The Best Sound in Los Angeles

As with past HI-FI Shows, we asked visitors to HI-FI '98 to vote for the room that offered what they thought to be the best sound. The ballot in the Show Guide asked visitors to list the best, second-best, third-best, and worst sounds, for which I allocated 3 points, 2 points, 1 point, and -1 point, respectively. Any exhibitor that received more than 0.7% of the total votes cast is listed in the Table. I've tried to include both the exhibitors and the brands demonstrated, as listed in the Show Guide and in our report text in the September issue of the paper Stereophile. My apologies if I've left anyone out.

As I tallied the votes, two rooms ran neck-and-neck for Best Sound: the Christopher Hansen 2 room, featuring the latest version of the Martin-Logan Statements driven by several VTL Wotans; and the winner at HI-FI '97 in San Francisco, the Wilson Audio Specialties room, which this year featured the Utah company's new MAXX speaker. The Hansen room eventually nosed aside the Wilson room, but both offered sound to die for---reproduced sound doesn't get any better than either system. And though it didn't figure in the voting, I thought Denon's installation of a high-powered car system in a bright-red '50s "bubblecar" the most optimistic system!

No fewer than 74 of the 124 demonstration rooms receiving votes were rated by at least one visitor as "Best Sound at the Show." This reflects a healthy diversity of taste in sound quality. (As at previous Shows, however, a common factor uniting votes for Worst Sound was the comment "too loud." Some visitors also commented on being treated rudely.)

We'll see you all again in May 1999, at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago's historic Loop district.

ExhibitorBrands on DisplayVote%
Christopher Hansen 2, Cardas, Martin-Logan, VTL, Wadia Martin-Logan, Wadia, VTL, Cardas, Z-Systems, pARTicular 11.5%
Wilson Audio Specialties Wilson, Krell 10.0%
Ambrosia Audio & Video, Essential Sound Products EgglestonWorks, ESP, Benz-Micro, Graham, Jeff Rowland Design Group, Theta, Z-Systems, Equi=Tech, Transparent 5.9%
Balanced Audio Technology Hales, BAT, ASC, pARTicular, RPG, Univocal, Aural Symphonics 4.75%
Joseph Audio Joseph, Audio Power Industries, VTL, Muse, Cardas 3.6%
MBL of America mbl 3.4%
GNP A/V Thiel, Audio Research, Transparent 3.25%
Cary Audio Design Cary, Alón, Fanfare, Western Electric 3.2%
Optimal Enchantment Vandersteen, Audio Research, Oracle, Graham, AudioTruth 3.0%
Ambrosia Audio & Video Dunlavy, Classé, ESP, Theta, Vidikron, REL, Faroudja, Equi=Tech, Transparent 2.7%
Audio Plus Services JMlab, YBA, Audio Refinement 2.4%
Audio Unlimited Avalon, Accuphase, Benz-Micro, Basis, Graham, Transfiguration, Acrotec, Ait Tight 2.25%
Pass Labs Pass Labs, Quintessence, Oracle 2.2%
B&W Loudspeakers B&W, Rotel, Krell 1.9%
PopeMusic, VAC, Platinum PopeMusic, VAC, Platinum, Golden Dragon 1.7%
TacT Audio TacT, Dali 1.6%
Ambrosia Audio & Video, Bow Technologies BowTech, Townshend, Blue Trumpet Research 1.5%
Legacy Audio Legacy 1.5%
Legend Audio Design Legend 1.5%
Anthony Gallo Acoustics Gallo 1.3%
Manley Labs Manley, Tannoy 1.25%
Canorus, Nagra Nagra, dCS, Wilson 1.2%
Sony Sony 1.2%
Silverline Audio Technology Silverline 1.1%
Burmester Audio System Burmester 1.1%
Classic Records Classic, Chesky, Muse, Ayre, Conrad-Johnson, Resolution, Theta, Thiel, MSB 1.0%
Emi-Phi France Emi-Phi 1.0%
Ambrosia Audio & Video Aerial, Sonic Frontiers, Anthem, Kimber, Basis, Graham, Benz-Micro, Equi=Tech 0.9%
Paradigm Paradigm Reference, Premier, Audiostream 0.9%
Nova Nova, Conrad-Johnson, ASC, Van Evers, Cardas 0.9%
Revel Loudspeakers Revel, Mark Levinson, Kimber, ASC 0.9%
Gene Rubin Audio, Meadowlark Meadowlark, Naim, pARTicular 0.8%
Moth Audio Moth, Roach Audio, Von Schweikert Research 0.8%
Ambiophonics Institute Ambiophonics, Sound-Lab, Echo Busters 0.8%
tmh Audio Köchel, Wavac, Miyabi 0.75%
Sony Sony, Philips, Super Audio CD, RPG 0.75%
Northstar Leading The Way Cabasse, Jadis, Siemel 0.7%