T.H.E. Show Newport 2011

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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 07, 2011 0 comments
Retailer Affordable Audio was showing off the very intriguing Zingali Zero Otto loudspeakers ($5999/pair) from Italy. This was the Zero Otto's US debut and I’d say they did better than fine. With its 93dB sensitivity and a nominal impedance of 6 ohms, the low-powered crowd should be pleased to have another option.

Associated equipment included the Audion Sterling EL34 Anniversary integrated amplifier ($3995), a Bel Canto CD2 Transport ($4999), and Bel Canto DAC 3.5VB ($3495), with cable from Cable Research Lab’s Bronze Series.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 07, 2011 3 comments
Kal Rubinson reviews the Sony SS-AR-1 loudspeaker ($27,000/pair) in the July 2011 Stereophile, due to hit newsstands next week, so I’d highly recommend reading his review if you want to know about these wonderful-sounding speakers. In addition to the Sony SS-AR1s, equipment in this room included Pass Labs X350.5 monoblocks, Sonoma 32 DSD multitrack recorder and editor, EMM Labs CDSD, EMM Labs DAC6SE, EMM Labs Switchman 3, with cable from Kimber Kable. System price, with two pairs of the Sony SS-AR1s, was $263,220.

We listened to a gospel track and the sound was expansive and detailed, with pinpoint imagining and all in all offered a truly moving performance. In this case, the Sonys seemed to enjoy this large ballroom, which makes me wonder what they'd be like in a normal listening room.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 07, 2011 0 comments
San Diego-based retailer SimpliFi Audio was showing the Gradient Revolution Active loudspeaker ($11,995/pair) with the Gradient Revolution SW-D dipole subwoofer ($6995/pair), much to the chagrin of their neighbors, especially when playing organ music into the nether regions at I-think-I'm-going-to-be-sick levels. Also in use was a pair of the DSPeaker Anti-Mode 8033G ($595/each one per subwoofer) a digital room-correction device, "the cure for boomy bass." From what I heard, it works.

When I was in the room, SimpliFi was showing the Gradients with a "$500 Fosgate amplifier" and DNM $12/ft speaker wire to show that you don't need to be spendy to get flat response to 20Hz. The RA Opus 21 CDP/DAC/preamp ($3500) was being fed its music files from a laptop.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 07, 2011 0 comments
Room 3 was owned by Burmester, no one else need apply—B30 loudspeakers ($15,995/pair), 911 amplifier ($29,995), 088 preamplifier ($28,995), 089 CD Player ($28,995), V1 rack (no price given) with, you guessed it, Transparent Cables. If Dieter from Sprockets was an audiophile, this would be his hi-fi. And Dieter loves music: "Touch my monkey."
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 07, 2011 0 comments
I was looking forward to the MBL rooms because I’ve never had the time to spend the time listening to their gear. MBL is another singular manufacturer following an extremely personal vision, yet in this case one that tries to widen the appeal, so to speak, to a larger audience. The smaller MBL system consisted of the Radialstrahler 120 loudspeakers ($21,400/pair) with stands ($1630), 9007 monoblock amplifiers ($21,400/each), 6010D preamplifier ($26,500), 1511F DAC with MBLMCMi asynchronous USB input ($11,800), and 1521A transport ($12,200). Cabling was Wireworld Eclipse 6.

This smaller system, which mixed and matched components from MBL's three lines, Reference, Noble and Corona, sounded like a smaller version of the larger system in Room 2. While this sounds like a positively idiotic thing to say, in my experience you can sometimes lose important qualities when moving down a company’s line. While this system is obviously intended for a more modest room and perhaps pocketbook, the presentation was very much cut from the same sonic cloth—resolute, incisive, powerful yet delicate when called for. I could have listened all night. And to state the obvious, the omnidirectional radiation of the Radialstrahler 120 loudspeakers energizes the room in a different way than a conventional speaker. I found MBL’s implementation enchanting. Yes, enchanting.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 07, 2011 0 comments
Yorba Linda, CA-based retailer Scott Walker Audio was responsible for "audio equipment, room set-up & tuning." Solos Audio is the sole distributor for SonicCraft solid-state amplifiers. The setup: Magico V2 loudspeakers ($19,500/pair), SonicCraft Signature stereo amplifier ($3450), which puts out 25Wpc in pure class-A, SonicCraft Opus preamplifier ($3450), Esoteric K-03 CD/SACD player ($13,000), Esoteric G-03X Master Clock ($5000), Synergistic Research cables and power cords, and the Synergistic Acoustic ART Room Treatment System ($3150).

