You'd think, given that T.H.E. Show Newport Beach has proven so successful that it now occupies lobby areas, conference rooms, poolsides, and multiple floors in two venues, The Hilton Hotel and the across-the-parking-lot Atrium Hotel, that there would be one lusciously thick program guide for both shows. Think again. There are two different guides, one marked "East" and the other "West." Unless you look closely at the photo at the cover, carry a compass, or keep track of the sun's position, you may end up as befuddled as the poor soul who kept walking into the VTL room and demanding where they had hidden the tonearm exhibitor he was seeking.
The world's first download site devoted exclusively to ultra hi-resolution DXD downloads, Promates Music Store, has launched from Copenhagen. The brainchild of Peter Scheelke, who in 2003 helped found Digital Audio Denmark (DAD), creator of the world's first commercial DXD converter, the site currently offers 26 native DXD recordings (352.8kHz sampling rate and 24-bit bit depth) from labels Dacapo and OUR Recordings.
In an exhibit surprisingly free of whisky (unless I was too preoccupied to notice), Music Hall offered proof that you don't have to break the bank (assuming you have one to begin with) in order to get good sound. "Very smooth, nice, and pleasant," I wrote of the enjoyable music from the new Music Hall C-DAC 15.3 three-input DAC/CD player ($549), Creek Evo 50a 55Wpc integrated amp ($1195), and Epos Elan15 bookshelf loudspeakers ($1395/pair). The player contains two different DACs, a Burr-Brown for CDs and a Wolfson for external sources. Source was a computer playing Pure Music, and connected to the C-DAC via optical.
PS Audio was showing a pre-production version of the almost available Power Plant Premier ($2195), paired with the Trio C100 Control amps ($1795), Digital Link 3 DAC ($995), Usher 6311 ($2000), and PS Audio cabling. Most impressive, besides the exceptional depth of presentation, was the computer-generated comparison between the amount of noise eliminated by a $2500 power conditioner and the PS Audio Quintet Power Distribution Center, a passive line conditioner that lists for $695. (The photo shows a member of the PS Audio team gloating over the results). The new power plant, by the way, doubles the output of the old P1000, and offers significantly better efficiency and current output.
Although their atmospherically lit room, which looks very different in this flash-illuminated photo, was dominated visually by 10-year old Genesis loudspeaker prototypes that never made it to market, PS Audio's electronics were what the room was about. The PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport ($2999), which I own; Perfect Wave DAC ($2999) with Bridge ($799); prototype Perfect Wave amp (under $5000); and award-winning Power Plant Premier ($1999), all using Perfect Wave AC-12 ($999/meter) sounded marvelous on a CD from Natasha Atlas. Playing the Pentatone SACD of Schubert's "Trout" Quintet, the highs were especially beautiful, with violins singing with estimable delicacy. It was the best sound I've ever heard from a PS Audio show set-up. This bodes very well for their forthcoming amplifier.
With its forthcoming BHK Signature 250 amplifier ($7500), PS Audio's Paul McGowan (above) has stepped outside his own self-imposed price point box. By inviting his longtime friend and colleague, Bascom H. King (Constellation, Infinity, Infinity class-A, Conrad-Johnson, and Marantz), to create his magnum opus without regard to price, his goal was to make, in his own words, "one of the top five amplifiers in the world."
How wonderful to finally catch up with Scott and Paul McGowan, and to discover how good PS Audio’s prototype class-D amplifier with Hypex modules sounds in its temporary housing. Equally exciting was the just-launched NuWave Phono Converter (NPC, $1895), which combines a phono stage with an A/D converter that can archive LPs in both PCM and DSD formats. Paired with Von Schweikert VR-35 loudspeakers ($10,000/pair) and a custom subwoofer, the system delivered impressive deep bass on a track from Turkish artist and DJ Mercan Dede’s Breath, and lots of color on a track by Chesky artist Marta Gomez.
The sound in the large PS Audio room was impressive. Despite, at one point, my trying to listen to music over three conversations at once, the system on display,—all PS Audio save for the Avalon Ascendant speakers and JL Audio subs—was distinguished by its full midrange and inviting warmth. The sign on the poster behind the system—"Perfect Power Without the Box"—refers to the company’s forthcoming rack, which will have a power conditioner built into the bottom, additional power filters for every component, and the power itself carried by the tails of the rack. The initial plan is for an 11" wide rack designed for smaller, "lifestyle" components. (I’m one of those folks more concerned with having a life than displaying a lifestyle, but a chacun son gout). A desktop version is also planned.
Jim Rush of PTE (Precision Transducer Engineering) of Orange, CA explained that he was using the system in his room, headlined by PTE’s The Phoenix self-powered, bi-amplified loudspeaker ($5700/pair), to conduct 10 different blind tests with five sequences. The results of his experiments, which he said demonstrated that most people couldn’t discern differences with a high degree of accuracy, are slated to be posted to PTE’s website.
Even if equipment is as excellent as it was in the Eficion/Stillpoints room, no system can sound better than its source material. On that score, I doubt any room save Cookie Marenco's Blue Coast Studios set-up, which was recording acoustic musicians live to DSD, could top Bruce A. Brown's hi-rez files. Bruce's Puget Sound Studios not only does all the mastering for Winston Ma's First Impressions Music (FIM), but also supplies all the 96/24 hi-res tracks for the Chesky Bros' HDTracks site.