T.H.E. Show Newport 2013

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 06, 2013 0 comments
Going all out, Totem Acoustics followed up its home theater room with a second room that included two completely different systems. Just finishing up playing when I entered the room, the “Boulder System”—Boulder 2060 power amp with “Made in the USA” XTC amp stand, 1010 preamp, and 1021 CD/Networking player—fed the brand new, just shipping Totem Acoustic "Forest Signature" loudspeaker in Cherry ($6000/pair). This was the same Boulder amp and preamp whose sound helped me wax ecstatic at Music Lovers Audio in San Francisco 22 days earlier. As for the all-important loudspeaker, it has the same volume as the standard Totem Forest ($4000/pair), but contains better capacitors and drivers, a different decoupling system, and a high gloss polyester finish that takes a week to complete on a cabinet whose angle can be adjusted.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 06, 2013 0 comments
By now, the excellence of the big TAD Reference One loudspeakers ($78,000/pair), designed by Andrew Jones, has become well-known to Stereophile readers. Less familiar, perhaps, may be TAD’s Reference electronics: the TAD D600 CD/SACD player and DAC with external power supply, the C600 preamplifier with external power supply that Michael Fremer reviews in the June 2013 issue ($42,000), and M600 monoblocks ($68,000/pair).

The warmth of the system’s midrange immediately won my heart.

Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 06, 2013 0 comments
Photo: John Atkinson

The Legacy Audio Aeris Premium ($18,850/pair, outboard), with dual 500W ICEpower amps for the bass section and 24-bit DSP, certainly offers a lot for the money, but in Monarch Ballroom III, the speaker also sounded boomy and rather flat. The latter condition, I soon discovered, was easily remedied. When I played Reference Recordings’ CD of two ballet scores by Délibes, the image was pulling so far to the left that it was hard to believe that no one else had noticed the imbalance. Sleuthing revealed that someone or some dark force had messed with the balance control. Once it was returned to center position, the soundstage from the Pioneer Elite CD player and Coda 15.5 amplifier ($10,000) grew in size, and the sound, while hardly transparent, far more inviting and filled with air. As for the boominess, hopefully more attention to set-up and associated electronics would do the trick.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 04, 2013 0 comments
It was a big surprise, in Totem Acoustics’ home theater room, to first stay with the room’s darkness, and then snap a second photo to discover the vivid red colors of the loudspeakers. Fun.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 04, 2013 0 comments
It was 10:10AM on Friday, 50 minutes before the start of the T.H.E. Show Newport Beach, and the lobby of the Hilton Irvine was abuzz with activity. Folks were standing 5–10 deep, in multiple lines, waiting to register or retrieve their pre-registration badges. Close by, at the entrance to the lobby, photographers for multiple publications and organizations were establishing turf, staking out the best spot for catching every smile, grimace, and nuance of the 10:30AM ribbon-cutting ceremony. And in the midst of it all, hotel visitors whose deepest association with audio is that it rhymes, more or less, with rodeo were eyeing the whole thing with a mixture of curiosity, incredulity, and downright dread.

Welcome to T.H.E. Show.

Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 04, 2013 0 comments
I have grown increasingly fond of exhibits that seem like a welcome breath of fresh air. Hence I extend my thanks to Gene Rubin of Gene Rubin Audio and Walter Swanbon of Fidelis AV, whose system provided my first listen to the fine Stein Music Aventurin cartridge ($6495). Listening to the Quartet Italiano play Mozart, I was delighted by the very warm, civilized, and totally enjoyable sound of a system that also included the Palmer 2.5 turntable ($11,990), the Stein Music Harmonizer System, and LFD photo stage ($1895) and NCSE MKII hand-assembled amplifier ($7495), and Harbeth Monitor 30.1 loudspeakers (starting at $5990/pair).
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 04, 2013 0 comments
You tell me why Steve Rochlin of EnjoytheMusic.com was fielding a cell-phone call during the first of T.H.E. Show’s two Ask The Editors panels. Pictured to his left, not necessarily in order of bemusement, are David Clark and David Robinson (Positive Feedback On-Line), Robert Harley and Neil Gader (The Absolute Sound), and John Atkinson (I’ll bet you know).
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 04, 2013 0 comments
The lovely Jan Mancuso, beautifully bedecked in bountiful floral bouquet, beams positive vibes throughout "The Marketplace" as she smilingly extols the praises of Reference Recordings’ ever-expanding catalog of superbly recorded classical, jazz, and blues, including Stereophile’s "Recording of May 2013," Doug MacLeod’s There’s a Time, which is now available on LP and which Jan co-produced.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 04, 2013 0 comments
Photo: John Atkinson

