T.H.E. Show Newport 2013

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 06, 2013 27 comments
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?
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 06, 2013 1 comments
Ray Kimber has blown minds at previous shows with his IsoMike surround-sound exhibits. I recall, in fact, one at RMAF with huge Sound Labs electrostats that had everyone shaking their heads in disbelief at how amazing it sounded. But in this case, despite the excellence of four Sony SSAR-1 loudspeakers, Pass Labs X350.5 amplification, an extremely expensive array of EMM Labs equipment connected to a Sonoma—32 super audio center, and excellent Kimber Kabling, something was not right.
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 04, 2013 0 comments
Earo Acoustics of Woodland Hills, CA demmed three different models of their Swedish-made self-powered loudspeakers. Listening to the white, single point source horn floor-standing Ulf ($6900/pair, I believe), a smaller cousin to the red Earo Eight, I loved the realism of the whistling and singing on Livingston Taylor’s “Isn’t She Lovely.” “Sound Fabulous” I wrote in my notes of the sound from speakers driven by Hypex class-D amplification, with more than a little help from a NuForce DAC. Not auditioned were the other two speakers and a DAC that I know to be excellent, because I have one here at home: the Antelope Zodiac Gold.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 04, 2013 5 comments
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 currently—pun intended—on my desktop’s iMac and Dynaudio Focus 110A self-powered loudspeakers).
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 04, 2013 0 comments
Wishing to slow down and luxuriate with trusted friends, I headed to Covina, CA-based Sunny Components’ room on the second floor of the Hilton to reunite with the Wilson Audio Alexia loudspeakers ($48,500/pair). Making their West Coast show debut, these handsome babies, which I initially blogged about at RMAF 2012, sang superbly through Audio Research’s ARC Reference 250 monoblocks ($13,000 pair) and, in its US premiere, the ARC Reference 10 line stage preamplifier ($30,000). Also in the digital chain were the ARC Reference DAC, which extends up to 24/192; the new Harmonic Resolution Systems SXR Signature edition rack; and a combination of Shunyata Research, Transparent, and Isotek cabling and products. Wilson specialist and sound engineer Peter McGrath (left) enlightened me and Sunil Merchant of Sunny Components (right) by playing a bit of his hi-resolution master of young pianist Benjamin Grosvenor performing the second movement Beethoven’s Op.7, No. 2 sonata.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 04, 2013 8 comments
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.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 04, 2013 0 comments
Photo: John Atkinson

YG Acoustics’ Sonja 1.2 passive loudspeakers ($72,800/pair), which is basically the Sonja 1.3 that JA will be reviewing in the July issue, with one less woofer, sounded gorgeous in a not-so-modest $250,000 system. Sharing the honors were Tenor Audio’s 1755 stereo amplifier (Cn$55,000) and Line1/Power 1 preamplifier (Cn$75,000), Luxman’s DA-06 DAC ($6000), and $34,700 worth of Kubala Sosna Elation cabling and Sextet Power Distribution box.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 04, 2013 0 comments
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.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jun 04, 2013 1 comments
Although they looked the same, the Audio Note UK E/SPe HE 98dB-sensitive loudspeakers ($9300/pair plus $650 for the stands) were a larger version of what I heard at AXPONA Chicago. In a system that also included Audio Note UK’s CDT Three top-loading CD transport ($12,000), DAC3.1x / II Balanced ($10,000), and OTO SE Signature integrated amplifier ($5500, or $6300 with phono), a very warm and mellow midrange triumphed on Jane Monheit’s “More than You Will Ever Know” from the album, Neverland. A further listen to a cut from Hazmat Modine’s Bahamut convinced that this is a system for midrange lovers über alles.
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
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
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.

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