T.H.E. Show Newport 2011

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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 05, 2011 3 comments
The Channel Islands Audio room featured two brand spankin' new products; the Soul Sister loudspeakers ($5000/pair with an optional up-charge of $1000 for custom veneer) which reach down to 27Hz and have a 90dB sensitivity according to Dusty Vawter of CI Audio. They should be available within two months. The other new product is so new it showed up in prototype plain clothes—the upcoming Asynchronous USB DAC ($1500 projected price), which should be available in the near future and feature 3 coax inputs, 3 Toslink inputs, and a USB input and will handle resolutions up to 32 bits and sampling rates as high as 384kHz. All electronics were. . .
Michael Lavorgna Posted: 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 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.
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."

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 05, 2011 5 comments
Dynamic Contrasts manufactures the RTS Racking System, an equipment-support system that squeezes the bad vibes out of your gear. Okay, so that’s my interpretation but if you want to know what they’re talking about, I’d recommend a visit to their website. A three-shelf RTS Racking System will run you $12,900 and each additional shelf adds $2200. It's difficult to see in this picture (you can see part of an empty rack on the right side in front of the speaker), but this rack is very unconventional and instead of having support shelves, it has support arms that clamp your gear in place. So in effect, your gear is not "sitting," it's being gripped in place. Sort of like a medieval kind of rack. . .
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 05, 2011 0 comments
Albert von Schweikert was showing his factory-direct VR-33 speakers ($3750/pair) with Jolida electronics—Jolida JD 1000RC tube integrated amplifier ($2400) and the Jolida JD 100A vacuum-tube CD player ($1000). While I was in the room, we were treated to some real tape played by a United Home Audio UHA HQ open-reel deck (starting at $7998) and from my experience it’s really hard to make a decent tape sound bad. Interconnects and speaker cables were Master-Built Purple Line ($500/pair for the interconnects and $800/pair for the speaker cable).

With a system price of $8450 (not counting the tape deck), von Schweikert was calling his system “T.H.E. Show’s Best Value System,” at least on their literature, and I have no idea if that was the case or not (and I kinda doubt that anyone can know that kinda thing for sure). But I completely understand the impulse.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 04, 2011 1 comments
Tonian Acoustics was showing its new loudspeaker, the TL-S1 ($4300/pair as shown and up to $5700/pair with alnico magnet and custom veneer), which uses a modified SEAS driver run full-range augmented with a modified Fountek ribbon tweeter in a semi-open baffle. The speaker comes with several panels that allow more or less sound through an opening in the back of the cabinet, thus the "semi-open" aspect. Driving the TL-S1s were a relatively modest pair of vintage 1980s components—the Audiolab 8000 integrated amp and the Magnavox 650 CD player. The system was wired with Tonian Acoustics cable, which is a copper, bronze, and brass composite with cotton insulation (8' speaker cable $480/pair, 1m interconnect $380/pair and power cords $370). Contrary to what you might expect from '80s-era digital (read harsh) and solid-state, this system was relaxed, smooth and easy to listen to.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 04, 2011 0 comments
I have to admit I’ve been intrigued by the Haniwa rooms I’ve heard and the company's room at T.H.E. Show Newport Beach was no exception. And I think what I find so interesting is their quirkiness. (I mean that in the best possible way.) The tiny Compact 2-Way Horn Speakers HSP2B06 sounded fast, light and all-over micro-detail—faster than a speeding bullet. The music choice was equally micro-detailed and faster than a speeding bullet (not to mention quirky), a marriage made out of a kind of obsession. Or at least I’d like to think so.

Personality is all over hi-fi. And while I’d hope that each designer designs what he considers his or her best, the best just doesn’t exist. And it doesn’t exist because we, the people, like different aspects of musical reproduction. The means are different because the ends are, too. Which helps explain why there’s so much wonderful gear out there and so many people interested in hearing and buying it.

