Robert Lee of Acoustic Zen, one the most photogenic men in hi-fi, is shown here with his Crescendo loudspeakers ($16,000/pair) and electronics from Triode Corporation (Tri)TRV-845SE amplifier ($6000), TRX-1 tube preamplifier ($3000), and the TRV-CD4SE tube CD player ($2200). Cables were from Acoustic Zen. I wrote down “gentle top end” in my scratch pad and that’s what I recallthis was an easy-to-like listen.
Albert von Schweikert was showing his factory-direct VR-33 speakers ($3750/pair) with Jolida electronicsJolida JD 1000RC tube integrated amplifier ($2400) and the Jolida JD 100A vacuum-tube CD player ($1000). While I was in the room, we were treated to some real tape played by a United Home Audio UHA HQ open-reel deck (starting at $7998) and from my experience it’s really hard to make a decent tape sound bad. Interconnects and speaker cables were Master-Built Purple Line ($500/pair for the interconnects and $800/pair for the speaker cable).
With a system price of $8450 (not counting the tape deck), von Schweikert was calling his system “T.H.E. Show’s Best Value System,” at least on their literature, and I have no idea if that was the case or not (and I kinda doubt that anyone can know that kinda thing for sure). But I completely understand the impulse.
Yes, that ESS of Heil Air-Motion Transformer fame from the 1970s. On active display was a pair of the über-cool looking (especially nude) AMT Limited Edition loudspeakers ($5495/pair and pictured nearest to the side walls) which use the Heil Air-Motion Transformer for midrange and tweeter duties, while a 12" front-facing woofer and rear-firing passive radiator take care of the rest. The AMT Limited Editions were powered by a pair of CI Audio D-200 MkII monoblocks ($3500/pair), with a CI Audio PLC-1 MkII passive line controller ($900), CI Audio VDA-2 24-bit DAC ($599), and Sony NS3100ES SACD player following upstream. No one really wanted to talk abut cables here either.
The Channel Islands Audio room featured two brand spankin' new products; the Soul Sister loudspeakers ($5000/pair with an optional up-charge of $1000 for custom veneer) which reach down to 27Hz and have a 90dB sensitivity according to Dusty Vawter of CI Audio. They should be available within two months. The other new product is so new it showed up in prototype plain clothesthe upcoming Asynchronous USB DAC ($1500 projected price), which should be available in the near future and feature 3 coax inputs, 3 Toslink inputs, and a USB input and will handle resolutions up to 32 bits and sampling rates as high as 384kHz. All electronics were. . .
Antelope Audio is relatively new to the consumer audio market but relatively old to the pro audio market. Their first consumer product, the Zodiac line of DACs, is available in three levelsSilver ($1899), Black ($2899) and Gold ($4500). In use at T.H.E. Show was the Zodiac Gold with the optional Voltikus Analog Power Supply ($1000). Antelope Audio made their mark in the pro world with their jitter-free clocking products and they’ve brought this experience to the Zodiac line. The Gold features include a custom USB chip that streams audio up to 384kHz and the Antelope Oven Clock “for supreme stability.” Connections include: 2x headphone outputs on ¼" TRS, trimmable balanced analog outputs on XLR, unbalanced analog outputs on RCA, balanced analog Inputs on ¼" TRS, unbalanced analog Inputs on RCA, AES/EBU digital input, 2x S/PDIF coaxial Inputs, 2x optical Toslink inputs, USB on standard B type connector, Word Clock Input on BNC, de-jittered AES/EBU output, and de-jittered 2x S/PDIF outputs. Associated equipment in the room included. . .
PBN Audio is the brainchild of Peter Bichel Noerbaek and its line of equipment runs end-to-end. On exhibit were the Liberty Innerchoic Loudspeakers ($15,000/pair) that use 48 layers of MDF in an “eggcrate” construction on the interior walls to “absorb unwanted reflective sound waves”, the Olympia EB-SA1 ($15,000/each), named in honor of Erno Borbely, can be run as a stereo amp or monoblocks with the flip of a switch, the Olympia PX Phono stage ($20,000), Olympia LX line stage ($20,000) and the Groovemaster turntable ($10,000) sporting a 12" SME tonearm. Speaker cable and interconnects were the XLO Signature 3 and a 75ohm BNC cable was used between the line-stage and amplifier.
While there was no room treatment in sight and the Liberty Innerchoic loudspeakers were not exactly bass shy, there were no room issues that plagued some other exhibitors. My notes on the sound read"groovy."
Next up was Peter Bichel Noerbaek’s kit loudspeaker, the Pennywise, which costs $1250/pair for the parts (drivers and crossovers) and $3000/pair for the finished cabinets (with piano gloss finish). Unless you have some serious woodworking chops, you’d be pound foolish to take on this cabinet as a DIY weekend warrior project. Associated electronics included the Olympia AX amplifiers ($8500/each) run here as monoblocks but you can also flip a switch for stereo operation, the PS Audio PerfectWave Transport and DAC ($2999.99 each), and XLO Signature 3 cables.
I have to admit I’ve been intrigued by the Haniwa rooms I’ve heard and the company's room at T.H.E. Show Newport Beach was no exception. And I think what I find so interesting is their quirkiness. (I mean that in the best possible way.) The tiny Compact 2-Way Horn Speakers HSP2B06 sounded fast, light and all-over micro-detailfaster than a speeding bullet. The music choice was equally micro-detailed and faster than a speeding bullet (not to mention quirky), a marriage made out of a kind of obsession. Or at least I’d like to think so.
