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.
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.
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.