T.H.E Show 2014: Day 1

Entering the first of four rooms sponsored by Brian Berdan's Audio Element of Pasadena felt like coming home. Not only was I among familiar friends—Wilson Audio Sasha Series 2 loudspeakers ($29,950/pair); mighty VTL Siegfried Reference monoblocks Series II ($65,000/pair), accompanied by VTL's TL-7.5 Reference line preamplifier Series III ($25,000) and TP-6.5 Signature phono stage ($12,000); dCS four-stack, state-of-the-art Vivaldi Digital Playback System ($108,996 total); Transparent Opus MM and Reference cables ($105,500 total); Grand Prix Audio Silverstone 4-shelf Isolation system ($19,175), Monaco-5 shelf Isolation system ($8400), and Formula Platforms ($6900); Audience AdeptResponse aR12TSS power conditioner ($11,545); and, a bit less familiar, Grand Prix Audio Monaco 1.5 turntable ($23,500) with new Tri-Planar SE tonearm ($7500) and luscious Lyra Etna cartridge ($6995)—but I also finally heard a quality of musical presentation that decades upon decades of attending live performance have led me to hunger for.

"Needed my fix so bad," I wrote in my notes. "Gorgeous, airy, real sound. It may be a touch warm, but the difference between this and the other setups I've heard is musical truth."

Thanks be to Peter McGrath, whose playlist of 88.2/24 master recordings began with soprano Lauren Snouffer, 26, singing the heavenly Benedictus from Schubert's Mass in G. (I believe I sang this mass in high school, feeling like a fool while trying to smile the way my mother insisted I smile during singing.) The detail the system conveyed on massed voices was marvelous. I heard more color and magic in this room, and far less artificial shine, than in the sum total of the eight or so rooms that preceded it.

At last having visited musical paradise, it was time to balance spiritual fulfillment with physical sustenance. Trying to ignore the fact that, on this particular day, the Hilton's chef had decided that vegetables are a dispensable commodity, I chose for dessert the truly fabulous, teasing voice of Nina Storey. Sponsored by darTZeel, what a show Ms. Storey put on at Atrium Poolside. I wish I could have stayed to give you a full report, but it's easier for you to catch her in action on YouTube or, even better, her own site, than to hear many of the systems combos assembled in Newport Beach. So back to the Atrium's second floor I headed, where I entered. . .

. . . the oversized room shared by the Perfect8 The Force loudspeakers ($350,000/pair, complete with four DSP-controlled powered subwoofers, two of which were in use); BAlabo BP-1 Mk.II power amplifier ($88,500), BC-1 Mk.II linestage Control amplifier ($67,500), BD-1 DAC ($37,500), and MS-1 music server ($8500); Zanden 2000P CD transport ($33,500) and Model 120 phonostage ($7500); Bergmann Sleipner linear-tracking turntable ($63,000); cabling from Perfect8, Hemingway, Argento, and Stage III; HB Cable Design Powerslave Marble power distribution center ($8995); and equipment stands from Perfect8 and Grand Prix.

With Perfect8's Jonas Räntilä serving as DJ, the sound was least brittle in the front row. Nonetheless, LPs of music by Rachmaninoff and Rimsky-Korsakov sounded somewhat off, with thuddy bass and the lack of the tonal underbelly that completes the sonic picture and supplies essential warmth. The music server's depiction of a Red Book track had a bit more tonal bottom, but still sounded wiry on top. I'd like to chalk it up to the impossible room.

"Wonderful midrange, very strong, extremely grounded and illumined," I wrote of the room assembled by Maier Shadi of The Audio Salon, Santa Monica. Maier paired Wilson Audio Alexia loudspeakers in custom Desert Silver ($52,500/pair) with Constellation Audio's Inspiration Series 1.0 preamplifier ($9,000) and 1.0 monoblocks ($20,000/pair).

On the digital end, the world premiere of Berkeley Audio Design's Reference Series Alpha DAC ($14,000) was complemented by the Aurender W20 Music Server ($17,000) and Nagra CDC ($19,000). Analog came courtesy of the excellent Spiral Groove SG 1.1 and Centroid arm ($36,000) with Brinkmann EMT Cartridge ($5,000) and Constellation Performance Series Perseus phono preamp ($27,000). Cabling was Nordost's equally excellent Valhalla 2, complete with Nordost QB8 power distributor. Acoustic control came via Audio Salon's Acoustic System with Vicoustic Panels ($9000).

