Shopping Tips for a New Reality

Shopping Tips for a New Reality – perspective from our shop floor

Written by Geoff Woods, a consultant and programmer here for over 20 years.

 

I’ve just got used to writing “2021” and we’re already talking about Christmas shopping.  Well. . . Okay, to be fair, my wife is already doing her Christmas shopping.  Like most guys I know, I was probably going to procrastinate until December 17th at least, like every year.  But this year it looks like that strategy would be a mistake.

Disruption

You don’t exactly have to have your ear to the ground to know that supply chains have been disrupted lately.  Every industry from automobiles to snack foods has been affected.  Items that used to come in 7-10 days are now 10 weeks out if we’re lucky, and some items literally have “no ETA.”

We don’t need to hash out the 107 converging causal factors that have contributed to this.  Suffice it to say that no one person, policy, germ, or weather phenomena is solely responsible.  Even if we could point the funky finger of blame in one direction, assigning fault won’t solve anything in the here and now.  So really, it doesn’t matter whose fault it is, it’s still everybody’s problem.

So how much is K&W affected?  More importantly, what can we do to help K&W’s valued customer mitigate how you are affected by this unfolding disaster?

Here’s some good news and some straight-up, unvarnished bad news.

First the good news:

  • We live in Canada!  Aside from having a lot more freedom than what is being experienced in many other places, one of the best things about Canada is we manufacture some of THE BEST speakers in the whole world.  I’m not making this up.  Canadian loudspeakers are like Italian sports cars.  We are world renowned for the quality and value of our speakers.  As well, because we don’t have to cross borders and pay duties and tariffs on them, we get them for the best prices.  K&W is proud to represent the best selection of Canadian speaker brands available ANYWHERE.  As a bonus, lead times on most of these products are not nearly as terrible as items coming across the ocean.  So if somebody has speakers on their Christmas list, they’re in luck.
  • We saw this coming!  It hasn’t been easy, but we’ve been working double time to buy more stock, earlier than we ever have going into the Christmas season.  Obviously there are still shortfalls and will continue to be.  But we’ve managed to get ahead of this crunch on quite a few high demand items and, provided you don’t procrastinate too long (like me), we can probably get your wish list fulfilled, but I do recommend you DON’T put it off too long.
  • Music is COOL.  I highly recommend you turn off the news and listen to music more often.  It WILL make you a happier person, I promise.  And fortunately there aren’t as many shortages on classic stereo gear as there is on A/V receivers and other items that require digital chips.  Dust off your old vinyl and dig out your CD collection, we can get you fixed up with a great playback system in time for the holidays.

Now for the bad news:

  • Prices are going up.  Many already have, but the trend is not stopping.  With skyrocketing shipping costs and labour shortages galore, hardly a day goes by without us receiving a new price list from a supplier and none of the numbers on those lists are getting smaller, except maybe in the column showing quantity available.  It’s a hard reality, but it is reality.  If you know what you want, don’t wait, cuz chances are it will NOT be cheaper later.
  • Some key items simply aren’t available.  Digital music streamers and entry level Surround Sound receivers have suffered the hardest impact, and while stock is trickling in, demand has also been higher than anyone expected.  We are taking deposits for back orders on these items and are running on a first come, first served basis. But we aren’t the ones off-loading the ships or driving the trucks, so we just are not able to make promises.
  • Our installers are BUSY! This is good news for us, but for those who are waiting to get a system installed, it means you need to plan a bit further ahead and exercise a bit more patience.  Because of the unpredictability of supply chains, we simply can NOT book an install until we have ALL the system components IN STOCK.  By the time all those items are in stock, the waiting list can be weeks out. So the window of time for getting a complete system and getting it installed by Christmas is already very quickly closing.  Alternatively, maybe think about that one extra special upgrade component to take an existing system to the next level—a simple install like that is much more likely to get shoe-horned into the schedule.

Finally, one last thought regarding this year’s holiday shopping: 

We really do appreciate your loyalty and patronage.  For 43 years, we have striven to be your chosen Hi-Fi and Home Theatre destination shop in Calgary, and hope to keep it going for decades more to come.  What often makes the difference between a mediocre sound system and a great one is expertise in selection and a personal touch… neither of which is an Amazon hallmark.