Personality is all over hi-fi. And while I’d hope that each designer designs what he considers his or her best, the best just doesn’t exist. And it doesn’t exist because we, the people, like different aspects of musical reproduction. The means are different because the ends are, too. Which helps explain why there’s so much wonderful gear out there and so many people interested in hearing and buying it.
While I didn’t get any official numbers for the first day’s attendance at T.H.E. Show, I can say it was very crowded especially, for a Friday afternoon. (I purposely tried to photograph gear not people so don’t let that fool you.) Based on what I saw Friday, I'd say this show is already a great success.
Do you see that picture of Zu Audio’s Sean Casey? See him smiling? I took a whole bunch of pictures in the Zu room and I’ll be damned if Sean isn’t smiling in every one. Part of the reason he’s smiling, I’m guessing, is because he’s enjoying himself and the music he’s spinning on those tricked out Technics turntables (Rega RB700 tonearms “with nuts” and Zu Denon 301 cartridges). In the brief time I was there we heard Beck, The Silver Jews, and Steve Earle on the Zu Soul Superfly loudspeakers ($3000/pair), with the Audion Silver Knight integrated amp and a Rane pre/mixer. You can't see it in the picture but I was smiling too.
One other way to get more people interested in this wonderful hobby of ours is to have fun listening to great music and to show it.
The complete system from German manufacturer Lindemann was news to me. Comprised of the 825 High Definition Disc Player ($9900), 830S Stereo Control Amplifier ($9900), 855 Dual-mono Power Amplifier ($13,900) and the BL-10 (Dixie!) loudspeakers ($11,000/pair) this system was graceful and very easy to like. Sounds like more.
The self-powered (three 130W amplifiers) Phoenix loudspeakers ($5400/pair) from Precision Transducer Engineering (PTE) aren’t for sissies. Especially when they’re used in conjunction with a powered subwoofer strapped to a 400W class-A/B amp of its own. In a tiny hotel room. New electronics from Townshend Audio were also in use, including the Glastonbury Pre 1 preamplifier ($13,000) and the Glastonbury CD Universal Player ($16,000). Vinyl was handled by a SpJ La Luce Turntable. I was actually enjoying my time in the PTE room until someone decided to see how far they could flex the walls and ceiling with soundwaves.
PTE also makes a larger loudspeaker, The Statement ($44,000/pair), which they were going to play later in the day but I didn’t make it back in time. Okay, I admit itI didn't go back because I was afraid.
The GamuT room was chock-full of gear from GamuT, LA Audio, and Triangle Art Turntables. In use was the GamuT M250 monoblocks ($20,995/pair), GamuT D31 preamp ($7500), GamuT CD3 ($6500), the M’inenT M7 loudspeakers ($17,000/pair), and the Triangle Art Reference Turntable ($20,995). While the sound from this system was intriguing in a visceral way, there was too much speaker and power for this poor little battered hotel room to handle. Even though the speakers were angled way in to avoid room boundary reinforcement, there was still some sonic boom.
I heard a number of exhibitors complaining about the bass issues caused by these rooms, oddly not so much from the subwoofer guys, so it's worth repeating that old show report caveatwe’re only talking about a very brief listen to unfamiliar components in unfamiliar systems in typically lousy rooms at times involving typically lousy music (albeit well-recorded), so I try to keep personal commentary on sound quality to a minimum.
To suggest that Vincent Audio pushes the boundaries of taste in some of its ads is, I think, not overstating the obvious, and using women as props to sell hi-fi gear is probably not the best way to get more women interested in the hobby if that’s what you’re interested in doing. But hey, I’m all for enthusiasm and it takes all forms.
The hybrid tube/solid-state Vincent SP-T800 200W monoblock amplifiers ($2499.95/pair) were on display along with the Vincent SA-T8 preamp (2349.95), the PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC ($2999.99), a Thorens TD 2030 turntable ($3699) and the very refined “The Kiss” speakers ($15,000/pair w/stands) from Vienna Acoustic’s Klimt Series. The lovely and from what I’ve heard talented Jessi Monroe was also in the Vincent Audio room signing autographs. You may recall Jesse from Stephen Mejias’ Axpona Atlanta coverage.
Hsu Research was showing off its reasonably priced HB-1 Mk2 Horn Bookshelf Speaker ($149/pair in black, $179/pair in real wood veneer) and the oh-so-subwoofery VTF-15H subwoofer ($879). One thing I’ve noticed about most subwoofer demos isvolume (that really should be in all caps but I don’t want to shout). Lots of volume. While this isn’t necessarily a criticism, I felt an overwhelming sense of calm in Hsu’s silent static-display room next door.
A new-to-me line of battery-powered electronics from Veloce Audio from Ambler, PA, coupled to the YG Acoustics Carmel speakers ($18,000/pair) made some convincingly lovely music from vinyl and digital. The Veloce gear included the Platino SeriesLS1 linestage ($15,000), LP-1 Phono Module, which gets its power from the LS-1 but a stand-alone version is in the works, and the 120W into 8 ohms, class-D Platino V6 monoblock amplifier (projected price $14,000/pair). If the idea of batteries runs you down, the LS1 linestage can run for a claimed 100 hours on a charge and the V6 for 40 hours. Front end duties were handled by an Amazon 1 turntable and the PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport ($2999.99) and DAC ($2999.99). I’d have rounded the prices one way or another if I was PS Audio but I’m not.