Sunny's mere-mortal room included two setups; Octave Audio V80 tube integrated amp ($9950), T+A Music Receiver ($3800), and the Dynaudio DM3/7 loudspeakers ($2000/pair). There was also a desktop system which consisted of the Naim Uniti ($2450) and a pair of Dynaudio Focus 100 active loudspeakers ($2400/pair).
I took a few minutes to speak to Sunil Merchant, President of Sunny's . . .
Have you seen the film The Mole People? In brief, a few hapless archaeologists accidentally find a race of Sumerian albinos living deep underground. At first the Sumerian albinos believe the hapless archaeologists are Gods because they have a flashlight and sunlight, which kills your average Sumerian albino who lives deep undergroundit literally burns them up. They are worshiped as Gods. But eventually they realize the hapless archaeologists are not Gods and what tips them off is the fact that the archaeologists show emotion and pain. Sumerian albinos living deep underground do not.
I spoke to Richard Beers, T.H.E. Show’s President about attendance at the first ever T.H.E. Show Newport Beach and he scientifically deduced over 4000. This estimate was based on the fact that he’d ordered over 4000 lanyards, the thing every attendee uses to hang their badge around their neck, and they were nearly gone on Saturday afternoon. I heard people talking even higher numbers but I’ve got no way to verify their enthusiasm.
In any event, this event was a complete, 100%, slam-dunk. . .
LA retailer The Audio Salon was showing an impressive sounding systemMagico Q5 loudspeakers ($59,950/pair), Spectral DMA 360 Series II monoblock amplifiers ($20,000/pair), Spectral DMC 30 SS Series II preamplifier ($10,000), and the Spectral SDR 4000SL CD Player ($19,000). Cable was from MIT and acoustic design was by Art Noxon of ASC. (From Maier Shadi of The Audio Salon: "The Audio Salon built a hidden, non-parallel, zig-zagged wall, and frame system behind the curtains for the acoustical treatments. Over 120 lengths of 8' 2x4's made up the 16 huge 6' x 8' hidden walls.")
The room was very dark, the Q5s were set up very far apart and the California Guitar Trio's version of "Bohemian Rhapsody" from their CD California Guitar Trio Rocks the West rocked my expectations, and I kept expecting (and kind of hoping) Freddie Mercury or his voice, would peer out from behind the curtain.
Oceanside, CA-based retailer The Home Theater Experience was, counterintuitive to their name, showing the old–school style Tannoy Yorkminster SE loudspeakers paired with Cary CAD 805 Anniversary Edition monoblock amplifiers and the Cary SLP 98L preamplifier. Front-end duties were handled either by a Cary CD 303T SACD Professional Version player or a Krell Kid iPod Dock. All cables and room tuning were from Synergistic Research. Yes, another room using the ART acoustic treatments. Hmm. Unfortunately pricing information was not available on a one-sheet and time did not allow for note-taking. Basically it was after the 5:00pm closing time of the show.
This system was also very easy to enjoy and Oscar Peterson sounded like the Maharaja of the keyboard to quote Duke Ellington. You can see in the picture that one very discriminating listener approves of the sound but appears to disapprove of my camera clicks: "Excuse me, we're listening here."
"Gut wrenching." That’s from my notes and they appear to have been written in a shaky hand. Joe Cohen of the Lotus Group gathered a group of gear together that can knock you off your seat or perhaps soothe your inner savage beast with some delicacy when called for.
The systemLotus Group Granada G2 Loudspeakers with X-1 DSP crossover, room correction, and a 500W woofer amp ($74,500/system), Aesthetix Atlas hybrid stereo amplifier ($8000/eachthe equipment list graciously provided by The Lotus Group lists 2), SMc Audio VRE-1B preamplifier ($15,950), Aesthetix Io Eclipse phono stage ($15,500), Hanss T-60 turntable ($7000), Oyaide STB-MS LP Stabilizer ($1599), Ortofon T-110 tonearm ($1599), Ortofon Winfield cartridge ($3750), dCS Puccini CD/SACD Player ($17,999), and a dCS Puccini Clock ($5499). All cable was from PranaWire, with the exception of the Acrolink 8N-RPH 5 Pin/RCA Phono cable ($2450). An Oyaide MTB-4 R1 Power Distribution box ($800) was also in use.
