T.H.E. Show Newport 2012

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 08, 2012 0 comments
Induction Dynamics of Overland Park, KS was showing its S1.8T 3-way tower loudspeaker ($13,500/pair). Using as a source an Oppo 85SE, paired with McIntosh’s MX150 pre/pro, MC 207 amplifier, and MT10 turntable, and wired with Kimber Kable, the system sounded far more neutral than I was expecting. Playing an LP of Billie Holiday singing “A Foggy Day in London Town” (Songs for Distingué Lovers), I marveled at the beauty, clarity, and warmth of the sound. Like a proverbial Dorothy searching for her Toto, I didn’t want to leave home without it.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 08, 2012 1 comments
SimpliFi's Tim Ryan was demming the Gradient Revolution speakers and Bladelius amplification he had shown at the New York Show, but now with two pairs of dipole woofers. But pride of place in his room was the DSPeaker Anti-Mode 2.0 Dual Core processor from the VLSI company ($1099) shown in the photo. Tim was using the fully remote-controlled DSPeaker box as a D/A preamp—it has a volume control, shown on the front panel—but it can do so much more: digital-domain parametric equalization; digital room correction up to a user-selectable upper limit of 80Hz to 500Hz; it can even be used as a two-way digital-domain crossover with fully adjustable slopes and crossover frequencies. Kal Rubinson is scheduled to receive a sample for review forthwith.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 08, 2012 1 comments
The Hegel room on the Irvine Hilton’s 5th floor was so packed that I was initially forced to sit outside the soundstage. While I feared that would leave me in no position to critically evaluate the system’s overall gestalt, eventually moving to the center enabled me to hear how solid the sound was.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 08, 2012 1 comments
TAD premiered its new E1 floorstander ($29,800/pair) at the 2012 CES in January, but THE Show Newport Beach was the new speaker's first public outing. Trickling down the technology from TAD's massive Reference One (now being used for monitoring at London's famed AIR Studio) and Compact Reference CR 1, the E1 still uses a coaxial drive-unit with a beryllium-dome tweeter for the treble and midrange, but with the midrange cone now magnesium rather than beryllium.
Stephen Mejias Posted: Jun 08, 2012 0 comments
Here’s a look inside Human Audio’s Muto battery-powered DAC ($1299), handmade in Hungary. The Muto is compatible with resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz, has selectable S/PDIF inputs (RCA and BNC), has a fully discrete analog output stage with bipolar and JFET transistors, and employs two Lithium-Iron-Phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries capable of at least 12 hours of “green” operation. When the Muto is switched off, the batteries automatically recharge.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 08, 2012 9 comments
Blue Coast Records’ Cookie Marenco, one of the more gifted recording engineers around, is a firm advocate for DSD and SACD. But in the Sony room at THE Show, she demonstrated a disturbingly audible difference between one of her recordings of a solo violin in San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral played from SACD via a Meitner DAC and from the original DSD file played back via a PC running Foobar, a USB link, and the new $1000 Mytek DAC. Yes, the converters are different, but the Meitner is no sonic slouch. Even so, the file had more of a luminous halo around the solo instrument and that space was better integrated with the direct sound. Huh?!?! This isn't PCM. A DSD bitstream is a DSD bitstream is a DSD bitstream!
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 08, 2012 2 comments
Back in June 2010, I reviewed the DACPort USB D/A headphone amplifier and was very impressed by what I heard. CEntrance has since expanded their range of products, and at THE Show had a booth outside the Hilton's groundfloor ballrooms where they demmed a cute Audiophile Desktop system ($2000), which combines the MasterClass 2504 2-way coaxial speakers, the DACmini PX desktop amplifier and DAC, and a travel case.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 08, 2012 0 comments
Canadian speaker manufacturer Totem had a rather schizophrenic room, in which they had no fewer than three complete systems being demmed, one based on MBL electronics, the second on McIntosh electronics, and the third on Cary electronics. Totem’s Vince Bruzzese is shown here operating what I felt to be the best-sounding system, featuring a C31 CD player ($9200) and C51 300Wpc integrated amplifier ($11,100) from MBL’s Corona series driving the Earth speaker from Totem’s Element range ($9000/pair) via Clarus cables. The Earth uses the same tweeter and Torrent Technology woofer as the other Element designs, coupled to a passive radiator. There is no crossover in the woofer’s path, leading to an almost preternaturally clear midrange, but with big, almost too big bass.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 08, 2012 2 comments
Finally, after encountering Israel Blume and his wife in the gym at several shows, I got a change to hear the Coincident speakers and electronics that have garnered so much praise in multiple publications. Although I may not have heard the system at its best—a discussion with Israel during a serious morning workout revealed that his tube sound was fluctuating from clear to soft, depending upon where the Hilton’s voltage was at any particular moment—I found the sound a bit warm and opaque, but remarkably extended on the low end.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 08, 2012 2 comments
This bijoux little asynchronous USB DAC ($249), which uses an ESS Sabre DAC and Gordon Rankin's Streamlength code, made its public debut at Newport Beach. It was being demmed in one of retailer Optimal Enchantment's rooms with Audio Research amplification and Vandersteen Treo speakers. Add a PC or Mac, a 1m 3.5mm–dual-RCA Evergreen cable from AudioQuest ($29) and you're in business.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 07, 2012 0 comments
As fate would have it, on my third attempt to enter the Venice Audio Suite—intense conversation made the other passes futile—Mark Waldrep of AIX Records/iTrax had brought in some of his hi-res files for store proprietor Peter Selesnick to hear. The room was quiet, and for good reason: the sound was too beautiful to talk over.
Stephen Mejias Posted: Jun 07, 2012 3 comments
Jeffrey Catalano’s High Water Sound room was so hidden, tucked away at the end of a shadowy corridor, that posters were tacked to the Atrium walls, reminding showgoers to stop by.

