You couldn't miss the signage for PrimaLuna and Nola; it was as big as the excellent signage for T.H.E. Show itself. You also couldn't miss the sound: lovely, warm, and extremely inviting. Although the system was playing a bit too loud for the room, the system handled bass extremely well, and made timbres on a (yes) Diana Krall recording pretty natural. Doing the honors were the Nola Ko loudspeaker ($9800/pair) and three components from PrimaLuna: Premium CD player ($3995), DiaLogue 3 linestage preamplifier ($2695), and DiaLogue 7 monoblock amplifiers ($5495/pair).
The earth's ecology may be upside down, but Kevin Deal of Upscale Audio displayed PrimaLuna's new DiaLogue Premium integrated amplifier ($3299) that way for a positive reason. "It has a laundry list of the best parts," he declared, handing me a sheet that touts oxygen-free continuous-crystal copper, silver-plated, Teflon-dielectric point-to-point wiring; Takman audiophile grade resistors, and SRC tinfoil capacitors in critical signal paths; and an Alps potentiometer. The DiaLogue Premium is claimed to have such a good auto-biasing mechanism that you can mix and match 6L6GC/KT66, EL-34/KT77, 6550/KT88, and KT120 power tubes in any combination or permutation you so choose, and a bad tube indicator in case your sonic Devil's Brew won't cut it on the particular day that you hope to impress your mother-in-law. "Call it 40Wpc," said Kevin, "but it's not underpowered; it's huge power." There's only one way to find out what that means.
Fresh from Primare, the Swedish company whose name, correctly pronounced “prime air,” derives from the fact that audio moves air, were two new prototypes with unfinished faceplates: the PRE60 preamp/DAC ($10,000 target price) and A60 stereo power amplifier ($10,000 target price). Both are expected to ship by summer.
Booth exhibits occupied much of the open space on the Doubletree's mezzanine level. First on my path was Sumiko's, where Jaime Moreno declared the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon turntable ($399.99) "probably the best turntable available for under $400." The table, which can play either 33/45 or 33/78, comes complete with an Ortofon 2M Red cartridge, which costs $99 on its own. Best $498.99 turntable package for under $400?
I still recall, many years ago, being blown away by the sound of one of ProAc’s extremely musical monitors. The company re-emerged at RMAF 2012 to display the ProAc Response D40/R ($12,000$14,000/pair, dependent upon finish). Hooked up to Sonus Veritas’ Modena DAC ($15,999), Genoa preamplifier ($15,999), and Florence KT120 monoblock power amplifiers (not yet released, price TBD), and sources unidentified, the system was producing excellent solid, full-range sound on a track from the Michael Wolff Trio’s 2 AM.
A definite eye-catcher, the $25,999/pair spherical Proclaim Audioworks DMT-100 speaker system features an external crossover that facilitates the ability to balance stereo output in difficult listening environments. (The crossover includes an L-pad bypass option to ensure "the cleanest possible signal path...for audio purists.") Each driver is independently mounted in a spherical enclosure cast from a proprietary high-density laminate. Fine-tunable for one's room, each driver can be adjusted up to 45° off-axis; they also afford up to 12" vertical and horizontal positioning flexibility for the tweeter and midrange modules. Daniel Herrington's babies, designed by ear, are so new that their sensitivity has yet to be measured.
How this Oakland resident has lived all these years without knowing about the Profundo distributors in El Cerrito, just two cities over, is beyond me. Regardless, I'm sure glad I got to meet them, because their combination of Transfiguration, Trenner & Friedl, and Heed was making extremely mellow sound. Whether it was Norah Jones singing "Not Too Late" or Bruce Springstein's LP, Ghost of Tom Joad, the system sounded beautiful, smooth, and extremely musical.
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.
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.