Sunday, November 28, 2010

Checking out the new gear at Whetstone Audio

As promised, I spent yesterday afternoon at Whetstone Audio and got to see owner Brian Di Frank's new product lines (LFD and Harbeth). When I walked in, I saw both the Harbeth 40.1s and the new P3-ESR speakers all set up and ready to go. I had to walk right up and give the 40.1s a hug! I missed these speakers and still consider them to be among the finest speakers I've ever heard!

Brian also had the new LFD LE IV Signature integrated warmed up and ready to go. I have to admit that as much as I love LFD, its understated looks were completely overshadowed by the gorgeous Leben amplifier that resided just below. Fortunately, we were able to hear both. The Leben has the sonic edge, with slightly better dynamics, but it's also twice as much as the LFD.

Here's the entire system we listened to, which included a Rega P5 turntable with a Dynavector 20X cartridge along with a Dynavector phono stage. Cabling was from the Chord Company.

Here are the 40.1s and the P3-ESRs side by side. It's amazing that the little P3s are a tiny fraction of the size of the 40.1s but offer a HUGE helping of the classic Harbeth sound. After listening to the big speakers for a while we switched to the P3s and I was instantly impressed with their ability to sound big and full in Brian's rather large listening space. The 40.1s obviously offer more in the lower octaves, but Harbeth's Alan Shaw should be extremely proud with what he's accomplished with the tiny P3s. They are truly great mini-monitors.

Here's a better look at the P3-ESRs and their gorgeous rosewood veneer. The 40.1 were in cherry, just like the ones I reviewed for TONEAudio, but these ones were much darker. Harbeth, just like most British speaker companies, provides beautiful wood veneers with all of its models.

Although my visit was to hear the new Harbeths and LFD, I also had a chance to hear the Kudos Audio line of loudspeakers. Kudos is from the same designer who developed the NEAT line of British loudspeakers, which have always impressed me. The Kudos Cardea C10 monitor, which you can see above next to the 40.1s, looks rather conservative at first glance. But this premium loudspeaker uses the SEAS Crescendo tweeter which is normally used with speakers costing as much as $20,000 a pair. Despite the fact that they are much smaller than the 40.1s, they delivered an equally big sound. In many ways, the C10s were the stars of the day. These are truly magnificent-sounding speakers and should be considered by anyone who needs world-class sound in a relatively small space.

Here's a close up shot of the Crescendo tweeter...

And another shot of the C10s.

 ...and another shot with the 40.1s in the background.
Brian also wanted me to check out the new Rega P3-24 turntable...his first one in orange. Very cool, but I still prefer my lime green one. I do like the colored mats and may get a ghastly purple one for mine.
He then showed me the new $449 Rega RP1 turntable--in white. Brian joked that "this is your turntable...on drugs," and I realized that yes, with the yellow mat it does look just like a fried egg!

All in all, it was a great afternoon and I heard a lot of great music. I'm going to visit Brian very soon and try out two new tweaks for my Rega P3-24. The first is the famous "white belt" that is a $59 upgrade to all Rega turntables. Back at TONEAudio we tried one of these belts with the P9 and both Jeff Dorgay and I heard a clear difference from the stock black belt. Much to our surprise, the magic white belt made the Rega sound much bigger. For $59, it's a no-brainer.

The other tweak is the new platter mat for the Rega from Auditorium 23. While I've always felt that the stock felt mats sound best, Brian tells me that this new mat does offer a big improvement in the sound. So I'll let everyone know about my findings very soon!


  1. where can i get one of these yellow mats