T.H.E. Show Newport 2013

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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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 09, 2013 0 comments
I was familiar with the unique concentric, point-source, multiway drive-unit from French manufacturer Cabasse, as Michael Fremer had reviewed the spherical Baltic II speaker that used it back in 2005. But the floorstanding Pacific 35A speaker ($19,900/pair), which complements the smaller spherical Riga(inboard, on stands) with a pair of powered 7" woofers was new to me. In a system featuring Esoteric’s A-02 monoblock amplifiers and K-03 disc player—Esoteric distributes Cabasse in the US—and WireWorld cables, the late Eva Cassidy’s voice on “Field of Gold” was reproduced with rock-solid stereo imaging and a natural tonality.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 09, 2013 2 comments
I was taken back more than 20 years when I entered the Musical Surroundings room in the Atrium, as Garth Leerer was playing “Le Temps Passé” from Michel Jonasz’s LP La Fabuleuse Histoire du Mr. Swing. This cut from the French singer used to be a staple at shows in the late 1980s. Played on the AMG Viella 12 turntable and arm ($17,000) that Michael Fremer describes as a “good value” in our August 2013 issue, fitted with the same sample of the Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement cartridge that Mikey reviewed, with Wilson Sasha W/Ps driven by an Aesthetix Atlas amplifier ($10,000), Aesthetix Janus Signature preamplifier ($10,000), the LP produced a wall-to-wall soundstage with excellent dynamics.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 09, 2013 0 comments
The price of the Duke loudspeaker from Trenner & Friedl—$175,000/pair—took my breath away when I heard it at the 2011 CES. The Austrian company’s Isis ($40,000/pair), on display in Profundo's second room, uses the same compression driver for the HF as the Duke but combines it with an 8" paper-cone midrange unit and a 15" paper-cone woofer in a conventional, if large, cabinet. (Each cone is doped with six coats of lacquer.) The sound of Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre, from the Witches’ Brew RCA LP on a Basis turntable, with the speakers driven by Viva Audio Aurora tube monoblocks ($43,500/pair), had huge dynamics and a natural tonal balance. The image of the solo oboe that represents the cock crow at dawn in this work was superbly well-defined, without any exaggeration of its size.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 09, 2013 0 comments
I still remember how much I enjoyed the sound of hi-rez files decoded by MSB’s DAC, when it resided briefly in my system after I performed the measurements to accompany Jon Iverson’s review last October. So MSB’s room at the Atrium was one of my first stops. A pair of YG Anat 3 Signature speakers with Billet-Core midrange units and woofers was being driven by MSB’s S200 200Wpc, zero-feedback, class-A amplifier ($17,995) and source was the Platinum Data CD IV transport. However, the bits were being converted to analog not with the Diamond DAC but MSB’s new “entry-level” Analog DAC ($6995 with standard outboard power supply, $9990 with upgraded Analog Power Supply, which shares the same form factor and is shown sitting underneath the DAC), which is said to offer “a generous percentage of MSB’s technology.”
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 09, 2013 0 comments
Because the show was too big for one person to see it all, Jason Serinus and I split our responsibilities: he would cover the Hilton and I would cover the Atrium Hotel, plus some of the rooms at the Hilton that he failed to visit. The first room I visited at the Atrium was the large ballroom on the mezzanine featuring Dynaudio’s new Evidence Platinum loudspeaker ($85,000/pair). Did I say “large”? I meant to write “enormous”! The room was way too big, but with acoustic treatment from Vicoustic, the system produced much better sound than I was anticipating. I listened to Jeff Buckley’s “Lilac Wine” (from Grace), Bill Evans in hi-rez, and a live Dutch recording from David Crosby with an electric band performing a song called “Morrison”; with all three recordings, the imaging was solid and tangible, the low frequencies rich but well-defined, and the midrange uncolored.

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