Although a fair number of woman are now appearing audiophile shows, both as exhibitors and attendees, rare is the woman who attends without her partner/spouse/significant other. Meet Sheri Morgenroth, who founded the Houston Audio Society eight years ago. Currently an engineer by day, and married to a man who cares not about our hobby/passion/obsession, Sheri was fascinated by records at a very early age.
This was the first time I've encountered ESS Labs at a show. Rico Caudillo, CEO, explained that after an eight-year cessation, the company returned to the scene maybe four years ago. Pictured here, left to right, are the imposing, all-dipole Transar ($19,000/pair) and smaller AMT Limited ($4495/pair).
Finally I had a chance to hear the loudspeakers lauded by Stereophile equipment reviewers, the Voxativ Ampeggio Signature by Schimmel ($32,500/pair). This single-driver, ultra-sensitive speaker headlined an excellent line-up from Alfred Kainz's highend-electronics, Inc. that led me to write in my notes, "Beautiful. Remarkably close to natural sound. The highs are wonderful, especially the cymbals."
I fell in love with the adorable little system from Chris Sommovigo's The Signal Collection when I heard it play some of Todd Garfinkle's MA Recordings at AXPONA 2012 in Jacksonville. In Newport Beach the love affair continued.
Everyone who knows Dan Meinwald of EAR USA looks forward to his exhibits, as much for their wonderful sound as for the opportunity to discover sometimes unusual, musically engrossing vinyl titles. This year was no exception. Once an attendee who was dominating the proceedings finally settled down, and Dan played a master tape-sourced file of Heifetz and Smith playing Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata and a hi-rez copy of the Concierto de Aranjuez (I think), the room transformed from a showcase for a loudmouth into an island of warm sanity. It was luscious.
I have always greatly admired the match of Robert Lee's Acoustic Zen loudspeakersin this case the wonderful Crescendo loudspeaker ($16,000/pair), a 3-way transmission line design with a horn-loaded ribbon tweeterwith the Triode Corporation electronics imported by Santy Oropel of TWIN Audio Video. Here, the Crescendos formed an especially sonorous alliance with the TRV-CD5SE CD player ($3250), TRX-1 remote controlled tube preamplifier ($3200), and TRX-M845SE monoblock power amplifiers ($22,500/pair).
Gary Katayama of Affordable Audio constructed a system that allowed Randy Bankert's Sonist Concerto loudspeakers ($5895/pair) to show how much sound they can deliver. With apologies for my potentially flawed attempts at deciphering Gary's handwriting, I heard the Baetis Media Server ($2595) and Mach 2 Mac mini (approx. $1000) using Amarra 2.3, Human Audio Table USBS/PDIF converter ($1000), Bel Canto 3.5 USB DAC ($3500), Audion 300B amplifier ($5500), EAT E-Flat turntable ($6000), and Synergistic Tranquility Base ($1000). The soundstage was impressively big, and the sound warm but overly smooth, to the point of softening the leading edge on Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's glorious mezzo-soprano.
Here shown in striking white, the F300 is a 3-way, two section ported loudspeaker whose two sections hold a total of four drivers. (The supertweeter is hidden in back.) The F300 boasts a frequency response of 25Hz40kHz and, with the right jumper cables between its two sections, an especially warm midrange. Special to this loudspeaker is its Heil Air Motion Transformer tweeter, which produces striking detail.
In the second of four rooms from Sunny Components, Inc., Michael Manousselis paired Dynaudio's Confidence C2 Signature loudspeakers ($15,000/pair) with Boulder's 1021 Digital Player ($24,000), 1010 preamplifier ($14,000), and 850 monoblock amplifiers ($11,500/pair). Arrayed on a Finite Elemente Reference Rack ($15,000). Everything was connected with Transparent cable. The superb highs on this system immediately clarified why Dynaudio's Esotar2 tweeter has garnered so much praise.
During the brief amount of time I spent at CES 2012 in Las Vegas, one of my most impressive acquaintances was with the new Dynaudio Xeo 5 ($4500/pair) floorstander and Dynaudio Xeo 3 ($2300/pair) bookshelf wireless loudspeakers. Sold complete with a wireless transmitter and remote control, these loudspeakers deliver astonishingly good sound without need to spend money on speaker cables and the like.
"Daedalus Audio and ModWright Instruments have teamed up to show how good a sound you can get for close to $15k," Daedalus' Lou Hinkley explained as I entered the room. Indeed, for as much as I could hear over a very loud conversation, the sound of a track from River, Herbie Hancock's Tribute to Joni Mitchell, and another from a Norah Jones album was very, very nice.
Walter Swanborn of Fidelis AV (pictured kneeling next to Holger Stein of Stein Music) hosted the North American debut of the Harbeth M30.1 monitor ($6495 in tiger ebony finish). Paired with the LFD NCSE 75 watt integrated amplifier with SE phono stage ($6295), Palmer 2.5 turntable with Audio Origami arm and Dynavector XX2 cartridge ($11,995), MSB Media Transport ($3995) and MSB Platinum Signature DACIV with Signature power supply ($17,500), the system produced the strongest and most predominant midrange of any I heard at T.H.E. Show Newport Beach.
This system is worth learning about, because it nailed tonalities spot-on. After going room-to-room for three days, I assure you that getting tonality and timbre spot-on is no mean feat. In fact, it's a pretty elusive goal for most components.
Bluebird Music’s Jay Rein was pleased to show the Spendor Classic SP2/3R2 loudspeaker ($4295/pair), which takes the tweeter from Spendor’s SA-1 and combines it with the company’s original BBC technology, construction, and design.