Room 3 was owned by Burmester, no one else need applyB30 loudspeakers ($15,995/pair), 911 amplifier ($29,995), 088 preamplifier ($28,995), 089 CD Player ($28,995), V1 rack (no price given) with, you guessed it, Transparent Cables. If Dieter from Sprockets was an audiophile, this would be his hi-fi. And Dieter loves music: "Touch my monkey."
The big room. Focal Grand Utopia EM loudspeakers ($100,000/pair) standing at over 6' tall, dominated the room, looking like Transformers ready to devour us with music. The Burmester 911 Mk3 amplifier ($29,995) managed the Grand Utopias, the Burmester 089 CD ($28,995) and a Burmester preamplifer (I did not note the model but I bet it costs $xx,995) took care of rest, with Transparent Opus and Reference cables.
It's very difficult to ignore the pair of 573.2 lb speakers in the room but my note, just one, read "Jack be nimble." Of course, anyone interested in auditioning hi-fi for potential purchase, especially when spending this kind of money, will take their time listening and not base their judgment on a few minutes. Jack don’t be quick.
Dynamic Contrasts manufactures the RTS Racking System, an equipment-support system that squeezes the bad vibes out of your gear. Okay, so that’s my interpretation but if you want to know what they’re talking about, I’d recommend a visit to their website. A three-shelf RTS Racking System will run you $12,900 and each additional shelf adds $2200. It's difficult to see in this picture (you can see part of an empty rack on the right side in front of the speaker), but this rack is very unconventional and instead of having support shelves, it has support arms that clamp your gear in place. So in effect, your gear is not "sitting," it's being gripped in place. Sort of like a medieval kind of rack. . .
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.
Speaking of people who enjoy spinning great music, next up was Dan Meinwald, the US Distributor for E.A.R. electronics, Mårten loudspeakers, Jorma Design cables, and Townshend Audio. We listened to the Mårten Coltrane loudspeakers ($70,000/pair), EAR 890 amplifier ($7995), EAR 912 preamplifier ($12,500), EAR Acute III CD player ($5895 in black, $6595 in chrome), and Helius Omega tonearm ($2900) fitted with a London Reference cartridge ($5295). Cabling was from Jorma Design and included the Origo interconnects ($5250/1m pair) and the Jorma Origo speaker cables ($7000/1m pair).
Neil Young’s Love and War nearly had me in tears (I think I may have been over-tired) but the experience was completely enveloping, erasing all thoughts of hi-fi and other distractions. I wonder if the people in the hi-fi industry who have a real love for musicand I don’t think they all donecessarily also have a love for reproducing it in a way that pays more attention to it, the music, than the hi-fi. I tend to think so.
The Episode V ($12,500/pair) is a "ground-breaking wide-dispersion speaker" and you can pretty much intuit from the photo of the speaker the angle they’ve taken. The 88dB/4 ohm Episode V was driven by the Simaudio Moon 600i integrated amplifier and a Simaudio Moon SuperNova CD player handled the discs. (Both Simaudio components were courtesy of Definition Audio.) All cable was, and I quote, "audio grade cable." I'd like to tell you more about the dispersion characteristics of this loudspeaker and if it in fact broke any ground but there was not enough time for me to play musical chairs. Sitting centered, out of habit, I found the Episodes sounded airy.
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 curvaceous Estelon Model XA loudspeaker ($43,900/pair), which uses a trio of ceramic drivers from Accuton (11" woofer, 7" midrange and 1.2" tweeter) was paired with electronics from Edge, including NL 12.2 amplifier ($24,388) and Signature preamplifier ($14,388), and a transport Drive 2 and DAC 2 from Neodio (pricing not available). Cabling was provided by Kubala-Sosna, and a Running Springs Audio Dmitri AC Power Conditioner ($4500) conditioned the power.
The sound in this roomwe listened to the Beatles in high-reswas clean and fast and my notes include the thought "Like giving the Beatles a haircut and a shave."
