T.H.E. Show Newport 2011

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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 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).

But wait, there's more. . .

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 06, 2011 1 comments
The curvaceous Estelon Model XA loudspeaker ($43,900/pair), which uses a trio of ceramic drivers from Accuton (11" woofer, 7" midrange and 1.2" tweeter) was paired with electronics from Edge, including NL 12.2 amplifier ($24,388) and Signature preamplifier ($14,388), and a transport Drive 2 and DAC 2 from Neodio (pricing not available). Cabling was provided by Kubala-Sosna, and a Running Springs Audio Dmitri AC Power Conditioner ($4500) conditioned the power.

The sound in this room—we listened to the Beatles in high-res—was clean and fast and my notes include the thought "Like giving the Beatles a haircut and a shave."

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 06, 2011 2 comments
Speaking of people who enjoy spinning great music, next up was Dan Meinwald, the US Distributor for E.A.R. electronics, Mårten loudspeakers, Jorma Design cables, and Townshend Audio. We listened to the Mårten Coltrane loudspeakers ($70,000/pair), EAR 890 amplifier ($7995), EAR 912 preamplifier ($12,500), EAR Acute III CD player ($5895 in black, $6595 in chrome), and Helius Omega tonearm ($2900) fitted with a London Reference cartridge ($5295). Cabling was from Jorma Design and included the Origo interconnects ($5250/1m pair) and the Jorma Origo speaker cables ($7000/1m pair).

Neil Young’s Love and War nearly had me in tears (I think I may have been over-tired) but the experience was completely enveloping, erasing all thoughts of hi-fi and other distractions. I wonder if the people in the hi-fi industry who have a real love for music—and I don’t think they all do—necessarily also have a love for reproducing it in a way that pays more attention to it, the music, than the hi-fi. I tend to think so.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 06, 2011 0 comments
On Saturday and Sunday. T.H.E. Show attendees had the opportunity to see who was the tallest reviewer among the group. And ask them questions. I was only able to stay for a few minutes but the room was nearly full with eager attendees, with at least one audiophile dying to understand why, oh why, do hi-fi publications review things that he thinks are too expensive. The panel astutely observed, they don’t.

From left to right: Steve Rochlin (EnjoytheMusic.com), Robert Harley (The Absolute Sound), David Robinson and David Clark (Positive Feedback Online), Michael Fremer (Stereophile, but you already knew that), Paul Seydor and Neil Gader (The Absolute Sound).

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