THE SHOW Newport 2014

This year at THE SHOW Newport Electra-Fidelity sponsored two rooms. As usual we teamed up with Fritz Heiler of FritzSpeakers and Alex Sventitsky of WyWires. However, our second room featured the debut of the Audiokinesis Zephrin 46 speakers, which were nicely received, especially by Robert E. Greene who couldn't seem to spend enough time with the speakers his first visit on Saturday, so he came back on Sunday to listen some more.

Newport 2014: AudioKinesis and Electra-Fidelity break their demo, cause riots and mayhem.

by Mal Kenney, Part-Time Audiophile

There are two stops I plan to make at every show. The first is whatever room is haunted by Tony Chipelo of Electra-Fidelity and his amps. The second, when the rare opportunity presents itself, is wherever Duke LeJeune’s AudioKinesis is showing its speakers. This Newport show made that easy. They were both in the same room.

This is actually a fairly curious pairing as AudioKinesis and Electra-Fidelity both share some pretty odd similarities. Both are hi-fi dealers with wide product ranges. Both are manufacturers. Electra Fidelity serves as the commercial side and marketing operation for the consumer friendly designs from Jack Elliano’s legendary Electra-Print, while AudioKinesis manufactures bass cabs and hi-fi speakers by Duke LeJeune and his design partner James Romeyn.

The last similarity, not usually shared by other manufacturers or dealers, is the high esteem in which Jack, Duke and James are held by the DIY community. These guys don’t usually blow smoke.

This particular room saw Tony Chipelo and James Romeyn sharing duties at the helm of the stereo. Tony was showing off Electra-Fidelity’s A3-500 monoblocks ($10,000 per pair), 300b amps with 10 watts of power and tons of stomp. James was there to pull the curtain back on AudioKinesis’s new Zephrin 46 speaker ($4500 per pair), one of the freshest designs loudspeakers have seen in years.

The Zephrin makes use of what AudioKinesis calls a “Late Ceiling Splash” driver arrangement, in which the front firing drivers are augmented by an upfiring driver array located on the bottom rear of the speaker. This is intended to better recreate the recorded acoustic space by dealing with room reflections in a sensible way.

I know you’re all thinking “I heard that crap from Bose.” You can stop now. You probably didn’t. The LCS method has little to do with anything you remember from Bose’s sound. James and Duke discuss the implementation details quite thoroughly on their forum at AudioCircle.

What you’ll see up front is a two-way, MTM layout. The ‘T’ there is a waveguide loaded compression driver, and the radiation pattern is set to minimize room reflections. The rear array has another two 6″ bass drivers (of much lower efficiency) and an array of dome tweeters.

Rooms in the Hilton usually sound just plain bad. This room sounded just plain good, with excellent dynamics and detail and little hint of the usual room bloat. This was due in part to the Zephrin’s ability to be customized on site. Besides impedance and sensitivity, the bass porting can be tuned at will.

Tony and James tried to make me listen to the speaker with the rear array turned off — as though that were some kind of desirable feature. I’m pretty sure I shouted profanity at them until they turned it back on. It was less “night and day” and more “why did you idiots break the speakers?” In other words, the demo was convincing.

Associated gear in the room consisted of a Resolution Audio Cantata for digital. It can lean into unpleasant brightness when cold, and it did so here, making me pine for the rolled off treble of lesser tube amps. Infinitely better was Tony’s modified Otari 5050 playing through the tape-head preamp built into his Atma-Sphere MP3 Mk III.2 preamplifier. The sound may have been a touch lean while I was there, but it was a precise, musical, and refreshingly dynamic sound in the kind of enveloping soundstage that simply should not exist in a crappy airport hotel room.

It’s safe to say that the Zephrin 46 left an impression on me. It’s a radically new design, a unique look, and, at $4500, approaches what the hi-fi world euphemistically calls “real world pricing.” I’m glad I got to hear it first in a system this well sorted.

Click HERE to go to the article as published on the Confessions of a Part-Time Audiophile website.

THE SHOW 2014: Day 2 Afternoon.

by Jason Victor Serinus, Stereophile

Boutique manufacturer" and dealer Electra-Fidelity of Las Vegas demmed a system that alternated their own Electra-Fidelity A3-500 300B monoblocks ($9995/pair) with Atma-Sphere M-60 Mk.III.2 monoblocks with V-Cap upgrade ($7590/pair). Speakers were the unusual-looking AudioKinesis Zephrin 46 loudspeakers ($4500/pair).