There.  I said it.  With hundreds of ships carrying thousands of containers filled with millions of products languishing off shore waiting for ports to catch up, you can’t be completely sure that the item you order on line will get here in time.  Even if it does, it might not actually be exactly the right item for YOU too.

So please come and talk to one of our system designers.  We have over a century of combined experience in this field, and since we work at a bricks and mortar (literally) store front in your neighborhood, you always know where to find us.  As a result, we have an ongoing, vested interest in making sure you are happy with your purchase.

Thanks to you for your ongoing support of our local business. I invite personally you to come down and meet a fellow Calgarian, maybe go home with something cool that day. Or at the very least, be assured that you’ll get straight answers about what you need, and when you can have it.

Looking forward to seeing you soon!

 

 

Announcing the McIntosh MX123 A/V Processor

Uncompromising McIntosh sound quality with the latest home theater technologies.

McIntosh is proud to announce the new MX123 A/V Processor.

The new McIntosh MX123 A/V Processor marries a long tradition of uncompromising McIntosh sound quality with the latest home theater technologies to produce an unsurpassed luxury home entertainment experience. It is compatible with all the leading home theater surround sound and object-based 3D audio formats including Dolby® Atmos, DTS:X™ and Auro-3D®. It’s also fully compatible with modern 4K Ultra HD video sources and can upscale lower resolutions to 4K Ultra HD for the best possible picture quality.

The MX123 features upgraded digital audio processing capabilities that results in 2 more discrete audio channels, bringing the MX123 to 13.2 discrete audio channels. These 13.2 discrete channels are available via both balanced and unbalanced audio outputs that can be used in a variety of home theater speaker configurations; 2 additional unbalanced outputs offer further connection flexibility. DSD and ALAC playback support have been doubled to DSD128 and ALAC 192kHz for better high-resolution audio performance.

For video, the MX123 has 7 HDMI inputs and 3 HDMI outputs. All HDMI inputs and outputs are the latest HDCP 2.3 standard, making the MX123 compliant and compatible with digital content protection specifications for well into the future. They all also have 18Gbps of bandwidth to support High Dynamic Range (HDR) formats Dolby Vision™, HDR10 and HLG; 4K Ultra HD at 50/60Hz; 4:4:4 color spacing; Rec. 2020; and 3D video pass-through. Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC) functionality is included on 1 of the HDMI outputs. eARC offers improved bandwidth so the MX123 can receive higher resolution audio from a TV to produce the best possible sound quality.

Additional connections include: 4 digital audio inputs; 1 balanced and 8 unbalanced analog stereo audio inputs (including 1 dedicated as a Moving Magnet phono input to connect a turntable); an unbalanced 7.1 multi-channel audio input; 3 component and 4 composite video inputs; 1 USB Type A input; 2 unbalanced analog stereo outputs; and 2 composite and 1 component video outputs.

An exciting new feature on the MX123 is IMAX® Enhanced. IMAX Enhanced is a set of stringent performance standards established by IMAX and DTS® to create a consistent and higher bar for image and sound performance on premium devices. It utilizes a sophisticated, advanced algorithm designed to produce the highest-quality, sharpest 4K HDR images. IMAX and DTS will also partner with award-winning Hollywood sound mixers to use a special variant of the DTS:X codec technology included in the MX123 to deliver an IMAX signature sound experience at home.

Streaming options on the MX123  include Apple® AirPlay 2® along with Bluetooth® and Spotify Connect for easy streaming from mobile devices. AirPlay 2 is an Apple technology designed to control home audio systems and speakers in any room – with a tap or by just asking Siri – right from an iPhone®, iPad®, HomePod™, or Apple TV®. It offers multiroom audio, Siri voice control, and enhanced playback. TuneIn is also included for further music streaming options. To assist with streaming performance and reliability, wireless connectivity has been improved to include 2.4/5GHz dual band support.

Audyssey MultEQ® XT32 is included and will calibrate the MX123 to a home theater’s unique acoustical properties, letting it deliver the clearest and most balanced earth-shattering sound possible. Each discrete audio channel has its own 32-bit premium Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) to produce the best audio quality. Bass and treble tone controls plus a 9-band equalizer offer additional fine-tuning. The MX123 also has the flexibility to create 2 additional zones and send select audio and/or video to each zone.

