T.H.E. Show Newport 2013

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 10, 2013 0 comments
Dusty Vawter’s CIAudio, which stands for Channel Islands Audio rather than a governmental overseas espionage agency, was making really nice sound on a recording by Ben Harper. Doing the honors in this reasonably priced system were CIAudio’s Transient Mk.II asynchronous USB DAC ($699), VDC•5 Mk.II 5V upgraded power supply ($329), PLC•1 MKk.II passive line controller ($899), and D•200 Mk.II 200W monoblocks ($3500/pair). Von Schweikert VR-22 loudspeakers ($2895/pair) completed a chain that began with a MacBook Pro equipped with Pure Music software, and also included a PS Audio P10 power regenerator, Billy Bags equipment rack, and GIK room treatments.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2013 0 comments
The first Aaudio Imports room I visited featured the DEQX Room Correction Processor ($4500). I had been gob-smacked at the 2012 RMAF, when I heard how this processor turned a pair of RadioShack PA horns into acceptable hi-fi speakers. However, the correction being demmed at T.H.E. Show was more subtle, mainly involving a firming up of the stereo imaging, as the system was sounding good without correction. (Competing noise from the room across the corridor did make the improvement difficult to hear at first.)
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2013 7 comments
Although plagued by “Noisy Neighbor Syndrome,” Colleen Cardas Imports impressed me with the great sound they got from a 45rpm Acoustic Sounds test pressing of Stevie Ray Vaughan playing “Tin Pan Alley,” reproduced by the Opera Seconda loudspeakers ($3995/pair). Yes, that characteristic Hilton room mode was still in evidence, but these big two-and-a-half-ways produced an otherwise smooth, sonically compelling balance.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2013 0 comments
Like so many rooms at the Hilton, Wyred 4 Sound was battling an unsympathetic acoustic, which made the otherwise excellent Paradigm Signature S8 v3 speakers ($7999/pair) sound bass-heavy. But driven by an almost all-Wyred 4 Sound system—MS-1 music server ($1999), DAC-2 DSDse ($2499), mAMP monoblocks ($1798/pair), with all Wyred 4 Sound cables, and PS Audio P5 AC conditioner ($3495)—the sound of DSD files from Cookie Marenco Blue Coast Records sounded excellent. One thing I did notice that the sweet spot was very small, the sound being rather diffuse and lacking transparency until I moved into the front-row center seat.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 10, 2013 4 comments
Photo: John Atkinson

Location, location, location . . . and, from Richard Beers and Bob Levi, a generous helping of brilliant organizing acumen. That winning combination means that, in just its third year, T.H.E. Show Newport Beach has already laid claim to the title of the top consumer “fine audio” show in the U.S.

What exactly No.1 means is another question entirely. While T.H.E. Show Newport Beach may have been spread over multiple floors in two adjacent hotels, as was T.H.E. Show Las Vegas of old, and offered, in addition to almost 140 exhibit rooms and an invaluable number of seminars, a corridor-long “cigar show,” a glitzy car show, wine show, gourmet food trucks, and multiple entertainment stages and markets, it’s hard to know if all that = “best.” And while attendance is claimed to be very high, it’s hard to know how many of the estimated 7500 attendees actually paid to get in, and how many took advantage of either generously distributed comps or membership in the Los Angeles-Orange County Audio Society.

What is certain is that, despite what JA told me was a surprisingly slow Sunday, there were people everywhere on Friday and Saturday. Everywhere, as in all over the place. And that means more than physically. People ran the gamut age-wise as well as interest wise, if less so in terms of the male-female ratio.

