T.H.E. Show Newport 2011

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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).

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).

Michael Lavorgna Posted: 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 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 05, 2011 0 comments
Yes, that ESS of Heil Air-Motion Transformer fame from the 1970s. On active display was a pair of the über-cool looking (especially nude) AMT Limited Edition loudspeakers ($5495/pair and pictured nearest to the side walls) which use the Heil Air-Motion Transformer for midrange and tweeter duties, while a 12" front-facing woofer and rear-firing passive radiator take care of the rest. The AMT Limited Editions were powered by a pair of CI Audio D-200 MkII monoblocks ($3500/pair), with a CI Audio PLC-1 MkII passive line controller ($900), CI Audio VDA-2 24-bit DAC ($599), and Sony NS3100ES SACD player following upstream. No one really wanted to talk abut cables here either.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: 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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