• T.H.E. Show Newport Beach 2011

    I would much rather see a photograph taken by Ansel Adams using a cheap disposable camera than an amateur photographer using the best camera in the world. The same thought process holds true when it comes to high end audio shows. Decent components can sound wonderful in the right hands while the "best" components on Earth can be unlistenable if not setup with the utmost care. T.H.E. Show Newport Beach was populated by few of the former and far too many of the latter. Not only was most of the sound bad, most of it was reproduced with old school disc spinners like CD players and turntables. T.H.E. Show Newport Beach was like a time warp of sorts without many innovative audio systems. More than any other show in recent memory the gap between the best systems and the worst systems was enormous with very few middle-of-the-road systems. That said, certain dealers, manufacturers, and distributors deserve credit for spending time, energy, and money making their rooms sound very good despite unfavorable hotel room conditions.

     


    As usual Andrew Jones of TAD Labs put on a great show using TAD speakers and electronics in combination with recordings from the likes of Bill Schnee's Bravura Records. The TAD C2000 preamplifier has a built-in asynchronous USB interface capable of playing the Bravura material in all its native 24 bit / 192 kHz glory. Demonstrations used the Compact Reference CR1 and Reference One loudspeakers with the C2000 preamp / DAC, D600 Disc Player, and M600 mono amplifiers. Andrew frequently used Audiofile Engineering's Fidelia playback application when connecting to the C2000 via USB from his new entirely solid state MacBook Air.
    TAD Labslink | Bravura Recordslink


     



    Dealer Brooks Berdan Ltd. put together a very good sounding room featuring VTL electronics, Wilson Sasha loudspeakers, a dCS digital front end, and Cardas cable. Feeding the dCS Debussy was a MacBook Pro running the newest version of Sonic Studio's Amarra 2.2 in playlist and cache mode without iTunes. Hats off to those who setup the room with acoustic panels and other elements that proved a recipe for success under harsh show conditions.
    Brooks Berdan Ltd.link | VTLlink | Wilson Audiolink | dCSlink | Cardaslink | Sonic Studio / Amarralink

     


    Dealer Optimal Enchantment setup a very seductive sounding room featuring the Vandersteen 5A Carbon loudspeakers, Audio research Ref 210 amplifier, and 40th Anniversary preamplifier. All cabling was AudioQuest. Owner Randy Cooley had the room dialed in pretty good playing vinyl only and at a very reasonable level. The ARC/Vandersteen/AudioQuest combo was capable of reproducing good detail at these low volume levels. Not an easy thing to do during a show or even under normal conditions. In my opinion this system was held back only by the analog source. A 24/192 recording by Bravura Records or a properly produced digital recording at CD resolution could have taken this system to another level.
    Optimal Enchantmentlink | Audio Research Corporationlink | AudioQuestlink | Vandersteenlink

     



    Next door to Randy's all analog room was a room with an Audio Research DAC8 digital front end fed by a MacBook Pro. This system was not in the same class as the much more expensive analog setup, but provided good clean sound nonetheless. This was the first time I've seen the new AudioQuest FireWire cable. AQ will release a complete lineup of FireWire cables in the same "flavors" as its USB cables (Cinnamon, Coffee, etc…). Word on the street is that Ethernet cables are on the way as well.
    Optimal Enchantmentlink | Audio Research Corporationlink | AudioQuestlink | Vandersteenlink

     


    E.A.R USA featured E.A.R. electronics with Sweden's Marten loudspeakers. I went to this room three separate times as I could not get the really nice sound out of my head. I look forward to hearing the E.A.R electronics and Marten loudspeakers at future audio shows.
    E.A.R. USAlink | Martenlink

     


    I had a good time with Bluebird Music's Jay Rein in his room featuring Chord electronics and Spendor loudspeakers (among others). I pulled out my iPhone 4 and sent audio from the MOG application directly to the Chordette Bluetooth DAC. Sure there was better sound to be had elsewhere, but no room was able to duplicate this easy listening experience.
    Bluebird Musiclink | Chord Electronicslink | Spendor Audiolink | MOGlink

