And so we say goodbye to the Sheraton Gateway and the City of Angels. Home Entertainment 2006 was a good Show, with some great sounds. I echo Wes Phillips's sentiments below. In talking to people, I had a sense that we were all part of a community of individuals with much the same goals, if not always the same way of reaching them. The Show staff were unfailingly pleasant and efficient. The hotel’s facilities served the needs of both exhibitors and attendees well—and by the last day of the show I actually figured out how to go from my room to the escalators without making at least one wrong turn!
I joke sometimes at Home Entertainment Shows, as I regard the crowds jostling one another to enter rooms, paw through bins of records, or get the good seats at the musical events, that "these are my people." The thing is, it's true. I do the same things.
I'm a guy who loves traditions: I attribute it to growing up in Virginia, a state that reveres tradition, my wife claims it's just OCD. Whatever—I have made it a tradition at every HE Show I can remember to visit Luke Manley's VTL room at the last minute on the last day because it always lets me leave on a high note. Manley did not disappoint this year in the room he shared with dealer Brooks Berdan, the "king of analog."
Southern California's Brooks Berdan, Ltd. continued to affirm the store’s reputation for high-quality sound in its Ayre/Vandersteen room, which had also impressed Wes Phillips in an earlier blog entry. Listening to the Ayre MXR 300W monoblocks ($16,500/pair), K-1x preamp ($7000), C-X5e universal player ($5950), and about-to-be-released power conditioner, connected to each other and the wood-finish Vandersteen Quatro speakers ($10,700/pair) by Ayre's own cabling, I encountered a soundstage whose height and depth had no right to exist in such a small space. But beyond issues of size and depth, listening to a Channel Classics SACD of the Ebony Band Amsterdam performing the music of Silvestre Revueltas enabled me to enter that composer's phantasmagoric universe in a deeper, more all-consuming way that I had ever before experienced. It was as if I was inside Revueltas' head, haunted by the very demons that drove him to write his extraordinary music. To discover myself so immersed in music in the middle of a bustling show was a rare gift.
Jon Iverson wrote about Bard's wireless system, but I think it worth emphasizing that, although Bard has a USB dongle that will transfer music from your computer to other systems, many audiophiles might be even more thrilled by the Bard One ($850), which inserts between your preamp and power amp and broadcasts to a nearby system, where it plugs into that preamp's line inputs. It's small and unobtrusive and sounded very good at HE2006, I hope to get my mitts on a sample and write about it further.
The Black Swan loudspeaker ($30,000/pair) from Canadian manufacturer Gershman Acoustics is unusual in that it uses a separate enclosure for its woofer section, flanked by extensions of the satellite's side-panels. The speaker's finish was excellent and the sound, with the speakers driven by McCormack universal player and electronics via Magnan cable, was equally excellent, even taking the the small size of the hotel room into consideration.
Wes Phillips already described his reaction to the new Nagra CDT CD transport and CDC CD player/control center. As can be seen from this photo, a hidden benefit of the player is that it has two sets of analog outputs: one pair on the side to go with Nagra own's PL-L and PL-P preamps and another on the rear panel, to be used with conventional preamps.
Other Stereophile writers, most specifically Jason Victor Serinus, have mentioned how good the Immedia room sounded and they are absolutely right: It sounded wonderful. I heard it twice and both times I was tremendously impressed with how relaxed and natural it sounded at moderate loudness levels. Many demonstrations rely on loudness to generate excitement, but Immedia's Allen Perkins let his system just bloom naturally.
Jon Iverson already posted a picture of Channel Island's D•400 amp ($4000/pair) and PCC•1 remote control passive preamp ($895), but he didn't mention how freaking powerful the combo sounded driving the Von Schweikert VR-5 ($18,000/pair). CIA's Dusty Vawter switched over to his also powerful-sounding D•200s and handed me a D•400—holy moly! The thing weighs a ton! The 0.25" side panels are all heatsink, which made me wonder, has Vawter produced a class-AB amp to join his class-D designs?
Red Dragon's Leviathan Series monoblock amplifiers deliver 500W into 8 ohms for $5995/pair. Driving Acoustic Zen Adagio loudspeakers, they sure sounded sweet—and powerful! They're packed with cool stuff, such as Neutrik silver XLR inputs and Cardas solid-copper binding posts, not to mention ERS paper, which is "employed at key locations to absorb and diffuse unwanted EMI."
...use a unique drive-unit concept that provides breathtakingly realistic, silky-smooth treble reproduction. I always try to visit the German manufacturer's room at the end of the Show, to savor the sound of their 101E speakers. Driven by MBL's own amps and digital front-end, with Tara Labs "Zero" vacuum-dielectric cables, these lived up to my expectation, though the Show room was not completely sympatico with the bandpass-loaded woofers, which need a relatively well-damped acoustic to work at their best.