In a room dominated by Cessaro Horn Acoustics Chopin loudspeakers ($40,000/pair), whose tweeter reminds me of the donuts I gave up many decades ago, I found the sound on a recording of electric guitar extremely direct and realistically bright. I didn’t get the name of the blues recording that Leslie Mazer was playing on the platter, but the music was great. This wasn’t a room for those who like their sound sugar-coated, but for music lovers who want it served up straight, it was heaven.
I have grown increasingly fond of exhibits that seem like a welcome breath of fresh air. Hence I extend my thanks to Gene Rubin of Gene Rubin Audio and Walter Swanbon of Fidelis AV, whose system provided my first listen to the fine Stein Music Aventurin cartridge ($6495). Listening to the Quartet Italiano play Mozart, I was delighted by the very warm, civilized, and totally enjoyable sound of a system that also included the Palmer 2.5 turntable ($11,990), the Stein Music Harmonizer System, and LFD photo stage ($1895) and NCSE MKII hand-assembled amplifier ($7495), and Harbeth Monitor 30.1 loudspeakers (starting at $5990/pair).
Earo Acoustics of Woodland Hills, CA demmed three different models of their Swedish-made self-powered loudspeakers. Listening to the white, single point source horn floor-standing Ulf ($6900/pair, I believe), a smaller cousin to the red Earo Eight, I loved the realism of the whistling and singing on Livingston Taylor’s “Isn’t She Lovely.” “Sound Fabulous” I wrote in my notes of the sound from speakers driven by Hypex class-D amplification, with more than a little help from a NuForce DAC. Not auditioned were the other two speakers and a DAC that I know to be excellent, because I have one here at home: the Antelope Zodiac Gold.
Touting the bounties of their new high-end headphone library, which allows you to audition products before you commit to purchase, The Cable Company’s Steven Aug, Ethan Wood, and Robert Stein presented the first showing of the Cardas EM5813 Ear Speakers ($425). At the other end of the price spectrum was the West Coast debut of the Abyss Planar headphones ($5495), powered (I think) by the new Cavalli Liquid Gold headphone amplifier ($6450).
You tell me why Steve Rochlin of EnjoytheMusic.com was fielding a cell-phone call during the first of T.H.E. Show’s two Ask The Editors panels. Pictured to his left, not necessarily in order of bemusement, are David Clark and David Robinson (Positive Feedback On-Line), Robert Harley and Neil Gader (The Absolute Sound), and John Atkinson (I’ll bet you know).
Intrigued by Ariel Bitran’s initial assessment of Nordost’s new Valhalla 2 line, as well as the repeat responses of website readers who seem determined to answer the modern koan, “What is the sound of one hand clapping in the hot wind?” I spent awhile listening to Valhalla 2 in Nordost’s room in the Hilton. Paul Ritchotte (L) and the ultra-modern Rune Skov were only too happy to oblige, switching between Valhalla 2 and the original Valhalla line (including the power cables that are currentlypun intendedon my desktop’s iMac and Dynaudio Focus 110A self-powered loudspeakers).
Kevin Wolff of VANA Ltd., the US distributors of Vienna Acoustics and Primare products (left) joined Sunil Merchant (right) in his second Sunny Components room to show off the absolutely brand new, impressively slim and stylish Wadia Intuition 01 ($8500) shown atop the equipment rack. This new all-purpose baby combines 350 watts of class-D+ amplification with a 32-bit AD/DA digital preamp that, on USB, can decode both 384/32 and DSD files.
The lovely Jan Mancuso, beautifully bedecked in bountiful floral bouquet, beams positive vibes throughout "The Marketplace" as she smilingly extols the praises of Reference Recordings’ ever-expanding catalog of superbly recorded classical, jazz, and blues, including Stereophile’s "Recording of May 2013," Doug MacLeod’s There’s a Time, which is now available on LP and which Jan co-produced.
Despite being the kick-off seminar presenter on Friday, and starting just one hour after the doors opened, John Atkinson herded almost a full house to "Garbage In, Garbage Out." An expanded version of a seminar he originally delivered at RMAF 2012, the description reads:
Making value judgments on audio components using commercial recordings has pitfalls that many writers gloss over. The way recordings are made drastically affects what you hear from your system, explains John Atkinson using his own recordings as examples.
A trumpet fanfare? For the opening of the largest consumer audio show in North America, nothing less would suffice. As Bob Levi (right), President of the largest audio society in North America (or perhaps the entire galaxy), gave the cue, the ribbon could be cut and the music could pour forth. The trumpet player was William Artope Jr, whose band gave concerts later in the show.
You thought ribbon cutting was simple? Not when the esteemed ribbon cuttersfrom left to right, David Robinson (Positive Feedback On-Line, in white shirt), Michael Fremer (Stereophile and AnalogPlanet.com), Robert Harley (The Absolute Sound), and John Atkinson (Stereophile)were faced with 1001 photographers, a ribbon that looked as though it was manufactured of industrial-strength mylar, and a giant golden scissors that couldn’t cut its way out of a paper bag. No wonder Bob Levi of the Los Angeles & Orange County Audiophile Society (far left) and show organizer Richard Beers look relieved when the ribbon finally snapped.
Holger Stein (center), designer of the Stein Harmonizers that have such a baffling effect on system performance, was beaming in the Hilton lobby. Perhaps he was thinking about all the attention his new phono cartridge is getting.