Jake Shimabukuro In The Simaudio Room At The Venetian

Turns out the Venetian's Grand Lux Cafe has a decent kale and brown rice salad, which three in our group quickly ate in Stereophile's hospitality room on the 29th floor. After lunch we headed up one floor to the Simaudio room where we were greeted by Lionel Goodfield and the Moon Units (sorry couldn't resist). Simaudio's room is at the back corner of one of the wings, and though much smaller than the suites on the top floors, is still twice as big as the regular rooms on their floor.

And the company had put their space to very good use. When we walked in, some loud electro music was bumping the walls, and though maybe a bit aggressive compared to what we had in store, it sounded tight, controlled and wonderful. Jake walked behind the couch and started nodding his head with a smile. After a bit Lionel turned down the music and we started to settle into place.


Michael Fremer, Robert Deutsch and John Atkinson had now joined us and settled around Jake in the listening spot. As usual, we played "Blue Haiku" and then "Galloping Seahorses". This system could obviously handle the deep bass and drum recordings on these tracks, so Jake cranked it up (being in Lionel's presence can do that), but the rest of the music also sounded sweet, detailed and clear.

I noted to everyone this was the smallest room we've listened in so far and Jake jumped right in: "all four of the rooms so far sound so drastically different, and this is the loudest we've listened, the highest volume. But I noticed immediately that the lower frequencies were a lot more controlled, cleaner and the lower midrange had so much warmth. Everything sounded very musical and even at that louder volume the high end didn't sound exaggerated. The baritone uke [used at the beginning of "Galloping Seahorses"] actually sounded richer than it normally does! It made the baritone sound warmer and bigger and thicker so it improved the sound."

Though we were in a smaller room, the speakers were full size and we're sitting much closer to them than the previous rooms. I credit a more dynamic bass to this situation, which Simaudio had set up quite well. "I noted the big change in the bottom end," added Jake "Everything sounded clean and articulate, especially in the bass guitar." JA asked Jake if he liked how the kick drum sounded? "oh yeah! It was sitting right in the mix and the soundstage wasn't as wide, but you don't need it to be so wide! It was very pleasing and satisfying to hear."


Jake on the couch listening with Michael Fremer and Robert Deutsch. JA standing at the rear.

At this point, Jake jumped up and played "Eleanor Rigby" and we then heard the recorded version. Jake: "Every systems sounds drastically different, but nothing bugs me. Everything sounded pristine, and some were hyped up, but they can always tweak that too." JA asked "did you notice that the real instrument had a little more high frequency air?" Lionel agreed and Jake noted "that's been a common thread in all the systems so far."

JA continued "It's also that all tweeters are directional at the top octave and it may be that that is a consistent factor in commercial speaker design, because that is what you need with commercial recordings. And this is a purely natural recording." Michael Fremer added he noticed a warmth around the midrange in the recording that "prevented it from really speaking upon its own." I responded that I was hearing a proximity effect with the microphone placement that was also present in the other rooms.

It's a trade-off when recording: you get less room the closer the mic, but you also get a blooming in the lower frequencies, that can be quite attractive when EQed and treated. This recording was clearly left raw, warts and all as we intended. Jake explained that when he is recorded, the engineer usually uses an EQ shelf that rolls everything off below 60Hz, which we didn't do here for purist reasons. Jake: "when we were mixing this, he would put the eq in and I could hear its effect on the entire track, even though it was just on the bottom end. So it actually sounded better without putting that EQ in, but there was then a little bit more of that muffleness on the bottom end when we took the EQ out for the final track."

Simaudio Equipment List:
780D Streaming DAC $15,000
820S power supply $8,000
850P preamp $30,000
888 mono power amps $118,888.00
Rockport Tech Cygnus $62,500.00
All cables are Nordost Valhalla 2

Larry Greenhill also paid a visit to the Simaudio room, and he reports:

Simaudio refers to its new Moon 888 monoblock amplifier ($118,000/pair) as "state of the art, taken to the extreme." All specifications sound like exaggerations: Each amp weighs 300 lbs and delivers 888W into 8 ohms—and 1776W into 4 ohms. Even though it's a monoblock, two 1.5kVA toroidal transformers are included behind the 1.5"-thick faceplate: As with the Mark Levinson No.536, each Moon 888—seen above with Simaudio's Lionel Goodfield (left) and Dominique Poupart (right)—contains two amplifiers to develop a truly differential, balanced bridged output circuit. The power supply has 12 large electrolytic capacitors, each rated at 27,000µF, and the output stage employs 32 bipolar power transistors. The heatsinks are cast from molds, just like engine blocks.

More info on Jake @CES here. You can read all of the Jake @CES posts here.

Robert Deutsch's picture

I was impressed not only by Jake's brilliant playing, but his thoughful, articulate analysis of what he heard. Add his modest, engaging personality, and you have the makings of the most memorable event at this year's CES. Jon, thanks for arranging this, and thanks to the industry people who contributed to it.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

An inspired addition to our coverage, and a source of great joy. Thank you, Jon and Jake.