Robert Lee of Acoustic Zen, one the most photogenic men in hi-fi, is shown here with his Crescendo loudspeakers ($16,000/pair) and electronics from Triode Corporation (Tri)TRV-845SE amplifier ($6000), TRX-1 tube preamplifier ($3000), and the TRV-CD4SE tube CD player ($2200). Cables were from Acoustic Zen. I wrote down “gentle top end” in my scratch pad and that’s what I recallthis was an easy-to-like listen.
Retailer Affordable Audio was showing off the very intriguing Zingali Zero Otto loudspeakers ($5999/pair) from Italy. This was the Zero Otto's US debut and I’d say they did better than fine. With its 93dB sensitivity and a nominal impedance of 6 ohms, the low-powered crowd should be pleased to have another option.
Associated equipment included the Audion Sterling EL34 Anniversary integrated amplifier ($3995), a Bel Canto CD2 Transport ($4999), and Bel Canto DAC 3.5VB ($3495), with cable from Cable Research Lab’s Bronze Series.
Retailer, Melody Audio distributor, and speaker manufacturer Angel City Audio was showing off its new Trinity Monitor Series Speaker ($1899/pair) a two-way that uses a Vifa XT Concentric Ring-Radiator Tweeter and a pair of custom 7" woofers in a rear-ported cabinet. Frequency range is stated as 40Hz37kHz in their literature with sensitivity of 90dB and a nominal impedance of 4 ohms. A pair of Melody PM 845 monoblocks ($7959/pair) handled that load without breaking a sweat, with the Melody PB101 preamp ($4490) and Melody XCD 50 CD player ($3800) handling things up-stream. All cables are custom in-house, don't ask don't tell, Type Is and there is currently no pricing information available.
Antelope Audio is relatively new to the consumer audio market but relatively old to the pro audio market. Their first consumer product, the Zodiac line of DACs, is available in three levelsSilver ($1899), Black ($2899) and Gold ($4500). In use at T.H.E. Show was the Zodiac Gold with the optional Voltikus Analog Power Supply ($1000). Antelope Audio made their mark in the pro world with their jitter-free clocking products and they’ve brought this experience to the Zodiac line. The Gold features include a custom USB chip that streams audio up to 384kHz and the Antelope Oven Clock “for supreme stability.” Connections include: 2x headphone outputs on ¼" TRS, trimmable balanced analog outputs on XLR, unbalanced analog outputs on RCA, balanced analog Inputs on ¼" TRS, unbalanced analog Inputs on RCA, AES/EBU digital input, 2x S/PDIF coaxial Inputs, 2x optical Toslink inputs, USB on standard B type connector, Word Clock Input on BNC, de-jittered AES/EBU output, and de-jittered 2x S/PDIF outputs. Associated equipment in the room included. . .
I got to hear both the Audience ClairAudient 2+2 loudspeaker ($5000/pair, reviewed in the July 2011 issue of Stereophile) and the diminutive ClairAudient THE ONE ($995/pair). Associated electronics and cables were also from Audience and included the Wavepower monoblocks ($14,000/pair), a class-D analog switching power amplifier that put out 200W into 8 ohms, the Wavemaster preamplifier ($13,000), and AU24e cables and power cords and an Adept Response High Resolution Power Conditioner ($5000). The source was an Audience-modified Oppo BDP-83SE Blu-ray player, which was not for sale (priceless).
The Audience guys seemed to get no end of enjoyment watching people’s jaws hit the floor, the rug was littered with audiophile jawbones, when they played the single-driver ClairAudient THE ONE, which has nearly unbelievable bass performance for its size. Both speakers actually sounded big and solid with a nice fat midrange.
I can remember visiting a NJ hi-fi dealer with my father, back before I was old enough to drive, to hear Vandersteen speakers and enjoying them then. The diminutive Vandersteen VLR ($1195/pair) sports a coax driver with a 6.5” woofer and 1” alloy dome tweeter for a claimed frequency responseare you going to question what Richard Vandersteen says? Not me, brother!of 64Hz21kHz ±3dB. Associated equipment included the Audio Research DSI200 integrated amplifier ($6000), Audio Research DAC8 ($5000), and an Audio Research CD5 as transport. Source material was also streamed from a MacBook Pro using iTunes/Pure Music. Cable included the AudioQuest Sky interconnect, Diamond USB cable and Meteor speaker cable, and there was a Furman line conditioner in use.
We listened to Greg Brown's hysterically sleepy yet gripping "Rain & Snow" from his CD Freak Flag and it held us on the edge of our seats with smiles on our faces.
In the second room, the Vandersteen Model 5A Carbon loudspeakers ($24,000/pair) were paired with the Audio Research Reference 150 Vacuum Tube Stereo Power Amplifier ($12,995), Audio Research Anniversary Edition Reference Preamplifier ($25,000), and the Basis Audio Inspiration turntable (no price noted), which that comes with the Vector 4 tonearm with VTA Micrometer, Synchro-Wave Power Supply, Cable Isolation System, Vacuum record hold-down system, and Microthin belt. All cables from AudioQuest.
The Carbon 5A loudspeakers have a 400W subwoofer amplifier built into each speaker and Richard Vandersteen says the frequency response is 22Hz to 30kHz ±2dB, and I believe himeven in this small room, the bass was taut and fast with no bloat to be heard. The sound was relaxed and engrossing.
San Pedro, CA-based retailer Audio Summa brought along a bunch of gear from Silverline Audio, Conrad-Johnson, Parasound, Brown Electronic Labs (BEL), Blue Circle Audio, and Analysis Plus. While I was in-room, we listened to the Silverline Audio Bolero Supreme loudspeakers ($12,000/pair standing on the inside in the picture), BEL 1001 MkIV class-A solid-state amplifier (not for sale), a tube-based preamp designed and built by Alan Yun of Silverline Audio ($20,000) and the Ecstasy Model 20 tube CD player also from the mind and hands of Alan Yun ($12,000). Cables were from Analysis Plus and BEL "The Wire."
The sound in the Audio Summa room was fast and a bit furious, leaving little time for decay. "Pace-y" read my notes.
While there was nothing new to report on in the Audio Engine room, at least nothing I could tell you and let you live, it’s always worth reporting on the inexpensive and even better than good-sounding-for-the-money AudioEngine speakers. Our daughters each have a pair of the AudioEngine 2.0s ($199/pair) for use with their iDevices and even they brag about the sound quality.
The Southern California headquarters of cable manufacturer AudioQuest, which includes their offices, a listening room, conference rooms, a very very large warehouse, assembly rooms, a graphic design room, a few kitchens and various and sundry other more mundane but just as important places, is within a few-minutes’ drive from T.H.E. Show at Newport Beach. Shane Buettner, AudioQuest's Director of Education who you will most likely recognize as the former Editor-In-Chief of Home Theater magazine, Joe Harley VP of AudioQuest (Joe Harley is also a recording engineer/producer responsible for among others the Blue Note 45rpm reissues from Music Matters and he's a musician), and Andrew Kissinger, Regional Sales Manager, gave a group of A/V journalists, including Tom Norton, Senior Editor and Video Technical Editor of Home Theater magazine, the full tour.
My comments on the tour/AudioQuest facility can be summed up by saying that this is one of the most organized, clean, neat and tidy places I've ever seen. And it's not the kind of organized, clean, neat and tidy you can fake for a tour. From the huge warehouse to the tiniest Ziplock baggy, everything had its place and label. Impressive.