and I never managed to get lost in the music.  Their bass extension also wasn’t as deep, nor was there as much air between vocals and instruments.  To be fair though, the GX 200’s are significantly more expensive than a pair of the S-150MKII speakers ($5,000 versus $3,000).  Nevertheless, music in stereo was perfectly enjoyable.

This MK Sound speaker system may not be the most décor-friendly or easiest to place in a room.  Each of the S-150MKII speakers is about the size of a little subwoofer and its solid black finish doesn’t help when trying to integrate them in the room.  The centre channel will be a challenge to place for those who have a TV sitting on a typical TV stand.  If your room doesn’t have enough space to house a pair of the S-150MKIIs at the back of the room, you might want to consider the less obtrusive S-150T Tripole speaker ($1,900/pair) or the MP-150 on-wall speaker ($1,300 each).  MK Sound understands that some consumers want the benefit of their speakers but don’t necessarily need to see them at all –and the company has you covered here as well.  Those building a new home theatre room, or willing to fish wires inside existing walls, should take a look at the IW-150 in-wall speakers ($1,300 each) – these are the in-wall equivalent of the S-150MKII.  Another solution to hide the speakers in your room would be to place them behind an acoustically transparent screen or inside custom built enclosures, which will make the speakers disappear altogether.  One thing is for sure – if you’re looking for a clean, detailed and immersive sound in your home theatre there is no question that this is definitely one sound system you should consider.  When the lights go out you’ll be rewarded with a true theatrical sound experience.

MK Sound
www.mksoundsystem.com

Distributed in Canada by
Pacific Cabling Solutions
www.pacificcabling.com
1-800-946-0669

MK Sound MK150THX 5.1 Speaker System
Price (CAD):
S-150MKII speakers ($1,500 each)
MX-250 subwoofer ($1,950)
5.1 system as tested: $9,450

Klipsch Introduces New Speaker Cables

Klipsch has just revealed three new speaker cables and a complete home theatre speaker cable kit.  For the ultimate audio connection, Klipsch Palladium and Reference speaker cables have been engineered to the highest industry standards, individually-inspected and certified to pass the most stringent manufacturing requirements. The 3-metre cables include interchangeable terminals featuring a screw-on design that makes it easy to switch between the banana plugs and spade connectors without exposing the oxygen-free copper wire to potential corrosion. The heavy-duty, 10-gauge Klipsch Palladium speaker cables (KPSW1010) are sold individually for a suggested retail price of $349.99 each; the 12-gauge Reference speaker cables (KRSW1210) have a suggested retail price of $349.99 per pair. Both cables guarantee uncompromised performance and reliability and are backed by a lifetime warranty.

Offering a combination of performance and value, Klipsch Synergy speaker cables have been designed to maximize the audio quality of any speaker system. The 16-gauge, oxygen-free copper ensures maximum signal transfer, while the 24-karat gold-plated speaker tips and bonus banana plugs offer easy and secure connections. Synergy cables are in-wall certified and fire-rated (FT-4), and they include an ArmourFlex covering to provide durable protection while allowing flexible installation. Klipsch Synergy speaker cables (KSSW1610) have a suggested retail price of $119.99 for a pair of the 3-metre cables.

The Klipsch Home Theatre Speaker Essentials Kit includes everything you need to hook-up a 5.1 speaker system: two 15-metre high-performance speaker cables, a 3-metre LFE subwoofer cable with Y-adaptor, and twenty 24-karat gold-plated speaker tips with banana plugs. The cables are in-wall certified and fire-rated (FT-4), and they include an ArmourFlex protective braiding to shield the cable from damage and make in-wall pulling easier. High-density multi-shielding rejects EMI/RFI noise and a PSI filter ensures maximum signal accuracy; the filter position is adjustable to make installation easy. The Klipsch Home Theatre Speaker Essentials Kit (KHTK16100) has a suggested retail price of $179.99.