Philip O’Hanlon may call his distribution company On a Higher Note, but it was the beauty of his system’s midrange that impressed me the most in his intentionally low-lit room. I couldn’t spend much time here—I lamentably missed playback of the Channel Classics DSD master files—but on a master tape of guitarists Roy Gaines and Anthony Wilson, I was immediately captivated by the inherent rightness of the sound produced by the Brinkmann Bardo II turntable ($9500), Luxman D-08 CD/SACD player ($17,000) and DA-06 DAC ($6000), Mola Mola Kaluga preamp ($10,000) and Makua monoblocks ($15,000/pair, rave-inducing Vivid G3 Giya loudspeakers ($40,000/pair), Kubala Sosna Elation cabling, and Sonorus ATR10 open-reel tape deck ($13,000).
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 04, 2013 0 comments
Having entered Larry Kay’s BSG room at RMAF 2012 just as he was in throes of packing, after having missed the Bay Area Audiophile Society’s demo of his BSG qøl Signal Completion Stage, I was relieved to finally be able to take a brief listen to the device (pictured on the second shelf, below the MacBook Pro). Although my time in the room was brief—Larry paused just long enough from a discussion to mug for the camera—I definitely heard a larger and more convincingly realistic qøl soundstage with the unit switched in. You can find John Atkinson’s February 2013 review here.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 04, 2013 4 comments
You thought ribbon cutting was simple? Not when the esteemed ribbon cutters—from left to right, David Robinson (Positive Feedback On-Line, in white shirt), Michael Fremer (Stereophile and AnalogPlanet.com), Robert Harley (The Absolute Sound), and John Atkinson (Stereophile)—were faced with 1001 photographers, a ribbon that looked as though it was manufactured of industrial-strength mylar, and a giant golden scissors that couldn’t cut its way out of a paper bag. No wonder Bob Levi of the Los Angeles & Orange County Audiophile Society (far left) and show organizer Richard Beers look relieved when the ribbon finally snapped.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 04, 2013 0 comments
Given that I’ve heard Audioquest’s price-busting DragonFly USB DAC ($249 and change) on other occasions, I only lingered long enough to hear a bit of Shelby Lynne’s “Just a Little Lovin” and a 24/96 file of a song by Mark Knopfler. The sound was lovely and smooth. The system, which also included Vandersteen Quatro Carbon loudspeakers ($12,500/pair), Audio Research VSi75 ($7500), AudioQuest Castle Rock speaker cable and Angel interconnect, Harmonic Resolution Systems rack and shelf, and Furman PL-8 C power conditioning, didn’t have the ultimate bass control or color, but, my God, the DragonFly can be had for under $250.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 04, 2013 0 comments
Last year, after my photo of him briefing a cadre of adoring acolytes appeared on this site, Richard Beers forbid me to ever publish pictures of him that were taken unawares. So this time, with his full knowledge and consent, the miracle man whose expertise and persistence makes T.H.E. Show(s) possible, has allowed me to reveal to the world what he looks like at 10:12AM, before his 25th cup of coffee.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 04, 2013 0 comments
In a room dominated by Cessaro Horn Acoustics Chopin loudspeakers ($40,000/pair), whose tweeter reminds me of the donuts I gave up many decades ago, I found the sound on a recording of electric guitar extremely direct and realistically bright. I didn’t get the name of the blues recording that Leslie Mazer was playing on the platter, but the music was great. This wasn’t a room for those who like their sound sugar-coated, but for music lovers who want it served up straight, it was heaven.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 04, 2013 0 comments
Touting the bounties of their new high-end headphone library, which allows you to audition products before you commit to purchase, The Cable Company’s Steven Aug, Ethan Wood, and Robert Stein presented the first showing of the Cardas EM5813 Ear Speakers ($425). At the other end of the price spectrum was the West Coast debut of the Abyss Planar headphones ($5495), powered (I think) by the new Cavalli Liquid Gold headphone amplifier ($6450).

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