     


    Andreas Koch demo'd his Playback Designs USB interface capable of very high PCM sample rates and native DSD audio streams. While Ii was in the room Andreas was feeding the DAC a 352.8 kHz track via USB.
    Playback Designslink

     



    Both the Bolder 1021 and the T+A E-Series Music Receiver were being fed audio via Ethernet / UPnP. PlugPlayer was used on an iPad to control some of the music.
    Boulderlink | T+A Elektroakustiklink | PlugPlayerlink

     



    Antelope Audio used its Zodiac Gold DAC with Voltikus analog power supply during the show.
    Antelope Audiolink

     



    Cary Audio connected its MS-1 music server to the much loved CAD-300-SEI integrated amplifier.
    Cary Audiolink

     


    I was pleasantly surprised at how good an Elvis Presley vinyl album sounded on this Sony / Pass Labs system.
    Sony AR-1link | Pass Labslink | Elvis Presley vinyllink

     



    Meridian had its Audio Core 200 and DSP3200 loudspeakers on display. I was unable to listen to the system as I was too involved in the Chordette/Spendor system playing on the other side of the room.
    Meridianlink

     



    The Consonance D-Linear 8 DAC and D-Linear 7 interface were prominently displayed.
    Opera Audio Consonancelink

     


    The above room featuring McIntosh and Martin Logan was less than stellar. I entered the room to music playing at 96 dB. I'm willing to bet the electrostatic panels were pushed to, or beyond, their limits as the intensely loud music continued after I left the room a couple minutes later.
    McIntosh Labslink | MartinLoganlink

     




    Last but not least, one of the highlights of the show was the Upscale Audio BMW Isetta 300.
    Upscale Audiolink | BMW Isettalink


     


     