While I didn’t get any official numbers for the first day’s attendance at T.H.E. Show, I can say it was very crowded especially, for a Friday afternoon. (I purposely tried to photograph gear not people so don’t let that fool you.) Based on what I saw Friday, I'd say this show is already a great success.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 04, 2011 0 comments
The self-powered (three 130W amplifiers) Phoenix loudspeakers ($5400/pair) from Precision Transducer Engineering (PTE) aren’t for sissies. Especially when they’re used in conjunction with a powered subwoofer strapped to a 400W class-A/B amp of its own. In a tiny hotel room. New electronics from Townshend Audio were also in use, including the Glastonbury Pre 1 preamplifier ($13,000) and the Glastonbury CD Universal Player ($16,000). Vinyl was handled by a SpJ La Luce Turntable. I was actually enjoying my time in the PTE room until someone decided to see how far they could flex the walls and ceiling with soundwaves.

PTE also makes a larger loudspeaker, The Statement ($44,000/pair), which they were going to play later in the day but I didn’t make it back in time. Okay, I admit it—I didn't go back because I was afraid.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 04, 2011 0 comments
Hsu Research was showing off its reasonably priced HB-1 Mk2 Horn Bookshelf Speaker ($149/pair in black, $179/pair in real wood veneer) and the oh-so-subwoofery VTF-15H subwoofer ($879). One thing I’ve noticed about most subwoofer demos is—volume (that really should be in all caps but I don’t want to shout). Lots of volume. While this isn’t necessarily a criticism, I felt an overwhelming sense of calm in Hsu’s silent static-display room next door.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 04, 2011 2 comments
The VMPS RM 30 Series II Ribbon Speaker ($3500/pair) marry dynamic woofers to push/pull planar-magnetic ribbon speakers for a claimed frequency response of 34Hz to “nearly” 40kHz. They were certainly moving a lot of musical air but also had to battle a very noisy and booming neighbor. Take it to another hotel! Associated gear included the Ampzilla 2000 Series II 300W monoblocks ($7500/pair), Ampzilla Ambrosia Series II preamp ($7500), W4S DAC 2 and Nuforce DAC9 converters ($1500–$1695), Wywires interconnects and speaker cable, VMPS dedicated subwoofer with 500W amp ($979), a modified DCX2496 controller/processor ($1600) for room correction, and an Audience Adept Response aR6 power conditioner.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 04, 2011 0 comments
RSL Speaker Systems is a direct-sales only company, started by speaker designer Howard Rodgers, the head honcho of 1980s retailer/speaker manufacturer Rogersound Labs. RSL was showing the CG Stereo System speakers ($1250/pair including a Speedwoofer 10 subwoofer, stands optional) that use its "patented Compression Guide Technology," which appears to be concerned with eliminating cabinet resonance and helps make a subwoofer speedy. RSL refers to this system as a "2.1 approach" (sub/satellite) and they believe that this configuration allows for optimum placement/room integration. In fact, the subwoofer we were hearing was not the one we were seeing—the Speedwoofer 10 (also available separately for $750) up front was on static display while the one in-use was hidden under a table on the opposite wall. RSL was using the PrimaLuna ProLogue Two integrated amp ($1999), which delivers 40Wpc from a quad of KT-88s, and the Acoustic Research CD5 ($5995).
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 04, 2011 0 comments
The complete system from German manufacturer Lindemann was news to me. Comprised of the 825 High Definition Disc Player ($9900), 830S Stereo Control Amplifier ($9900), 855 Dual-mono Power Amplifier ($13,900) and the BL-10 (Dixie!) loudspeakers ($11,000/pair) this system was graceful and very easy to like. Sounds like more.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 04, 2011 2 comments
To suggest that Vincent Audio pushes the boundaries of taste in some of its ads is, I think, not overstating the obvious, and using women as props to sell hi-fi gear is probably not the best way to get more women interested in the hobby if that’s what you’re interested in doing. But hey, I’m all for enthusiasm and it takes all forms.

The hybrid tube/solid-state Vincent SP-T800 200W monoblock amplifiers ($2499.95/pair) were on display along with the Vincent SA-T8 preamp (2349.95), the PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC ($2999.99), a Thorens TD 2030 turntable ($3699) and the very refined “The Kiss” speakers ($15,000/pair w/stands) from Vienna Acoustic’s Klimt Series. The lovely and from what I’ve heard talented Jessi Monroe was also in the Vincent Audio room signing autographs. You may recall Jesse from Stephen Mejias’ Axpona Atlanta coverage.

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