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Gryphon Diablo 300

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Aware of my interest in master word clocks, Scott Sefton, Esoteric’s marketing specialist for the Americas, recently e-mailed me to ask if I planned to audition the Sigma Clock-50, a new clock cable from Shunyata Research, based in Poulsbo, Washington. Most audiophile clock cables are specified at 75 ohms; the Shunyata cable is interesting due to its 50-ohm specification. Copied on Sefton’s e-mail was Grant Samuelsen, Shunyata’s director of marketing and sales, whom I’d not spoken to in years. When Samuelsen received the e-mail, he contacted me directly.

If I were to freely associate on the stimulus “Burmester,” my immediate response would probably be “amplifier.” After that I might say “Dieter,” followed by “chrome” and then, probably, “quality.” What wouldn’t come to mind, at least not right away, is “loudspeakers.”

Reviewers' ChoiceAt the start of each episode of the original Star Trek TV series, William Shatner intoned “Space -- the final frontier.” For audiophiles, however, the final frontier may be the conquering of a space far smaller: the listening room. Typically the last variable to be addressed when assembling a sound system, room treatments are often greatly misunderstood in terms of their cost, effectiveness, and ease of installation.

I figured Mark Sossa didn’t really know what he was doing. Sossa is, after all, a young guy (in audiophile terms), lacking the decades of experience of most of us audiophiles -- we’re generally older dudes, and Mark is in his mid 30s. His idea was to bring down a collection of gear he represents through his distribution company -- Well Pleased Audio Vida, of Tysons Corner, Virginia -- and install it in my brand-new listening room. (You can read about that daylong adventure in my “Opinion” column in this month’s SoundStage! Ultra.)

I’ve spent the last decade or so watching some audiophiles of my acquaintance twist themselves inside out trying to rationalize spending a fortune they don’t really have on things they don’t really need. I used to be like that, but thank all that’s holy, I grew out of it.

Reviewers' ChoiceFor over a decade, Simaudio itched to produce a state-of-the-art, cost-no-object, reference-grade power amplifier. Unfortunately, low market demand and high development costs forced them to postpone this and other such projects -- but they didn’t stop thinking about them. In fact, a little over a decade ago, Simaudio created what they call their skunkworks bin, where they keep their more technically creative yet economically impractical ideas. Kept under lock and key, this bin is opened only when the high-end market is robust enough to make the design and manufacture of such products cost effective.

Reviewers' ChoiceAn audio system’s sound quality can be affected by, among other things, the type of signal cables, vibration-management products, and room treatments used. However, there is perhaps no more important variable than power. Whether this is due to the essential role that power plays in a signal’s generation, as opposed to its conversion or distribution, is hard to say. What is certain is that the stream of ever-better-performing power products installed in my system over the years has never failed to impress me.

Balanced Audio Technology, aka BAT, was founded by Steve Bednarski and Victor Khomenko in the early 1990s. Their first two products, the VK-5 preamplifier and VK-60 power amplifier, were launched in January 1995 at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas, and those debuts were anything but customary. As the story goes, Geoff Poor, BAT’s current director of sales, had joined Bednarski and Khomenko as a full partner in 1995, having for some years led the marketing department at Dunlavy Audio Labs. Not long before that, while still working at Dunlavy, Poor had invited Bednarski and Khomenko to his family store for a demo of some Dunlavy speakers driven by the forthcoming VK-5 and VK-60. That went so well that Poor convinced John Dunlavy to use the BAT gear to drive his all-new SC-V speakers for their world premiere at the 1995 Winter CES. The tremendous success of this triple debut, held in the ballroom of the Golden Nugget Hotel, created a buzz infectious enough to flood the ballroom with visitors for the rest of the show.

Reviewers' ChoiceThe world of phono cartridges doesn’t change quickly, and it’s hard to imagine a more mature technology than the moving-coil cartridge, introduced 70 years ago. Sumiko has been producing phono cartridges for decades now, but their product line hasn’t changed much in the last few years -- the Oyster Blue Point No.2 has been in constant production since 1990, which for a consumer product is forever plus one year.

Reviewers' ChoiceWith just about any manufactured commodity, consumers are offered various tiers of products to choose from. Volkswagens are the entry-level automobiles made by the Volkswagen Group, while their more premium brands -- Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini, Bentley -- represent consecutive upward leaps in quality, performance, and exclusivity. VW’s most boutique brand, Bugatti, is synonymous the world over with unparalleled levels of craftsmanship, industry-leading design, and world-class performance. They produce a single Bugatti model, the Chiron, and with only 500 Chirons slated for production, exclusivity is a given.