For more info, please visit www.klipsch.com

DALI Kubik Free

At the upcoming ISE Show in Amsterdam, being held at the end of January, DALI, a loudspeaker manufacturer, will be showcasing three new loudspeaker products: the Dali Kubik Free (new multi-connectivity active speaker); the Dali Fazon Mikro (new, ultra compact addition to Dali’s Fazon series) and; the Dali Phantom (in-wall/ceiling evolution of Dali’s Kompas and Lektor series).

Dali states that these new loudspeakers feature state-of-the-art technologies and the finest craftsmanship from Dali.

Dali Kubik Free:
Dali’s very first full range active speaker. The essence of the Kubik Free is connectivity. The Kubik Free is an elegantly designed, active speaker that allows for Bluetooth, USB, Optical or Analog inputs.

Dali Fazon Mikro:
The Mikro is a new ultra compact member of Dali’s current Fazon loudspeaker series. The Mikro features a die cast aluminum cabinet and superior audio performance. As the name indicates, it is a compact and most diminutive loudspeaker in the Fazon series; however, it has been designed to provides a larger scale speaker experience in micro dimensions.

Phantom – Kompas and Lektor:
Dali’s Phantom series of in-wall/in-ceiling loudspeakers will soon be available in a new range of sizes and price points. Both the Phantom Kompas and Lektor will be made available in 5” and 8” versions that will complement the existing 6” models.

Look for more information on these products to become available at: www.dali-speakers.com.  DALI products are distributed in Canada by www.audionation.ca.

 

 

 Gryphon Pendragon

Gryphon Audio Designs, based out of Denmark, has just introduced a new flagship loudspeaker, claimed to be their greatest achievement.  The new Gryphon Pendragon is a semi-active, four-tower loudspeaker and the pinnacle of Gryphon’s product suite. 

The Pendragon was developed with Gryphon’s own Pandora preamplifier and Mephisto (stereo) or Mephisto Solo (monoblock) power amplifiers in mind.  The new three-way Pendragon system employs a bass tower (eight 8” bass drivers per channel driven by a custom-designed 1000 Watt Gryphon Class A/B power amp) and an open baffle mounted with a two meter long dipolar planar magnetic thin-film ribbon (covering the 200 Hz – 18 kHz with no crossover in its operating range) alongside a vertical array of four dipolar Air Motion Transformer super-tweeters, specified to beyond 32 kHz.

The Pendragon ribbon generates a continuous, perfectly coupled, cylindrical wavefront across its entire frequency range for a coherent, wide and deep soundfield. The system’s innate extremely wide and even horizontal dispersion with virtually nil vertical dispersion creates a large, stable sweet spot with none of the floor and ceiling reflections that muddy the sound of conventional multi-way systems.

Because of their large surface area and pleated diaphragm, the Air Motion Transformers move a large air volume with minimal motion for lightning fast transients with flat frequency response well beyond the audible range with negligible distortion and a total absence of compression.  The AMT array incorporates a +/-1 dB attenuator for ideal integration with the acoustics of the listening space.

The Pendragon’s low-frequency system is a further refinement of the innovative Poseidon bass tower with eight custom designed 8” drive units and a built-in, specially designed Gryphon Class A/B power amplifier weighing in at 80 kg per channel and capable of 1,000 Watts continuous output. For extended headroom, peak power is approximately 4,000 Watts.

Active bass allows the user to select a separate amplifier for the high frequency panels without having to worry about the power demands of the massive Pendragon bass system.

