As you can see from my photo, it was pretty dark in the room hosted by Command Performance A/V, so I couldn't see who was discussing the state of high-end audio in the US. It turned out to be Joseph Audio's Jeff Joseph, Manley Labs' Eveanna Manley, and The Signal Collection's Chris Sommovigo. I write about the migration of audio manufacturing overseas in my forthcoming "As We See it" in the September issue, and both Joseph and Manley are proud that they still manufacture their products in the US"We're based on Chino, not China," said Eveanna, though she admits that this does add a premium to the retail price that is an unwelcome downside given, as I wrote about in the April issue's "As We See It," the reduced spending power of the middle class these days.
But if the premium is accompanied by performance, it can be justified, and the system in the darkened room was providing much music, courtesy of Pure Music running on Jeff's MacBook Pro. As it had two weeks ago at the NYC Axpona, the laptop was sending USB data to a Bel Canto LightLink converter, which in turn fed the audio data via a low-jitter ST optical link to the Bel Canto DAC3.5VB. This was connected to a Manley Jumbo Shrimp tubed line stage and a pair of Manley Snapper 100W tube monoblocks ($7250/pair) via Cardas Clear interconnects and speaker cables. Speakers were the Joseph Perspective ($11,800/pair), which marries two magnesium-cone woofers to a Sonatex-dome tweeter. AC power was provided by Shunyata's new Talos ($3500, and also made in the US), which replaces the company's well-regarded V-Ray unit.
The music playing was 24/96 versions of songs from the Grateful Dead's Working Man's Dead and American Beauty. I was about to remark the hi-rez transfer allowed me to hear things I hadn't heard before when it was explained that that was literally true: these were different mixes from the ones with I was so familiar from the LPs, with additional instruments.