T.H.E. Show Newport 2012

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John Atkinson Posted: Jun 09, 2012 1 comments
I still remember the chills that ran down my spine when I saw the band Rufus, with a young, slim Chaka Khan, performing "Tell Me Something Good" at a small English club more years ago than I care to recall. So when I went into the smaller MBL room at the Irvine Hilton and Jeremy Bryan started playing a live version of the same song, I got a similar thrill.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 09, 2012 1 comments
For audiophiles who may remember Legend Audio and their fascinating water-cooled amps, they have changed their name to Von Gaylord, and moved from Berkeley, CA to West Sacramento. Their sound has gotten even better in the process: lovely, warm, and refreshingly sweet, with eye and ear-opening sound staging, set far behind the speakers, and inviting air around images.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 09, 2012 0 comments
In their second room, Anaheim retailer Scott Walker Audio was showing Magico's Q3 floorstander ($38,950/pair) with the Soulution 700 monoblock amplifiers, hooked with Synergistic's cumbersome spaced-conductor speaker cable. Source was a Soulution 540 SACD player and a Soulution 700-series preamp. The Q3 was launched at the 2011 CES. A smaller derivative of the Q that Michael Fremer positively reviewed for Stereophile in November 2010, the Q3 uses the same proprietary beryllium-dome tweeter as the Q5 in the same type of space-frame enclosure, with a 6" Nano-tec midrange unit. The lower woofers roll off earlier than the upper one, to optimize the crossover to the midrange unit. Frequency response is specified as 20Hz–50kHz, sensitivity as 90dB, and impedance as 5 ohms.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 09, 2012 0 comments
I don't have much to say about the sound in this room, produced by Vandersteen Model 7 speakers ($50.000/pair) driven by Audio Research Ref 250 tubed monoblocks ($20,000/pair) and an Audio Research Ref 5SE preamp, wired with AudioQuest cables, other than it was simply one of my best sounds at the Newport Beach Show (the others being the Magico S5 and the MBL 101E Mk.II, with the Wisdom LS4 and Luxman-driven YG Anat II Studio not far behind).

Source was a Basis Inspiration turntable and arm fitted with a Lyra Atlas cartridge—the complex mix at the end of Blood Sweat & Tears' "Spinning Wheel," played on an acetate cut by Bernie Grundman, where treble recorders contrast with the brass, was untangled in a most effective manner but without any spotlighting.

John Atkinson Posted: Jun 09, 2012 0 comments
Turning the bits into music in the Channel D room was this $2495 standalone D/A converter, the Hilo from high-end soundcard manufacturer Lynx. Offering USB2.0, ADAT, S/PDIF, and AES/EBU inputs, the Hilo features a 4.3" LCD touchscreen to allow navigation of its menu system as well as, when the music is playing, a choice of peak bargraph or VU meters, as shown here. The Hilo supports 24-bit word lengths and sample rates up to 192kHz and can be used with both Windows machines and Macs.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 09, 2012 0 comments
Whether they be Quads or Staxes, Roger Sanders' designs, or MartinLogans, electrostatic speakers generate passionate advocates. Retailer Digital Ear was demming the enormous Martin-Logan CLX speakers ($25,500/pair) in a huge ballroom in the Atrium hotel, along with two MartinLogan Depthi subwoofers, driving them with McIntosh MC601 monoblocks, a McIntosh C50 D/A preamp and a Meridian-Sooloos server, all hooked up with Transparent cable. The CLX's curvilinear section operates above 360Hz, meaning that all the harmonics of the music and the upper fundamentals are not interrupted by a crossover. Unlike Jason Serinus, I love Diana Krall's music making, so I requested a track from her Live in Paris album. Despite the size of the room, her version of Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are" was reproduced with Ms. Krall's voice palpably hanging in the center of the stage.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 09, 2012 2 comments
"Whoa!" said self to self upon entering the KT Audio Imports room. This display is so dazzling, how can I begin to take it all in?

Arrayed before me were the Triangle Art Referent turntable ($13,990); GamuT CD3 ($6500); NAT Audio Magma 160W amplifiers ($45,000/pair), Symmetrical dual balanced preamplifier ($8700), Signature battery phono stage ($7800); Eventus Audio Nebula loudspeakers ($65,000/pair), and Wireworld cabling. Not playing were the Triangle Art Signature turntable ($9990), NAT Single Integrated ($7800), and NAT Magnastotat battery preamplifier ($17,490). Some of this, as well as two other Eventus loudspeakers, was off to the side.

Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 09, 2012 0 comments
One of my fondest memories of a past CES was sitting with John Atkinson at T.H.E. Show, playing a track from one of his superb recordings of Cantus on an all-out darTZeel /Evolution Acoustics system from Jonathan Tinn's Blue Light Audio. Here, on more modest speakers and electronics, I was again blown away, this time by the fabulous soundstage height, three-dimensionality, and realistic depiction of horns and cymbals on Michael Tilson Thomas' recording of Mahler's Symphony 3.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 09, 2012 0 comments
Empirical Audio's Steve Nugent was showing three new products in the Atrium Hotel, demmed with the TAD E1 speakers that had impressed me in the TAD room at the Hilton, driven by Parasound Halo JC 1 monoblocks. Steve is pointing to the two-box Overdrive SE DAC ($5999), which has BNC, S/PDIF, asynchronous USB, and i2S data inputs, and a volume control, making it "all you need for computer audio." There is now an Off-Ramp 5 asynchronous USB converter ($1299), which now has HDMI in addition to S/PDIF and i2S outputs and replaces the Off-Ramp 4 that I very favorably reviewed in December 2011. The third new Empirical product is the Synchro-Mesh reclocker ($599), which dejitters the datastream for a source such as an Apple TV, Squeezebox, or CD transport.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 09, 2012 0 comments
Late on Saturday afternoon, Emotiva's hall-end room at the Hilton shifted into college fraternity mode. The Emotiva Stealth 8s ($1499/pair) and ProDAC ($699), connected with Emotiva cables, were blasting mono-tonality assaultive rock that, for all I could tell, was sourced from MP3. The bass was huge, the highs searing, the outcome lamentable. I'll bet, if John Atkinson had analyzed what was playing for one of his seminars on how compression is ruining the pop music industry, his meters would have read red, red, red.

As you will read in the next story, it was a very different story in Emotiva's second room. Thank God.

Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 09, 2012 0 comments
Duplicating the system that had me enthralled at AXPONA 2012 with its clear, warm, and deliciously color-saturated sonic canvas, Peter Ledermann of Soundsmith was showing four cartridges at THE Show. Chief among them was the still-new Sussuro Hyperion OCL ($7000) with its cactus spine CL assembly. Available in an OCL diamond profile for the same price, this baby comes with a 10-year warranty including diamond retipping. Nearby were the Sussurro ($4500) and Sussurro Paua ($3500).
Stephen Mejias Posted: Jun 09, 2012 2 comments
On Sunday afternoon, the last day of the Newport Beach Show, Peter Roth of the Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society (seated second from right) moderated a panel of loudspeaker designers, including (from left): John DeVore (DeVore Fidelity), Kevin Malmgren (Evolution Acoustics), Yoav Geva (YG Acoustics), and Albert Von Schweikert (Von Schweikert Audio). Thanks to Peter’s excellent questions and the panel’s forthright answers, it was a fun and fascinating session—and one of my favorite events of the show.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 09, 2012 0 comments
The sound from Richard Kohlruss' VMAX Services room excelled in warmth and soundstage width. It wasn't the most subtle or detailed system I encountered, but it definitely made a movement from Haydn's Trumpet Concerto a pleasure to listen to. Given that I have heard a movement from this concerto whistled at the whistling contest I've frequently attended and judged far more times than I wish to recount, this was no mean feat.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 09, 2012 0 comments
The first time I encountered the Napa Acoustic display at a show, I thought these little babies so adorable that I wanted to take all of them home so that our canine daughter, Daisy Mae Doven, would have a system of her own. But then I remembered that Daisy plays only one tune—"Get Da Bone"—and came to my senses.

Okay. I know what you're thinking. I'm an audiophile. I've never come to my senses. Touché.

Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 09, 2012 2 comments
Oh, Santa. Santa Baby. Dear Santa Baby. Please make that a Reference Line Combination D ($259,700 total). I won't even ask you to sit on my lap, if only you and Rudolph bring me a pair of MBL 101E Mk.II Radialstrahler speakers, along with an MBL 1621 A CD transport, 1611 F D/A converter, 6010 D preamplifier, and 9011 power amplifier. In snow white, please, just as in the photo. This same Combo platter received my hands up and down "Best of Show" at AXPONA 2012 in Jacksonville. Here it sounded almost as good.


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