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Vol. 6, No. 1 Spring/Summer, 2002

Hello, and welcome to the latest news in audio and home theater from Audio Nexus. As usual, we have a lot of news about exciting new products and brands that have arrived at Audio Nexus since the last newsletter. Furthermore, we have a special page for late-breaking news and important developments that crop up between newsletters, so check out IMPORTANT BULLETINS to find out the latest about what's happening at Audio Nexus. If you have any suggestions about items you'd like to see posted here, please call, write, or use the web page e-mail link to let us know. If you would like more information on any of the products mentioned here, please feel free to call and/or go to the BRAND NAMES & LINKS page for direct links to the relevant manufacturer's web site.


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TABLE OF CONTENTS


Revel Speakers System Audio Loewe ARCAM
Audio Physic Audio Research Balanced
Audio
Technology
Bryston
Enlightened
Audio
Designs
Graham JM Lab Lehmann
Magnum Dynalab NAD Richard Gray's
Power Company
Rogue Audio
Rotel Runco VPI  



NEW BRANDS

Revel Speakers

Revel F-30We don't take on new speaker brands often because it's so hard to find any which are both musical and accurate. Revel, however, meets both of these criteria with room to spare. They have bookshelf, floor-standing, center channel, subwoofer, and surround models for building either an audio or home theater system. Furthermore, they have a budget-minded series call "Performa" and a no-holds-barred series called "Ultima". Their sound is spacious, dynamic, and powerful, and the reviews have been great. For an example of one of these fabulous reviews, see the coverage of the bookshelf M-20 model in the January 2002 issue of Stereophile. While the performance of every Revel model is definitely high end, prices start at a modest $1995 per pair for the M-20 monitors. Even the floor-standing F-30 is only $3495 per pair. And if you've been following the Revel story at all, you know that the B-15 subwoofer has practically achieved a cult status in the audio/video community. This is one of the rare speaker lines we've heard which has the subtlety for recreating the most delicate musical nuances while having the power and dynamics for the most bombastic home theater extravaganza. Please come in and discover them for yourself.

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System Audio

SA-2K speakerOnce in a very great while we go to a Consumer Electronics Show and discover something so unexpected and extraordinary that we find we must run, not walk, to the manufacturer or importer and sign up to be a dealer. Finding a product which is so outstanding that it has this effect on us is so rare that it has only happened three or four times in the 20 year history of Audio Nexus. But it happened this year when we visited the Balanced Audio Technology room to hear their new integrated amps. (See the BAT section below for more about those new products.) They were using a speaker called the SA-2K from a Danish company, System Audio. The sound we heard was beautifully-balanced and dynamic, had fabulous detail, imaged like the devil, and had an extended and room-filling bass. We could continue to try and find adjectives and superlatives to describe the totality of this speaker's performance, but they wouldn't even do it justice if this were a large, floor-standing model. In fact, what is so amazing, is that the SA-2K is a diminutive mini-monitor measuring only 13.5 inches high! It has rounded sides and is tapered from front to back into a sort of teardrop shape that makes its overall appearance very sleek and attractive. Every person for whom we've played these speakers has been just stunned by the quality and quantity of sound that emerges from these compact music makers. System Audio is a company which has been active in the European market since 1984 and was founded by Ole Witthoft. Mr. Witthoft is both an engineer and a musician and was stimulated to start designing speakers when he found that all commercially-available models failed to reproduce all of the musical nuances he heard in his live recording sessions. System Audio has engineered some very advanced technology into these speakers that allows this unparalleled level of performance. For example, the bass is produced by a small woofer with a huge magnet and a very long throw of a full inch! Designing the SA-2K took 6.5 years, and many new technologies had to be developed because they simply didn't exist when the project was started in 1994. For an excellent virtual tour of all design aspects of this speaker, please visit the system Audio web site which you can reach from the BRAND NAMES & LINKS page of our web site. Developing and implementing this design wasn't inexpensive, so the SA-2K sells for $3495 despite its small size. But if you're looking for incredible performance and want it in a small, unobtrusive package, this speaker is the answer to an audiophile's prayer.