Key Features:
· Three-way four-piece loudspeaker system
· System response, up to 16 – 32,000 Hz, + 3 dB
· Separate active bass crossover network for each channel isolated in bass tower
· Four dipolar AMT super-tweeters per channel in vertical array
· Wideband, dipolar thin-film planar magnetic, line source ribbon driver
· Linear, push-pull ceramic magnet system
· Reinforced, low-diffraction open baffle
· Custom Gryphon Class A/B bass tower amplifiers, 1000W(continuous)/4000W(peak)
· Eight 8” bass drivers per channel, with triple-magnet bass driver motor system
· Sealed bass enclosures with extensive internal bracing
· Suspended, dampened passive x-over for midrange and tweeter towers
· Combination of pure wool and synthetic interior damping materials
· Remote control for Q setting, Bass Level and Low Cut
· Integrated Linkwitz-Greiner Q Controller with preset & custom Q settings
· Gryphon internal wiring
· L link remote start up circuitry and non-invasive protection system
· A virtually unlimited selection of custom finishes

The new Gryphon Pendragon loudspeake is currently available at a MSRP of 150,000 Euro, with North American pricing and availability, yet to be announced.  Look for more details on the Pendragon at: www.gryphon-audio.com.

 

Reference 3A NEFES Loudspeaker

 

Reference 3A has made its name by designing and producing uniquely direct-coupled loudspeaker drivers, resulting in some of the finest sounding speakers in the market.  The latest addition to the company’s range of products is the new NEFES loudspeaker, which utilizes advanced materials and crossover-less drivers at its heart.

Two superb 8 inch, full range drivers and a pure Beryllium dome tweeter are assembled in a vertical array into a very rigid and inert cabinet making the foundation of the new NEFES.  Beryllium tweeters are mounted behind an exponential acoustic wave guide for better time alignment and more uniform dispersion patterns.    With no crossover on the main drivers (just a very high quality capacitor) the high pass filter on the Beryllium dome tweeter sounds dynamic, fast, articulate and very coherent.   To further refine the performance, the NEFES uses patented Surreal Acoustic Lenses, for diffusing inherent driver cone turbulence noise; and patented Magnetic Wave Guides to purify the incoming audio signal.  Cryogenically treated, Teflon insulated, pure OCC copper conductors in appropriate thicknesses for each driver and copper input connectors are also used to ensure perfect signal transmission.  Housed in extremely rigid and inert loudspeakers cabinets, NEFES is finished in a durable anthracite coloured, suede textured Nextel coating.  This special coating effectively absorbs sound and light for acoustically and visually silent cabinets.  $9,950/pair CDN.

For more info, please visit www.reference3a.com

Merrill Veritas Twins Amps

Merrill Audio has announced the release of two new Veritas amplifier models – a single chassis dual mono design, which is named the Veritas Twins as well as a pair of bridged monoblocks that they have been aptly named the Veritas Siamese Twins. Both new models are built around a Hypex Ncore NC1200.

The Veritas amplifiers begin with a solid block of billet aluminum that weighs in at 66 pounds. This billet is machines to create the internal isolation chambers and frames for the amplifier components that are set within. Aluminum walls are 1-inch think to ensure that vibration isolation and absorption are maximized, in addition to limiting outside interference.

The amplifier design features the shortest possible signal paths to ensure that wiring lengths can be optimized and ensures that speed, control, and dynamics are unhindered. In addition, expensive and labour intensive Litz wires are used within to preserve sonic purity of the signal, with all wiring done point to point and soldered.

The Veritas Twins dual mono amplifier is said to provide the same level of quality, both performance and build, as the Veritas Siamese Twins monoblocks; but within a single chassis. The single chassis limits placement options but minimizes the need for space. Like the Veritas Siamese Twins, the Veritas Twins is constructed from a single aluminum billet. Within, the Veritas Twins the left and right channels are separated to either side of the chasis; however, only one power cord feeds both channels with a single remote trigger for the dual mono stereo amplifier. The Veritas Siamese Twins monoblocks provide a bridged version of the Veritas Twins.

The Merrill Audio Veritas Twins has a MSRP of: $9,000 U.S., while the Veritas Siamese Twins are priced at $18,000 U.S. Both new models are available by special order. Look for more information at: www.merrillaudio.net.

 

 

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