A Show Tradition

I'm a guy who loves traditions: I attribute it to growing up in Virginia, a state that reveres tradition, my wife claims it's just OCD. Whatever—I have made it a tradition at every HE Show I can remember to visit Luke Manley's VTL room at the last minute on the last day because it always lets me leave on a high note. Manley did not disappoint this year in the room he shared with dealer Brooks Berdan, the "king of analog."

The room included Wilson Sophia 2 loudspeakers ($14,000/pair), a pair of VTL MB450 monoblocks ($13,500/pair), TL-7.5 Series II preamplifier ($15,000), the prototype of VTL's new TP 6.5 phono section ($7500), and the brand spanking new VPI Aries III (starting at $4700 with many options). Oh yeah, it also sported the Benz LP cartridge ($4500)—and is that not a cool name for a cartridge?

Okay, time to pay the rent: What's new about the MB450s is just about everything, from the slick "new VTL" cosmetics, which are far more polished than the older models, to a beefy new power supply, auto bias, and a fault-sensing circuit that's a direct descendent of the circuit in the Siegfrieds.

We began playing music on the Aries and I almost swooned in relief: Berdan and Manley weren't just getting great sound, they were getting relaxed, fully integrated, sound-like-you've-always-wanted sound. You know how no matter how much you love your hi-fi, when you go over to your buddy's house and his system is really cooking, you go, "I wish my system sounded this good?" Well, that's what Luke and Brooks were putting out. The Wilson WATT/Puppy 8s may have been getting all the attention at HE2006, but let me tell you the Sophia 2s are nobody's ugly sister! Gosh, I love that speaker.

One thing led to another and all of a sudden, we'd forgotten to be "business like" because we were having too much fun and I pulled out my copy of Hayseed Dixie playing "Big Bottom" and "Highway to Hell" on banjo, mandolin, and fiddle and Brooks pulled out his copy of the Buzzards playing "Pipeline" on accordion, acoustic guitar, and dobro, and then things got really strange.

Actually, it was pretty normal for an audiophile get-together — and it was a perfect ending to a great show.

Bob Casner's picture

Wes," I believe that the version of ""Pipeline"" Brooks played would have been from ""The Vultures"" album by Joe Weed"," NOT ""The Buzzards."" Yep"," ""Hayseed Dixie"" doing AC/DC tunes bluegrass style is a lot of fun", too.

Gunnar Orloff's picture

Perhaps you please, could tell me what brand the cables used with this equipment was?Best regardsG. Orloff

Norman Liu's picture

Brooks definitely got my vote for best sound of the show. I was in there a couple of hours before you were, Wes (that was me picking up my suitcase just before closing time), and Brooks was playing the Classic Records pressing of Kenny Burrell's Midnight Blue. I sat glued to my seat and forgot about all the other rooms I needed to check off my list before 5, until the side ended, and I hoofed it right over to Classic Record's booth to buy the last copy in the bin.Thanks, Brooks!Norman

K Mehta's picture

Nice sound but not the best music when I was there. Enjoyed talking to Bea Lam of VTL.