Despite some ringing on the voice of tenor Vittorio Grigolo, and a slightly exaggerated midrange, this setup produced wonderful sound. Imaging was fabulous on a 24/96 track from Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, played via the Aurender server, although the bottom was a little dry and powdery. "Overall, so much is very, very right" I wrote of an extremely challenging room whose sound reportedly improved on the last day after a few more panels were added to the ceiling and the Audio Salon Kilovolt 7.5 Power and Grounding System ($10,000) cleaned up the hotel's dirty power.

Here's a close-up of the very first Berkeley Audio Design Reference Series Alpha DAC ($14,000) ever played in public.

Given that I had so many rooms to cover, and Wilson loudspeakers were in multiple exhibits (including those from Sunil Merchant's Sunny Components of Covina), I skipped over few of them. But I couldn't resist snapping a photo of this Sasha 2 in custom Rosso Corsa, aka Ferrari Racing Red ($31,850/pair).

One of the big attractions at T.H.E. Show involved Stillpoints' claim that their new 14 lb Aperture Room Treatments ($650/panel, which can be covered with the art of your choice for an extra $200–$250), are so effective that they could tame reverberations in the Atrium's sonically impossible Sunset Lounge. While I could hear no reverberation or glassy harshness in the space, what I did hear was flat, washed out, and monotone gray. However, given that the Apertures seemed highly effective with the different, vibrantly-colored equipment I heard on Day Three in Dynamic Design's difficult-to-control standard size room at the Hilton, I'm pretty certain what I was hearing in the Sunset Lounge was the sonic signature of Astell&Kern's diminutive Castor loudspeakers ($25,000/pair), Cube One 300B amplifier ($11,000), and brand new 500N Network music player ($10,000–$12,000).

Courtesy of Audio Element, I visited a second Wilson Audio Alexia ($48,500/pair) set-up because it included the US premiere of Aesthetix's Metis linestage preamplifier ($20,000) and Romulus Signature CD player w/DAC ($10,000), as well as Grand Prix Audio's new Woodcote shelves and amp stands ($3875 for 9-shelf rack, $1500 for an amp stand). Together with Aesthetix Atlas monoblocks ($16,000/pair) and, on the analog end, a complete Clearaudio Master Innovation turntable set-up ($61,300) with new Graham Phantom Elite 10" tonearm ($12,500), the imaging was fabulous on an Alison Krauss CD, but there was also a bright edge to the voice and some unfortunate bass booming.

In yet another Audio Element room, Ayre's new MX-R Twenty monoblocks ($29,900/pair), KX-R Twenty preamplifier ($27,500) and QB-9 DSD DAC ($3250) complemented the US premiere of AMG's phono preamplifier ($5000), Viella 12 turntable ($16,500), new Teatro MC cartridge ($2000), and Reference tonearm cable ($1500). Speakers were the gorgeous Sonus Faber Elipsa SE ($22,900/pair), cables Cardas Audio Clear, racks Grand Prix Audio Monaco, and power conditioner Audience AdeptResponse R6TSS ($7550).

Even though my focus was digital—I attempted, admittedly unsuccessfully, to leave analog coverage to Michael Fremer—Musical Surroundings' Garth Leerer insisted on going the LP route. Thus I heard an audiophile pressing of the awful Dallas Symphony Orchestra Turnabout issue of Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances, conducted by Johanos. I am well aware that others I respect have praised this recording, but it not only plods along at a lugubrious tempo, but also makes a large orchestra sound like a handful of players. Ugh.

Garth also played an LP of Söderström and Ashkenazy performing Rachmaninoff. The soprano's midrange seemed a bit disconnected from her top, with a slight dryness in the middle that I did not expect to encounter.

In the Acapella room, soprano Elly Ameling initially sounded heavenly, with an extremely warm, nurturing, and all-embracing midrange that flattered the orchestra on Edo de Waart's recording of Grieg's Peer Gynt. Alas, once dynamics increased, major distortion set in all around. The tremendous space on Mercedes Sosa's recording of the Misa Criolla was quite enjoyable until, once again, the music became more dynamic and distortion ruined the presentation. Heard were Acapella's Atlas loudspeaker with Ion Tweeter TW 1 ($98,000/pair) and LaMusika hybrid amplifier ($116,000), fed by an EMM Labs CD player. I'd like to think the room's small dimensions were the culprit.