I noted "rock-solid" imaging and a crazy level of micro-detail. "If Dianna Krall had even the merest hint of a cold, you’d know it," read my notes.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 07, 2011 0 comments
In the second room, the Vandersteen Model 5A Carbon loudspeakers ($24,000/pair) were paired with the Audio Research Reference 150 Vacuum Tube Stereo Power Amplifier ($12,995), Audio Research Anniversary Edition Reference Preamplifier ($25,000), and the Basis Audio Inspiration turntable (no price noted), which that comes with the Vector 4 tonearm with VTA Micrometer, Synchro-Wave Power Supply, Cable Isolation System, Vacuum record hold-down system, and Microthin belt. All cables from AudioQuest.

The Carbon 5A loudspeakers have a 400W subwoofer amplifier built into each speaker and Richard Vandersteen says the frequency response is 22Hz to 30kHz ±2dB, and I believe him—even in this small room, the bass was taut and fast with no bloat to be heard. The sound was relaxed and engrossing.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 07, 2011 1 comments
LA retailer The Audio Salon was showing an impressive sounding system—Magico Q5 loudspeakers ($59,950/pair), Spectral DMA 360 Series II monoblock amplifiers ($20,000/pair), Spectral DMC 30 SS Series II preamplifier ($10,000), and the Spectral SDR 4000SL CD Player ($19,000). Cable was from MIT and acoustic design was by Art Noxon of ASC. (From Maier Shadi of The Audio Salon: "The Audio Salon built a hidden, non-parallel, zig-zagged wall, and frame system behind the curtains for the acoustical treatments. Over 120 lengths of 8' 2x4's made up the 16 huge 6' x 8' hidden walls.")

The room was very dark, the Q5s were set up very far apart and the California Guitar Trio's version of "Bohemian Rhapsody" from their CD California Guitar Trio Rocks the West rocked my expectations, and I kept expecting (and kind of hoping) Freddie Mercury or his voice, would peer out from behind the curtain.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 07, 2011 0 comments
On display in the Legacy/Coda room were the Legacy Whisper HD loudspeakers ($20,000/pair), which include a pair of 500W internal amps driving the four (4) 15" carbon-fiber/pulp-composite subwoofers. I arrived at this room around 4:00pm on Sunday, the show closed at 5:00pm, and I got the feeling the very genial guys in the room were ready to relax. Since they didn’t have a hand-out with model and pricing information, one of the reps offered to write up a list which I'll share verbatim: Coda monoblock amplifiers ($10,000/each), Coda 05X preamplifier ($5500), and Coda CD player (no price given), for a total of $45,500 including the Legacy Whisper HDs. Cable was from Kimber.

My notes read "very immediate vocals, balance tipped up/beaming." Clearly more time and care would be needed to hear this system at its best.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 07, 2011 7 comments
I got to hear both the Audience ClairAudient 2+2 loudspeaker ($5000/pair, reviewed in the July 2011 issue of Stereophile) and the diminutive ClairAudient THE ONE ($995/pair). Associated electronics and cables were also from Audience and included the Wavepower monoblocks ($14,000/pair), a class-D analog switching power amplifier that put out 200W into 8 ohms, the Wavemaster preamplifier ($13,000), and AU24e cables and power cords and an Adept Response High Resolution Power Conditioner ($5000). The source was an Audience-modified Oppo BDP-83SE Blu-ray player, which was not for sale (priceless).

