T.H.E. Show Newport 2013

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Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 04, 2013  |  22 comments
T.H.E. Show Newport Beach presented two opportunities to hear the encouraging debut of the Nola Micro Grand Reference Gold loudspeaker ($22,200/pair with stands). On both occasions, the speaker was paired with Nordost cabling, this time top-of-the-line Odin throughout.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 04, 2013  |  0 comments
In a room dominated by Cessaro Horn Acoustics Chopin loudspeakers ($40,000/pair), whose tweeter reminds me of the donuts I gave up many decades ago, I found the sound on a recording of electric guitar extremely direct and realistically bright. I didn’t get the name of the blues recording that Leslie Mazer was playing on the platter, but the music was great. This wasn’t a room for those who like their sound sugar-coated, but for music lovers who want it served up straight, it was heaven.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 04, 2013  |  0 comments
Touting the bounties of their new high-end headphone library, which allows you to audition products before you commit to purchase, The Cable Company’s Steven Aug, Ethan Wood, and Robert Stein presented the first showing of the Cardas EM5813 Ear Speakers ($425). At the other end of the price spectrum was the West Coast debut of the Abyss Planar headphones ($5495), powered (I think) by the new Cavalli Liquid Gold headphone amplifier ($6450).
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 04, 2013  |  0 comments
Kevin Wolff of VANA Ltd., the US distributors of Vienna Acoustics and Primare products (left) joined Sunil Merchant (right) in his second Sunny Components room to show off the absolutely brand new, impressively slim and stylish Wadia Intuition 01 ($8500) shown atop the equipment rack. This new all-purpose baby combines 350 watts of class-D+ amplification with a 32-bit AD/DA digital preamp that, on USB, can decode both 384/32 and DSD files.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 04, 2013  |  0 comments
Wishing to slow down and luxuriate with trusted friends, I headed to Covina, CA-based Sunny Components’ room on the second floor of the Hilton to reunite with the Wilson Audio Alexia loudspeakers ($48,500/pair). Making their West Coast show debut, these handsome babies, which I initially blogged about at RMAF 2012, sang superbly through Audio Research’s ARC Reference 250 monoblocks ($13,000 pair) and, in its US premiere, the ARC Reference 10 line stage preamplifier ($30,000). Also in the digital chain were the ARC Reference DAC, which extends up to 24/192; the new Harmonic Resolution Systems SXR Signature edition rack; and a combination of Shunyata Research, Transparent, and Isotek cabling and products. Wilson specialist and sound engineer Peter McGrath (left) enlightened me and Sunil Merchant of Sunny Components (right) by playing a bit of his hi-resolution master of young pianist Benjamin Grosvenor performing the second movement Beethoven’s Op.7, No. 2 sonata.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 04, 2013  |  8 comments
Despite being the kick-off seminar presenter on Friday, and starting just one hour after the doors opened, John Atkinson herded almost a full house to "Garbage In, Garbage Out." An expanded version of a seminar he originally delivered at RMAF 2012, the description reads:
Making value judgments on audio components using commercial recordings has pitfalls that many writers gloss over. The way recordings are made drastically affects what you hear from your system, explains John Atkinson using his own recordings as examples.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 04, 2013  |  0 comments
Photo: John Atkinson

