T.H.E. Show Newport 2012

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John Atkinson Posted: Jun 09, 2012 2 comments
Sharing a Hilton ballroom with Legacy and AVM, the Austrian Ayon tube amplification was being demmed with Lumenwhite Artisan speakers ($40k/pair). Source was the new Ayon Music Server and two-box preamp. Listening to Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall," I thought the sound was better than it had any right to be given the suboptimal acoustics. Then I spotted some of the Synergistic ART Acoustic bowls on the walls—my left brain knows these silly little bowls can have no audible effect on room acoustics in the audio range; my right brain was busy telling my feet to tap!
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 09, 2012 0 comments
In their 10th floor suite, YG Acoustics was driving their Anat II Studio Signature speakers with Luxman B-1000 solid-state monoblock amps via Kubala-Sosna Elation cables. Total cost of the system was an eye-watering $275,000, but I don't think I have heard Talking Heads' live "Psychokiller," from Stop Making Sense, sound as viscerally real, yet without strain nor grain. (Trying to reproduce this track at similar levels with an all-Mission system a quarter century ago, I managed to melt the amplifiers' output stages.)
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 09, 2012 1 comments
Okay. I know what you're wondering. So do Jason and Lisa Stoddard, whose curiously named headphone amplifier and headphone DAC company celebrates its second anniversary on June 17. In fact, your curiosity is one of the reasons why Lisa is smiling so.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 09, 2012 0 comments
As someone who reviews speakers infrequently, and usually listens to floorstanders, I find the world of mini-monitors and bookshelf speakers confusing. There are so many different price points for the latter, with a pair of monitors listing for under $300 somehow meriting the same adjectives (at least from some reviewers) as those that cost 10, 20, and 30 times more. With FritzSpeakers, however, I have no question about quality.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 09, 2012 0 comments
Although Roger Sanders was not in the room when I finally got there on the third day, his "handcrafted in Colorado" electrostats were singing as if he were. In addition to the superb transparency that one expects from a good electrostat, the bass was not just convincing, but simply amazing. The sound was a bit sharp in the small room, and at one point, in an unfortunate performance of Puccini's "O mio babbino caro," distorted on top. Since I've not had either experience in previous auditions of Sanders electrostats, I have a hunch the distortion probably due to the mikes used to record this unsuited-for-the-role-of-Lauretta soprano. (I have a number of recordings from EMI that grow harsh and noisy on vocals due to the choice of microphones).
MSB
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 09, 2012 1 comments
Last summer I gave a presentation at Goodwins High End in Waltham, MA where I played some of the hi-rez master recordings through an MSB D/A converter. I was so impressed by what I heard that I arranged a review of the DAC and MSB's matching transport, both priced at $4000, by Jon Iverson, scheduled for publication in the October 2012 issue of Stereophile. MSB were demming the new versions of their digital gear—the Diamond DAC with the FemtoSecond Galaxy Clock, the Data CD transport, and the new S200 class-A 200Wpc stereo amplifier—in the Atrium Hotel, using YG's Anat III Studio speakers. Whether it was CD—Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis duetting on "A Nightingale Sang in Berkely Square"—or 24/192k WAV files from Chesky, played back from a data DVD-R, there was something very right about the sound in this room—and not a magic bowl or adverse energy-draining base to be found!
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 09, 2012 1 comments
In the more extensive of its two set-ups, Emotiva produced lovely, welcomingly smooth sound. Although bass control was elusive, as it was for many systems in these small "sleeping rooms" at the Hilton, the system's impressive clarity on top and nice tonality confirmed its reputation as a bargain bonanza. Playing were the XRT 6.2 tower loudspeakers ($699/pair), XPA-1 monoblock amplifiers ($999/each), XSP-1 stereo preamplifier ($899), ERC-2 CD player ($449), and XDA-2 Reference DAC ($399). Watch for Bob Reina's rave review of Emotiva's smaller XRT-5.2 towers in the August issue of Stereophile.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 09, 2012 0 comments
Dynamic Sound Systems of Carlsbad, CA demmed bi-amped Plinius 310Wpc stereo amplifiers ($10,300 each), Plinius stereo preamplifier ($11,350 line, $12,500 phono), and Plinius Tiki DLNA compatible Digital Audio Renderer ($4775) in a system that also included the PMC IB2 three-way loudspeaker ($18,490/pair), and Analysis Plus Oval 9 speaker cables as well as Solo Crystal interconnects and Power Oval 2 power cables.

On tracks from Nils Lofgren and Vivaldi, I found the sound solid and dynamic, but also hard, and opaque, perhaps due to the sub-optimal room acoustics. Yes, traps had been used in the corners of this room, but an exhibitor at a Show is always at the mercy of whichever room they have been allocated.

Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 09, 2012 0 comments
It may seem strange to introduce a huge show report—actually my final blog, since, in time-honored biblical fashion, the last shall always be first in the blogisphere —with a photo of a Bentley Mulsanne (over $400,000). But inside this gorgeously outfitted automobile, a machine that even closes its doors for you should you be too occupied trading stocks via iPhone to pull the handle, is a custom-enhanced sound system by Reus Systems of Orange. (It was part of the exotic car exhibition that was part of T.H.E. Show.)
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 09, 2012 0 comments
One of my favorite visits at T.H.E. Show was to the Tannoy/Cary/Synergistic Room sponsored by The Home Theater Experience of Carlsbad, CA. As luck would have it, 40-year industry veteran Tony Weber, a sound engineer on many of Delos' early recordings and currently Regional Sale Manager for Cary Audio, was at the helm.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 09, 2012 2 comments
Eric Hudgins' Tailored Technologies of Santa Clara, CA somehow packed a lot of equipment and sound into a small space. Audreal's PA-80 class-A amplifier ($5995), XA-3200 preamplifier ($1899), and LP-2 phono stage ($1295) were brightening up the room with the SoTM DAC 200HD ($2200) and server ($2200) and the new version of Volent VL-3 Mk.II loudspeakers ($11,000). The turntable was the Clearaudio Ovation ($5500) with MC cartridge ($800).
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.

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