I had wondered how anyone could possibly find their way there, so I was taken aback when I walked into a packed house of bobbing heads and stomping feet. But I shouldn’t have been surprised: Audiophiles have a way of finding great music.

Stephen Mejias Posted: Jun 07, 2012 0 comments
I walked into Muddy Waters. Folk Singer. But there was nothing muddy about it. The clarity, in fact, was intense. Muddy’s voice was big and present, full of texture; his guitar was similarly powerful.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 07, 2012 1 comments
I first heard the Zesto Andros PS1 phono stage ($3900) at the 2011 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest and was impressed by what I heard. The Andros was being used in the One World Audio room in the Hilton, with a Lindemann amplifier driving speakers from Voce Audio, a name new to me. The Voce UA-3 is a large floorstander using a ring-radiator tweeter recessed behind a short horn. Source was a 1978 Luxman PD-444 turntable fitted with a TriPlanar arm and a Lyra Kleos cartridge. Cabling was all WyWires. The sound of bass player Stanley Clarke's acoustic 2009 album, Jazz in the Garden, with Hiromi on piano and Lenny White on drums, had excellent dynamics but was overall a little mellow.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 07, 2012 1 comments
Tucked away at the end of a corridor on the Hilton's ground floor, the Estelon Model X Diamond speakers ($64,000/pair) were being driven by Concert Fidelity's new ZL-120V2 Special Edition monoblocks ($34,000/pair) via Fono Acustica cables. Preamp was the Concert Fidelity CF-090LSX2 tube hybrid line stage ($24,000) with the SPA-4C solid-state MC phono preamp ($14,000), and sources were an Esoteric SDACD player feeding the Concert Fidelity DAC-040 tubed D/A processor and a modified Denon DP-3000 direct-drive turntable. Considering the system costs, the sound from CD was a little disappointing—a fine vocal presence upset by uneven low frequencies, which I put down to room acoustic problems—but to my surprise the sound from LP was considerably better focused, with more controlled lows.

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