To say that a digital source "sounds like analog" has always struck me as coming up short. The notion that one format sounds like another is not really sensible or even ideal. While I love listening to LPs, there are some physical attributes of vinyl that, ideally, you don't want to reproduce. You know what I'm talking about because, every chance they get, LP haters remind us about pops, ticks, skips, surface noise, inner-groove distortion, etc. So when we say that a digital source sounds like analog, what we're really saying is that it doesn't sound like digital.
Tonian Acoustics was showing its new loudspeaker, the TL-S1 ($4300/pair as shown and up to $5700/pair with alnico magnet and custom veneer), which uses a modified SEAS driver run full-range augmented with a modified Fountek ribbon tweeter in a semi-open baffle. The speaker comes with several panels that allow more or less sound through an opening in the back of the cabinet, thus the "semi-open" aspect. Driving the TL-S1s were a relatively modest pair of vintage 1980s componentsthe Audiolab 8000 integrated amp and the Magnavox 650 CD player. The system was wired with Tonian Acoustics cable, which is a copper, bronze, and brass composite with cotton insulation (8' speaker cable $480/pair, 1m interconnect $380/pair and power cords $370). Contrary to what you might expect from '80s-era digital (read harsh) and solid-state, this system was relaxed, smooth and easy to listen to.
A new-to-me line of battery-powered electronics from Veloce Audio from Ambler, PA, coupled to the YG Acoustics Carmel speakers ($18,000/pair) made some convincingly lovely music from vinyl and digital. The Veloce gear included the Platino SeriesLS1 linestage ($15,000), LP-1 Phono Module, which gets its power from the LS-1 but a stand-alone version is in the works, and the 120W into 8 ohms, class-D Platino V6 monoblock amplifier (projected price $14,000/pair). If the idea of batteries runs you down, the LS1 linestage can run for a claimed 100 hours on a charge and the V6 for 40 hours. Front end duties were handled by an Amazon 1 turntable and the PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport ($2999.99) and DAC ($2999.99). I’d have rounded the prices one way or another if I was PS Audio but I’m not.
The VMPS RM 30 Series II Ribbon Speaker ($3500/pair) marry dynamic woofers to push/pull planar-magnetic ribbon speakers for a claimed frequency response of 34Hz to “nearly” 40kHz. They were certainly moving a lot of musical air but also had to battle a very noisy and booming neighbor. Take it to another hotel! Associated gear included the Ampzilla 2000 Series II 300W monoblocks ($7500/pair), Ampzilla Ambrosia Series II preamp ($7500), W4S DAC 2 and Nuforce DAC9 converters ($1500$1695), Wywires interconnects and speaker cable, VMPS dedicated subwoofer with 500W amp ($979), a modified DCX2496 controller/processor ($1600) for room correction, and an Audience Adept Response aR6 power conditioner.
Albert von Schweikert was showing his factory-direct VR-33 speakers ($3750/pair) with Jolida electronicsJolida JD 1000RC tube integrated amplifier ($2400) and the Jolida JD 100A vacuum-tube CD player ($1000). While I was in the room, we were treated to some real tape played by a United Home Audio UHA HQ open-reel deck (starting at $7998) and from my experience it’s really hard to make a decent tape sound bad. Interconnects and speaker cables were Master-Built Purple Line ($500/pair for the interconnects and $800/pair for the speaker cable).
With a system price of $8450 (not counting the tape deck), von Schweikert was calling his system “T.H.E. Show’s Best Value System,” at least on their literature, and I have no idea if that was the case or not (and I kinda doubt that anyone can know that kinda thing for sure). But I completely understand the impulse.