T.H.E. Show Newport 2011

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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 07, 2011 0 comments
The only negative I heard from exhibitors came from those whose rooms abutted the outdoor live entertainment area. When I arrived in the M•A Recording and The Signal Collection room, the band outside was in full boogie at full volume. While Chris Sommovigo from the Signal Collection did his best to overcome, the live music overcame our demo.

The promising-looking and, from what little I could deduce from listening through the live music, promising-sounding Transmission Audio MI1I loudspeakers ($4500/pair) were designed by none other than Bo Bengtsson. The speakers were coupled to a Bel Canto C5i integrated amplifier, with a Korg MR 2000 playing digital files from an laptop.

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 06, 2011 1 comments
The good folks from PFO had a "Hospitality Suite" mainly manned and womanned by Dave and Carol Clark. "Hospitable" is an understatement. Serving refreshments and lots of great stories of the many, many concerts they’ve attended and the music they love, Dave and Carol Clark are some nice people.

What was even nicer about the PFO Hospitality suite, in a hi-fi sense, is it also housed a system that was part of a project Dave Clark organized for the school where he teaches—Zu Audio donated a pair of unfinished Soul Superfly cabinets and Dave’s students finished 'em. I think they did a great job. They also got to listen to a cool hi-fi that included the Bel Canto C5i DAC/integrated amp, Nordost Purple Flare cabling, XLO/Ultra Power AC Power Strip, Wadia 171t, Oppo BDP-85SE universal player, and Pure Music Software.

I hate to repeat myself (not really) but if you want to attract younger people into our hobby you’re going to have to do more than talk. Bravo Mr. Clark for just doing it!

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 06, 2011 0 comments
Monrovia, CA-based retailer Brooks Berdan had one of the larger suites on the 2nd floor filled with top-of-line gear, including Wilson Audio W/P Sasha ($27,900/pair), VTL TL7.5 Series III preamp ($23,000), VTL TP6.5 phono preamp ($8500), VTL MB-450 Series III monoblock amplifiers ($18,000), dCS Puccini CD/SACD player ($18,000), dCS Puccini U-Clock ($5000), dCS Debussy DAC ($11,500), Grand Prix Audio Monaco 1.5 Turntable ($23,000), Grand Prix Audio Silverstone Isolation Component System ($22,000), and the Grand Prix Audio with cables from Cardas.

This was one of my favorite rooms but I’m not talking about sound quality in and of itself. John Quick of Tempo Sales & Marketing, dCS's US distributor, was spinning the tunes while I was in the room and between Ella and Louie, The Beatles in all their high-res glory, and let me just say you haven’t lived until you’ve heard Black Sabbath's classic "Fairies Wear Boots" blasting through a pair of Wilson Sashas. For me, the difference between good and great hi-fi resides in, and is 100% dependent upon, the music. And there a number of people in the industry who seem to really get that and John Quick is one of 'em. One hint that this may be the case is a big smile on their face as opposed to a pensive—this is very serious business—frown. I left the Brooks Berdan room energized and ready for more.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 06, 2011 0 comments
The MIT room was featuring Cary electronics and the Chapman T-8 loudspeakers ($9000/pair), which are sold factory-direct. Chapman is new to me; the T-8 is a 89dB-sensitive, 4 ohm speaker with a claimed frequency response of 28Hz–20kHz (±2dB). It uses a side-firing 10" polylaminate fiber-cone woofer, a 5½" midrange driver with butyl surround, and a 1" soft-dome tweeter. Cabling included the MIT Oracle Matrix HD Speaker Interface ($21,999) and the Oracle MA-X Rev. 2 Proline Balanced Interconnect ($12,999). I noted that there was "nice room dispersion" and "definitely no harshness."
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 06, 2011 2 comments
Sometimes who's who in high-end audio can get confusing. Napa Acoustic is, according to their website, the US Representative for Mistral Audio tube gear and the US importer for NBIEN loudspeakers and JIB-Germany cables. But if you search for NBEIN loudspeakers online, you’ll find the Xcellus website, which claims they're the US importer for Mistral Audio and JIB-Germany. They also say "Come and visit us during June 3–5, 2011 T.H.E. SHOW Newport Beach, California at room 319," which is the same room that Napa Acoustics was in. You say Napa, I say Xcellus?

In any event, the NA-208S speakers ($199/pair) that I nearly got to hear in the Napa Acoustics room were being powered by the NA-208A hybrid tube integrated amplifier ($399), which has inputs for CD, iPod and Aux. . .

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 06, 2011 1 comments
Covina, CA-based retailer Sunny's put one of their best feet forward with a pair of Wilson Audio Sashas ($27,700/pair), coupled to Boulder electronics that included the 2060 Stereo Power Amplifier ($46,000), 2010 preamplifier ($46,000), 1008 phono preamplifier ($12,000), and 1021 disc player ($27,700). Everything sat on a Finite Elemente Pagoda Signature rack and was cabled with Transparent Opus wire.

While I was in-room we listened to vinyl spinning on the Spiral Groove SG1.1 turntable ($20,000) and there was a lot of musical slam.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 06, 2011 0 comments
Apple Valley, California-based retailer and distributor HighEnd Electronics was showing the Voxativ Ampeggio, a single-driver horn-loaded loudspeaker from Germany ($29,750/pair), which will be reviewed by Art Dudley in the August issue of Stereophile. The KR Audio VA 340 MkII, a 300B-based SET handled the Ampeggio's light-weight, 100dB-sensitive load. A modified (by HighEnd Audio) Sony XA9000ES transport ($3000) fed an Audio Synthesis DAX DAC Discrete ($6000). Components sat on a Gregitek Stabtower 2 ($4790) and a Griegtek Stab 1 Platform ($765). Cables were provided by Synergistic Research—Galileo Universal Speaker Cell ($2500) and Galileo Universal Interconnect Cell ($1500). Power cables included the Audio Magic Liquid Air ($500), Synergistic Hologram D ($2600), and the Synergistic Hologram A ($2600). Power conditioning was courtesy Synergistic PowerCell 10 SE ($5000), Audio Magic Ground Disrupter ($700), and a Kemp SNS Plus ($195).

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