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.
The first time I tried to get into the Channel D room, the sound of the company’s Pure Music ($129) and Pure Vinyl ($279) software, along with their associated electronics, had drawn such a crowd that I gave up. Returning early enough on Saturday to beat the throngs of admirers, I was finally able to enjoy Stereophile’s 2010 Computer Audio Product of the Year.
Ever since I learned that Synergistic Research planned to partner with Magico, VAC, and Anaheim, CA retailer Scott Walker Audio, I found myself extremely eager to visit the huge, Crystal Ballroom D exhibit on the Hilton’s ground floor. My reasons were many. First, I’m accustomed to hearing Magico displayed with MIT cabling, which combination, to my ears, yields a dark sound that emphasizes layering in the lower octaves. How different, I wondered, would the mighty Magico Q7 loudspeakers ($185,000/pair) sound with Synergistic Research cabling and devices?
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 510 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.
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.
Holger Stein (center), designer of the Stein Harmonizers that have such a baffling effect on system performance, was beaming in the Hilton lobby. Perhaps he was thinking about all the attention his new phono cartridge is getting.
You thought ribbon cutting was simple? Not when the esteemed ribbon cuttersfrom 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.
A trumpet fanfare? For the opening of the largest consumer audio show in North America, nothing less would suffice. As Bob Levi (right), President of the largest audio society in North America (or perhaps the entire galaxy), gave the cue, the ribbon could be cut and the music could pour forth. The trumpet player was William Artope Jr, whose band gave concerts later in the show.
Despite being the kick-off seminar presenter on Friday, and starting just one hour after the doors opened, John Atkinson herded almost a full house to "Garbage In, Garbage Out." An expanded version of a seminar he originally delivered at RMAF 2012, the description reads:
Making value judgments on audio components using commercial recordings has pitfalls that many writers gloss over. The way recordings are made drastically affects what you hear from your system, explains John Atkinson using his own recordings as examples.
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.
Kevin Wolff of VANA Ltd., the US distributors of Vienna Acoustics and Primare products (left) joined Sunil Merchant (right) in his second Sunny Components room to show off the absolutely brand new, impressively slim and stylish Wadia Intuition 01 ($8500) shown atop the equipment rack. This new all-purpose baby combines 350 watts of class-D+ amplification with a 32-bit AD/DA digital preamp that, on USB, can decode both 384/32 and DSD files.
Intrigued by Ariel Bitran’s initial assessment of Nordost’s new Valhalla 2 line, as well as the repeat responses of website readers who seem determined to answer the modern koan, “What is the sound of one hand clapping in the hot wind?” I spent awhile listening to Valhalla 2 in Nordost’s room in the Hilton. Paul Ritchotte (L) and the ultra-modern Rune Skov were only too happy to oblige, switching between Valhalla 2 and the original Valhalla line (including the power cables that are currentlypun intendedon my desktop’s iMac and Dynaudio Focus 110A self-powered loudspeakers).
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).
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).