Saturday at T.H.E. Show Newport

While some components in the Triangle Art system were less expensive than the Usher Audio Mini Dancer Two-D speakers being used ($5500/pair), most—including the Triangle Art Apollo phono cartridge ($8000)—cost more. Two turntables were on display from the company: the Reference SE at $27,995 and the Concerto at $4995. The 12" Osiris tonearm is $5800. The gold-finish tube electronics were all from Triangle Art as well; the least expensive of these was their phono stage, at $12,995.

In terms of pricing, the room featuring loudspeakers and other products by Salk Sound—a company less well known than it should be—was a refreshing departure from most others at T.H.E. Show. Their new Song3 three-way speaker ($2895/pair) was performing admirably, driven by Salk's Roon-ready StreamPlayer Generation III ($1695), together with a DAC (Yggdrasil at $$2299) and integrated amp (Ragnarok at $1699) from Schiit Audio. While the Song3's driver complement seems modest, DIYers will recognize a pricey RAAL ribbon tweeter in the mix; the midrange driver, from Tang Band, is more modest. The woofer comes from Indonesia-based SB Acoustics, which manufactures both finished speakers and drivers used in other products, including the Performa3 and Concerta2 lines from Revel.

Salk makes its own cabinets, and finishes them impeccably. The veneer you see in the picture, Burly Claro Walnut, is a premium option that will raise the price of the Song3 by a few hundred dollars.

AVM USA makes a bewilderingly wide range of relatively affordable (though hardly cheap) electronics. They range from CD players with separate digital inputs that can decode both PCM and DSD to integrated amps, preamps, and power amps. The latter include a 450Wpc stereo amp and monoblocks rated at up to 1250W.

It's almost impossible to describe AVM's full range here. Pictured above is its streaming receiver (Tidal and more) with phono, line, and DAC inputs plus CD playback, and rated at 330Wpc (impedance not specified)—just one example of many products scattered around its booth. Many of their products are available either solid-state only or, for an upcharge, with tubes.

Analysis Audio's flagship full-range Omega planar speakers, at $22,000/pair with internal crossovers and $26,800/pair with external crossovers, were the featured attraction in a room also showcasing Arion Audio electronics. The LS-100 vacuum tube line-level preamp goes for $5295 and the HS-500 hybrid tube/solid-state mono power amplifiers (500W into 8 ohms) are $6295 a pair. The system also employed Chang Lightspeed power conditioners, including the Reference Mk3 at $3940. The device seen in the enter of the window is an acoustic panel.

Anyone familiar with the planar speakers from the now-defunct Apogee Acoustics will recognize the pedigree of the Audio Analysis designs. The system sounded detailed, clean, and simply right. There are smaller Audio Analysis models for those who go weak in the knees at the cost of the Omegas. One of them, the Omicron, offers a striking resemblance to the old Apogee Stages (though only the Omega was demoed at the show).

La Jolla-based retailer Alma Music and Audio wasn't the only exhibitor featuring horn-loaded loudspeakers, but it was one of few. The Avantgarde Uno XDs retail for $34,600/pair. The driving force here was provided by a D'Agostino Momentum phono stage ($28,000), with Audiopax 50W monoblock class-A amps ($29,800/pair) and an Audiopax L50 solid-state preamp ($18,800). In addition to an Aurender N10 music server ($7999), source material was provided by a Bergmann Magne turntable with straight-line tracking tonearm ($16,500) and a Koetsu Rosewood Signature cartridge ($4950).

At $20,000 per pair, and with only 10 pairs scheduled to be built, the ESS Lab Transar employs a horn-loaded midrange/tweeter array of Heil drivers covering the range from 150Hz to 800Hz. At the bottom end, an on-board subwoofer takes over. The top above 800Hz is handled by a horn-loaded Heil air-motion transformer.

Bricasti Design, Ltd. demoed its M12 dual-mono source controller ($15,995) feeding M1 Limited ($15,000) and Special ($10,000) edition D/A converters with M28 Mono amps ($15,000 each). The speakers were the Tidal Piano Diaceras ($35,000/pair).

Lampizator, which I hadn't heard of before T.H.E. Show, must be one of the most unusual company names out there, but the sound in their room was outstanding. How much was contributed by that company's Golden Gate DSD/PCM DAC ($14,712), and how much by the Tidal Audio Preos-D preamp ($31,190), Tidal Audio Impulse amplifier ($32,290), or, in particular, the stunning looking (and sounding) Tidal Audio Contriva G2 speakers ($59,990/pair), I can't say.