Distributor Fidelis AV was showing products from its worldly stable, including the Harbeth Compact 7ES speaker ($3950/pair in Rosewood, $3650/pair in Cherry), the Perreaux Audiant 80i, an 80Wpc integrated amplifier that comes with an internal USB DAC and phono stage ($2995), the Palmer Audio 2.5 turntable ($6000), with an Audio Oragami tonearm ($3000) and Dynavector 20X2 cartridge ($850), all tied together by LFD cables. The more astute observer may notice a little black box sitting on a thin white stand behind the left loudspeaker. That's . . .
More ribbons this time, from Flat Panel Technologies. This company makes what its name suggests mainly for commercial installationsPA systems, car audio and more. Their tiny “Hybrid Speaker” uses a flat panel on one side and relies on the resonance of whatever it’s attached to on the other (metal and hard plastics work best according to FPS) for bass reinforcement. I guess resonance isn’t always bad.
I’ve been hearing about Fritz Loudspeakers, which are available via direct sales only, for years but I hadn’t heard any until now. The Fritz Carbon 7 speakers ($1795/pair$2395/pair) were connected to the 100Wpc Modwright KWA 100 SE stereo amplifier ($4295), which was connected to the Modwright LS 100 preamplifier ($3495). This has a phono stage but there was also a Zesto Audio Andros 1 tube phono stage in the room ($3900), which I'm assuming was in use since Zesto was also listed as one of the exhibitors in this room. Sources were the Thorens TD 309 turntable ($1900), an Esoteric SA60 universal disc player ($4995), and a PS Audio DAC Link III ($995) connected to a laptop. Cables were from Wywires, power cords were plugged into a Cryo-Parts Power Strip ($299), and everything sat on a Steve Blinn Designs Reference Equipment Rack ($1899).
I’m embarrassed to admit that I somehow neglected to take a photo of the inside of the Fritz Loudspeakers room, so the photo was supplied by Fritz Heiler. I did note that we listened to Jimmy Rogers' "Blue Bird" on vinyl and it sounded finely detailed yet not too etched. Harmonica in particular, which can be a difficult instrument to get right, sounded very natural.
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.
Distributor Grant Fidelity was showing a bevy of products from China. On active display were the 89dB-sensitive Shengya V218 Wood Horn Monitors ($1900/pair), the Grant Fidelity W-30 Integrated All-In-One tube amp, which includes a built-in 24/192 DAC (though the DAC-part was not being used), a Consonance D-Linear 7 HD Interface ($1250), and a Consonance D-Linear8 Wireless HD D/A converter. Cables were the Grant Fidelity MRCA-1 Gold Coated Copper Reference Interconnects ($350/1m) and the Grant Fidelity MSC-2.5 Pure Copper Reference Speaker Cables ($450/2.5m).
A new line of electronics from Grant Fidelity called Psvane come with Treasure Tubes vacuum tubes from Grant Fidelity. These tubes are made in the Shuguang tube factory. Sitting on the outside of the other amps in the picture are the so-new-no-one-knows-about-'em Psvane T845 monoblock amplifiers ($8995/pair).
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.
So you want cutting edge? Innovation? I’d say the team in the HiFi One room have you covered. I hope I can do this elevator-speech version justicethe Wadax PRE1-Phono solution provides you with a custom RIAA curve optimized for your turntable to nanovolt level signal precision. They refer to this process as "mapping." How do they do it? Wadax created a laquer "master" that is played on your turntable and the Wadax musIC chip in the PRE-1 captures the associated data and sends it, wirelessly via the Internet, back to Wadax where they analyze and optimize the RIAA curve in your PRE1-Phono based on the data they captured directly from your turntable. Or maybe I should say!
And really, that's not even half the story since that PRE1 can be configured as a line-level preamplifier, preamp with integrated DAC, with the above mentioned phono stage, with "WADA optimized PureDAC mode," and as a phono stage with step-up amplifier. You should visit the Wadax website for the whole story.