T.H.E. Show Newport 2011

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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.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 07, 2011 0 comments
On A Higher Note is the US distributor for Audioaero, Luxman, Brinkmann, and Vivid Loudspeakers, and Philip O'Hanlon is its founder and president. Philip is also another guy that gets it. Music that is. Actually Philip O'Hanlon has seemingly mastered the art of music presentation and is one of hi-fi's more endearing characters. You really don’t want to leave while the bow-tied and nimble-footed Mr. O'Hanlon is spinning the tunes or telling stories.

To make matters better, the system we listened to was absolutely musically engaging to the extreme. It included the Vivid Audio G2Giya loudspeakers ($50,000/pair), Luxman M-800A class-A stereo amplifier ($19,000), Luxman E-1 phono stage ($4000), Brinkmann Oasis direct-drive turntable ($13,400), Brinkmann 9.6 tonearm ($4000), Brinkmann Pi cartridge ($2700), Audioaero La Source CD/SACD player also used as preamp ($44,000), with Crystal Cable in use throughout.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 07, 2011 0 comments
These brands were located in the California Room, which oddly enough was in the opposite direction of everything else at T.H.E. Show. I very much enjoyed my brief time with the 90dB Reference 3A Grand Veena loudspeakers ($7995/pair), which carry on Reference 3A-s tradition of relatively easy-to-drive loudspeakers, the brand-new Concert Fidelity ZL-120V2 monoblock power amplifiers ($28,000/pair), Concert Fidelity CF-080LSX line-stage preamplifier ($20,000), Concert Fidelity DAC-040 D/A converter ($10,000), and the Concert Fidelity SPA-4C phono stage ($14,000). The turntable was the Perpetual Technology TT 1 ($2500); a Copland CCDA 825 CD player ($6500) was also in use; and all cable was from Cable Research Lab.

We listened to Aimee Mann and Leonard Cohen on CD and it sounded lovely.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 07, 2011 0 comments
Precision Audio Video is both a retailer and the US distributor for Venture and Weiss products. They were exhibiting the Venture Encore Loudspeakers ($46,000/pair), Venture V100A+ Reference monoblock amplifiers ($60,000/pair), Venture VP100 Reference full-function preamplifier ($28,000), Venture VP100P phono preamplifier ($26,000)—"which provides substantial higher quality for the vinyl analogue play back—a Spiral Groove SG1 turntable, with a Spiral Groove tonearm and London Decca cartridge. The Weiss Jason CD Transport ($24,000) fed a Weiss Medea DAC ($20,000) and all cabling was from Venture.

We listened to Eric Clapton’s "Tears in Heaven" unplugged on vinyl and the very nice guy from Precision A/V kept asking his associate to turn it up. One of the issues with demoing hi-fi in a huge ballroom is that it's difficult, or damn near impossible, to energize the room and fully engage the listener.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 07, 2011 3 comments
Retailer Digital Ear from Tustin, CA was all over this show. I had to keep checking my notes since I began to feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day—"I'm in the Digital Ear room, again? But I just left." Room 1 was the Revel/Levinson room—Revel Ultima Salon2 speakers ($21,998/pair), Mark Levinson No.53 monoblock amplifiers ($25,000, the first-ever switching amp from Levinson), Mark Levinson No.326S preamplifier ($10,000), the No.512 CD/SACD Player ($15,000), with cabling from Transparent Audio. I felt this tiny room did not allow you to fully appreciate what you might hear if you were in a more appropriately sized room with this kind of gear. As is, I would not recommend the Revel Salon 2s—a JA favorite—for near-field listening.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 07, 2011 0 comments
Have you seen the film The Mole People? In brief, a few hapless archaeologists accidentally find a race of Sumerian albinos living deep underground. At first the Sumerian albinos believe the hapless archaeologists are Gods because they have a flashlight and sunlight, which kills your average Sumerian albino who lives deep underground—it literally burns them up. They are worshiped as Gods. But eventually they realize the hapless archaeologists are not Gods and what tips them off is the fact that the archaeologists show emotion and pain. Sumerian albinos living deep underground do not.

I spoke to Richard Beers, T.H.E. Show’s President about attendance at the first ever T.H.E. Show Newport Beach and he scientifically deduced over 4000. This estimate was based on the fact that he’d ordered over 4000 lanyards, the thing every attendee uses to hang their badge around their neck, and they were nearly gone on Saturday afternoon. I heard people talking even higher numbers but I’ve got no way to verify their enthusiasm.

In any event, this event was a complete, 100%, slam-dunk. . .

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 07, 2011 2 comments
The big room. Focal Grand Utopia EM loudspeakers ($100,000/pair) standing at over 6' tall, dominated the room, looking like Transformers ready to devour us with music. The Burmester 911 Mk3 amplifier ($29,995) managed the Grand Utopias, the Burmester 089 CD ($28,995) and a Burmester preamplifer (I did not note the model but I bet it costs $xx,995) took care of rest, with Transparent Opus and Reference cables.

It's very difficult to ignore the pair of 573.2 lb speakers in the room but my note, just one, read "Jack be nimble." Of course, anyone interested in auditioning hi-fi for potential purchase, especially when spending this kind of money, will take their time listening and not base their judgment on a few minutes. Jack don’t be quick.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 07, 2011 0 comments
The bigger rig from the MBL Reference line: Radialstrahler 101E MkII loudspeakers ($70,500/pair), the world premier of the piano-white lacquer with chrome finish, 9011 monoblock amplifiers ($53,000/each), 6010D preamplifier ($26,500), 1611F D/A converter with MBLMCMi asynchronous USB input ($28,700), and 1621A CD transport ($28,000). Additional equipment included a Linux-based vortexbox computer by Simple Design, Wireworld Eclipse 6 cabling, Locus design cynosure USB cable, and SRA Scuttle rack.

