In the fourth of the Sunny’s Audio roomssee Jason Serinus’s stories earlier in this reportwas a jewel of an affordable system, being operated here by Peachtree’s David Solomon. Peachtree’s new decco65 D/A integrated amplifier ($899), which uses a 24-bit ESS Sabre DAC and offers 65Wpc into 8 ohms, drove Dynaudio DM2/6 bookshelf speakers, the system being completed with an Apple TV and cables to give a total cost of $2000. All you need add to get music is a PC.
More than Carol Clark's smiles were flowing in the Positive Feedback Online Hospitality Suite on the third floor. You could smell the spirits in the entryway, even before you got close enough to feel the positive spirit. I wish I could have stayed more than 90 seconds. But I doubt you would have gotten many more blogs out of this very light drinker if I had.
It's 6pm on Thursday night. Stereophile editor John Atkinson has proposed that we rendezvous in the lobby of the Hilton, secrete ourselves in a corner over a beverage of choice, and discuss how we three (John, Stephen Mejias, and moi) will cover the show.
Having covered shows with John before, and seen how many people come up to him to chat as he attempts to get from point A to point B, I had my doubts that we could somehow manage to talk undisturbed. Talk? We never even got that far. Conversation upon conversation began as soon as John hit lobby. Here, Bob Levi, President of the Los Angeles Orange County Audiophile Society (left), engages John in conversation as, right behind them, Jonathan Scull, PR man extraordinaire and former Stereophile Contributing Editor (second from left), and Dave Clark of Positive Feedback Online (second from right) do the same. Unseen are the many exhibitors who are staggering into the lobby after spending an entire day trying to get their equipment unpacked and positioned optimally.
Like the MartinLogan speakers in the next story, the Belgian Venture Ultimate speakers ($59,500/pair), distributed in the US by Precision Audio & Video, were set-up in a room that was really too big for them. Even at a fairly close listening distance, the room's reverberant field was dominating what I was hearing. Even so, on "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" from Muddy Waters' Folksinger, this three-way, five-driver tower had a natural tonality, precise stereo imaging, and a full-range sound. The 48.5"-tall, 152lb Ultimate has a specified frequency range of 26Hz40kHz, a nominal impedance of 6 ohms, and a sensitivity of 90dB/W/m.
You couldn't miss the signage for PrimaLuna and Nola; it was as big as the excellent signage for T.H.E. Show itself. You also couldn't miss the sound: lovely, warm, and extremely inviting. Although the system was playing a bit too loud for the room, the system handled bass extremely well, and made timbres on a (yes) Diana Krall recording pretty natural. Doing the honors were the Nola Ko loudspeaker ($9800/pair) and three components from PrimaLuna: Premium CD player ($3995), DiaLogue 3 linestage preamplifier ($2695), and DiaLogue 7 monoblock amplifiers ($5495/pair).
You'd think, given that T.H.E. Show Newport Beach has proven so successful that it now occupies lobby areas, conference rooms, poolsides, and multiple floors in two venues, The Hilton Hotel and the across-the-parking-lot Atrium Hotel, that there would be one lusciously thick program guide for both shows. Think again. There are two different guides, one marked "East" and the other "West." Unless you look closely at the photo at the cover, carry a compass, or keep track of the sun's position, you may end up as befuddled as the poor soul who kept walking into the VTL room and demanding where they had hidden the tonearm exhibitor he was seeking.
T.H.E. Show Newport was also home to a car show and wine tasting, held each day in the Hilton Courtyard. I must have missed the wine, but I did see this awesome little guya BMW Isetta, I thinkfrom the collection of Upscale Audio’s Kevin Deal.
It's 11am Friday morning. The ribbon has been cut, the doors and flung open, and the lines begin to form at the Hilton. By midday, the line to the elevators on the other side of the lobby extends out into the hallway. Some attendees resort to the stairways instead of waiting.
And to think, this is only the first day. Bob Levi is predicting up to 10,000 attendees over the course of the three-day show.
The Hilton Lobby was a happening place on Thursday evening. While John and I were schmoozing away in one area, Richard Beers, President of T.H.E. Show (center), had gathered around himself a throng of young acolytes, aka show helpers, for their pre-show orientation. Wearing his "Beers" T-shirt, Richard was positively glowing as he schooled his admirers in the fine art of registering people and directing them from place to place.
RSL, the reincarnation of California speaker manufacturer Rogersound Labs, was showing its economical CG stereo system ($1250 with free shipping, stands optional). The system was making bearable a 24/96 file of Diana Krall singing “S’Wonderful.” Usually this particular selection has me crawling out of my skin. No mean feat that it didn’t this time. The system includes a single subwoofer that was hidden behind me. The good news is that the speaker system comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Although Roger Sanders was not in the room when I finally got there on the third day, his "handcrafted in Colorado" electrostats were singing as if he were. In addition to the superb transparency that one expects from a good electrostat, the bass was not just convincing, but simply amazing. The sound was a bit sharp in the small room, and at one point, in an unfortunate performance of Puccini's "O mio babbino caro," distorted on top. Since I've not had either experience in previous auditions of Sanders electrostats, I have a hunch the distortion probably due to the mikes used to record this unsuited-for-the-role-of-Lauretta soprano. (I have a number of recordings from EMI that grow harsh and noisy on vocals due to the choice of microphones).
Okay. I know what you're wondering. So do Jason and Lisa Stoddard, whose curiously named headphone amplifier and headphone DAC company celebrates its second anniversary on June 17. In fact, your curiosity is one of the reasons why Lisa is smiling so.
In their second room, Anaheim retailer Scott Walker Audio was showing Magico's Q3 floorstander ($38,950/pair) with the Soulution 700 monoblock amplifiers, hooked with Synergistic's cumbersome spaced-conductor speaker cable. Source was a Soulution 540 SACD player and a Soulution 700-series preamp. The Q3 was launched at the 2011 CES. A smaller derivative of the Q that Michael Fremer positively reviewed for Stereophile in November 2010, the Q3 uses the same proprietary beryllium-dome tweeter as the Q5 in the same type of space-frame enclosure, with a 6" Nano-tec midrange unit. The lower woofers roll off earlier than the upper one, to optimize the crossover to the midrange unit. Frequency response is specified as 20Hz50kHz, sensitivity as 90dB, and impedance as 5 ohms.