T.H.E. Show Newport 2013

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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.
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.
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 09, 2013 0 comments
The second Aaudio Imports room I visited featured the German-designed but China-manufactured components from BMC. The Arcadia bipolar speakers ($36,300/pair with external crossovers) were being driven by AMP M2 monoblocks ($15,980/pair), connected with Stage II speaker cables and interconnects. Front-end components included a Hartvig battery-powered Gramophone ($28,400 plus $5400 for battery supply) and BMC’s MMCI current-input phono preamplifier that Michael Fremer raved about in the June 2013 issue ($3890). I have a sample of the MCCI in for a follow-up and provisionally, my reaction echoes Mikey’s
John Atkinson Posted: Jun 09, 2013 0 comments
German electronics manufacturer Einstein had made a virtue out of necessity, using the packing crates as stands for their The Source player and The Amp integrated amplifier (approximately $19,000). With Audio Machina CRL speakers ($10,000/pair), a recording of the operetta Die Fledermaus offered an enormous yet stable soundstage, with the whistling featured on the chosen cut set well back.

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