Sunday, January 9, 2011

CES 2011--The Profundo Room

Sure, I spent as much time as possible in the big Trenner & Friedl room with the Dukes, but I also frequented the other Profundo room which was run by Dan Muzquiz of Blackbird Audio Gallery in San Diego. Profundo is the US distributor and importer of many of Dan's brands such as Trenner & Friedl, Heed Audio, Transfiguration and VivA Audio. Profundo is basically Bob Clarke, who is one of the good guys in audio because he loves music and puts that first. In fact, once you get to know Bob, you'll find out that when he plays music, he loves to crank it up. Yes, Bob Clarke rocks.

It was also great to hang out with Dan, because over the last few months we've become good friends and yet we've never met in person. It was weird to walk up to him in the Profundo room and wait for him to recognize me. When he did, I got a huge bear hug.

Anyway, Dan had some very intriguing gear set up in this room. First, as I mentioned before, he had the ART monitors set up and run by the Heed Audio monoblocks, along with a Heed preamp. Sources were a Basis turntable with a Transfiguration cartridge as well as a digital transport and DAC from Heed. Cables, of course, were all Cardas.

But the ARTs had a little something extra on top...the new add-on super tweeter from Trenner & Friedl. I erroneously reported earlier that this was the same tweeter used on the Dukes, but it's actually a scaled down model. It's a Vifa tweeter instead of the diamond tweeter used on the Dukes. That makes sense, because the diamond tweeter add-on would cost approximately $15,000 to $20,000, and that doesn't quite make sense with a pair of $4250 stand-mounted monitors. The smaller tweeter will retail for somewhere around $2500. While this still sounds expensive, especially in the context of the ARTs, it makes a lot more sense for the middle speakers in the Trenner & Friedl line such as the Ella and the Dizzy. Best of all, both of these super tweeters can be added to almost any speaker on the market.

This smaller tweeter also has the striking Swarovski crystal on top. I watched guest after guest walk into the room and immediately run toward those big "diamonds" perched on top of the ARTs and try to figure them out. Once Dan explained how they work, it made a lot more sense. The super tweeters, as you can tell from the pics, fire upward from the top of the speaker. The crystals are cut in a specific way to aid with proper dispersion. I was able to listen to the ARTs with and without the super tweeter, and the difference is not subtle. With the super tweeter in place, the ARTs sounded a lot bigger and threw up an amazingly deep soundstage. It's very impressive to hear such a wide, deep, expansive sound coming from such little speakers. As I toured from room to room in CES, I saw nothing but giant speakers everywhere I went. It was nice to see the ARTs, in many cases, sound just as authoritative and impressive as those big floorstanding behemoths.

I also felt that the ARTs, with and without the super tweeter, sounded much better in this room than in my own personal listening room at home. First of all, the room at CES was quite a bit larger than mine and the ARTs had more room to breathe. Secondly, the Heed amplification is quite a few notches above my current Rega amp. The ARTs produced an amazing amount of bass with the Heed monoblocks, so much so that we often found ourselves laughing at just how much low frequency information was coming from these mini-monitors.

Fortunately, I will soon be able to experience this kind of sound at home. Bob told me that once he recovers from CES, he's going to send me the Heed Obelisk SE integrated amplifier and X2 outboard power supply that I blogged about a few weeks ago. Bob told me that the wonderful thing about the ARTs is that you can keep throwing higher and higher quality amplification at them and they'll keep sounding better and better. Bob uses the ARTs at home with the expensive VivA amplifiers from Italy, and the ARTs definitely pull their own weight. It's nice to know that as I improve the other pieces in my own system, it will be a long time before I feel like upgrading the ARTs. In fact, unless I can win the lottery and buy a pair of Dukes in the near future, I plan to keep the ARTs for a very, very long time.

Maybe with that super tweeter, though.

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