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Loewe

Loewe Aconda 30We have just added our very first line of High Definition televisions. These sets come from Loewe (pronounced Loova), a very well-known European manufacturer of ultra high quality HD TVs. Why buy an HDTV set designed and built in Europe instead of one from Japan? Because Loewe designs and builds models which are so cosmetically-attractive and have such gorgeous, vibrant pictures that their sets offer you a pride of ownership and a video image which is difficult or impossible to equal with the mass market products. Loewe manufactures both standard (4:3) and widescreen (16:9) models, and their prices start at $1995. Sizes range from 30 to 38 inches, and most models have true flat screen picture tubes. High gloss silver and piano black premium finishes are available, and all models come with 2-year, in-home service. If you're looking for a crystal clear picture in a chassis that looks great even when the set is turned off, please come by and take a look at one of the few, true high end televisions currently on the market.

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NEW PRODUCTS FROM

CURRENT BRANDS

ARCAM

AVR-200 receiverAlways known for bringing very high levels of performance down to very affordable price ranges, ARCAM has done it again with the release of their new CD player, the CD-62 at $599. They have utilized most of the advanced technology of their more expensive CD-72 with only minor reductions in such areas as the amount of chassis damping and the size of the power supply. This has resulted in a product which offers very musical performance at a price most music lovers can afford. In the amplifier area, they have completed the renovation of their amplifier line with the release of the new FMJ A-32 integrated amp. This new amp is a major sonic improvement over its predecessor, the FMJ A-22. For example, one key improvement is a switch from MOSFET output devices to very special, new bipolar transistors which, as we described last issue, actually have microprocessors built into them to monitor their performance and keep bias and other operating parameters optimized at all times. There is also a very fine sounding, built in phono section which can accommodate both moving magnet and moving coil models. These and a whole series of other improvements in the amp and preamp sections of the A-32 have resulted in a much clearer and more dynamic sound than that of the older model. Finally, not to forget about home theater, ARCAM has replaced their first home theater receiver, the AVR-100, with a brand new model, the AVR-200. While there have been several physical and mechanical improvements such as more digital inputs and a much more user-friendly and programmable remote control, there have also been major sonic upgrades in such areas as the preamplifier section and the addition of Dolby Pro Logic II. And remember that the AVR-200, like its predecessor, has that all-important ability to play your favorite analog sources without converting them into digital signals. So you can enjoy home theater without the digital degradation to your analog sources caused by many other home theater receivers.

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Audio Physic

Yara speakerLast issue we announced the introduction of the Avanti III, a new high end model from Audio Physic incorporating some of the company's newest and most advanced technologies. Now the knowledge gained during the design of that model has filtered down to their less expensive models with the introduction of the Spark IIIi, the Tempo IIIi, and the Virgo III. These are all improved and updated versions of highly-regarded models, but the improvements are not subtle. Tremendous gains have been made in imaging, clarity, bass response, and detail/resolution as compared to the previous versions. These are very worthwhile and welcome improvements. Audio Physic has also introduced some brand new models to the lineup. These are the Yara floor standing model at $1495 per pair, the Minos subwoofer at $5495, and the Brilon monitor at $2695. Perhaps the most exciting of these for those of you eager to obtain true high end performance on a budget is the Yara, a delightfully open and spacious speaker in a very cosmetically-appealing package. It brings that Audio Physic performance down to a price range that many more people can afford. When listening to the Yara, you know for sure that you're listening to an Audio Physic speaker. The Minos is the best and most versatile subwoofer this company has ever produced and has a deep and powerful response that complements any of their speakers. Many controls and adjustments are provided for seamless integration with the main speakers. The Brilon monitor provides all of that fabulous Audio Physic sound in a compact package for those who have smaller rooms or who don't want a floor standing speaker. This speaker gives superb results either by itself or with one of the company's subwoofers.