The MX123 can be paired with a variety of home theater amplifiers and speakers to create a killer cinema experience in the comfort of one’s home. Front panel buttons or a comprehensive remote control allow for easy system operation, and it’s fully compatible with Control4. Complete with McIntosh design fundamentals of a backlit black glass front panel with an illuminated logo, control knobs, an easy to read display, and aluminum end caps, the future of premium Home Theater has arrived.

See us today to order yours!

Not Your Typical Review

One person at a time.  That’s what Buddhists refer to as the best approach for spreading harmony and setting people on the right path.  The same approach should be taken when spreading the word of higher end audio, one person at a time.

Good music provides enjoyment.  Great sounding music stimulates the imagination.  That’s what this stereo review is about; a test to measure the enjoyment and imagination created when listening to great sounding music.  I was the control subject with decades of listening to higher end stereos and a large library of music.  The test subject would never have listened to higher end stereos and would have a limited exposure to the variety and volume of music available.

Based upon the requirements I decided to convert my neighbor, Big T, into an audiophile.  His sources of music were a decades old RCA boombox and an antiquated truck stereo with the doors wide open.  He and his wife would crank out light rock and country music while working in the garage and around the yard.  Knowing that he liked music made him a suitable candidate.  Knowing that he liked beer made him even more suitable.

The journey began about a month after my hip operation, the time I was coming out of the pain killing fog; I decided to upgrade my stereo.  Off I went to see my audio cognoscenti, Darren at K&W Audio.  Darren and I go back a long way, and he goes back even further in the rich history of the audio business.  For 40+ years I’ve been buying great sounding audio gear from him.  I had an idea of what I wanted, and it didn’t take him long to send me home with the following:

  • Prima Luna – Dialog Premium HP Integrated Tube Amplifier
  • Totem – Forest Signature Speakers complete with bi-wire cable.
  • Blue Sound – Vault 2 (Network Hard Drive, Hi-Res CD Ripper, and Music Streamer)

In a period of a year, with the new stereo in hand, I converted Big T into an audiophile and fostered a relationship where conversation, story telling, and music, would be worthy of a radio show.  Sitting around a kitchen table having a beer is one thing, throw in a high-end stereo and life takes on a new flavor.

After the initial break in period, of both my new stereo and my neighbor, I turned things up, both in volume and variety.  Big T became enthralled with all the new music he was introduced to.  There were many evenings full of cheerful, story creating banter with the stereo playing in the background, as well as very frequent interludes of the Prima Luna and Totems cranked to sheer performance with music such as Cowboy Junkies “I Don’t Want to be a Soldier” and Prince “Sign ‘O’ the Times”.

I became more engaged the more I listened.  Buyer’s remorse had long since dissipated and even the cost of the custom, magnificently built, bi-wire Totem speaker cables became worth every penny.

I would never have guessed, but one-night, Big T became mesmerized with Miles Davis’s “Amandla”.   He excused himself from the kitchen table, sat in front of the stereo and asked me to turn it up. Without hesitation, from my iPhone to the Blue Sound, I turned up the Prima Luna like a narcissistic junkie.  I sat at the kitchen table, watching him catch every note pouring out of the speakers.  I knew that the first stage of his conversion was complete; he had entered the jazz zone.  He excitedly talked about the music in the way an audiophile would.  As he described clarity, presence, depth, dynamics, detail, sound stage, imaging, although not in those exact terms, I thought of calling Darren and asking for a finder’s fee on the upcoming sale.

It was like Homer’s Sirens luring in a wayward sailor.  From Miles I took him further into deeper unknown territory.

The relationship almost fell apart after I played Lara St. John’s “Bach: The Concerto Album”.    He found out I had tickets to her concert, and I was taking my son, not him.  His attitude changed once I played him some Buddha Lounge and “Dona Cre Tun”.  I tamed the wild beast.

Each evening I played something new for him.  “Jazz at the Pawnshop”, Beethoven cellos, The Cure, Roxy Music, Opus Recordings, Yellow, he breathed it all in and expanded his musical appreciation to new and wonderous heights.  He heard things on familiar recordings that he had never heard before and heard music he never knew existed.  Even I would excuse myself from the kitchen table, sit in front of the speakers, wind up the stereo, drop my analytical and technical mind, and be truly happy that I bought it.