YG Acoustics’ Sonja 1.2 passive loudspeakers ($72,800/pair), which is basically the Sonja 1.3 that JA will be reviewing in the July issue, with one less woofer, sounded gorgeous in a not-so-modest $250,000 system. Sharing the honors were Tenor Audio’s 1755 stereo amplifier (Cn$55,000) and Line1/Power 1 preamplifier (Cn$75,000), Luxman’s DA-06 DAC ($6000), and $34,700 worth of Kubala Sosna Elation cabling and Sextet Power Distribution box.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 04, 2013  |  0 comments
Holger Stein (center), designer of the Stein Harmonizers that have such a baffling effect on system performance, was beaming in the Hilton lobby. Perhaps he was thinking about all the attention his new phono cartridge is getting.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 04, 2013  |  1 comments
Although they looked the same, the Audio Note UK E/SPe HE 98dB-sensitive loudspeakers ($9300/pair plus $650 for the stands) were a larger version of what I heard at AXPONA Chicago. In a system that also included Audio Note UK’s CDT Three top-loading CD transport ($12,000), DAC3.1x / II Balanced ($10,000), and OTO SE Signature integrated amplifier ($5500, or $6300 with phono), a very warm and mellow midrange triumphed on Jane Monheit’s “More than You Will Ever Know” from the album, Neverland. A further listen to a cut from Hazmat Modine’s Bahamut convinced that this is a system for midrange lovers über alles.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 04, 2013  |  0 comments
It was 10:10AM on Friday, 50 minutes before the start of the T.H.E. Show Newport Beach, and the lobby of the Hilton Irvine was abuzz with activity. Folks were standing 5–10 deep, in multiple lines, waiting to register or retrieve their pre-registration badges. Close by, at the entrance to the lobby, photographers for multiple publications and organizations were establishing turf, staking out the best spot for catching every smile, grimace, and nuance of the 10:30AM ribbon-cutting ceremony. And in the midst of it all, hotel visitors whose deepest association with audio is that it rhymes, more or less, with rodeo were eyeing the whole thing with a mixture of curiosity, incredulity, and downright dread.

Welcome to T.H.E. Show.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 04, 2013  |  0 comments
It was a big surprise, in Totem Acoustics’ home theater room, to first stay with the room’s darkness, and then snap a second photo to discover the vivid red colors of the loudspeakers. Fun.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 04, 2013  |  0 comments
Earo Acoustics of Woodland Hills, CA demmed three different models of their Swedish-made self-powered loudspeakers. Listening to the white, single point source horn floor-standing Ulf ($6900/pair, I believe), a smaller cousin to the red Earo Eight, I loved the realism of the whistling and singing on Livingston Taylor’s “Isn’t She Lovely.” “Sound Fabulous” I wrote in my notes of the sound from speakers driven by Hypex class-D amplification, with more than a little help from a NuForce DAC. Not auditioned were the other two speakers and a DAC that I know to be excellent, because I have one here at home: the Antelope Zodiac Gold.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 04, 2013  |  5 comments
Intrigued by Ariel Bitran’s initial assessment of Nordost’s new Valhalla 2 line, as well as the repeat responses of website readers who seem determined to answer the modern koan, “What is the sound of one hand clapping in the hot wind?” I spent awhile listening to Valhalla 2 in Nordost’s room in the Hilton. Paul Ritchotte (L) and the ultra-modern Rune Skov were only too happy to oblige, switching between Valhalla 2 and the original Valhalla line (including the power cables that are currently—pun intended—on my desktop’s iMac and Dynaudio Focus 110A self-powered loudspeakers).
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 04, 2013  |  0 comments
The lovely Jan Mancuso, beautifully bedecked in bountiful floral bouquet, beams positive vibes throughout "The Marketplace" as she smilingly extols the praises of Reference Recordings’ ever-expanding catalog of superbly recorded classical, jazz, and blues, including Stereophile’s "Recording of May 2013," Doug MacLeod’s There’s a Time, which is now available on LP and which Jan co-produced.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 04, 2013  |  0 comments
Photo: John Atkinson

Philip O’Hanlon may call his distribution company On a Higher Note, but it was the beauty of his system’s midrange that impressed me the most in his intentionally low-lit room. I couldn’t spend much time here—I lamentably missed playback of the Channel Classics DSD master files—but on a master tape of guitarists Roy Gaines and Anthony Wilson, I was immediately captivated by the inherent rightness of the sound produced by the Brinkmann Bardo II turntable ($9500), Luxman D-08 CD/SACD player ($17,000) and DA-06 DAC ($6000), Mola Mola Kaluga preamp ($10,000) and Makua monoblocks ($15,000/pair, rave-inducing Vivid G3 Giya loudspeakers ($40,000/pair), Kubala Sosna Elation cabling, and Sonorus ATR10 open-reel tape deck ($13,000).

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