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Audio Research

VS55 amp

Audio Research has given us four wonderful audio gems for 2002. The SP16 is a hybrid of the traditional and the new. This $1995 preamp ($2495 with phono) has all the modern conveniences such as remote control, 12 volt triggering, and a processor pass through while it has returned to the roots of ARC's sonics by being the first preamp since the venerable SP6 to use 12AX7 tubes. In fact, the SP16 uses the 12AX7EH by Electro Harmonix, perhaps the best sounding 12AX7 tube ever, according to ARC. The result is a full, yet open and detailed, sound that is reminiscent of the best preamps ARC has ever made. A fitting companion to the SP16 is the $2495 VS55, a 50 watt/channel tube amp that uses 6550EH output tubes, also from Electro Harmonix. This product also has its traditional aspect in that it is an open frame design rather than the totally-enclosed look of the VT-100. The sound is somewhat on the sweet side yet is very airy and has great bass control. It is also capable of driving very complex and difficult speakers with aplomb. For the first time in a very long while you can now get an ARC amp and preamp combination for under $5000. ARC has also just announced the release of a big brother to the VS55 called the VS100. The two amps are very similar in sound, but the VS100 has a heftier 100 watts/channel that should be able to drive almost anyone's speakers. There is also a brand new CD player, the CD3 at $4995. ARC and many other high end manufacturers are quite convinced that it's impossible to get the best sound out of your CD collection by using anything but a pure CD transport. So SACD and DVD audio transports were out of the question for this statement player. It uses the best CD transport on the market, the Phillips CDM Pro 2. By coupling this with 24 bit/192 KHz processing, ARC has achieved extremely high transparency, unbelievably potent bass, and a very relaxed, flowing presentation. If you have a good CD collection and want to hear all that music at its best, this could be the player you need

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Balanced Audio Technology

VK-300X integrated ampWe all know that BAT manufactures some of the finest amps, preamps, and CD players in the world, but we've always wished they'd make an integrated amp. Well, now they do. In fact, they've just released three new models, the VK-300X solid state ($3995), the VK-300X tube ($4495), and the VK-300X Signature Edition ($4995). All three models use the same 150 watt/channel power amp section, a bipolar transistor design based directly on BAT's fabulous VK-6200 amp. This amplifier section is a zero feedback design of extremely low distortion. In fact, BAT claims that this is the lowest distortion, zero feedback amp on the market. The solid state version uses, of course, a solid state preamp section while the tube version uses Sovtech 6922 tubes as the active circuit elements. The Signature Edition (SE) version uses the 6H30 supertube in its preamp section. In addition, this version has further refinements such as oil filled capacitors and upgraded power supply and other components. All three models can be purchased with remote control and/or phono circuitry for an extra $500 per option. We first heard the VK-300X SE at the 2002 Consumer Electronics Show driving the System Audio SA-2K speakers (see above). The sound, as described in the System Audio section was absolutely magnificent, and this was due, in no small part, to the sound of the VK-300X SE. These new integrated amps are so delightful because they not only produce a superb level of sonic performance for a modest price, but they also are compact and won't overwhelm your room with massive hardware. We wish BAT had released amps like this years ago, but these are certainly worth the wait.

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Bryston

SP-1.7 processorBryston has announced a new version of their excellent SP-1 home theater processor. The most significant change for the new model, called the SP-1.7, is the addition of 8 channel processing capability so it can support formats like 6.1 and 7.1. In addition to Dolby Digital, this unit also supports Pro Logic II, DTS ES, and THX Surround EX and has 24 bit, 96 KHz processing. Recall that one of the most important sonic features of both the old and new models is the inclusion of an analog preamp mode so that non-digital sources can be played without being converted into a digital signal. At the touch of a button, all Bryston processors can be switched to this mode and then will provide the same kind of analog purity you would expect from one of their two channel preamps. The new SP-1.7 sells for $4295.

