Herb Reichert on THE Show's First Day

First morning of the first day, jet-lagged, don't recognize anybody, forgot every name and, worse still: I broke every rule I made for myself on the way to Newport Beach. Mostly, I have attended these shows as a distributor-exhibitor so I never forget how much it costs in money and psychic energy to do any show—let alone the whole US-World circuit. Many of these exhibitors just finished a big, wallet-crushing, jet-lagging show in Munich, and now they are here in California (how many miles and time zones is that?), still staggering and punch drunk from dancing on that big stage—trying to smile and impress everybody. So my kind and gentle spirit tells me to understand and try to comfort them.

Even though I see myself as the reader's surrogate, and I know audiophiles can be inclined to judge sounds and enjoy making comparisons—I try to not think too critically when I enter an exhibitor's room. I feel the most important part of my job is to demonstrate some gratitude and excitement for their efforts and thank them on behalf of Stereophile's readers and the larger audiophile community. But, it doesn't always work out that way . . .

You already know what the road to hell is paved with . . . right? In the first room I visited, the Audio Element (room, I looked and thought, ohhh I shouldn't be in here. My assignment is to cover the affordable gear. I needed to search out equipment a wise frugal music lover might consider in a system costing up to $5000, maybe even $10,000. Obviously, the Wilson Audio Sasha Series 2 speakers ($33,950/pair) and the Ayre MX-R Twenty mono amplifiers ($29,500/pair) did not fit that category. But it was early and I noticed they had an AMG Giro G9 turntable ($10,000) with 9W2 tonearm and the fantastic DS Audio DS-W1 "Night Rider" cartridge and phono stage ($8500).

I knew this was Jason's turf, but I figured I could drink my coffee, collect my mind, spend time with this exciting new cartridge, and maybe calibrate my ears. That was a good plan until they put on "Panic Station" by Muse at a measured 102dB! Any considerations of transparency, colorful textures, or transcendence were crushed. Forget generous gratitude, all I felt was panic and my newly formed throbbing headache. I look forward to reading Jason Serinus's thoughts on this "cost-is-no-object" room.

Seeking comfort and good peaceful vibrations (I am in the land of palm trees) I visited Kevin Wolf of VANA and Lionel Goodfield of Moon by Simaudio. I am currently reviewing the Blue Horizons ProFono phono stage (VANA) and the Moon Neo 340i integrated amp, so I figured they wouldn't be mean and mug me with hostile dBs. What I didn't expect was to discover the most wonderful turntable I'd experienced since I met that ol' boll weevil at the county fair. Kevin played some Dead Can Dance on a disc of clear vinyl and my headache just melted away. I asked where this simple and decidedly beautiful turntable came from and he told me it was brand new and manufactured by E.A.T. (European Audio Team); a company stationed in Vienna and that the "C-Sharp" was manufactured in the Czech Republic. The C-Sharp ($4000 including the carbon-fiber hybrid bearing arm) is belt-drive with a carbon fiber-MDF sandwich plinth with seven Ortofon-engineered elastomers between the sub-chassis and base. The C-Sharp may be ordered with an optional Ortofon Quintet Black MC cartridge for an additional $500 (normal retail is $1000) ($4500 total package).

The sound was hauntingly solid and naturally quiet. The "C-Sharp" plus the always transparent Moon by Simaudio 740p preamp ($9500), 610LP phono stage ($7500) and 860A power amp ($15,000) made delightful music emerge from this remarkable silence in a way that made me covet the whole system. It also made me covet a review sample of the seemingly way under-priced (and over-achieving) E.A.T. turntable.

My friend and mentor, Steve Guttenberg admonished me, "Make sure you introduce yourself to the nicest man in audio." Steve said the same thing about Wendell Diller Magnepan), Sean Casey (Zu) and several others too! Following directions, I went up to the 11th floor (It was only Friday so the elevators at THE Show were still running fast and smooth.) where I met Michael Manousselis, Director of Marketing at Dynaudio North America. He was from Chicago (currently in Glenview, Illinois) where I grew up, so we swapped Chi-town stories, talked about the Cubs and the White Sox (he's a Sox fan like me) and listened to the new Dynaudio Focus 200XD powered loudspeakers ($7000/pair). The only other audio component in the room was the very efficient and attractive Aurender N100H Server ($2700).

Everything else (except the remote volume control) was inside the Focus 200XD boxes! In this case, "everything else" is a 300Wpc amp, with an analog input or alternatively, a 24/192 digital-input DAC (optimized for fully wireless operation at 24/96). Speaker position EQ is available on the speaker's rear, while volume control and input selection can be handled by the remote, which made me ask my new friend, "What happens if you lose the remote?" The sound was unmistakably high-end quality—in an extremely user-friendly life-style type product. I sat there listening, wondering, could this be some of the best, most naturally articulated sound I would experience at the show? Hmmm?

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

I was leaving the Audio Element room to Sasha Matson, who is doing mid-price (more or less). At 5:30 pm, as I take a 5 minute breather in my room, I think I know where I'm going next. As long as Sasha hasn't already covered it.

BTW, folks, if the volume is too loud for my tender little being, I ask people to turn it down. IMHO, every single person attending an audio show has the right to ask as much. In doing so, you can express gratitude for your ability to love yourself completely rather than running for cover....

You can expect my blog of the Audio Element Wilson/Ayre room to appear on this site no later than the end of Wednesday. It was the last room I visited on Day 2 of the show. Like the rest of us, I need to take a break in blogging to make my way home to Port Townsend, WA. It's an all-day trip.