The Marten Mingus Quintet loudspeakers are the latest arrival from the Swedish company. At $50,000/pair, they'll make your bank balance or credit rating sag, but they certainly made beautiful music from relatively small enclosures. The three 7" woofers are an advanced, convex-cone design that likely comes from Accuton (an upscale European driver manufacturer that has supplied drivers for many other past and present Marten designs). The electronic driving force here was supplied by electronics from EAR (509 monoblocks at $15,000 and 912 preamp at $13,000) plus an EAR Active CD player ($6800). The vinyl chores were handled by a Helius Vindia turntable ($6500), a Helius Omega Silver Ruby 10" tonearm ($5225), and a Kiseki Purpleheart cartridge ($3300).

Driven by GamuT electronics (the N250i dual-mono amp, price unavailable, and Dual-Mono preamp at $8390) with an analog source (Pear Audio Blue Kid Thomas Cornet 2 turntable/tonearm, with external power supply at $9990, Pear Audio Blue Reference phono stage at $4495, and Ortofon Cadenza Black MC cartridge at $2750), the GamuT RS3i stand-mount loudspeakers from Denmark made a good account of themselves.

My notes suggest a small emphasis in the mid-treble here, but the totally untreated room was likely the culprit (that and perhaps the Ortofon cartridge, with which I am unfamiliar). The RS3i does employ top-quality, expensive Scan-Speak drivers, but my spidey-sense tells me that, at $19,990/pair, they're playing in a league with a lot of competition for far less money. But I could say the same about a lot of the products at the show.

Perhaps even more interesting than their new AK300 personal audio player ($899), which falls somewhere in the middle of the company's product line, is Astell&Kern's new pocket-sized recorder ($899). It's not a stand-alone device, but when linked to one of the company's 300-series audio players it offers impressive capabilities. With its microphone and line inputs, and sampling rates from 44.1kHz to 384kHz, you can not only make your own live recordings with it but also record analog sources at high resolution (such as an LP using a good external phono preamp). If desired, you can then transfer this file to a CD-R, or play it back directly from the A&K player.

A Max of Macs: the McIntosh XR100 loudspeakers were, of course, being driven by a full range of McIntosh electronics. The bottom end of each speaker was powered by a 300W solid-state monoblock, and the top end by a 75W tube monoblock.

None of these McIntosh products were new, but the combination worked beautifully. The odd layout of the multiple high-frequency drivers didn't appear to have any negative effect. There might have been a small restriction in depth, but with all of those large amplification products stacked up in the middle, that came as no surprise.

It was also impossible to ignore the McIntosh MT5 turntable ($6500), with its fluorescent green glow. It wasn't used much, however, with most of the demo music in the room retrieved from digital files.

The Larsen 8 floorstanding loudspeaker ($6995/pair) is an intriguing Swedish design with an interesting history, going back to the decades-old work of the late Stig Carlsson. Designed by Anders Eriksson and John Larsen, it has three drivers in a 2.5-way configuration. One of the woofers sits near the floor; the other, at the top of the cabinet, is angled upward, like the tweeter. The Larsen 8's most useful feature is that it's designed to sit flush against a wall—unusual in today's speakers, and something many buyers will find liberating.

Driven by a Pear Audio turntable and GamuT electronics and CD player, the sound was clean, spacious, and low in coloration. Imaging was a bit less pinpoint than many audiophiles prefer, but that's likely by design.

I can see this speaker used not only in two-channel stereo but in home theater as well, though no center channel is offered (one is supposedly available in Sweden, but not here).

When I walked into the PranaFidelity room I didn't know what to expect. Two very large loudspeakers flanked a refurbished and modified Ampex ATR-102 professional tape deck. Next to that was an equipment rack holding a Luxman D-08 CD/SACD player and a Basis Audio 2200 Signature Turntable with a Basis Audio Superarm and a My Sonic Labs Ultra Eminent cartridge (prices for these components not available). The 400Wpc purna/ma amp ($8950) and the purna/ca preamp ($4500-$9500, depending on options) were both by PranaFidelity

Once the PranaFidelity Vayu/fs speakers were fired up I knew this was something special. The sound was strikingly dynamic and clean, and the bass phenomenal. At $6950/pair in a standard wood finish ($2000 more in the glossy piano gray of the show samples), it was obvious that PranaFidelity missed the memo stating that speakers this large and this impressive-sounding must be priced over $30,000/pair.

