was 2005 a good year but I've also given out my share
of Blue Moon awards. Those should speak for themselves.
So why then am I about to utilize my space here to
talk about certain products I haven't even reviewed
yet? Well, because it's 2005 and I hope to get at
least some of them reviewed before year's end. I think
these are products you should know about now. Simply
put, I don't want to wait until the winter of 2006
to recognize them as outstanding.
I look back over a reviewing year, the first products
that come to mind are those that offer extraordinary
value. I'm talking about products that I can recommend
to anybody, particularly those on a budget. Here the
Gallo A'Diva Ti and TR1 sub/sat system is my first
recommendation. I bought the review samples and I've
recommended them since to family members as well.
When it comes to unobtrusiveness, sound and utility,
you can't beat them at their price. They make a great
music system and are a natural for multichannel systems
that won't visually dominate the room. Coherence,
speed and clarity are the sonic hallmarks that make
the Gallo system an exceptional value and an easy
fact, I was so impressed with these puny Gallos that
I just had to hear their bigger siblings called the
Reference 3s. Guess what? I bought those, too. I plan
on a full review in due time but for now, let me list
just a few of the reasons why they appeal to me. First,
they are small. Though exceptionally sturdy, they
are light. I can move them around easily. Second,
due to the fact that they don't utilize rear-firing
ports or drivers, they are remarkably easy to position
within the room. Unfussy is good. Third, like their
smaller siblings, they absolutely disappear into the
room and throw a soundstage that is in complete contrast
to their small size. Forth, the speakers sound spectacular.
Score another easy recommendation for Anthony Gallo.
third recommendation is of yet another tiny speaker.
In fact, at 28 inches tall, the FJ Om makes the Reference
3 look large by comparison. Imported from Germany,
it does suffer a bit in the area of price next to
the 25% less expensive Gallos. But at $4,000/pr, it's
not exorbitant neither by today's standards nor considering
the standard of musicality it sets. Like the Gallo,
the FJ completely disappears into the room and sounds
much bigger in terms of bass extension and sound field
than one would think to look at it. However, it's
voiced much differently than the Gallos. Warmer overall,
the FJ doesn't have the treble extension of the Gallos
and it's not quite as airy or detailed through the
highs. But it's unusually musical and extremely expressive.
It's also unusually room-friendly. It sounds great
with any kind of music and is wonderfully kind to
all kinds of recordings. In short, this is one user-friendly
speaker. Review yet to come but already highly recommended.
next recommendation came as the greatest personal
surprise of the year. I've tried several different
types of cones over the years and written them off
as not being for me. But when approached by the Lotus
Group to try the very different products from Sound
Mechanics, I was curious. Unlike those cones of the
past, the MC88 footers and C100 cones are more about
resonance tuning than coupling or decoupling. The
MC88 is made from wood and the C100s are metal. Both
are said to be filled with 10 types of metallic sands.
Not only that, each piece in the set of three seems
to be filled with a different mix (you can see the
difference through a clear window). That gives each
footer a different resonant frequency/signature. The
MC88 doesn't sound like the C100 as you would expect.
Neither do they effect all components in the same
way. These are tuning devices after all. Some experimentation
their easily demonstrable effect means that evaluating
their performance with a component is easier than
you would think. Tuning an entire system can be accomplished
in an afternoon or two. After a little experimentation,
I achieved a level of bass body and definition, soundstage
coherence and overall focus that left me flabbergasted.
Clearly Sound Mechanics is on to something and I can't
recommend these devices more highly.
on the lookout for outstanding budget products doesn't
mean that the occasional product doesn't come along
that comes at a much higher cost but also justifies
it fully in terms of performance. The Canary Audio
CA 160 monoblocks are just such a product. Absolutely
beautifully built and putting out 100 watts in triode
and 140 watts in ultralinear each, these $8750/pr
tube amplifiers deliver that EL34 tube smoothness
with a rare sense of powerful attitude and authority.
Sure, SET amplifiers are great but sometimes they
just don't cut it with your chosen speakers. With
the push/pull Canary CA160s, you can have your valve-infused
cake and eat it too. These are wonderful amplifiers.
(Full review to come.)