There was a continual program of live music at T.H.E. Show Newport Beach, to allow Showgoers to recalibrate their ears. A quintet led by trumpet player William Artope Jr, son of Bill Artope, the Sales & Marketing Director for cable manufacturer Dynamic Design AV, played some excellent straight-ahead modern jazz poolside at the Atrium Hotel.
Closing the live program Sunday at the Atrium Hotel was a concert by Audra Lee, daughter of the LA&OC Audio Society's Bob Levi. Leading a rocking trio, with a woman drummer, Audra belted her way through rock standards, including Huey Lewis's "The Power of Love." You can get a free download of Audra's single "I'm All In" here. Audra's debut album will be available in July from iTunes.
Marten Design’s Getz loudspeakers made good sound within an all-ModWright system: KWA 150 Signature Edition monoblocks, LS 36.5 tubed line stage, and modified Oppo BDP-95 disc player. Everything was supported by Stillpoints feet, and cables were provided by Dynamic Design. I noted a smooth, solid overall sound, with a stable soundstagevery easy to listen to and enjoy.
Whether they be Quads or Staxes, Roger Sanders' designs, or MartinLogans, electrostatic speakers generate passionate advocates. Retailer Digital Ear was demming the enormous Martin-Logan CLX speakers ($25,500/pair) in a huge ballroom in the Atrium hotel, along with two MartinLogan Depthi subwoofers, driving them with McIntosh MC601 monoblocks, a McIntosh C50 D/A preamp and a Meridian-Sooloos server, all hooked up with Transparent cable. The CLX's curvilinear section operates above 360Hz, meaning that all the harmonics of the music and the upper fundamentals are not interrupted by a crossover. Unlike Jason Serinus, I love Diana Krall's music making, so I requested a track from her Live in Paris album. Despite the size of the room, her version of Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are" was reproduced with Ms. Krall's voice palpably hanging in the center of the stage.
I still remember the chills that ran down my spine when I saw the band Rufus, with a young, slim Chaka Khan, performing "Tell Me Something Good" at a small English club more years ago than I care to recall. So when I went into the smaller MBL room at the Irvine Hilton and Jeremy Bryan started playing a live version of the same song, I got a similar thrill.
An editor’s job isn’t always light and easy, but not every moment during Saturday’s hour-long panel (repeated on Sunday) was. Yours truly, who could only stay long enough to snap a few photos, listened closely as John Atkinson spoke about what he wants and does not want from his equipment reviewers. Pictured, left to right: Dave Clark and David Robinson, Positive Feedback Online; JA and Michael Fremer, Stereophile; Robert Harley, Paul Seydor, and Neil Gader, The Absolute Sound.
Walter Swanborn of Fidelis AV (pictured kneeling next to Holger Stein of Stein Music) hosted the North American debut of the Harbeth M30.1 monitor ($6495 in tiger ebony finish). Paired with the LFD NCSE 75 watt integrated amplifier with SE phono stage ($6295), Palmer 2.5 turntable with Audio Origami arm and Dynavector XX2 cartridge ($11,995), MSB Media Transport ($3995) and MSB Platinum Signature DACIV with Signature power supply ($17,500), the system produced the strongest and most predominant midrange of any I heard at T.H.E. Show Newport Beach.
Carlsbad dealer Audio Revelation put together a beautiful little system: Vivid Audio V1.5 loudspeakers ($7650), Luxman SQ-38u integrated amp ($5990), Wavelength Cosecant DAC ($3500), and Well Tempered Versalex turntable ($4400) with a Dynavector XX2 phono cartridge ($1950)all you need to make music.
Last summer I gave a presentation at Goodwins High End in Waltham, MA where I played some of the hi-rez master recordings through an MSB D/A converter. I was so impressed by what I heard that I arranged a review of the DAC and MSB's matching transport, both priced at $4000, by Jon Iverson, scheduled for publication in the October 2012 issue of Stereophile. MSB were demming the new versions of their digital gearthe Diamond DAC with the FemtoSecond Galaxy Clock, the Data CD transport, and the new S200 class-A 200Wpc stereo amplifierin the Atrium Hotel, using YG's Anat III Studio speakers. Whether it was CDHarry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis duetting on "A Nightingale Sang in Berkely Square"or 24/192k WAV files from Chesky, played back from a data DVD-R, there was something very right about the sound in this roomand not a magic bowl or adverse energy-draining base to be found!
Okay, I'm running out of clever titles, but NAD had no problem producing beautifully controlled, welcomingly sweet sound from its all-new Masters Digital Suite. The M50 Digital Music Player ($2500) and M52 Digital Music Vault ($2000), a combo that can stream, store and manage your digital music collection, was performing wonderfully with the M2 Direct Digital 250W digital-input amplifier ($6000 and a John Atkinson favorite), Tannoy Glenaire 10 loudspeakers ($7500/pair), and Synergistic Acoustic ART resonance control system.
I don't have much to say about the sound in this room, produced by Vandersteen Model 7 speakers ($50.000/pair) driven by Audio Research Ref 250 tubed monoblocks ($20,000/pair) and an Audio Research Ref 5SE preamp, wired with AudioQuest cables, other than it was simply one of my best sounds at the Newport Beach Show (the others being the Magico S5 and the MBL 101E Mk.II, with the Wisdom LS4 and Luxman-driven YG Anat II Studio not far behind).
Source was a Basis Inspiration turntable and arm fitted with a Lyra Atlas cartridgethe complex mix at the end of Blood Sweat & Tears' "Spinning Wheel," played on an acetate cut by Bernie Grundman, where treble recorders contrast with the brass, was untangled in a most effective manner but without any spotlighting.
Parasound’s compact, high-value Z Series includes the 45Wpc Zamp power amplifier, four-input Zpre2 two-channel preamp, Ztuner AM/FM tuner, Zphono-USB phono preamp ($350; reviewed in our March issue), and the impressive Zcd CD player ($399; review to come later this year).