T.H.E. Show Newport 2011
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Michael Lavorgna 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 Jun 06, 2011 0 comments
I’ve been hearing about Fritz Loudspeakers, which are available via direct sales only, for years but I hadn’t heard any until now. The Fritz Carbon 7 speakers ($1795/pair–$2395/pair) were connected to the 100Wpc Modwright KWA 100 SE stereo amplifier ($4295), which was connected to the Modwright LS 100 preamplifier ($3495). This has a phono stage but there was also a Zesto Audio Andros 1 tube phono stage in the room ($3900), which I'm assuming was in use since Zesto was also listed as one of the exhibitors in this room. Sources were the Thorens TD 309 turntable ($1900), an Esoteric SA60 universal disc player ($4995), and a PS Audio DAC Link III ($995) connected to a laptop. Cables were from Wywires, power cords were plugged into a Cryo-Parts Power Strip ($299), and everything sat on a Steve Blinn Designs Reference Equipment Rack ($1899).

I’m embarrassed to admit that I somehow neglected to take a photo of the inside of the Fritz Loudspeakers room, so the photo was supplied by Fritz Heiler. I did note that we listened to Jimmy Rogers' "Blue Bird" on vinyl and it sounded finely detailed yet not too etched. Harmonica in particular, which can be a difficult instrument to get right, sounded very natural.

Michael Lavorgna 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.

Michael Lavorgna 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 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).

Michael Lavorgna 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 Jun 06, 2011 0 comments
So you want cutting edge? Innovation? I’d say the team in the HiFi One room have you covered. I hope I can do this elevator-speech version justice—the Wadax PRE1-Phono solution provides you with a custom RIAA curve optimized for your turntable to nanovolt level signal precision. They refer to this process as "mapping." How do they do it? Wadax created a laquer "master" that is played on your turntable and the Wadax musIC chip in the PRE-1 captures the associated data and sends it, wirelessly via the Internet, back to Wadax where they analyze and optimize the RIAA curve in your PRE1-Phono based on the data they captured directly from your turntable. Or maybe I should say!

And really, that's not even half the story since that PRE1 can be configured as a line-level preamplifier, preamp with integrated DAC, with the above mentioned phono stage, with "WADA optimized PureDAC mode," and as a phono stage with step-up amplifier. You should visit the Wadax website for the whole story.

Michael Lavorgna Jun 05, 2011 1 comments
Next up was Peter Bichel Noerbaek’s kit loudspeaker, the Pennywise, which costs $1250/pair for the parts (drivers and crossovers) and $3000/pair for the finished cabinets (with piano gloss finish). Unless you have some serious woodworking chops, you’d be pound foolish to take on this cabinet as a DIY weekend warrior project. Associated electronics included the Olympia AX amplifiers ($8500/each) run here as monoblocks but you can also flip a switch for stereo operation, the PS Audio PerfectWave Transport and DAC ($2999.99 each), and XLO Signature 3 cables.
Michael Lavorgna Jun 05, 2011 1 comments
PBN Audio is the brainchild of Peter Bichel Noerbaek and its line of equipment runs end-to-end. On exhibit were the Liberty Innerchoic Loudspeakers ($15,000/pair) that use 48 layers of MDF in an “eggcrate” construction on the interior walls to “absorb unwanted reflective sound waves”, the Olympia EB-SA1 ($15,000/each), named in honor of Erno Borbely, can be run as a stereo amp or monoblocks with the flip of a switch, the Olympia PX Phono stage ($20,000), Olympia LX line stage ($20,000) and the Groovemaster turntable ($10,000) sporting a 12" SME tonearm. Speaker cable and interconnects were the XLO Signature 3 and a 75ohm BNC cable was used between the line-stage and amplifier.

While there was no room treatment in sight and the Liberty Innerchoic loudspeakers were not exactly bass shy, there were no room issues that plagued some other exhibitors. My notes on the sound read—"groovy."

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