T.H.E. Show Newport 2013

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 08, 2013 1 comments
I welcomed the opportunity to hear M•A Recordings' very first LP, La Segunda, through Steve Norber's ear-opening PranaFidelity Model Fifty90 loudspeaker ($3950/pair). Through the symmetrical array 2-way vented design, I heard good bass, captivating depth, and plentiful air. In short, Todd Garfinkle's LP, sourced from high-resolution digital masters, sounded great.
Stephen Mejias Posted: May 24, 2013 15 comments
T.H.E. Show Newport Beach will be held May 31 through June 2, at the Hilton and Atrium hotels, near Orange County Airport, in Irvine, California. John Atkinson and Jason Victor Serinus will cover the show for Stereophile.com, while Tyll Hertsens and Michael Fremer will represent for InnerFidelity and AnalogPlanet.

Jason asked if would send him a flash drive carrying a few demo tracks that he might use to audition systems at the show—a fun idea, however one that I can’t successfully realize: At this time, I have no real library of high-resolution (or even CD-quality) digital files, nor do I have proper means of ripping CDs. Simply put, while I do plan on building a proper computer-audio system, I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’ve been busy hanging out with girls and cats, decorating the new apartment, and admiring the Mets’ ability to find creative ways to lose close games. Give me a few more months.

Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 10, 2013 1 comments
EAR USA’s Dan Meinwald had more to share than two new products from Tim de Paravicini; he also opened the door on lovely tube warmth. Thanks to two new sources, the EAR Acute 4/DACute 4 CD/SACD player ($13,000) and Helius Alexia turntable ($5500), the latter equipped with the Helius Omega 10” tonearm ($3100) and Dynavector KX-1s cartridge ($5450), an LP of doo-wop, and a CD of The Persuasions singing the Beatles had great height and exemplary center imaging. A Chad Kassem test pressing of the Ray Brown Trio’s Soular Energy further exhibited lovely and warm tube sound.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2013 0 comments
The San Diego manufacturer’s affable Robert Lee was showing his new Crescendo loudspeaker ($16,000/pair), which combines a horn-loaded ribbon tweeter with two 5" midrange units and two 8" woofers in a transmission-line enclosure. Driven by Triode TRX-M845 tubed monoblocks, the Crescendos threw a very wide but somewhat unstable stereo image on a 1962 RCA “Living Stereo” Leopold Stokowksi LP, with rather ill-defined low frequencies. I would have thought that perhaps that sonic signature was due to the recording, but the Crescendos sounded cleaner, with better defined low frequencies and accurate, stable stereo imaging in the Red Dragon Audio room, where they were driven by Red Dragon M500 Mk.II monoblocks ($1598/pair) and helped, I understand, by DSP room acoustic correction.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2013 5 comments
It appears I couldn’t go for an entire show without hearing Bela Fleck and the Flecktones’ “Flight of the Cosmic Hippo”—one of the last rooms I went into on the Sunday afternoon, shared by Affordable Audio and speaker manufacturer King Sound featured the unmistakable sound of Victor Wooten’s deep-voiced bass guitar! “Electrostatics don’t have bass?” asked Kingsound’s Roger du Naier, “Listen to that!” And Roger was right, the Prince III electrostatic kicking major low-frequency bootie, and without too narrow a sweet spot, the other Achilles’ Heel of big panel speakers. Surely this wasn't all due to the presence of Synergistic's little ART bowls in the room?
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2013 1 comments
At $12,600/pair, the two-way S1 is the least-expensive speaker to come from Magico. Nevertheless, in a relatively large room at the Atrium, driven by the Constellation monoblocks ($54,000/pair) that Mickey Fremer will be reviewing in the October issue, and the Constellation Virgo preamp ($29,000) had an ease to its sound, coupled with an almost full-range balance with palpable imaging. Source was Constellation’s new Cygnus server ($29,000), controlled by an iPad app, and cables were all Kubala-Sosna. Expensive electronics but this system was one of my best sounds at the Show. (And I’m not just saying that because Constellation’s Peter Madnick played one of my favorite Cantus tracks, an acapella treatment of Curtis Mayfield’s “It’s Alright,” which I recorded live at Minneapolis’s Southern Theater in 2008.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 09, 2013 0 comments
Bill Evans’ piano sounded palpably real in the room featuring Angel City Audio’s Trinity Monitor speakers ($3000/pair), driven by Melody Valve HiFi P2688 tube preamp ($6999) and MN845 tube amps ($13599), MG Audio Design interconnects and speaker cables, Triode Wire Labs power cables, and AC conditioning supplied by Spiritual Audio. The Trinity is a largish two-way standmount, combining a VIFA ring-radiator tweeter with two 7” woofers. Frequency response is specified as 40Hz–37kHz, ±3dB, with a 90dB sensitivity.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 10, 2013 4 comments
Photo: John Atkinson

Location, location, location . . . and, from Richard Beers and Bob Levi, a generous helping of brilliant organizing acumen. That winning combination means that, in just its third year, T.H.E. Show Newport Beach has already laid claim to the title of the top consumer “fine audio” show in the U.S.

What exactly No.1 means is another question entirely. While T.H.E. Show Newport Beach may have been spread over multiple floors in two adjacent hotels, as was T.H.E. Show Las Vegas of old, and offered, in addition to almost 140 exhibit rooms and an invaluable number of seminars, a corridor-long “cigar show,” a glitzy car show, wine show, gourmet food trucks, and multiple entertainment stages and markets, it’s hard to know if all that = “best.” And while attendance is claimed to be very high, it’s hard to know how many of the estimated 7500 attendees actually paid to get in, and how many took advantage of either generously distributed comps or membership in the Los Angeles-Orange County Audio Society.