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Enlightened Audio Designs

TheaterMaster 8000EAD has revamped their entire line of processors, multi-channel amps, and DVD players. The TheaterMaster processors have been renamed and modified with refinements to their performance. The three models are now called the TheaterMaster 6000, 8000, and 8000 Pro and cost $3900, $4900, and $5900, respectively. The 6000 is a 5.1 model while both the 8000 and 8000 Pro have 7.1 capability. In addition to other improvements such as a new software operating system and upgraded, multi-channel, analog pass through cable, all TheaterMasters now have front panel push buttons for basic controls such as volume and source selection. Therefore, one no longer needs to rely totally on the remote control for all operating functions. Cosmetics have also been enhanced with a new logo displayed on EAD's faceted, "V" cut finished faceplate. For more information on the TheaterMaster's advanced design features, see our last newsletter. There are two new amps, the PowerMaster 6200 ($4900) and PowerMaster 8300 ($6900). The 6200 has 6 channels of 200 watts each while the 8300 is an 8 channel model with 300 watts per channel. Both products feature EAD's renowned Acculinear circuitry, ensuring linear operation under even the most demanding conditions. The result is extraordinarily natural, sweet sound. Furthermore, both models include an on-board diagnostic computer which monitors all major parameters, including voltage load, temperature consistency, short-circuits and current conditions. This means that these amps will always function within spec and deliver stunning musicality under all loads. And, of course, they also sport that same, gorgeous, "V" cut faceplate. DVDMaster 8000Their newest DVD player, the DVD Master is available in two versions, the DVDMaster 8000 at $4500 and DVDMaster 8000 Pro at $5900. While there are far too many advanced features to describe all of them here, the list includes the following: (1) eight balanced and eight single-ended analog audio outputs covering all channels with adjustable volume that allows for direct connection to a multi-channel amplifier, (2) stereo and multi-channel analog audio outputs that use multi-level delta-sigma architecture Burr-Brown 192kHz 24-bit DACs for the highest possible resolution, (3) multi-mode bass management for Dolby Digital, DVD-Audio, DTS and stereo PCM material, (4) video off switch for improved audio-only playback, (5) progressive scan for seamless images from the High quality, Genesis 480p video processing, (6) direct digital connection to the MPEG2 decoder circuitry which eliminates the noisy analog interface used with most line doublers, (7) MPEG2 Digital Video Decoder with powerful error correction that assures smooth, uninterrupted play, (8) premium-quality switched-resistive array analog volume control which assures low distortion and a wide range of control, (9) twin subwoofer outputs for flexibility, (10) 12-volt trigger for controlling a power amp and/or video screen, (11) ergonomic multi-function IR remote control with joystick that allows easy control of all video player and audio/video enhancement functions, (12) headphone jack with dedicated front panel volume control that includes Virtual Surround Sound for multi-channel enhancement, and (13) multi-format capability that supports CD, DAD, VCD, DVD-V, DVD-A, DVD-RAM (12cm and 8cm), MP3, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, and some DVD-R. WHEW! In addition to that massive list, the 8000 Pro also utilizes the world's most advanced video processing technology, EAD's proprietary Alpha Digital Advanced Graphic and Imaging Onboard system (ADAGIO) for the highest resolution output of any DVD player available. As a result, the video performance of this implementation is absolutely superb, with outstanding video clarity and resolution. Did you think we've been kidding when we told you that EAD has always been, and intends to continue to be, the world's leading designer of high end A-V systems?

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Graham

One of the things which really caught our attention at the CES show this January was the presence of many new analog playback products such as new turntables, tonearms, and cartridges. They were all over the place. One of the nicest looking was a new, budget-priced tonearm from Graham called the Robin slated to sell for $795. We don't yet know a lot about this arm other than that it uses conventional bearings rather than the unipivot of the more expensive models and that the fit and finish looked excellent. It will be a pleasure to have an arm of this caliber to offer our customers at such an affordable price.

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JM Lab

Electra 936Last issue we told you all about the new Cobalt line and how JM Lab had employed some of the most advanced technology from the Utopia line to make serious improvements in the sound of these speakers. The problem was that the Cobalt line had improved so significantly that it rivaled and, in some ways, surpassed the performance of the more expensive Electra models. That problem has now been solved by the release of an entirely new and dramatically improved Electra series. The lineup contains a pair of monitors, the Electra 906, at $1995 per pair as well as three models of towers, the 926, 936, and 946, ranging in price from $3995 to $7500 per pair. There are, of course, also a subwoofer, surrounds, and a choice of two different center channels to round out a really first rate home theater system. We are not talking about subtle improvements over the old Electra series. These speakers are clearer, less boxy, image better, and are much more integrated over their entire frequency range. In fact, the new Electras even give the Utopia models a run for their money. Isn't it a shame how products from the best high end manufacturers just keep getting better and better?

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Lehmann

The great little Black Cube phono section is now available with a high performance power supply that significantly improves performance. All of our customers who have made the upgrade have been very pleased with the change. Those already owning a Black Cube can purchase the new power supply for $279, and new buyers can have the complete package for $875. The Cube is still available with the standard supply for $595. There is also a new model, the Silver Cube, which is a very high end phono stage selling for $2195. This is Lehmann's state-of the-art solution for phono playback.