The stereo plays everything well.  From the quintessential BIS recording of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” to Melissa Ethridge’s Live in New York “I Won’t be alone tonight”. The sound never failed us.  Our top ten favorites became a moving target, changing frequently, and eventually hundreds of songs vied for the position.

We learned to talk about death and laugh.  One-night Big T thought that Amy Belle’s “I Don’t Want to Talk About It” would be the song for his funeral.  He laughed and said he wanted it played on a high-end stereo so it would make people cry.  My first choice was Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House”, although he did prefer the version with Tom Jones and the Cardigans.  Often one of us would discover another song we wanted added to our funeral playlists.   We soon realized that the funerals would go on for days.  Which in turn led to another brilliant idea which I will leave aside for now.

The technical details were easily lost on Big T, but that did not matter.  It was the enjoyment that counted.  Even the 1983 Jose Carreras version of Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma” thrilled and inspired him.  He shook his head in disbelief and covered his overwhelmed and palpating heart with his hand.

Big T was a 63-year-old man, and this was his first time in a candy store.  Stashed in my 64-year-old brain were thousands of recordings, none of which he had ever heard.  At some point in the evening I’d suddenly recall a piece of great music and play it.  It was like his first time at bat and I would throw him a 90 mile per hour fast ball.

I started a playlist to begin our evening sessions.  I could play it over and over and each time Big T would be as delighted as the first time he had heard it.  After all, he was still learning, listening, and drinking beer.  The list grew, and so did our crazy ideas.  We would never get tired of “Cool Jerk” by Bootsy Collins.  We thought of opening the “Funk Club” at the empty Canadian Tire store, complete with food trucks.  I thought that every morning, at 10 AM, the entire world should stop, look up to the sky, and listen to Annie Lennox’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale”, just to make the world a more gracious place. The music fed our imaginations.  Occasionally I would ground us and play Joe Walsh’s “A Life of Illusion”, which also made it into our top 10 and funeral lists.

Female vocalists were high on our favorites.  Joan Osborne lured Big T into a parallel universe with songs like “Midnight Train to Georgia”, “Heat Wave”, “Why Can’t We Live Together”.   It took a long time to get him back.  Amy Belle’s “I Don’t want to talk about it” created tears in his cosmos.   I played Bonnie Raitt, Toni Childs, Mini Ripperton, Phoebe Snow, Tracy Chapman, Sinead O’Connor, Beth Orton, everything I could find.  He was destined to become a groupie.  The music seduced him, he envisioned himself as a young, svelte, and handsome gold-digger.  He woke up from his fantasy and admitted that many of the artists have aged far better than him, but his maturity and insight should more than compensate.

At home Big T would go down the rabbit holes of Google and YouTube, finding new music and videos, and researching artists.  At times we would sync a music video with the song on the stereo.  We watched Robert Palmer “Addicted to Love” on the computer while bopping to the music on the party stereo; even the neighbors were dancing on their patios.

It took a few cases of Modelo beer and many evenings of exploring a large repertoire of music, the weaving of tales and laughter that left us breathless, but the conversion of Big T to an audiophile, and perhaps the other neighbors, is now complete.

Over the past year the stereo components worked flawlessly.  The performance of the Prima Luna cannot be overstated.  It is a magnificent piece of electronics in terms of build and functional design, capability, and simplicity.  It’s like a great race motorcycle with torque, power, finesse, and inspiring looks.  I’ve had some great integrated transistor amplifiers over the years, including class A designs, but the Prima Luna tube is by far the best sounding integrated amplifier I have owned.  Are there better?  Sure, just like everything else but, you will pay a significant amount more to achieve that just notable difference.

The Blue Sound Vault 2 provides for tremendous flexibility to manage and play your sources of music.  Record your hi-res CDs onto its disc and stream CD quality music from online providers such as Tidal.  The interface from the computer, iPhone, and tablet worked like a charm.  The Vault has an onboard digital to analog convertor which is exceptional for its price point.  I already owned a Bryston BDA-1 off-board convertor from K&W.  I found that the Bryston was a little warmer and more open.  However, with the configuration of the system I can easily switch between the two convertors and at times I’m hard pressed to tell between the two.

