Oceanside, CA-based retailer The Home Theater Experience was, counterintuitive to their name, showing the old–school style Tannoy Yorkminster SE loudspeakers paired with Cary CAD 805 Anniversary Edition monoblock amplifiers and the Cary SLP 98L preamplifier. Front-end duties were handled either by a Cary CD 303T SACD Professional Version player or a Krell Kid iPod Dock. All cables and room tuning were from Synergistic Research. Yes, another room using the ART acoustic treatments. Hmm. Unfortunately pricing information was not available on a one-sheet and time did not allow for note-taking. Basically it was after the 5:00pm closing time of the show.
This system was also very easy to enjoy and Oscar Peterson sounded like the Maharaja of the keyboard to quote Duke Ellington. You can see in the picture that one very discriminating listener approves of the sound but appears to disapprove of my camera clicks: "Excuse me, we're listening here."
"Gut wrenching." That’s from my notes and they appear to have been written in a shaky hand. Joe Cohen of the Lotus Group gathered a group of gear together that can knock you off your seat or perhaps soothe your inner savage beast with some delicacy when called for.
The systemLotus Group Granada G2 Loudspeakers with X-1 DSP crossover, room correction, and a 500W woofer amp ($74,500/system), Aesthetix Atlas hybrid stereo amplifier ($8000/eachthe equipment list graciously provided by The Lotus Group lists 2), SMc Audio VRE-1B preamplifier ($15,950), Aesthetix Io Eclipse phono stage ($15,500), Hanss T-60 turntable ($7000), Oyaide STB-MS LP Stabilizer ($1599), Ortofon T-110 tonearm ($1599), Ortofon Winfield cartridge ($3750), dCS Puccini CD/SACD Player ($17,999), and a dCS Puccini Clock ($5499). All cable was from PranaWire, with the exception of the Acrolink 8N-RPH 5 Pin/RCA Phono cable ($2450). An Oyaide MTB-4 R1 Power Distribution box ($800) was also in use.
Tonian Acoustics was showing its new loudspeaker, the TL-S1 ($4300/pair as shown and up to $5700/pair with alnico magnet and custom veneer), which uses a modified SEAS driver run full-range augmented with a modified Fountek ribbon tweeter in a semi-open baffle. The speaker comes with several panels that allow more or less sound through an opening in the back of the cabinet, thus the "semi-open" aspect. Driving the TL-S1s were a relatively modest pair of vintage 1980s componentsthe Audiolab 8000 integrated amp and the Magnavox 650 CD player. The system was wired with Tonian Acoustics cable, which is a copper, bronze, and brass composite with cotton insulation (8' speaker cable $480/pair, 1m interconnect $380/pair and power cords $370). Contrary to what you might expect from '80s-era digital (read harsh) and solid-state, this system was relaxed, smooth and easy to listen to.
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.
The VMPS RM 30 Series II Ribbon Speaker ($3500/pair) marry dynamic woofers to push/pull planar-magnetic ribbon speakers for a claimed frequency response of 34Hz to “nearly” 40kHz. They were certainly moving a lot of musical air but also had to battle a very noisy and booming neighbor. Take it to another hotel! Associated gear included the Ampzilla 2000 Series II 300W monoblocks ($7500/pair), Ampzilla Ambrosia Series II preamp ($7500), W4S DAC 2 and Nuforce DAC9 converters ($1500$1695), Wywires interconnects and speaker cable, VMPS dedicated subwoofer with 500W amp ($979), a modified DCX2496 controller/processor ($1600) for room correction, and an Audience Adept Response aR6 power conditioner.
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.
"Tons of body, weight, speed, great, big and open. How big can a flamenco guitar be?" read my notes from the sonically impressive YG Acoustics room. Speakers were the YG Kipod 2 ($49,000/pair). Associated electronics: Tenor 350M monoblocks (Cdn$100,000/pair), Tenor Line 1/Power 1 preamplifier (Cdn$75,000), Bryston BDP-1, dCS Scarlatti DAC, with cable by Kubala-Sosna.
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.