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Magnum Dynalab

MD-90 tunerWell, it had to happen sooner or later. The venerable FT-101A, so long a reference standard for FM tuner reproduction, had to be discontinued eventually. But not to fear. Magnum Dynalab has now released a very worthy successor, the MD-90. Benefiting from the very high end technologies develop for their reference models, the MD-90 offers a significant improvement over its predecessor. And the best news is that the price only had to go up slightly. The MD-90, at $995, unquestionably offers the best available FM performance under $1000.

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NAD

T571 DVD/CD changerNAD has good news on both the stereo and home theater fronts. They've released upgraded versions of their two popular CD players, the C521i at $299 and the C541i at $499. Both offer an improved transport for reduced jitter and better readability of CD-R and CD-RW disks and an improved remote control. The C521i uses 20 bit Burr-Brown D/A converters while the C541i attains the best possible performance by using 24 bit Burr-Brown chips. The C541i also has some other extra features such as HDCD capability and more sophisticated home automation features. The home theater offerings consist of two new DVD players, the T531 at $499 and the T571 at $799. The T531 provides great pictures and sound for your favorite DVD movies and very respectable sound for CD playback. DVD video, CR-R, CD-RW, and MP3 formats are supported. The T571 is a DVD and CD changer that can hold up to 5 disks. Any mix of 5 CD and DVD disks can be used. When CDs are used alone, true random play can be achieved across all disks. DVD video, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, and MP3 formats are also supported in the T571, and superior sonic quality is obtained with the HDCD decoders and 24 bit, 96 KHz processing. Particular care has also been given to the analog circuitry that follows the digital processors. Exacting attention has also been paid to video playback quality with the use of four 10 bit, 54 KHz video DACs. In addition, the T571 has a built-in line doubler so it can output a progressive scan 480P signal to any progressive scan television. The T571 is, thus, ideally suited for DVD playback to obtain superb picture and sound reproduction from your movies or as a CD changer for continuous music playback.

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Richard Gray's Power Company

1200S Power PositionerEven the best power conditioners on the market do not address the problems caused by line resistance between your components and the utility company's main step down transformers. Even having a dedicated AC line for your audio system installed, at a cost of hundreds of dollars, can't do that. The Richard Gray's Power Positioner uses proprietary technology to reduce the effects of line resistance and interference introduced by the AC wiring between your system and the utility company's transformer, effectively reducing the distance between your system and that utility transformer. It also acts as a massive energy storage device and supplies power to your components during that part of the AC cycle when power is not available from the wall outlet. This enables your equipment to operate at maximum performance, much more as the designer envisioned it. RGPC has released two models since we last wrote about this company, the 600S at $1200 and the 1200S at $2000. The 1200S has twice the energy storage of the original model, the 400S. It also has 12 AC outlets, three times the number of the 400S, and comes as a beautifully finished component with a handsome faceplate. This is a nice improvement over the rather basic appearance of the 400S. The 600S has the same storage capabilities as the 400S but has 8 outlets and the cosmetics of the 1200S. Both have a 20 amp capacity. Any RGPC model will make a significant improvement in the sound of your system.

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Rogue Audio

We had a nice surprise when we visited the Rogue room at the CES show in January. We heard their new phono preamplifier, the Stealth, which was driving the Magnum versions of their 99 preamp and M120 mono block amps into a pair of Audio Physic Virgo III speakers. The sound of LPs through this system was very smooth, detailed, and musical (as you'd expect from these components), and we were pleased to learn that this new phono stage has a price tag of only $795. What we didn't expect was that this strictly vacuum tube company would design a solid state phono preamp. They explained that they wanted a great sounding unit which would also be both affordable and low in noise, so solid state was the way to go. Judging by the sound we heard, they've achieved their goal, and it's a pleasure to have a new, reasonably-priced phono preamp to offer to our customers.