Housed in a beautiful glossy mahogany finish, the slim, floor standing, two way, bi-wired Totem Forest Signatures, driven by the Prima Luna, and fed by CD quality music via quality digital to analog convertors, encourages me to book a trip to the Austrian Concert Halls just so I can see the orchestra play the music.  These speakers are gorgeous with performance to match.  One superlative, outstanding.  They are articulate and musical at any volume level, disperse sound exceptionally well, and do everything that Big T accurately described when he reached the first stage of his conversion.

I sold high-end stereos many years ago and always remember the elderly lady crying in the sound room.  She described her listening experience.  She could see the piano when she closed her eyes, detail the movements of the keys and the foot pedals.  It was, as she said, “as if the piano was right in front of me”.  That was enjoyment.   That’s imagination.  A great stereo stimulates the mind.

We will continue to laugh ourselves breathless over the tales we weave, drink our beer, and live in the now with the Prima Luna, Totems, and an endless source of great music.  An awe-inspiring and exceptionally engaging combination, and a cosmic upgrade for me.

Your Home Simplified

INTRODUCING CONTROL4
 

Your Control4 system just got better. Bring more to your Smart Home experience by updating your Control4 system to OS 3. It has a clean fresh look, great new features and incredible performance.
 

OS 3 boasts more than a thousand enhancements, and the user interface is where many of those changes come alive. Now you can personalize and organize your favorite rooms, devices, and scenes for easier access. Swipe-and-tap for quick navigation, or customize room and screen saver wallpapers to uniquely reflect your home. Combine these and many more features with a new more responsive OS, and you get a dramatically improved experience.
 

Control4 OS 3 has been thoughtfully designed to provide the best experience no matter what control device you’re using too. Whether it’s a remote, touch screen, TV OSD or any mobile device, the way you use OS 3 is simple and more natural.
 

Now, not all items in older Control4 Smart Home Systems are compatible. So, some systems will need to have some products in them updated to make the jump to OS 3. Contact one of our pro’s, or drop by our showroom to have us assess your system, and the improvements OS 3 offers you today.
 

15% OFF Upgrades!
 

Now is the time to get the new items you want to round out your smart home system. When you update your existing Control4 system with any new Control4 products we’ll give you 15% off!
 

Redesigned Web Portal
 

Your Personal Web Portal has a new look and feel. Visit https://customer.control4.com/ today and check out the great new features of OS3, manage your Control4 system features and preferences, and watch videos on how to use the cool new features.

Sonos Architectural Audio

The architectural category is a new arena for Sonos, but it makes sense that when they decided to enter it, they would do it right. They are looking to build on their historically strong Connect and Connect:Amp products – which powered other manufacturers speakers up ’till now, to now offer a truly complete acoustic solution for your home.  Architectural speakers are a growing segment of the market, and to stand out Sonos had to do their homework.

With a shared commitment to superior sound and great design, Sonos and Sonance partnered on a collection of architectural passive speakers optimized for the new Sonos Amp. Sonos Architectural by Sonance includes in-ceiling, in-wall, and outdoor speakers designed to disappear into any space while providing crystal clear sound, even coverage, high-quality performance, and ease of use.   The creation and engineering of speakers for a specific amplifier is a great first step to creating transformative sound experiences for the home and beyond. Add to that the unique Sonos Trueplay™ feature, which allows you to calibrate the listening environment with the speakers and an app on your phone and you have a truly new offering. This Customized Sound calibration accounts for the size, construction, and furnishings of the room where the speakers are placed and automatically adjusts the EQ for the best possible sound.

Showing off the quality of the amp, just one Sonos Amp can power up to three pairs of Sonos Architectural speakers, for greater sound coverage and more immersive listening. The Sonos Amp allows you to stream all your favorite services and music stored on local devices. Control is simple with the Sonos app, AirPlay 2, and voice control with smart devices. If you already have a Sonos product, simply put it’s like building Sonos all-in-one speakers right into the wall or ceiling.

Spring is fast approaching. If you have a multi-room project in the planning stages, drop by today to get your free pre-wire plan and pre-order your new Sonos Architectural speaker system!