T.H.E. Show Newport 2011

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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 06, 2011 0 comments
In an approach that's similar in some respects to the Tonian Acoustics TL-S1, the Sonist Concerto 4 ($5895/pair) marries dual, proprietary, 8" treated-paper–cone woofers to a Fountek NeoCD2.0 ribbon tweeter for a claimed frequency range of 27Hz–40kHz and 97dB sensitivity.

While Sonist had a few tube amplifiers on hand, we listened to the Audion Sterling Silver EL34 Anniversary integrated amp ($3499), the Wyred for Sound Sonos sample-rate converter ($890), which converts i2S into 96kHz, up-sampled S/PDIF, and a Wyred for Sound 32-bit DAC ($1499). The DAC has a defeatable 32-bit volume control, 2 coax inputs, 2 Toslink inputs, 1 AES/EBU input, 1 balanced i2S input via HDMI cable, and a 24-bit/192kHz asynchronous USB input. All cabling was the Cable Research Lab Bronze Series.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 06, 2011 1 comments
Sunny's mere-mortal room included two setups; Octave Audio V80 tube integrated amp ($9950), T+A Music Receiver ($3800), and the Dynaudio DM3/7 loudspeakers ($2000/pair). There was also a desktop system which consisted of the Naim Uniti ($2450) and a pair of Dynaudio Focus 100 active loudspeakers ($2400/pair).

I took a few minutes to speak to Sunil Merchant, President of Sunny's . . .

Michael Lavorgna Posted: 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 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).

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 05, 2011 0 comments
Distributor Grant Fidelity was showing a bevy of products from China. On active display were the 89dB-sensitive Shengya V218 Wood Horn Monitors ($1900/pair), the Grant Fidelity W-30 Integrated All-In-One tube amp, which includes a built-in 24/192 DAC (though the DAC-part was not being used), a Consonance D-Linear 7 HD Interface ($1250), and a Consonance D-Linear8 Wireless HD D/A converter. Cables were the Grant Fidelity MRCA-1 Gold Coated Copper Reference Interconnects ($350/1m) and the Grant Fidelity MSC-2.5 Pure Copper Reference Speaker Cables ($450/2.5m).

A new line of electronics from Grant Fidelity called Psvane come with Treasure Tubes vacuum tubes from Grant Fidelity. These tubes are made in the Shuguang tube factory. Sitting on the outside of the other amps in the picture are the so-new-no-one-knows-about-'em Psvane T845 monoblock amplifiers ($8995/pair).

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.

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