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Rotel

RSX-1065 receiverRotel has also released new products in both the stereo and home theater genres. Their newest CD player, the RCD-1070 at $700, replaces the previous model, the RCD-971 and offers improved sonic performance and the updated 1000 series cosmetics that make the newest Rotel products so attractive. Many sonic refinements, including HDCD capability, have contributed to the improved sound. There is also a new stereo receiver, the RX-1050 at $800, which offers better sound than its predecessor as well as the new cosmetics. A number of advanced home automation features have also been added to improve remote control capabilities in multi-room systems. There are two new home theater products, the RSX1065 receiver at $2000 and the RSP-1066 preamp/processor at $1500. The RSX-1065 is Rotel's best home theater receiver ever and is meant to challenge any home theater receiver on the market at any price. It's a powerful 100 watts in every channel, supports all of the latest multi-channel formats such as Dolby 7.1 and Pro Logic II, and is, as is the case with all Rotel products, engineered with great sound as the foremost design criterion. The RSP-1066 is a major overhaul of their previous processors and, like the RSX-1065, supports all of the latest surround formats. It uses some of the most advanced digital circuitry that Rotel could possibly squeeze in for its modest price, circuitry which is, in fact, used in some much more expensive processors. We predict that this processor is going to be the leader in performance in the under $2000 category for the foreseeable future.

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Runco

VX-100C projectorThe leader in high end video systems has recently released a number of new DLP and plasma models. This newest generation of video displays provides startlingly clear pictures with vibrant colors and excellent contrast ratios, all resulting from the advanced technologies Runco has developed and employed. The DR-300 and DR-300C models at $9995 and $12,995 share the exact same projector but the DR-300C comes with the PFP controller for additional flexibility and improved picture quality. Both models have a native resolution of 1024 by 768, are fully DTV compatible and can display all HDTV formats including 720P and 1080I. Also, both have a brightness of 1000 ANSI lumens and electronic keystone correction, and support multiple aspect ratios such as 4:3, letterbox (16:9), and anamorphic with an optional lens. The Pixel For Pixel (PFP) controller which comes with the DR-300C provides superb video processing with the all important 3:2 Pulldown detection circuitry. This greatly reduces digital video artifacts that sometimes occur when complex motion is present in the picture. Full aspect ratio control is also provided by the PFP controller. There is also a higher end DLP projector called the VX-1000C at $16,995. This projector creates its display with a native 16:9 solid state device designed specifically for 16:9 screens. It has a brightness of 1500 ANSI lumens and an excellent contrast ratio of 1000 to 1. The projector features a 16:9 DMD (Digital Micromirror Device) that allows the image to fit perfectly on 16:9 screens, and its 1280 x 720 native resolution allows the projector to display 720p HDTV images in their native form. All HDTV formats are supported. It is packaged with Runco's award-winning PFP Controller which scales all signals perfectly to the native resolution of the display while providing full aspect ratio for 16:9 screens. For added flexibility, the projector includes vertical lens shift and electronic keystone correction as well as an expanded optical zoom range. In the plasma area, Runco is releasing a lower cost model called the Cinema Wall CX-42. This is a 42 inch display of 800 by 600 resolution that will sell for $9995. While the CX-42 does not have a controller like that of the PL-42C, PL-50C, and PL-60C, design advances have allowed some of that controller technology to be incorporated right into the plasma itself. So, while its overall performance won't be quite that of a PL-42C, the CX-42 will provide excellent results for $6000 less than the PL-42C.

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VPI

Aries Scout & JMW-9We were delighted to learn that our friends at VPI have come up with some delightful new offerings for those of you who want a really fine turntable system without spending a fortune. There is now a scaled down version of the widely-acclaimed Aries turntable called the Aries Scout. This unit retains many of the high performance features of its big brother such as the high quality main bearing assembly and a standalone motor which completely isolates the platter and tonearm from motor vibrations. The main plinth is a slab of 1 1/8 MDF bonded to a steel plate. These two materials create a self-damping composite with the glue acting as the constrained layer. The platter is a solid acrylic disk with excellent immunity to parasitic vibrations. And the black satin finish is very attractive. The second new product is the JMW-9 tonearm, a slightly shorter version of the original model. This arm, like all of the JMW models, is a unipivot and shares the advantages of that bearing design. Some simplifications have been necessary, as compared to the original models, to keep the price down. So, for example, the JMW-9 uses a post and socket arrangement for VTA adjustment, rather than the micrometer adjustment of its bigger brothers. Both the Aries Scout and the JMW-9 sell for $800 as separate pieces or can be purchased as a package for $1500. In this age when everything's getting more and more expensive, this combo offers both a visual and auditory delight for a very fair price.

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Well, that's about it for this issue. Remember to check the IMPORTANT BULLETINS page on our web site regularly for timely updates and important announcements. See you next time.


Audio Nexus, LLC
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