Monrovia, CA-based retailer Brooks Berdan had one of the larger suites on the 2nd floor filled with top-of-line gear, including Wilson Audio W/P Sasha ($27,900/pair), VTL TL7.5 Series III preamp ($23,000), VTL TP6.5 phono preamp ($8500), VTL MB-450 Series III monoblock amplifiers ($18,000), dCS Puccini CD/SACD player ($18,000), dCS Puccini U-Clock ($5000), dCS Debussy DAC ($11,500), Grand Prix Audio Monaco 1.5 Turntable ($23,000), Grand Prix Audio Silverstone Isolation Component System ($22,000), and the Grand Prix Audio with cables from Cardas.
This was one of my favorite rooms but I’m not talking about sound quality in and of itself. John Quick of Tempo Sales & Marketing, dCS's US distributor, was spinning the tunes while I was in the room and between Ella and Louie, The Beatles in all their high-res glory, and let me just say you haven’t lived until you’ve heard Black Sabbath's classic "Fairies Wear Boots" blasting through a pair of Wilson Sashas. For me, the difference between good and great hi-fi resides in, and is 100% dependent upon, the music. And there a number of people in the industry who seem to really get that and John Quick is one of 'em. One hint that this may be the case is a big smile on their face as opposed to a pensivethis is very serious businessfrown. I left the Brooks Berdan room energized and ready for more.
Speaking of people who enjoy spinning great music, next up was Dan Meinwald, the US Distributor for E.A.R. electronics, Mårten loudspeakers, Jorma Design cables, and Townshend Audio. We listened to the Mårten Coltrane loudspeakers ($70,000/pair), EAR 890 amplifier ($7995), EAR 912 preamplifier ($12,500), EAR Acute III CD player ($5895 in black, $6595 in chrome), and Helius Omega tonearm ($2900) fitted with a London Reference cartridge ($5295). Cabling was from Jorma Design and included the Origo interconnects ($5250/1m pair) and the Jorma Origo speaker cables ($7000/1m pair).
Neil Young’s Love and War nearly had me in tears (I think I may have been over-tired) but the experience was completely enveloping, erasing all thoughts of hi-fi and other distractions. I wonder if the people in the hi-fi industry who have a real love for musicand I don’t think they all donecessarily also have a love for reproducing it in a way that pays more attention to it, the music, than the hi-fi. I tend to think so.
"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.
The good folks from PFO had a "Hospitality Suite" mainly manned and womanned by Dave and Carol Clark. "Hospitable" is an understatement. Serving refreshments and lots of great stories of the many, many concerts they’ve attended and the music they love, Dave and Carol Clark are some nice people.
What was even nicer about the PFO Hospitality suite, in a hi-fi sense, is it also housed a system that was part of a project Dave Clark organized for the school where he teachesZu Audio donated a pair of unfinished Soul Superfly cabinets and Dave’s students finished 'em. I think they did a great job. They also got to listen to a cool hi-fi that included the Bel Canto C5i DAC/integrated amp, Nordost Purple Flare cabling, XLO/Ultra Power AC Power Strip, Wadia 171t, Oppo BDP-85SE universal player, and Pure Music Software.
I hate to repeat myself (not really) but if you want to attract younger people into our hobby you’re going to have to do more than talk. Bravo Mr. Clark for just doing it!
The curvaceous Estelon Model XA loudspeaker ($43,900/pair), which uses a trio of ceramic drivers from Accuton (11" woofer, 7" midrange and 1.2" tweeter) was paired with electronics from Edge, including NL 12.2 amplifier ($24,388) and Signature preamplifier ($14,388), and a transport Drive 2 and DAC 2 from Neodio (pricing not available). Cabling was provided by Kubala-Sosna, and a Running Springs Audio Dmitri AC Power Conditioner ($4500) conditioned the power.
The sound in this roomwe listened to the Beatles in high-reswas clean and fast and my notes include the thought "Like giving the Beatles a haircut and a shave."
"Tons of body, weight, speed, great, big and open. How big can a flamenco guitar be?" read my notes from the sonically impressive YG Acoustics room. Speakers were the YG Kipod 2 ($49,000/pair). Associated electronics: Tenor 350M monoblocks (Cdn$100,000/pair), Tenor Line 1/Power 1 preamplifier (Cdn$75,000), Bryston BDP-1, dCS Scarlatti DAC, with cable by Kubala-Sosna.
So you want cutting edge? Innovation? I’d say the team in the HiFi One room have you covered. I hope I can do this elevator-speech version justicethe Wadax PRE1-Phono solution provides you with a custom RIAA curve optimized for your turntable to nanovolt level signal precision. They refer to this process as "mapping." How do they do it? Wadax created a laquer "master" that is played on your turntable and the Wadax musIC chip in the PRE-1 captures the associated data and sends it, wirelessly via the Internet, back to Wadax where they analyze and optimize the RIAA curve in your PRE1-Phono based on the data they captured directly from your turntable. Or maybe I should say!
And really, that's not even half the story since that PRE1 can be configured as a line-level preamplifier, preamp with integrated DAC, with the above mentioned phono stage, with "WADA optimized PureDAC mode," and as a phono stage with step-up amplifier. You should visit the Wadax website for the whole story.
Next up was Peter Bichel Noerbaek’s kit loudspeaker, the Pennywise, which costs $1250/pair for the parts (drivers and crossovers) and $3000/pair for the finished cabinets (with piano gloss finish). Unless you have some serious woodworking chops, you’d be pound foolish to take on this cabinet as a DIY weekend warrior project. Associated electronics included the Olympia AX amplifiers ($8500/each) run here as monoblocks but you can also flip a switch for stereo operation, the PS Audio PerfectWave Transport and DAC ($2999.99 each), and XLO Signature 3 cables.
PBN Audio is the brainchild of Peter Bichel Noerbaek and its line of equipment runs end-to-end. On exhibit were the Liberty Innerchoic Loudspeakers ($15,000/pair) that use 48 layers of MDF in an “eggcrate” construction on the interior walls to “absorb unwanted reflective sound waves”, the Olympia EB-SA1 ($15,000/each), named in honor of Erno Borbely, can be run as a stereo amp or monoblocks with the flip of a switch, the Olympia PX Phono stage ($20,000), Olympia LX line stage ($20,000) and the Groovemaster turntable ($10,000) sporting a 12" SME tonearm. Speaker cable and interconnects were the XLO Signature 3 and a 75ohm BNC cable was used between the line-stage and amplifier.
While there was no room treatment in sight and the Liberty Innerchoic loudspeakers were not exactly bass shy, there were no room issues that plagued some other exhibitors. My notes on the sound read"groovy."
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. . .