The way the speakers' LCS Late Ceiling Splash radiation pattern, which was invented by James Romeyn and Duke LeJeune (implementing reverberant field theories by Dr. Floyd Toole and Dr. Earl Geddes), threw images way high, as well as their amazing three-dimensionality, was quite impressive. Nonetheless, with the Atma-Spheres in the system, the sound on a Patricia Barber CD was too rich for my blood. Also in the system were an Atma-Sphere MP-3 Mk.III.2 preamplifier with built-in tape head preamp ($5660), Otari MX-5050 Mk.III tape transport, and Resolution Audio Cantata Music Center ($6995).

Click HERE to go to the article as published on the Stereophile website.

THE SHOW Newport 2012

Newport 2012: Fritz Speakers, Electra-Fidelity, Zesto Audio, WyWires.

Confessions of a Part-Time Audiophile

June 12, 2012.

I love monitor speakers, and it isn’t just because they’re easy to lug, toss, and move around your listening room. Though that is part of it. Just not all of it. There is something special, something wonderful, about the imaging that a small 2-way pulls off. They simply vanish and out of the air a tapestry of sound manifests … or something. Anyway, the “vanishing act” is something that all good speakers aspire to, but precious few pull off. That is, except for monitors — that’s their specialty.

Enter FRITZSPEAKERS. I’ve been lucky enough to get a pair of his Grove speakers in last year and I had a ball with them. In that review, I think I called Fritz the “hardest working man in the business” — and if I didn’t, well, it was an oversight. Fritz is a machine, crazy busy, building, demoing, and inventing ever-new combinations for his fans. It was refreshing to see him relax for once!

And well he should — he had a new baby to show off here at Newport: the Rev 7. Priced at $2,500/pair, these speakers are about the same as the Grove, but significantly bigger than the Rev 5, which they supplement — not replace. The “Rev” part of the name refers to the main driver, a Revelator from Scanspeak. The number, perhaps not so obviously, refers to the size of the driver and not a revision or version.

The Rev 7 is a stunner. But that wasn’t the story here. No, here, Fritz reached a bit deeper into his bag of magical toys and pulled out a 7″ Illuminator, a seriously top-shelf aluminum driver, also from Scanspeak. He paired that with a Scanspeak beryllium tweeter, wrapped it all up in a zebra mahogany veneer, and the result … well, spank my *** and call me Charlie! I thought they were the cat’s meow. Or his pajamas. Something to do with cats. Anyway, these are outstanding sounding speakers. I think he’s calling these the Illuminator7Be, but whatever the name, I’m hoping he’s going to send them to me … but I think some smart ass bought them right off the show floor. Sneaky bastard!

There’s an audio chestnut a lot of us audiophiles love to trot out about amplifier and speaker matching. It goes like this — with middling-low sensitivity, you need power. Lots of power. Well, maybe not lots. But not none. And SET amplifiers, well, that kinda qualifies as “none”.

Settle down, there, Skippy, I was just making a point. Continuing ….

Okay, so — 8wpc isn’t nothing, but it is pretty damn close. That is, according to accepted “audiophile wisdom”, that is. That same wisdom holds that your best bet would be a speaker with a sensitivity of 96dB or better for such an anemic amp, not 87dB.

Wow, this is a long way to go to say the following — this is complete bollocks!

In this room, with these speakers, this very pretty $5,995 A3-500 300b monoblock amplifier from Electra-Fidelity, with its fancy chrome top-plate and camera-defying brass transformer covers, not only seemed to play with full frequency and without grain, but also to play without strain.

Huh. Go figure.

Zesto Audio’s $3,900 Andros PS-1 phono-preamplifier was on hand to pull tunes out the turntable.

Digital tracks came courtesy of the very textured Resolution Audio Cantata, but it wasn’t playing while I was in the room. I still have a near-compulsive urge to run my hand over the top of this casework, which looks like a rain-dimpled lake. I say “still” because that’s exactly what I did while I was in the room. Yup. I’m weak.

At this point in the room, my roving camera-eye came across my old nemesis. A mirrored finish. Drat — foiled again!

I am seriously considering bringing along a white drop-cloth with me when I go a’-shooting. Grr. Anyway, I twisted myself up in a bunch to try and catch as much of the Electra fidelity amp as I could — the carpet was especially “hotel-ish”, which is to say, “I’m sure they got a good deal on it.”

Anyway, this E.A.R. 868 preamp, which is $7,995 when ordered with the optional phono stage, is a study in chrome and brass — just like the amp, which made them a nice aesthetic pairing.