The Audience guys seemed to get no end of enjoyment watching people’s jaws hit the floor, the rug was littered with audiophile jawbones, when they played the single-driver ClairAudient THE ONE, which has nearly unbelievable bass performance for its size. Both speakers actually sounded big and solid with a nice fat midrange.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 07, 2011 2 comments
Next up was Digital Ear's MartinLogan and McIntosh room. While I was there, the new MartinLogan ElectroMotion EM-ESL loudspeaker ($1995/pair), which "features both electrostatic and compact Folded Motion™ thin-film transducer technologies," was playing very nicely with a McIntosh MC452 amplifier ($6000), McIntosh C50 preamplifier ($5000), which includes a USB DAC and phono stage, a Cambridge Audio id100 iPod/iPad dock ($1299), all tied together with Transparent Audio Reference Series cables.

While this room sounded very inviting and was doing all those things MartinLogans are known to do, I almost wished they'd used a less expensive amp/pre combo to show off a sleek, relatively affordable system. One of the McIntosh integrated amps comes to mind—less muss, less fuss.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 07, 2011 0 comments
Oceanside, CA-based retailer The Home Theater Experience was, counterintuitive to their name, showing the old–school style Tannoy Yorkminster SE loudspeakers paired with Cary CAD 805 Anniversary Edition monoblock amplifiers and the Cary SLP 98L preamplifier. Front-end duties were handled either by a Cary CD 303T SACD Professional Version player or a Krell Kid iPod Dock. All cables and room tuning were from Synergistic Research. Yes, another room using the ART acoustic treatments. Hmm. Unfortunately pricing information was not available on a one-sheet and time did not allow for note-taking. Basically it was after the 5:00pm closing time of the show.

This system was also very easy to enjoy and Oscar Peterson sounded like the Maharaja of the keyboard to quote Duke Ellington. You can see in the picture that one very discriminating listener approves of the sound but appears to disapprove of my camera clicks: "Excuse me, we're listening here."

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 07, 2011 0 comments
Speaker designer Roger Sanders has been at this for a long time and he has a very specific idea/vision that is illustrated in his system and direct-sales approach. It is also illustrated in the room setup which you can't really see in this photo but in addition to that single chair sitting fairly close to the Model 10 electrostatic speakers, there was a single row of chairs, not side to side, but one behind the other.

The configuration we’re looking at and to which I listened was the Model 10c which includes a digital electronic crossover and the Magtech monoblock amplifiers (1600W into an 8 ohm load) for a system price of $13,000. Cables are from Sanders Sound as well, which I believe are included in the system price since there was no pricing information on the sort-of informative brochure I picked up in the room. I say "sort-of" because it doesn't include any information on the source we listened to and I neglected to make a note of it. . .

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 07, 2011 0 comments
I can remember visiting a NJ hi-fi dealer with my father, back before I was old enough to drive, to hear Vandersteen speakers and enjoying them then. The diminutive Vandersteen VLR ($1195/pair) sports a coax driver with a 6.5” woofer and 1” alloy dome tweeter for a claimed frequency response—are you going to question what Richard Vandersteen says? Not me, brother!—of 64Hz–21kHz ±3dB. Associated equipment included the Audio Research DSI200 integrated amplifier ($6000), Audio Research DAC8 ($5000), and an Audio Research CD5 as transport. Source material was also streamed from a MacBook Pro using iTunes/Pure Music. Cable included the AudioQuest Sky interconnect, Diamond USB cable and Meteor speaker cable, and there was a Furman line conditioner in use.

We listened to Greg Brown's hysterically sleepy yet gripping "Rain & Snow" from his CD Freak Flag and it held us on the edge of our seats with smiles on our faces.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 07, 2011 0 comments
San Pedro, CA-based retailer Audio Summa brought along a bunch of gear from Silverline Audio, Conrad-Johnson, Parasound, Brown Electronic Labs (BEL), Blue Circle Audio, and Analysis Plus. While I was in-room, we listened to the Silverline Audio Bolero Supreme loudspeakers ($12,000/pair standing on the inside in the picture), BEL 1001 MkIV class-A solid-state amplifier (not for sale), a tube-based preamp designed and built by Alan Yun of Silverline Audio ($20,000) and the Ecstasy Model 20 tube CD player also from the mind and hands of Alan Yun ($12,000). Cables were from Analysis Plus and BEL "The Wire." The sound in the Audio Summa room was fast and a bit furious, leaving little time for decay. "Pace-y" read my notes.

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