Volti Audio's five-piece Vittora loudspeaker system ($25,000), which comes complete with an extended low-frequency cabinet that includes an 18" down-firing driver, was making music with BorderPatrol Audio's S10 EXC + EXS PSU 9Wpc, 300B SET dual-mono amplifier ($25,750 total), Control Unit EXC triode line stage with EXD ($16,250 total), and DAC2 ($9750). Cabling was from Triode Wire. One of Stereophile's runner-ups for 2013 Loudspeaker of the Year, and rated Class A (Restricted Extreme LF), the Volti system had a very natural sound that, at least with these electronics, couldn't quite convey the bottom bass line in Ivan Fischer's recording of Mahler Symphony 2.

Highs were very fine, but lacked the air and transparency I would expect from equipment in this price range. "I feel removed from the experience," I wrote in my notes. While there was no hard edge on the top of tenor Vittorio Grigolo's ringing voice, there was a slight disconnect between it and his midrange.

Angel City Audio of Rancho Cucamonga showed a system whose ACA Trinity loudspeakers ($3500/pair) included a newly repaired crossover that was not broken in. Perhaps that, together with the brand new Onix OC 130 CD player ($13,399) and hardly broken MN845 monoblocks ($13,500/pair), accounted for the treble distortion I heard. A Melody Pure Black 101 preamp ($5000), MG Audio Design cabling, and Spiritual Audio VX-9 power conditioner ($3000) completed the chain.

One of the most unusual encounters I've ever had at a show came at the end of a demo of Magnepan's not yet available MG.7 loudspeakers ($TBD). A replacement for the MG 12, the .7s sounded quite lovely with a Bryston SP-2 amplifier and either a Pioneer or Denon CD player. Thanks in part to a hidden center channel that Wendell Diller of Magnepan often fails to point out, and which I had forgotten about until a member of the Bay Area Audiophile Society mentioned it during our Saturday night dinner, the small system's really gorgeous highs and slightly muffled bottom exhibited impressive dynamic range.

No sooner had the music ended than Diller launched into an out-of-left-field, totally inappropriate rap about how people claim that Stereophile hates Magnepan. Note that this occurred, not in private, but rather in the middle of a public demo that included Paul Seydor of The Absolute Sound (who chimed in with something like, "Well, so and so of TAS loves Magnepans").

As has previously been discussed in the pages of Stereophile, this magazine does not currently review Magnepan loudspeakers. That's not out of choice, but rather because, as Diller himself acknowledged during his rap, he chooses not to supply them to the magazine's reviewers because, when John Atkinson measures them, they do not measure well. [Actually, while this is something I have suspected, Wendell Diller's prior public statements were that he did not want me to measure Magnepan speakers because doing so would reveal proprietary information.—JA]

Why Diller is getting so bent out of shape by ill-informed gossip on forums is beyond me. After staring in disbelief at Diller while he went on for a good minute or two, and interrupting only to ask, "Why are you telling me this?", both Seydor and I stood up, told him that neither of us bothers with forums, and left the room.

OMG. Was it really 6pm? Yessiree. With just enough time to head back to my room before dinner, I found my journey accompanied by Dean Peer's peerless bass guitar and drummer Bret Mann's empathetic percussion.

remlab's picture

..of new Magnepan models you have access to other than those supplied directly from the manufacturer. Why not just review and measure some of those? At least you could dispel the rumors(And prove your point at the same time).

John Atkinson's picture
remlab wrote:
There must be plenty of new Magnepan models you have access to other than those supplied directly from the manufacturer. Why not just review and measure some of those?

On balance, I felt that denying Magnepan review coverage in favor of loudspeakers from companies who were prepared to accept that we would publish measurements of their speakers would be a more fitting outcome.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

remlab's picture

..what a "less fitting outcome" would be. If I remember correctly, Anthony Gallo also dislikes published measurements..

compcond's picture

Yes: cables make a difference. Analog cables each have their own sound. Digital cables simply cannot sound different but I've found a dramatic difference between them. I can't explain it, I don't want to explain it, but they sound wildly different.

