T.H.E. Show Newport 2013

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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.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2013 1 comments
Speaker manufacturer Chapman was demming the T-8 Mk.II ($9995/pair) with the 120Wpc Innamorata solid-state amplifier from a Californian company new to me, Wells Audio. The hefty three-way T-8 (it weighs 100 lbs) combines a 10” polyaminate-fiber cone woofer with a 5.5” midrange unit and a 1” silk-dome tweeter. Frequency response is specified as 28Hz–30kHz, ±3dB, sensitivity as 89dB/W/m, and Chapman claims it specifies all the drivers to within ±.025dB. The Innamorata is heavily biased into class-A and features Jack Bybee’s “Music Rails” to lower its noisefloor.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 10, 2013 0 comments
Dexter Gordon was in the midst of turning head over heels, or vice versa, over the sound of his LP, Dexter Blows Hot and Cool, in the Venice Audio room. He may have blown a bit cool over the out-of-control bass, but he surely found the beauty of his tenor sax, and the clarity of the cymbals hot indeed.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2013 0 comments
It was a treat to visit the Red Wine Audio room, which featured Harbeth Super HL5 monitors ($5690/pair) driven by Red Wine’s battery-powered Liliana Renaissance Edition monoblocks ($5995/pair) and Isabella Renaissance Edition 6H30 preamplifier ($3995), and hear Grammy-winning engineer David Reitzas mixing songs from Madonna and Barbra Streisand from his MacBook Pro running Pro Tools.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2013 0 comments
The Taiwanese company Lawrence Audio was founded in 1996 but was new to me. Their speakers are impeccably finished and are all named after string instruments: the large Cello (right) features twin ribbon tweeters and two 8" woofers and costs $18,000/pair; the smaller Violin ($7500/pair) a single ribbon tweeter; and the smallest Mandolin (just out of shot on the left) costs $5500/pair. Demmed with the new 125Wpc Model 125 stereo amplifier from Jeff Rowland Design Group, with the source a Bryston BDP-1 media player, the Cellos produced a clean, clear sound on a Japanese transcription for tenor saxophone of the first Bach Cello Suite, with none of the otherwise ubiquitous upper-bass boom I heard at the Hilton.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2013 0 comments
“An honest sound; clarity without detail being thrust forward at the listener,” read my notes from this room at the Hilton, which featured the superb-sounding TAD Evolution One speakers ($29,800/pair) that Kal Rubinson reviews in the July 2013 issue of Stereophile. Both Eva Cassidy singing “Fields of Gold” and the Sir Charles MacKerras’s “Living Stereo” recording of Sibelius’s Finlandia (the latter one of the first classical recordings I owned more than 50 years ago) were well-served by this system, which included Zesto’s Andros PS1 tube phono stage ($4300) that Michael Fremer liked so much when he reviewed it in his March 2013 “Analog Corner” column, Zesto’s new Leto tubed line stage ($7500), and A VAC Phi 200 power amplifier ($9990), all hooked up with WyWires wires. Turntable was the Merrill-Williams ($7200) fitted with a Triplanar arm ($6000) and a Dynavector XX2 Mk.II cartridge ($1985).
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2013 1 comments
Following the death of his father in July 2011, Brian Berdan had been running Brooks Berdan Ltd, the well-regarded retailer in Monrovia, the suburb east of Los Angeles. But T.H.E. Show saw the debut of Brian’s new venture, Audio Element, which will open in Pasadena in August. Many of the brands that used to be sold by Brooks Berdan Ltd. are going with Brian to the new store. Many were exhibiting in Brian’s two rooms at the Atrium. In the first room, Sonus Faber Amati Futura speakers ($36,000/pair), which I loved when I reviewed them in March 2012, were being driven by VTL’s MB-450 Series III Signature tube monoblocks ($18,000/pair), VTL’s TL-7.5 Series II Reference line preamplifier ($20,000), VTL’s TP-6.5 Signature phono stage ($8500), and the fully loaded, four-chassis dCS Vivaldi SACD playback system ($108,496). Analog playback was with a Grand Prix Monaco turntable ($23,500) fitted with a Tri-Planar tonearm ($5800) and Lyra Skala cartridge ($3995). Cables were all Cardas Clear and Clear Beyond and racks were all from Grand Prix Audio.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2013 2 comments
Audio Machina speakers were featured in the Coffman Labs room, driven by Manley New Classic SE/PP300 monoblocks, but my attention was drawn to this superbly finished tube preamp from Coffman, the G1-A ($5495, $5795 with remote), which includes a phono stage and headphone output, and is being produced in a limited edition of 500 units. The rest of the system included Music Hall’s MMF9.1 turntable fitted with a Sumiko Blackbird cartridge, Parasound’s great-sounding Halo CD1 CD player, and an Audience Adept Response power conditioner.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 10, 2013 1 comments
Winner of my “Tied for Best Sound on the Hilton’s 3rd Floor Award,” which must count for something in someone’s book—the other was the Perfect8 and BAlabo room, Veloce Audio’s LS-1 battery-powered tube preamp ($18,000) and Saetta battery-powered hybrid monoblock amplifiers ($18,000/pair) were producing their customary luscious, warm, clean, and ultra-smooth sound. Using a PC source equipped with J River Media Player, a Stahl-Tek Ariaa DAC ($12,000), Purist Audio Design Corvus cables and Ultimate USB, and YG Acoustic Kipod II Signature loudspeakers ($38,800), the system sounded great on George Benson’s “Paper Moon” and Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass’ “Moonlight in Vermont.” I especially enjoyed the copious amount of air surrounding Byron Janis’ piano. Color this system maximally seductive.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 10, 2013 0 comments
Audience was demming their tiny ClairAudient 1+1 bipolar speaker ($1800/pair, available this month), driving them with their 400W Wavepower monoblocks $18,000/pair including Au24 SE PowerChords) via Au24 cables. Front end was a Bryston BDP-1 media player and BDA-1 DAC, and Audience’s Adept Response aR6-TS conditioners cleaned up the AC. As you might expect from such small speakers using two full-range drivers, the stereo imaging from this system was superbly stable and exquisitely well-defined, though double basses did sounded more like cellos, there only being so much low-frequency energy you can extract from 3" drive-units, even when loaded with passive radiators.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 10, 2013 1 comments
EAR USA’s Dan Meinwald had more to share than two new products from Tim de Paravicini; he also opened the door on lovely tube warmth. Thanks to two new sources, the EAR Acute 4/DACute 4 CD/SACD player ($13,000) and Helius Alexia turntable ($5500), the latter equipped with the Helius Omega 10” tonearm ($3100) and Dynavector KX-1s cartridge ($5450), an LP of doo-wop, and a CD of The Persuasions singing the Beatles had great height and exemplary center imaging. A Chad Kassem test pressing of the Ray Brown Trio’s Soular Energy further exhibited lovely and warm tube sound.
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.)
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.

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