     
    Comments 24 Comments
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Ted - I heard some Bravura stuff that was new to me. Bill did say he has been recording tracks for the albums in recent days/weeks. No news on release dates or a final release format(s).<br />
    1. MarkS's Avatar
      MarkS -
      Wish I had known that you were at THE Show. We should try to make a forum meet-up at a future show.<br />
      <br />
      I thought the Magico Q5's with the Spectral gear sounded great. Spectral makes great solid state and those speakers seem superb. I also thought the Magnapan 3.7's sounded good albeit in a very small room. My biggest surprise of the show was how bad the giant $100,000 focal's sounded.<br />
      <br />
      Unfortunately, I agree that the Summit X's did not show what they can do in the Martin Logan/MacIntosh room.<br />
      <br />
      Did you get to hear any of the YG speakers?<br />
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Mark - I would have been nice to meet more CA readers at the Show. <br />
      <br />
      I agree The Audio Salon room featuring Spectral/Magico/MIT/ASC was very good. I didn't comment on the room because Maier Shadi of The Audio Salon is a personal friend and I helped him setup the room. It is nice to see Robert Harley gave The Audio Salon the Best Sound of the show [<a href=http://www.avguide.com/blog/robert-harley-the-show-newport-beach-highlights>Link</a>].<br />
      <br />
      I wasn't able to hear the YG room in good conditions. On my first visit to the room I left without listening closely. I did circle back to the room but was unable to enter as it was closed for a private review.<br />
      <br />
    1. MarkS's Avatar
      MarkS -
      I hadn't seen Harley's notes from the show. He is right about your friend's room. It's interesting that he agrees with me on the Maggies. I thought maybe I liked the Maggies because I am a ML guy, but it seems that normal people think the 3.7's are an excellent speaker too. I would now like to hear the 1.7's. Also interesting that he liked the YG's. It's one of the first spreakers I've heard that made me think seriously about dumping Martin Logan's.
    1. VandyMan's Avatar
      VandyMan -
      Chris-<br />
      I want a DAC w/ headphone, volume control, and remote. I'm about to buy the Benchmark HDR, but the Zodiac Gold looks to have a similar feature set. Is it a contender?<br />
      <br />
      Thanks!
    1. myco's Avatar
      myco -
      Chris, funny bumping into you at the show in the SimpliFi Audio room!<br />
      <br />
      Interesting that you mentioned Amarra and Fidelia in your coverage above but not Pure Music, despite Pure Music being used in at least two of the rooms you covered above (Audio Research / Vandersteen and Playback Designs). (Not to mention Pure Music also being used in the SimpliFi Audio room where I bumped into you.) Your readers might think Channel D wasn’t represented at all, despite Pure Music being used in many more rooms (including some not shown in your coverage) than any other computer audio music player software at the show...! I only mention this because some of the most active threads on your website involve computer music player software, and believe it to be of interest.<br />
      <br />
      Cheers - Rob Robinson. Channel D
    1. ted_b's Avatar
      ted_b -
      dozens of DACs inhouse. Feel free to PM me. My bias is clearly Antelope and Metric Halo. The Benchmark (not the HDR) was near the bottom of my list sonically. My $.02
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Rob - It was a pleasure talking at the show and your clarification of Pure Music's playback of native DSD for me. The fact that I did not mention Pure Music was certainly not intentional. In fact I tried to identify what app was used in the ARC DAC8 setup by looking at all my photos but I was unable to do so. Thus, no mention above. It's nice to hear PM was in use in that room. I totally overlooked PM's use in the Playback Designs room. I even talked to Andreas about it for while :~) Anyway, it wasn't an intensive effort to exclude your popular product that I personally use as well (in addition to the others). <br />
      <br />
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi VandyMan - I highly recommend listening to the new Grace m903 with its async USB interface designed by Gordon Rankin. The Antelope room was not near my top 10 in terms of sound quality at the show. However, this has much more to do with all the other variables not necessarily the Zodiac Gold.
    1. NickG's Avatar
      NickG -
      Hi Chris,<br />
      <br />
      As always, great to hear your thoughts on equipment and shows. Is there a reason why you don't mention the sound in the Playback Designs room? <br />
      <br />
      Also, you mention the Grace m903 in a comment. Did you hear a room with the Grace DAC at the show, or have you done some listening in your own system?<br />
      <br />
      Thanks again
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Nick - I didn't really get to hear the Playback Designs room in a manner that allowed me to make sonic judgements. It's nearly impossible to really listen to every room.<br />
      <br />
      I've heard the Grace m903 via good headphones, but not in my system yet. It's a very solid design that deserves a listen for those considering similar products.
    1. NickG's Avatar
      NickG -
      Thanks, Chris. I imagine the Classe CP-800 wasn't on display either...
    1. Dave Clark's Avatar
      Dave Clark -
