T.H.E. Show Newport 2012

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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!
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 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.
Stephen Mejias Posted: Jun 08, 2012 1 comments
This gentleman found bliss while listening to an all-Mac system: McIntosh MA6600 integrated amplifier, MCD301 SACD/CD player, and MR50 loudspeakers.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 08, 2012 0 comments
The AVM electronics were being used to bi-amp the midrange and treble units of the enormous Legacy Helix speakers ($48,000/pair), which use 750W ICE-powered 15" subwoofers and a digital-domain crossover with room correction, like its smaller and less expensive cousin, the Whisper XD. The big speakers lack the Whisper's unique cardioid woofers, however. The classic Radka Toneef performance of Jimmy Webb's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" sounded suitably delicate, but the bass on Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" sounded ponderous, due, I think, to the sub-optimal acoustics of the air-wall ballroom.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 08, 2012 0 comments
This diminutive floorstander was one of my best sounds at April’s New York Show, and the same speakers at the Newport Beach Show sounded equally fine, driven again by Pass Labs electronics via Kimber Kables, despite the air-walled ballroom in which they were set-up: a huge, superbly defined soundstage, uncolored mids that worked magic on vocals and on Cookie Marenco’s solo violin recording (see next story), and overall a somewhat sweet balance. I am working on a review of this speaker, to be published in the fall.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 08, 2012 0 comments
An editor’s job isn’t always light and easy, but not every moment during Saturday’s hour-long panel (repeated on Sunday) was. Yours truly, who could only stay long enough to snap a few photos, listened closely as John Atkinson spoke about what he wants and does not want from his equipment reviewers. Pictured, left to right: Dave Clark and David Robinson, Positive Feedback Online; JA and Michael Fremer, Stereophile; Robert Harley, Paul Seydor, and Neil Gader, The Absolute Sound.
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.
Stephen Mejias Posted: Jun 07, 2012 1 comments
One of my favorite demos of T.H.E. Show Newport was provided by Mike Zivkovik and Garth Leerer, respectively of Teresonic and Musical Surroundings.
Stephen Mejias Posted: Jun 07, 2012 1 comments
The gates to heaven?
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 07, 2012 0 comments
There was a continual program of live music at T.H.E. Show Newport Beach, to allow Showgoers to recalibrate their ears. A quintet led by trumpet player William Artope Jr, son of Bill Artope, the Sales & Marketing Director for cable manufacturer Dynamic Design AV, played some excellent straight-ahead modern jazz poolside at the Atrium Hotel.
Stephen Mejias Posted: Jun 07, 2012 2 comments
At the Hilton, T.H.E. Marketplace was home to May Audio, Ginko Audio, Bob’s Devices, Eastwind Imports, Reference Recordings, Lavry Engineering, and Acoustic Sounds.

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