A new-to-me turntable from GEORGE-WARREN was up top spinning the vinyl. Pricing starts at $4,200, but the walnut finish pictured here brings it up to $4,850.

The platter is acrylic — hard to see in this picture — but it’s 10 pockets are filled with lead shot for stability and mass. The turntable has a split-plinth — the lower has an air-dampened spring mechanism to isolate the table as a whole, and the upper plinth is rotated 60˚, using visco-elastics for further dampening.

The tonearm is included, and comes standard with a Moth Arm2 Incognito wired tone arm. This is the latest 3-point mounting method as found on an RB700 tone arm. The Incognito wiring features a continuous cable run from cartridge tags to phono plug. The heart of the assembly is a gold plated aluminum slug, situated at the base of the arm pillar, to which all the tone arm components are grounded. Included with the tone arm is our exclusive VTA adjustment clips which raise the tone arm without unplugging and disassembling the tone arm from the arm board. Just loosen the screws and slide in the spacing clips.

A Soundsmith cartridge did all the groove-dancing.

Here’s a lineup for you. From the right is a Fritz Rev7 ($2,500), a Carbon 7 ($1,895) and a Rev5 ($2,100).

The Revelator drivers are supposedly known for speed and detail, where the Carbon driver for a rich, tonally complex mid-range. Yous picks your poisons.

Of the three, I think the 7″ Revelator is the most interesting — and the one I’m most interested in bringing home. That, or the Illuminator. But it’s the Carbon 7 that most folks go ga-ga over. Big, warm, fleshy sound with that driver!

Other bits in this room — WYWIRES Blue Series cables.

  • Speaker cables: $449/8′ pair
  • Interconnects: $469/4′ pair
  • Digital cables: from $249
  • Power cords: $249

What is “blue”?

WyWires Blue series represents a “trickle down” approach, taking what we have learned during the ongoing development of the Silver series of cables and applying that knowledge to offer a more economical product line. The Blue Series offers much of the performance attributes as the Silver albeit in a simplified and less luxurious offering, at entry-level pricing.

Alex tells me that this means it’s the same wire as the more expensive lines, but in a slightly different/simpler geometry, and paired with a non-Teflon dialectric.

Click HERE to link to the original article with photographs of the room components.

Electra-Fidelity, FritzSpeakers, Resolution Audio, WyWires, and Zesto Audio. Way nice... musical and not out to kill the bank.

Dave Clark from Positive Feedback Online stopped by our room at THE SHOW Newport for a listen and to take some photographs. The following was his comment on the sound:

FRITZ: Far More Than You'd Expect

Jason Victor Serinus, Stereophile

June 9, 2012.

As someone who reviews speakers infrequently, and usually listens to floorstanders, I find the world of mini-monitors and bookshelf speakers confusing. There are so many different price points for the latter, with a pair of monitors listing for under $300 somehow meriting the same adjectives (at least from some reviewers) as those that cost 10, 20, and 30 times more.

With FritzSpeakers, however, I have no question about quality. At what is at least my third show demo of these pups, the Fritz Carbons 7s, REV5s, and REV 7s ($2100–$3200/pair) have consistently blown my mind with their fine sound and wide frequency extension. (The 7 ILLLBe, $3200/pair, goes down to 37Hz ±3dB.) Here paired with Electra-Fidelity A3 Unity Inverted SE amps ($6995/pair), which use EL-34s and output 10W in a proprietary class-A3 circuit, Resolution Audio Cantata Music Center ($6500), WyWires Blue Series cables (speaker $449/pair, interconnects $369/pair, digital $199, power cords $199 each), the excellent Zesto Audio Andros PS1 tube phono stage ($3900), EAR 868 preamplifier, also with phono stage ($7995), Spiritual Audio transformer-less VX-9 power-line filter with source tuning ($2995), George-Warren turntable ($4250–$4850), Gini systems racks and GIK Acoustics room treatments—try saying all that in one breath—the 7ILLBe monitors did a surprisingly good job in the bass department.

On CD, this system did a wonderful job conveying the timbre of bossa nova queen Rosa Passos' voice. Detail, too, was conveyed beautifully, and the low pitches of Ron Carter's bass came through with spades. There were some resonances in the midrange, but I had no way of telling, in a brief visit, if they were cabinet or room-induced.

The same George-Warren turntable which I had encountered on another floor, in a system that failed to move me, here lifted the voice of Patricia Barber out of the groove and into the room. Boy, did her performance of "Ode to Billy Joel" remind me of everything wonderful about vinyl.

Click HERE to link to the original article with photographs of the room components.