      Hey Chris, nice seeing you in the elevator. We also had a room at the show (the Positive Feedback Hospitality Suite) that featured a computer-based system which sounded quite nice indeed.<br />
      here is a link... http://www.stereophile.com/content/positive-feedback-online<br />
    1. Downstrung's Avatar
      Downstrung -
      It looks like the few experiences and assessments (mine included) of what was heard at the show seem to focus on many of the same rooms. I was similarly enchanted by the Marten/E.A.R. room, which I also visited more than a few times. Bravo also on the room you contributed to with the Magico Q5s, as I have never heard Rachmaninov sound so full, grand and perfectly scaled as I did on Saturday morning. On that note, I've become quite interested in the Acoustic ART system which seemed to be a component of many rooms, and am considering a purchase to assess its performance in my space. Nonetheless, with many a room featuring this treatment, I will agree the sound was often less than spectacular. <br />
      <br />
      I'm just starting to get more deeply involved (obsessed) with the HiFi world; blogging about my experiences and reviewing (if you can really call it that yet) the equipment I've come across. Maybe next time I'll recognize your name on a badge and say hello. I'm glad to have found your site and the resources you have put together here! Thanks!
    1. harrisondrums's Avatar
      harrisondrums -
      I think a great room wasn't mentioned here: PTE Acoustics. Not only did they have some of the most dynamic speakers, but they were using a MacBook to a Benchmark DAC-HDR via a WyWires USB cable. I heard a handful of HD Tracks played while I was there...it was amazing!
    1. soundsolutions11's Avatar
      soundsolutions11 -
      This was my first audiophile show, I only was able to spend about 5 hours there which is not enough time to check out every room. But for sure my favorite of all the rooms I visited was Sunny’s Home Theater and Music Systems room.<br />
      <br />
      Wilson Sashas ($27K)<br />
      Boulder electronics 2060 Stereo Power Amplifier ($46K), 2010 preamplifier ($46K). Note- They did not even use the Boulder Mono blocks to show off this system, I guess they did not need too.<br />
      <br />
      Music source was a Macbook Pro, using Amarra player. This system sounded so good, cranked ( and I mean cranked to only 5% of the capacity of the amp) that I feared I would not like my system anymore, until I realized the price tag was out of this universe for us mere mortals.
    1. Jonathan's Avatar
      Jonathan -
      Hi Chris,<br />
      <br />
      I know it's really difficult to visit and experience every single room while at a show. I'm just sorry that you were not able visit One World Audio's room. We were on the 4th floor and featured a complete Lindemann system wired with Stage III cables that was quite compelling -- at least that was what we were told from those who auditioned our room.<br />
      <br />
      We also used Pure Music quite effectively with iTunes, a MacBook Pro, which was then connected to Lindemann's 825 High Definition Disc Player via USB.<br />
      <br />
      I certainly look forward to meeting you in person - perhaps we can do that in October during the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest.<br />
      <br />
      Take care and thank you very much for providing the service you do.<br />
      <br />
      Best regards,<br />
      Jonathan Josephs <br />
      www.oneworldaudiousa.com<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
    1. Jonathan's Avatar
      Jonathan -
      Hi Chris,<br />
      <br />
      I know it's difficult to visit and experience every single room while at a show. I'm just sorry that you were not able visit One World Audio's room. We were on the 4th floor and featured a complete Lindemann system wired with Stage III cables that was quite compelling -- at least that was what we were told from those who auditioned our room.<br />
      <br />
      We also used Pure Music quite effectively with iTunes, a MacBook Pro, which was then connected to Lindemann's 825 High Definition Disc Player via USB.<br />
      <br />
      I certainly look forward to meeting in person - perhaps we can do that in October during the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest.<br />
      <br />
      Take care and thank you very much for providing the service you do.<br />
      <br />
      Best regards,<br />
      <br />
      Jonathan Josephs<br />
      www.oneworldaudiousa.com<br />
    1. Jonathan's Avatar
      Jonathan -
      Hi Chris,<br />
      <br />
      I know it's difficult to visit and experience every single room while at a show. I'm just sorry that you were not able visit One World Audio's room. We were on the 4th floor and featured a complete Lindemann system wired with Stage III cables that was quite compelling -- at least that was what we were told from those who auditioned our room.<br />
      <br />
      We also used Pure Music quite effectively with iTunes, a MacBook Pro, which was then connected to Lindemann's 825 High Definition Disc Player via USB.<br />
      <br />
      I certainly look forward to meeting in person - perhaps we can do that in October during the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest.<br />
      <br />
      Take care and thank you very much for providing the service you do.<br />
      <br />
      Best regards - <br />
      <br />
      Jonathan Josephs <br />
      www.oneworldaudiousa.com<br />
    1. Puma Cat's Avatar
      Puma Cat -
      Enjoyed the show coverage, but with all due respect, it's clear the photography is not by Ansel Adams.<br />
      <br />