I have experimented with different digital sources (mostly with my recently sold Benchmark DAC1 HDR) and have found that JRiver, playing .wav files, sounds best. There is a clearly audible difference between playing .wav and .flac however I can transcode between them with no loss of fidelity. Foobar, iTunes and a Squeezebox Touch don't come close to JRiver and .wav.

Power makes a difference. Again, there is a clearly audible difference when my DAC2 and Conrad Johnson MF2500A are plugged in through a Tripp line conditioner as opposed to a surge suppressor or directly into the wall.

All of that being said the sound at the show was laughable. Virtually every room, at every price point, was a congested pile of cabinet resonance and a pissing contest of who had the biggest cables. Having heard the differences between playback software at home I was aghast at how many rooms were using iTunes, thousands of dollars worth of cables, amplifiers that wouldn't fit in my car and speakers that were finished in frankincense and myrrh.

The four best sounding rooms I heard (and, admittedly I didn't get to a couple of floors in the Hilton) were the Maggie .7s, McIntosh, a pair of 6.5" 2-ways finished in Lexus paint for $9,500 and, yes, the outdoor planters from Madison Fielding (the only vendor with the guts to play the Sheffield Drum and Track record... and they did it very well). In case you didn't notice, by the way, McIntosh was cheating with their room-correction doohickey.

For reference my home speakers were built for me using Dynaudio drivers about 12 years ago at a total cost of $4,000. The party I attended the show with agreed with me that, in comparison, nothing we heard at the show made either one of us want to sit and listen. We had the same experience last year with the exception of the MBL room from which I needed to be pried away.

I truly got the impression of "The Emperors New Clothes" rather than technological improvements. It seems that it's a race to produce larger diameter cables, weirder looking speakers and amplifiers that require shipping on a pallet rather than good sound. Based on what I saw and heard my [comparatively] cheap system will continue to serve me for years to come with the Amex safely tucked away.

Now I just need to figure out what to do for another system for the den.

kana813's picture

FYI,WA Desert Silver is not a custom color.

Wendell Diller's rant,wow!

John Atkinson's picture
Wendell Diller, whom I have known for more than 30 years, sent me the following email. I am posting it with his permission:

Jason completely misunderstood my intent—and he failed to mention that I wished to kill the rumors circulating on the Internet that Stereophile "has it in" for Magnepan. I was not "going off" on Stereophile. Quite the opposite. I wished for Jason to understand that I was defending you. The fact that Paul Seydor from TAS was there to witness what I said did make it "public" to some degree, but I don't understand why Jason found it necessary to air it in his blog. So, now I feel compelled to publicly state what I was trying to explain to Jason.

I have the highest regard and respect for you and Stereophile magazine. It is not fair that Stereophile has been accussed of a vendetta against Magnepan. Jason said that he doesn't read this stuff in the chat rooms, but I believe it can be damaging. There are a lot of "conspiracy theories" why Maggies are not reviewed in Stereophile, but it is not complicated. You and I have discussed them a number of times. And there are no hidden agendas. There will be those that will criticize me or Magnepan, but you and Stereophile are not to be faulted.

Wendell Diller
Marketing Mgr.

jimtavegia's picture

That certainly didn't generate any positive PR, did it. If someone actually reads Stereophile they would see that occasionally a reviewer(s) like a piece of gear that does measure badly. All the speakers I have at home are not class anything Stereophile, yet I still listen to them every day and enjoy them. I am not alone in this regard I am sure. Another dust-up in audio land. Life is too short for this.

Josh Hill's picture

Here's an in-room measurement of a Maggie MMG that a friend made:


Here's Stereohpile's near field (50") measurement of the 3.6:


Most of that 20 dB bass peak is an artifact of the near field measurement which shows the equaliation that compensates for the 6 dB/octave dipole cancellation -- there are a series of letters on the topic appended to the review.

But -- if you were a speaker company -- would you want your speakers reviewed with a misleading response curve that makes them look like a piece of crap? Not every reader can be counted on to read JA's comments, and let's be honest, not every reader is going to give primacy to the listening tests over the measurements, either, although they're ultimately what count.

