Stereophile's Stephen Mejias (left) is given the hard sell by the youngest audiophile at the Show, Shane Censullo. Shane was tireless throughout the weekend, handing out flyers on behalf of his father's company, Avatar Acoustics.
Time and time again, I’ve had the good fortune of running into VTL’s Luke Manley just as I arrive at a show. It’s always a pleasure to chat with Luke and just as fun to listen to music with him. While his room often represents my very first chance to listen at any show, the sound he and his partners create is one that stays with me for the duration. That was the case again here at T.H.E. Show Newport Beach.
The Hegel room on the Irvine Hilton’s 5th floor was so packed that I was initially forced to sit outside the soundstage. While I feared that would leave me in no position to critically evaluate the system’s overall gestalt, eventually moving to the center enabled me to hear how solid the sound was.
At the Irvine Hilton, T.H.E. Show Newport Beach offered hospitality suites from Sunny's Components, Positive Feedback Online, and the Los Angeles & Orange County Audio Society. Since the President of the latter is Bob Levi, the co-sponsor of T.H.E. Show, who not only thinks big and acts big, but also consistently delivers on his promises, the massive LA&OCAS commandeered two adjacent rooms on the fifth floor for its suite where Showgoers could chill out in a very effective manner.
Induction Dynamics of Overland Park, KS was showing its S1.8T 3-way tower loudspeaker ($13,500/pair). Using as a source an Oppo 85SE, paired with McIntosh’s MX150 pre/pro, MC 207 amplifier, and MT10 turntable, and wired with Kimber Kable, the system sounded far more neutral than I was expecting. Playing an LP of Billie Holiday singing “A Foggy Day in London Town” (Songs for Distingué Lovers), I marveled at the beauty, clarity, and warmth of the sound. Like a proverbial Dorothy searching for her Toto, I didn’t want to leave home without it.
It is always a pleasure visiting the Joseph Audio room at Shows, not the least because Jeff Joseph knows how to set up a system to work with the room acoustics, not against them. In Newport beach Beach, as at some other shows, he had set-up the Pulsar stand-mounts ($7000/pair) along the room's diagonal. Source was Pure Music running on a MacBook Pro, feeding USB data to the Bel Canto. Powered by Bel Canto's new C7R integrated amp, which includes a phono preamp, D/A section, headphone output, and an FM tunerwait a moment, isn't that we used to call a "receiver?"and hooked up with Cardas cables, the Pulsar's produced an almost full-range sound. The double bass on the Bad Plus's arrangement of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" had body and good definition,a difficult trick to pull off for a stand-mounted two-way.
Although I had a bit of a tough time navigating some of the halls, especially at the more meandering Atrium, signage at T.H.E. Show Newport was pretty good overall. You wouldn’t find audiophiles accidentally turning up at the Whitacker Wellness Institute.
The KEF Blade has been a constant in my show and audio showroom experience of late. Here demmed by Johan Coorg of KEF America and Michael Silver of Audio High, the Blades ($30,000/pair) were making very warm, inviting, and, yes, coherent sound with lovely depth when paired with the Chord SPM 6000 monoblock amplifiers ($49,000/ pair), Chord CPA 5000 preamp ($20,000), Chord Red Reference Mk.III CD/DAC ($25,000), Audience Power Conditioner, and a MacBook Pro rigged to play J River.
I was pleased to meet Home Theater’s Kim Wilson. If Kim’s not reviewing A/V receivers and preamp/processors, she might be taking lovely photographs of musical instruments, landscapes, city scenes, architecture, and more. During T.H.E. Show Newport, Kim had a small booth near the Atrium poolnot a bad way to spend a sunny weekend. You can see more of her work here.
"Whoa!" said self to self upon entering the KT Audio Imports room. This display is so dazzling, how can I begin to take it all in?
Arrayed before me were the Triangle Art Referent turntable ($13,990); GamuT CD3 ($6500); NAT Audio Magma 160W amplifiers ($45,000/pair), Symmetrical dual balanced preamplifier ($8700), Signature battery phono stage ($7800); Eventus Audio Nebula loudspeakers ($65,000/pair), and Wireworld cabling. Not playing were the Triangle Art Signature turntable ($9990), NAT Single Integrated ($7800), and NAT Magnastotat battery preamplifier ($17,490). Some of this, as well as two other Eventus loudspeakers, was off to the side.
Here’s a look inside Human Audio’s Muto battery-powered DAC ($1299), handmade in Hungary. The Muto is compatible with resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz, has selectable S/PDIF inputs (RCA and BNC), has a fully discrete analog output stage with bipolar and JFET transistors, and employs two Lithium-Iron-Phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries capable of at least 12 hours of “green” operation. When the Muto is switched off, the batteries automatically recharge.
The title may have veiled what this seminar was about, but there were some light moments during the two-hour Friday afternoon session that discussed "what to listen to and for in music." Pictured (left to right) are Tony Weber, 40-year industry veteran and Regional Sales Manager for Cary Audio; Tim Brisson, formerly of MIT cables; Bruce Brisson, who engineered the first purposefully built audio cable in 1981, which was marketed by Monster Cable; Paul Stubblebine, for 34 years a mastering engineer; and Cookie Marenco, a five-time Grammy nominee who is founder and producer/engineer for audiophile label Blue Coast Records.