What is certain is that, despite what JA told me was a surprisingly slow Sunday, there were people everywhere on Friday and Saturday. Everywhere, as in all over the place. And that means more than physically. People ran the gamut age-wise as well as interest wise, if less so in terms of the male-female ratio.

Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 08, 2013 0 comments
Photo: Antelope Audio

Antelope Audio, long respected in pro circles, showed two important products: the finally available Rubicon Atomic AD/DA preamp ($40,000), an all-in-one beauty that combines a 10M Rubidium atomic clock with a 384kHz converter, phono preamp, and headphone amplifier; and the due-this-fall Zodiac Platinum DSD-capable DAC/headphone amplifier ($4895) with optional Voltikus power supply ($995). Paired with ATC SCM100-AT active loudspeakers ($35,000/pair), the Rubicon produced supremely beautiful sound with exceptionally refined highs. And that was from a computer source equipped with a stock USB cable. Those who have experimented with aftermarket USB cables know how much more color and life the system would have produced had a better USB cable been in the chain.

John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2013 0 comments
The system in the Gallo room featured the Strada 2 satellites (left in photo) with a TR3 subwoofer operating below 110Hz ($3400/system including stands); driven by a Cambridge 840A integrated amplifier with an Olive media server as source, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” sounded full-range and naturally balanced. But my attention was drawn to the tiny A’Diva SE ($329 each) and even smaller Micro ($239 each) which each use a single flat-diaphragm drive-unit, which were new at T.H.E. Show.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2013 2 comments
The second Audio Element room was one of my best-sounding systems at the show: Sonus Faber Elipsa speakers were being driven by Ayre’s new VX-5 power amplifier and KX-5 preamplifier, with source the latest version of the QB-9 USB DAC, which can handle DSD data. The sound was more open, less dark than in the other Audio Element room, with more space around the instruments. The new Ayre preamp and power amp have much in common with the new AX-5 integrated amplifier, which Art Dudley will be reviewing in the August 2013 issue of Stereophile.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2013 1 comments
Following the death of his father in July 2011, Brian Berdan had been running Brooks Berdan Ltd, the well-regarded retailer in Monrovia, the suburb east of Los Angeles. But T.H.E. Show saw the debut of Brian’s new venture, Audio Element, which will open in Pasadena in August. Many of the brands that used to be sold by Brooks Berdan Ltd. are going with Brian to the new store. Many were exhibiting in Brian’s two rooms at the Atrium. In the first room, Sonus Faber Amati Futura speakers ($36,000/pair), which I loved when I reviewed them in March 2012, were being driven by VTL’s MB-450 Series III Signature tube monoblocks ($18,000/pair), VTL’s TL-7.5 Series II Reference line preamplifier ($20,000), VTL’s TP-6.5 Signature phono stage ($8500), and the fully loaded, four-chassis dCS Vivaldi SACD playback system ($108,496). Analog playback was with a Grand Prix Monaco turntable ($23,500) fitted with a Tri-Planar tonearm ($5800) and Lyra Skala cartridge ($3995). Cables were all Cardas Clear and Clear Beyond and racks were all from Grand Prix Audio.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 04, 2013 1 comments
Although they looked the same, the Audio Note UK E/SPe HE 98dB-sensitive loudspeakers ($9300/pair plus $650 for the stands) were a larger version of what I heard at AXPONA Chicago. In a system that also included Audio Note UK’s CDT Three top-loading CD transport ($12,000), DAC3.1x / II Balanced ($10,000), and OTO SE Signature integrated amplifier ($5500, or $6300 with phono), a very warm and mellow midrange triumphed on Jane Monheit’s “More than You Will Ever Know” from the album, Neverland. A further listen to a cut from Hazmat Modine’s Bahamut convinced that this is a system for midrange lovers über alles.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 06, 2013 1 comments
There were two systems in Audio Summa’s room on the 10th floor of the Hilton, but I concentrated on the one with the brand new Kuzma 4-point NSE tonearm with Crystal Cable Silver/Gold ($6375) and Stabl M turntable ($18,500). Paired with Silverline Audio’s Sonatina Mk.IV loudspeaker ($5995/pair); Conrad-Johnson Classic 60SE stereo tube amp ($5000), ET-5 Triode tube preamp ($9500), and TEA2MAX triode tube phonostage ($6500); no longer manufactured BEL 101 Mk.IV stereo amps; Furutech Flux cables (Lineflux, Speakerflux, and Powerflux power cords); and HRT Music Streamer HD, MicroStreamer, and iStreamer, I was treated to a Classic Records reissue of the divine Sarah Vaughan’s 1964 Roulette platter, The Lonely Hours. The sound was lovely, but the bass seemed disconnected from the higher octaves.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 04, 2013 0 comments
Given that I’ve heard Audioquest’s price-busting DragonFly USB DAC ($249 and change) on other occasions, I only lingered long enough to hear a bit of Shelby Lynne’s “Just a Little Lovin” and a 24/96 file of a song by Mark Knopfler. The sound was lovely and smooth. The system, which also included Vandersteen Quatro Carbon loudspeakers ($12,500/pair), Audio Research VSi75 ($7500), AudioQuest Castle Rock speaker cable and Angel interconnect, Harmonic Resolution Systems rack and shelf, and Furman PL-8 C power conditioning, didn’t have the ultimate bass control or color, but, my God, the DragonFly can be had for under $250.

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