John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2013 0 comments
The San Diego manufacturer’s affable Robert Lee was showing his new Crescendo loudspeaker ($16,000/pair), which combines a horn-loaded ribbon tweeter with two 5" midrange units and two 8" woofers in a transmission-line enclosure. Driven by Triode TRX-M845 tubed monoblocks, the Crescendos threw a very wide but somewhat unstable stereo image on a 1962 RCA “Living Stereo” Leopold Stokowksi LP, with rather ill-defined low frequencies. I would have thought that perhaps that sonic signature was due to the recording, but the Crescendos sounded cleaner, with better defined low frequencies and accurate, stable stereo imaging in the Red Dragon Audio room, where they were driven by Red Dragon M500 Mk.II monoblocks ($1598/pair) and helped, I understand, by DSP room acoustic correction.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2013 1 comments
At $12,600/pair, the two-way S1 is the least-expensive speaker to come from Magico. Nevertheless, in a relatively large room at the Atrium, driven by the Constellation monoblocks ($54,000/pair) that Mickey Fremer will be reviewing in the October issue, and the Constellation Virgo preamp ($29,000) had an ease to its sound, coupled with an almost full-range balance with palpable imaging. Source was Constellation’s new Cygnus server ($29,000), controlled by an iPad app, and cables were all Kubala-Sosna. Expensive electronics but this system was one of my best sounds at the Show. (And I’m not just saying that because Constellation’s Peter Madnick played one of my favorite Cantus tracks, an acapella treatment of Curtis Mayfield’s “It’s Alright,” which I recorded live at Minneapolis’s Southern Theater in 2008.
PBN
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2013 3 comments
PBN’s Peter Noerback always gets a good sound at shows and Newport Beach was no exception. The KAS2 speakers ($38,000/pair) might have thought to be too big for the room, but driven by the 200Wpc Olympia-AX amplifiers, bridged for mono operation when they deliver 800W into 8 ohms ($22,000 each), they produced a delicious full-range sound, even one that was a touch too mellow, on Madeleine Peyroux’s rendering of “Bye Bye Love.”
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2013 0 comments
The system in the Gallo room featured the Strada 2 satellites (left in photo) with a TR3 subwoofer operating below 110Hz ($3400/system including stands); driven by a Cambridge 840A integrated amplifier with an Olive media server as source, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” sounded full-range and naturally balanced. But my attention was drawn to the tiny A’Diva SE ($329 each) and even smaller Micro ($239 each) which each use a single flat-diaphragm drive-unit, which were new at T.H.E. Show.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2013 1 comments
From an engineering standpoint, Emerald Physic’s CS2.3 Mk.II loudspeaker ($5950/pair in gloss black with outboard DSP crossover), appears to do many things wrong—that large-diameter midrange unit, the coaxial tweeter with no apparent attempt at dealing with the symmetrical acoustic environment, the cavities between the 15" woofer cones and the front baffle—but I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard. The speakers sounded better than I was expecting on Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Tin Pan Alley,” producing a big, easy-on-the-ear balance.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2013 0 comments
Orange County, CA-based Precision Transducer Technology had loaned me a pair of active monitors for my lead-off seminar on hearing and how recordings are made. As I had only previously been aware of the phono preamplifier, my first visit on Day Two of the show was to the PTE room. PTE’s Phoenix SG powered speakers ($9500/pair) offer a more domestically acceptable veneer finish than the speaker I used for my dem. They combine a modified ScanSpeak tweeter with twin Peerless woofers, ad include class-AB amplification based on an LM386 chip with analog equalization.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 10, 2013 0 comments
My ears first opened to the tantalizing sounds of JansZen Model ZA2.1 electrostatic hybrid loudspeakers ($7495/pair) with AirLayer outboard side-firing tweeter option ($495/pair) at AXPONA Chicago. In California, they were again paired with an exaSound DAC and, I think, Bryston linear amplifiers. With the source a PC equipped with J River Media Player feeding the DAC via a stock USB cable, the sound was quite nice on a track of somewhat formulaic jazz.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2013 0 comments
Monrovia, CA store Brooks Berdan Audio is now run by the late Brooks Berdan’s widow Sheila. Her room at the Hilton heavily featured products from importer Bluebird Music: Spendor A9 speakers ($7995/pair), Jadis JA80 tube amps, and Jadis JP80MC preamplifier, hooked-up with Cardas cables. Source was Amarra running on a MacBook Pro feeding data to a McIntosh D100 DAC. Stands and racks were Grand Prix Audio. A blues recording by Eric Bibb, “Saucer and Cup,” from the CD Good Stuff, with acoustic guitar and mandolin, was reproduced with appropriate immediacy.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2013 0 comments
As in many rooms, “Keith Don’t Go,” Nils Lofgren’s live paean to the Stones’ Keith Richard was playing when I went into the Nuforce room. As much as I liked this song the first time I heard it, this must have been the 10,000th! The Angel City Trinity speakers ($3000/pair) that I had liked in the Spiritual Audio room were being driven by Nuforce Ref.18 monoblocks, which offer 335W into 8 ohms and cost $3800 each. Preamp was the P20 ($5000) and source the DAC9 ($1795) fed data buy an Oppo universal player. Much as I was weary of Keith being begged not to go, the guitar sounded full-bodied and clean in this room, perhaps due in part to the careful use of acoustic treatment from LA Sound to tame the ubiquitous 80Hz hump in the Hilton’s smaller rooms.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2013 2 comments
The second Audio Element room was one of my best-sounding systems at the show: Sonus Faber Elipsa speakers were being driven by Ayre’s new VX-5 power amplifier and KX-5 preamplifier, with source the latest version of the QB-9 USB DAC, which can handle DSD data. The sound was more open, less dark than in the other Audio Element room, with more space around the instruments. The new Ayre preamp and power amp have much in common with the new AX-5 integrated amplifier, which Art Dudley will be reviewing in the August 2013 issue of Stereophile.

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