I don't know if this is what Wendell was objecting to, but if I were marketing manager of Magnepan, I know that I would have serious reservations about the possibility of losing sales to readers whose eyes skip to a horrid looking response curve that will mislead readers who don't read and understand the footnotes.

hnipen's picture

Thanks a lot Josh for your very interesting post

I believe the measuring and measuring techniques of Stereophile has been debated to the end of the world, and there is no lack of critical people, but to counter this I reckon we have to consider the resources that John and Stereophile do have at hand, who would expect a magazine to have access to an anechoic chamber?

I do have a pair of Meadowlark Kestrel2, where the Kestrel's will measure suboptimal according to how John does it (at least the Meadowlark Swift did) But I'm very happy with the speakers... I do also have a pair of Duntech PCL-15 that has a response curve flat as Nebraska and a textbook perfect impulse response, but I prefer the Meadowlark's generally

There was a controversy between late John Dunlavy and John Atkinson about the measurements of Dunlavy SC-IVa signature, which originally measured quite suboptimal in Stereophile's assessments, so what did John then do, rather than starting to throw hand granates at John he started a process of explaining things and in the end we ended up seeing measurements that proved them to be 'astonishing flat', think it's what John essentially wrote...

So to refuse review of a product because you don't get the results you want is beyond me, better go into a process to explain what's going on.

All credit to Stereophile and John Atkinson :=)

Josh Hill's picture

I've found Stereophile's measurements invaluable over the years -- not because they tell me enough about the sound to make a purchasing decision, but because I'm interested in the relationship between what we hear and what we measure and design. And I agree that Stereophile is constrained by limited resources.

I asked JA a couple of years ago about the possibility of resuming in-room measurement, and he said it wasn't feasible since the measurements and reviews are made in different places.

So my intent here wasn't to criticize JA's measurement program (as I've seen some do, vociferously and sometimes obnoxiously) but to point out that Magnepan might have legitimate technical and business concerns here rather than wanting to hide bad performance from the public.

I'm just speculating at this point, but if I were marketing manager of a loudspeaker manufacturer, I think I'd be concerned about prospective customers that inaccurately show my speaker as having a 20 dB peak in the bass! That has to hurt sales, because even if JA appends an explanation (as he always does) you know that not everyone is going to read it or understand it. And the only reason for a company to submit a product for review is to increase sales.

At the same time, JA obviously can't omit the measurements, as Wendell apparently suggested.

This particular issue was discussed in some very informative letters that are appended to the review. Here's some of what Siegfried Linkwitz, the well-known loudspeaker designer, had to say:

"The nearfield frequency response of an acoustic source is only proportional to its farfield response if the source is small, ie, omnidirectional, and if it is in free-space. Summing a driver diameter corrected woofer nearfield response to a farfield midrange response works for a small monitor on a stand, but already has errors when the speaker is larger and the woofer is close to the floor—when the conditions move away from free-space or anechoic.

"The Magneplanar is clearly not a point source and, being open-baffle, it has an acoustic short circuit between front and back. This causes a 6 dB/octave low-frequency roll-off in the farfield response. So from all open baffle nearfield measurements you have to subtract first a 6dB/octave (= 20dB/decade) slope before you can sum the data with other farfield measurements. When you apply this correction to the MG3.6 woofer response you see that it flattens from 400Hz to 60Hz and shows a peak at 47Hz. Similarly the midrange has to be corrected before you can use it for the composite response. The actual room response is still different from this composite, though, primarily due to the effect of the floor on woofer radiation.

"You might consider to add a measurement taken with a 50ms time window at your listening position, spatially averaged and half-octave smoothed to include the room. I think as a measurement that allows true comparison between speakers, this would be more useful than the composite data that are correct only in a few special cases."


My sense at this point is that since it isn't practical for Stereophile to make the listening position measurements, the uncorrected nearfield measurements of large dipoles should simply be omitted, with an explanatory footnote. The raw data is of interest to us techies, but there's a real risk that it will mislead readers and I think the rule here should be "first do no harm."

A better alternative might be for the reviewer to make some simple in-room measurements as Linkwitz suggests. The equipment needed is so cheap now -- apparently you can get a calibrated microphone for $20(!) and the software is free. Or JA could take the planars outside and measure them 6' from a wall, although I understand that he might not have the time for that (measuring Magicos in the driveway notwithstanding).

hnipen's picture

I wholeheartedly agree with you Josh, thanks for your comprehensive post!

maybe some speakers really better being measured outdoors, but it's a bit troublesome I guess... And maybe John's neighbors are not so happy about this? but for large arrays and large panel speakers, as you point out, it will probably provide for much more reliable results

John, why don't you get some fresh air every now and then?

