For audiophiles who may remember Legend Audio and their fascinating water-cooled amps, they have changed their name to Von Gaylord, and moved from Berkeley, CA to West Sacramento. Their sound has gotten even better in the process: lovely, warm, and refreshingly sweet, with eye and ear-opening sound staging, set far behind the speakers, and inviting air around images.
Von Schweikert's new VR-44 floorstanding speaker comes in two forms: passive ($22,000/pair), and Aktiv ($25,000/pair) with a 300W amplifier driving the 8.8" composite alloy-cone woofers below 200Hz. Both the woofers and the 6" midrange unit are loaded with labyrinths, and the tweeter is a ring-radiator type. Superbly finished with either Steinway Black Gloss or Mercedes Platinum Silver, the VR-44's produced a full, musical sound at THE Show, driven by Jolida tube amplification and with the source an open-reel recorder from United Home Audio playing a tape of Van Morrison playing "Brown-Eyed Girl."
The sound from Richard Kohlruss' VMAX Services room excelled in warmth and soundstage width. It wasn't the most subtle or detailed system I encountered, but it definitely made a movement from Haydn's Trumpet Concerto a pleasure to listen to. Given that I have heard a movement from this concerto whistled at the whistling contest I've frequently attended and judged far more times than I wish to recount, this was no mean feat.
Not a high-tech accordion being held by Wisdom Audio’s Jon Herron in retailer Digital Ear’s room, but one of the four magnetic planar modules used in each LS4 floor-standing on-wall speaker ($80,000/pair) seen in the background. The module’s central strip handles frequencies above 750Hz; the side panels cover the range from 80Hz to 750Hz. “So much magnetic energy driving so little mass” explained Herron, results in high sensitivity and very high power handling despite the fact that the backwave from the diaphragm is absorbed rather than allowing it to reinforce the frontal radiation as with a conventional panel speaker.
I fell in love with the adorable little system from Chris Sommovigo's The Signal Collection when I heard it play some of Todd Garfinkle's MA Recordings at AXPONA 2012 in Jacksonville. In Newport Beach the love affair continued.
In their 10th floor suite, YG Acoustics was driving their Anat II Studio Signature speakers with Luxman B-1000 solid-state monoblock amps via Kubala-Sosna Elation cables. Total cost of the system was an eye-watering $275,000, but I don't think I have heard Talking Heads' live "Psychokiller," from Stop Making Sense, sound as viscerally real, yet without strain nor grain. (Trying to reproduce this track at similar levels with an all-Mission system a quarter century ago, I managed to melt the amplifiers' output stages.)
"That sound real," I thought as I approached the room shared by Oracle, Burmester, and Genesis. "It sounds just like Canadian singer Anne Bisson," whom I had heard live at an SSI concert in Montreal a couple of years ago.
Stepping into the room, I was confronted by, yes, the real Anne Bisson, who was duetting with herself on one of the tracks from her Blue Mind LP on Fidelio.
Zesto was also using TAD CR1 speakers for the debut of their new Leto tubed line preamplifier ($7500, top), which, like the Andros phono stage (bottom), is made in the USA. With a system comprising a Gamut D200 power amp, a Merrill Williams turntable fitted with a Triplanar arm and a Dynavector XX2 Mk.II cartridge, a Lindemann DAC fed data from a PC running J River software, with WyWire cables used throughout, the Ozawa performance of Mahler's Symphony 1, with the Boston Philharmonic on a typically bright-sounding DG LP, had me sitting for the entire first movement, so low was the noisefloor and so high the dynamic range. AC power was being conditioned by Spiritual Audio's VX-9 power conditioner.
I first heard the Zesto Andros PS1 phono stage ($3900) at the 2011 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest and was impressed by what I heard. The Andros was being used in the One World Audio room in the Hilton, with a Lindemann amplifier driving speakers from Voce Audio, a name new to me. The Voce UA-3 is a large floorstander using a ring-radiator tweeter recessed behind a short horn. Source was a 1978 Luxman PD-444 turntable fitted with a TriPlanar arm and a Lyra Kleos cartridge. Cabling was all WyWires. The sound of bass player Stanley Clarke's acoustic 2009 album, Jazz in the Garden, with Hiromi on piano and Lenny White on drums, had excellent dynamics but was overall a little mellow.