Fortune smiled upon me again, as I got to spend time in the MBL room with none other than Michael Fremer. If you don’t already know, Michael is very quick-witted and very funny, seemingly always on the lookout for a zing here or a gaff there. He’s also very serious about music, in a very non-serious way, and we were treated to some greatest hits from a CD he’d brought along for the show including “La Bamba” (the original), Irma Thomas singing “Time Is On My Side” (the original), and lots of other varied and equally wonderful and some wonderfully whacky music. I would also add that Michael Fremer’s informative introductions to each track added to the experience. . .

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 06, 2011 0 comments
The Episode V ($12,500/pair) is a "ground-breaking wide-dispersion speaker" and you can pretty much intuit from the photo of the speaker the angle they’ve taken. The 88dB/4 ohm Episode V was driven by the Simaudio Moon 600i integrated amplifier and a Simaudio Moon SuperNova CD player handled the discs. (Both Simaudio components were courtesy of Definition Audio.) All cable was, and I quote, "audio grade cable." I'd like to tell you more about the dispersion characteristics of this loudspeaker and if it in fact broke any ground but there was not enough time for me to play musical chairs. Sitting centered, out of habit, I found the Episodes sounded airy.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 06, 2011 0 comments
Distributor Fidelis AV was showing products from its worldly stable, including the Harbeth Compact 7ES speaker ($3950/pair in Rosewood, $3650/pair in Cherry), the Perreaux Audiant 80i, an 80Wpc integrated amplifier that comes with an internal USB DAC and phono stage ($2995), the Palmer Audio 2.5 turntable ($6000), with an Audio Oragami tonearm ($3000) and Dynavector 20X2 cartridge ($850), all tied together by LFD cables. The more astute observer may notice a little black box sitting on a thin white stand behind the left loudspeaker. That's . . .
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 06, 2011 6 comments
"Tons of body, weight, speed, great, big and open. How big can a flamenco guitar be?" read my notes from the sonically impressive YG Acoustics room. Speakers were the YG Kipod 2 ($49,000/pair). Associated electronics: Tenor 350M monoblocks (Cdn$100,000/pair), Tenor Line 1/Power 1 preamplifier (Cdn$75,000), Bryston BDP-1, dCS Scarlatti DAC, with cable by Kubala-Sosna.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 06, 2011 1 comments
"Gut wrenching." That’s from my notes and they appear to have been written in a shaky hand. Joe Cohen of the Lotus Group gathered a group of gear together that can knock you off your seat or perhaps soothe your inner savage beast with some delicacy when called for.

The system—Lotus Group Granada G2 Loudspeakers with X-1 DSP crossover, room correction, and a 500W woofer amp ($74,500/system), Aesthetix Atlas hybrid stereo amplifier ($8000/each—the equipment list graciously provided by The Lotus Group lists 2), SMc Audio VRE-1B preamplifier ($15,950), Aesthetix Io Eclipse phono stage ($15,500), Hanss T-60 turntable ($7000), Oyaide STB-MS LP Stabilizer ($1599), Ortofon T-110 tonearm ($1599), Ortofon Winfield cartridge ($3750), dCS Puccini CD/SACD Player ($17,999), and a dCS Puccini Clock ($5499). All cable was from PranaWire, with the exception of the Acrolink 8N-RPH 5 Pin/RCA Phono cable ($2450). An Oyaide MTB-4 R1 Power Distribution box ($800) was also in use.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 06, 2011 0 comments

Retailer, Melody Audio distributor, and speaker manufacturer Angel City Audio was showing off its new Trinity Monitor Series Speaker ($1899/pair) a two-way that uses a Vifa XT Concentric Ring-Radiator Tweeter and a pair of custom 7" woofers in a rear-ported cabinet. Frequency range is stated as 40Hz–37kHz in their literature with sensitivity of 90dB and a nominal impedance of 4 ohms. A pair of Melody PM 845 monoblocks ($7959/pair) handled that load without breaking a sweat, with the Melody PB101 preamp ($4490) and Melody XCD 50 CD player ($3800) handling things up-stream. All cables are custom in-house, don't ask don't tell, Type Is and there is currently no pricing information available.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 06, 2011 2 comments
Sonorus Audio was playing a complete Sonorus system during my visit—the Sonorus ATR10 Analog Tape Reproducer ($10,000), which is a reconditioned and modified Revox PR99, Sonorus VPA 11 line preamplifier and OTL headphone amp, Sonorus ESL06 200Wpc High Voltage OTL tube amplifier (driving the electrostatic speakers), an OTL09 120Wpc OTL amplifier (driving the woofers), the ESL06 full-range electrostatic loudspeakers, and a Definitive Technology BP20 "used as back-pressure compensation woofers for the ESL06s." The system price for the preamp, OTL amps, and loudspeakers is $100,000.

We listened to Pink Floyd on open-reel tape and it soundd appropriately ethereal and spacey. My one issue with this room was the heat—my guess is those OTL amps were due some degree of blame. If you live in an igloo you may want to look elsewhere.

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