Josh Hill's picture

Though I do sometimes contemplate putting my own speakers outside and starting a war with the neighbor how has an obnoxious boom car.

hnipen's picture

Well, Stereophile is not doing power compression testing of big subwoofers, like what some other magazines do... :-D

Josh Hill's picture

Actually, I've been meaning to ask JA why they don't do SPL/distortion measurements since like forever. Speakers differ so dramatically in dynamic capability and while the reviewers generally make a mention of it this is one area where I think a number is useful to a purchaser, since he can measure his preferred listening levels with a meter and see right away whether a given model suits his needs.

hnipen's picture

This would be quite useful :-)

John Atkinson's picture
Josh Hill wrote:
if I were marketing manager of a loudspeaker manufacturer, I think I'd be concerned about prospective customers that inaccurately show my speaker as having a 20 dB peak in the bass! That has to hurt sales, because even if JA appends an explanation (as he always does) you know that not everyone is going to read it or understand it.

As you quote Siegfried Linkwitz explaining, the large peak in the low frequencies of the Maggie measured in the nearfield is compensated for by the dipole cancellation. I take the point about the problem with a nearfield measurement of a large panel speakers. But with something as large as the MG3.6, even at a typical listening distance of 10', you are still not in the true farfield.

And as Mike Gough, then with B&W, points out on the same web page, with the combination of an underdamped panel resonance and the dipole cancellation to give a flat bass response, the rolloff is "ultimately third-order, though the response will have an inferior low-level transient behaviour to a well-adjusted second-order."

But from my discussions with Wendell Diller, the measurement he finds most disturbing is the cumulative spectral-decay plot. Panel speakers always look bad on this measurement, with a very hashy decay in the treble. I suspect that this might be due to the multiple arrivals at the microphone. But it might also be a sign of Chaotic behavior in the motion of the diaphragm, ie, though the average motion of the diaphragm is linear in response to the driving force, individual diaphragm elements lag or lead that average motion, ie, it "shimmers." Manfred Schroeder once said in an AES lecture that a symptom of Chaotic behavior is the production of subharmonics, and I have found with some panel speakers that you do get a 500Hz subharmonic accompanying a 1kHz tone.

Josh Hill wrote:
"You might consider to add a measurement taken with a 50ms time window at your listening position, spatially averaged and half-octave smoothed to include the room." - Siegfried Linkwitz

I always publish a spatially averaged in-room measurement for the speakers I personally review, as well as for those reviewed by writers within driving range. I would very much like to do this for all the speakers reviewed in Stereophile, but logistically it isn't possible, given that my team is spread over the country.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Allen Fant's picture

Beautiful pics! guys. I wish I could have attended. I know you all had a great time w/ all of that gear.

remlab's picture


mark_m's picture

Really surprised at how much you liked the sounds in this room. When I went in they were playing Leonard Cohen's "Amen" - presumably from CD although I didn't ask. Maybe they were streaming it from Pandora or Spotify or some such because it sounded worse than I have ever heard that song sound. All the rich tones of Mr Cohen's voice were destroyed by that setup.

There were a few rooms there with nice sound but this wasn't one of them.

LS35A's picture

They deserve a better National Sales Manager than they have now. I could say more, but I won't.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Hey all. I'm a little concerned, given 10 comments here and none on my first blog, that some people think that first blog only contains a rap about cars. There are a bunch of systems covered in that blog. If you skipped over it, please take a look: http://www.stereophile.com/content/show-your-mark-get-set-go

Thank you,

remlab's picture

found everything very interesting, and nothing controversial. Controversy is usually what makes people comment. If you did write only about cars in the first blog, you would have gotten plenty of comments, I assure you!

corrective_unconscious's picture

I don't understand the part about the hidden center channel with the upcoming Magnepan .7 speakers. Is it near those flower pots? What I think I see is a pair of the Magnepan planar, semi subwoofer to the outside of the .7 speakers. It's germane if they were playing or not. (Assuming that's what they are.)

Some of the UK audio magazines review Magnepan models and include measurements of a sort....

