Audio Advice Live: a solo audio show in Raleigh

For years, Audio Advice Live has been an annual event, drawing enthusiastic audiophiles to the dealership's showrooms on Raleigh's Glenwood Avenue, next to Virgin Cigars. This year, Audio Advice Live was different. It was a fully fledged audio show, held like most such events at a conference hotel: the Sheraton Raleigh Hotel in that North Carolina city, with rooms sponsored and presented by a wide range of hi-fi and home-theater manufacturers and distributors.

What differentiated this show from any other is that it was put together by a single dealer (Audio Advice, which also has a store in Charlotte), with assistance from a logistics company. Another distinction: The show was arranged in just four months.

It was a good show, small but entertaining, with enough gee-whiz products to draw crowds—including the Piega Master Line Source Mk2 LTD loudspeakers ($350,000/pair); the MartinLogan Neolith ($118,000/pair); the Sonus Faber Lilium ($75,000/pair); and the Klipsch Jubilee ($36,000/pair).

The show's emphasis, though, and its strength, was the kind of hi-fi you'd expect regular folks—not indoctrinated audiophiles with big bank accounts—to consider buying. I heard very good systems at modest prices. In Sonus Faber's other room was the Lumina V ($2799/pair), with Rotel's new, handsome, affordable, EISA Award–winning Diamond Anniversary components, the RA-6000 integrated amplifier and the DT-6000 DAC/Transport.

Across the hall, the Monitor Silver 300s ($2850/pair) sounded very good with a Roksan Attessa streaming integrated amplifier (review forthcoming) and CD transport (both EISA winners). Lenbrook's system paired the seemingly ubiquitous PSB Synchrony T600 loudspeakers (about $9000/pair) with the NAD M10 V2 streaming integrated amplifier.

ELAC brought its bottom-of-the-top-line Concentro S 507 loudspeakers ($15,000/pair)—the only speaker I know about to use an AMT tweeter in a coaxial configuration—and the tiny new ELAC DCB41 powered speaker system with DAC, 50W class-D amp, aptX Bluetooth, and phono preamp, all for $599/pair. Assuming the deal is still on when you read this, they'll throw in a turntable or subwoofer for just $200 more.

On a printer-paper sign outside the Sound Organisation room, someone had scrawled, in blue pen, "Warning Do Not Enter If You Spend a Fortune on Your HiFi." Inside was the simplest system at the show: a Rega P1 turntable, the Rega Kyte loudspeakers, and the Rega io integrated amplifier with phono stage, about $2000 total. This system would be at home on a midcentury-modern credenza or a pine plank supported by concrete blocks. I enjoyed its simplicity—the room was blissfully uncluttered—and smooth sound.

In addition to the $350,000 speakers in the big MoFi room, Piega offered a system based on the Piega Classic 3.0 loudspeaker ($1495/pair at full retail, on sale for $895/pair) and the forthcoming HiFi Rose RS520 integrated amplifier. The RS520 closely resembles HiFi Rose's media servers, with a big front-panel touch display, but adds amplification. Another great-sounding system circa-$5000.

An unusual aspect of the show, which I enjoyed, was the mix of audio with video. I partook of several video-oriented rooms, including one containing a big surround system with lots of JBL speakers (not sure how many) plus Mark Levinson and Arcam electronics. Through this system, a cringe-worthy scene from a musical Hugh Jackman movie (The Greatest Showman?) gave me goosebumps—an accomplishment.

I visited Devialet's room, and since I'd heard the big and small Phantoms, I listened to their new, 17-driver, 950W Dione soundbar ($2400), which does Dolby Atmos, emulating 5.1.2. I'm not normally a video guy, but I found the short nature videos/soundtracks on offer so relaxing that I was reluctant to give up my seat.

Not all the home-theater systems fared as well. A clip of CGI King Kong was just noisy. The picture, though, by an expensive JVC projector, was great.

Among several rooms from Sound United was the Marantz 40n streaming integrated amplifier (another EISA winner) driving Definitive Technology Demand D17 loudspeakers ($2798/pair). Nearby, I got my first listen to the SVS Prime Wireless Pro loudspeaker system (price TBD, another EISA winner; review forthcoming) and the SVS Ultra Bookshelf ($899/pair). With the Ultras, when Miles Davis's trumpet kicked in on "Someday My Prince Will Come," his horn was in the room.

The circa-$10,000/pair Paradigm Founder Series 120H loudspeakers (review forthcoming; another EISA winner) was in a system with the new Anthem AVM90 pre/pro ($7499.99), which is capable of up to 15.4 operation (19 speakers) but was being used in stereo, with full ARC room correction. Despite sitting in a noncentral seat—traditionally a problem in DSP-corrected systems—I heard even, well-calibrated bass. Despite the crucial role played by a component that will find a home in many home-theater systems, this may have been the best sound in show.

Audio Advice Live could turn out to be an important experiment. It was put together quickly by a well-respected local dealership. It was big enough to fill a busy day or a laid-back weekend but small enough that even in a smallish city, the rooms were mostly full, some with people waiting to enter. Replicated by dealers all across the country, such shows could help spread the word about hi-fi, to the benefit of people and the industry.

New This Month
This month sees the introduction of one Stereophile column and the reintroduction of another. On p.33 you'll find Brilliant Corners, written by Alex Halberstadt. The name is a reference to the great, angular album by Thelonious Monk. Its focus is on exploring the less obvious (and yes, brilliant) corners of the hi-fi world.

This issue also sees the reintroduction to our music section of Aural Robert by former Stereophile music editor Robert Baird. Robert's remit is the same as it ever was: to write about what interests him in music now.

Both new features will appear every other month.

Glotz's picture

This is a brilliant idea to cover both audio and video interests for a wide audience. Balancing their offerings to the entry-level as well as having SOA products to hear is smart, but the inverse ratio of low to high pricing is a better move for any brick and mortar retailer.

An amazing idea to reinvigorate the entire industry to neophytes. I would love to see Music Direct do this in Chicago. It's visionary!