I won't go so far as to say this was the best overall sound I heard at the show, but it was certainly the most surprising. Perhaps the magic sauce was a combination of the room and system. But if it was, then too many rooms at the show had mislaid the recipe. True, the blocky cabinet isn't stylish, but swoopy and curvy enclosures cost money, and lots of it—money that finds its way, multiplied several times over, into the retail price.

Unusually for a speaker this large with five drivers (four identical 6" woofers and one 30mm tweeter), this is a two-way system. All of the woofers cover the full bass and midrange.

The designer, Steven Norber, has also included two switches on the back of the speaker. What they do is unusual. They let the listener switch the resistors in the crossover network from the non-inductive wire-wound type to ceramic. It did make a difference. While I agreed with Steven that the non-inductive wire-wounds sounded better, he has found that some individuals prefer the ceramic. That's why he includes the switch.

PranaFidelity also makes a smaller, stand-mount version, the Fifty90, for $3950 (in standard finish-options available). It employs two similar woofers and the same tweeter.

In the Prism Media Products room, the new Callia USB and S/PDIF DAC and digital preamp was being launched—and, at $2500, it was working sweetly into a pair of ATC SCM40A powered loudspeakers ($13,000/pair, also available at $6995/pair unpowered).

Single-driver loudspeakers are something of a minor fad these days. It has a lot to do with eliminating the crossover network, which is difficult to design properly. A single driver also avoids acoustical interference, often called comb filtering, between separate, adjacent drivers.

The Eclipse TD510z mk II by Fujitsu Ten ($6000/pair, with stands) is a single-driver system in an acoustically optimum enclosure with a rounded front that minimizes diffractions from its single, 10cm driver. But that driver can't go particularly low, so for the demo at T.H.E. Show, a pair of Fujitsu Ten TD520SW subwoofers ($3600 each) were added below 50Hz. Electronics included Luxman's new D-05u SACD player, in its first public demonstration ($4990 with USB input), and L-590aX mk II class-A integrated amplifier ($9990).

Two different Pearl Evolution loudspeakers were demonstrated at the show. They're some of the oddest-looking speakers I've seen. The smaller Micro Ballerina, at $3000/pair, is a two-way design that's rotatable to position the tweeter at any angle from the woofer (they're slightly off center in the photo). The larger Mini Ballerina ($7000/pair) is a three-way. It doesn't rotate, but the top baffle, which features a dome midrange and dome tweeter, is narrow to minimize diffraction. An optional bass module ($3000) fits below the speaker to extend its bottom range to about 43Hz (without it, the bottom end extends only to 53Hz, with no decibel tolerances specified).

Peachtree 2.0 is the new name for the reinvented Peachtree Audio. Its upcoming nova150 integrated amplifier ($1499) uses the latest ICE digital amp modules and is rated at 150Wpc. It also includes an onboard DAC, as in past Peachtree products. Availability is expected in July. In their demo, the nova150 was being used to drive two very different loudspeakers: a pair of Elac Uni-Fi stand-mounters ($500/pair) and a pair of Wilson Audio's recent Sabrinas ($15,900/pair). Both demos were impressive, particularly when the $1499 Peachtree nova150 served the five-figure Sabrinas.

Peachtree also expects to market a 500Wpc integrated amp as well, but not before the end of this year or early 2017. They're hoping for a price of around $3500.

Peachtree Audio's picture

Thank you for stopping by Tom. We just wanted to clarify that the Wilson Sabrinas were being driven by the forthcoming 300 WPC nova300 which will retail $2200-2300 when it is released next month. The 150 WPC nova150 which was driving the ELAC UB5s in the room started shipping last month and we are in the process of catching up with the backlog of orders. The current wait time is about 2 weeks. Thanks again.

PAR's picture

Just to mention that the ATC SCM40A speakers are not "powered" in the normal usage of the term as reported, meaning only a speaker with a built in amplifier. Such speakers have the amplifier drive a conventional passive crossover within the cabinet. The ATCs are actually active loudspeakers so have an electronic crossover at the input which is followed by a separate amplifier for each of the drive units which are connected directly. This has a number of technical advantages over a passive solution.