Also, I would like to see Roy Hall and Wendell Diller in a creative invective contest...after drug and alcohol testing to make it fair, or course.

pseydor's picture

I have to side with Jason on this. I thought Diller completely out of line. Indeed, and ironically, I didn’t even know about any blood, bad or good, twixt Maggie and Sphile before that afternoon. An even further irony is that as regular readers of mine over at TAS know, I have never been a fan of Magneplanars, but I did find myself enjoying this latest model and wish only that Diller had bitten his tongue so I could have listened longer to the truly beautiful CD that Jason asked them to play.

Odin 412's picture

Is it just me or are some of the price points of this stuff getting ridiculous? Over $100K for cables? For that price I expect angels to descend to gently tickle my eardrums, and although the Audio Element system sounded nice (very nice, in fact) there were as far as I could tell no angels standing by.

Anyway, as a guy on a more modest budget I'd like to add my favorites for the 99%:
1. Zu Audio. This was my first encounter with Zu and it's so refreshing to hear someone more focused on just playing music rather than demoing hardware. Great music, great (and very lively) sound and great people. What's not to love? And great T-shirts, too!
2. Schiit Audio. Great gear at reasonable prices. I love these guys! The Valhalla amp with the Sennheiser HD 650 is pure magic for just enjoying music. And the Mjolnir sounded fabulous with the Audeze LCD-XCs.
3. Audeze. This was my first time listening to their headphones, and I loved the LCD-XC! Beautifully made with great lush sound that just made me want to listen to more music - and thankfully not bright-sounding. Not cheap, but I'm very tempted. Made in SoCal too!
4. Benchmark Media. I really liked this room and returned several times just to listen to more music. The new speakers sound great!
5. PeachTree Audio. Great sound and impressive room correction from the Amarra software. Too bad they don't make a Windows version. I really liked their $2,500 Nova/D5 'non-hifi' system - personally I would buy that and spend the leftover $17,500 saved from the 220SE/Martin Logan system on other things that make life enjoyable.
6. Audioengine. Great sound at great prices! I have the A2/D1 combo for my PC and the A5 in the dining room and love the sound!

However, when we attend these shows it's OK to dream about what happens after that one lucky lotto ticket. My favorite room regardless of price? The Audio Salon room with the Wilson Audio Alexia speakers. Hearing Buddy Guy sing 'Done Got Old' gave me goosebumps.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

So are several posts above yours.

Re: your faves, I only went to a few of the rooms you praise. Headphones were not in my territory, as they will be at the California Audio Show, because Tyll covers them. I covered the exact same Benchmark set-up in Chicago, hence skipped it here, and I stuck to a description of AudioEngine's new device rather than listening to very familiar entities. (Their A2+ loudspeakers with the new USB DAC option are excellent, btw, for anyone who doesn't play hi-res or crave deep bass from their desktop.) I also skipped Zu because I expected the sound to be similar to what I've reported on before, but that was an arbitrary decision because rooms had to be skipped. But we are definitely agreed on the PeachTree and the Audio Salon rooms.

What day did you go to the Audio Salon room ? Was it perchance Sunday, after they added more paneling and made some other changes? I wish I could have visited a second time. Maier Shadi is a perfectionist (as is Brian Berdan, who is also superb at set-up), and their alliances with Wilson and Peter Mc Grath are win-wins for everyone.

Again, thank you for your summation.

Odin 412's picture

I enjoy reading reports from the various audio shows, and all of your reports from THE Show were well-written and informative. It's even more interesting to read reports from a show that I attended myself, since it allows me to compare my impressions with yours. (Or, if we're going to be philosophical, it allows me to compare my impressions to what I perceive that your impressions were, based on my interpretation of the words that you chose to describe your impressions.)
Anyway, I visited the Audio Salon room on Saturday, so if it sounded even better on Sunday that just makes me even more impressed.

hnipen's picture

The Sonus Faber Elipsa looks like a million bucks.....

I'm planning to audition the Guarneri Evolution in a local shop around here now soon, but I'm a bit afraid how that's going to affect my finances in the near future ==:-o

I listened briefly to the Olympicia 1 just a few weeks ago and they gave me a shock, that's really good speakers at that price level. and I expect the Guarneri Evolution to be at least a few notches up... They pretty darn well should be at that price level.

Do any of you guys have any experience with Franco Serblin Accordo?
John, why don't you review Accordo or Ktema?
The last products from a master and an eternal legend within the business