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T.H.E. Show at Newport Beach 2013: Part 1

Anthony Gallo Acoustics

Gallo was showing off their Strada 2 speakers ($999 each) and TR-3D subwoofer ($985 each) in the Atrium. It's hard to believe how good these things sound at reasonable volumes. When we stopped in, the folks were playing a Cambridge Azur 840c CD player into a Cambridge Azure 840a amplifier. The gear selection rotated over the weekend, but it stayed at that kind of everyman level throughout. This room also offered the best Stupid Party Trick of the show when the host was feeling fun enough to give a small taste of what the system sounds like without a sub. Trust me: you want the sub.

Aaudio Imports

This room featured BMC Audio Arcadia speakers fronted by BMC electronics. If you’ve been to a recent show, you know that this system excels in almost every *hifi* way, with bass, soundstaging, dynamics, edginess, solid-statiness, listening fatigue and… well… BMC is beautiful gear, engineered to the nines and designed to be fondled, but it’s been hard to fall in love with it at a show.

This year saw the otherwise BMC system fronted by a bright red Hartvig Signature turntable. This is a DC motored deck with 31 pounds of platter and 33 pounds of battery power supply. The Ikeda Tonearm in Flashy Gold Plate was — for once — not even close to gaudy enough to catch the eye.

Better yet, though, was the effect the analog front end had on this system. The MCCI phono pre (fully balanced, transimpedance front end) and DAC1 PRE were a formidable chain. The sound gelled into a remarkably relaxing, rhythmically stable whole. The effect in the sweet spot was fairly tempting.

As for that sweet spot: it’s not huge. There sound of this system definitely filled the room with good enough music to Have Another Beer, but the sonic picture only really gelled in a small portion of the front row. Really gelled.

As for prices (round these down a bit): $36k+ for the speakers, around $16k for the amps, less than $4k for the phono stage, around $6300 for the DAC/PRE, another six grand for the silver disc spinner, and about $34k for the turntable without an arm or a cart brings us just across the six figure line on the price tag.

Not. Shabby.

Sony

Sony, makers of clock radios, iPod knockoffs, and embarrassingly purple laptop computers had a room to themselves in the Atrium. A Sony Blu Ray player and an all Pass amplification chain were used to show off their new six grand NA5-ES monitor.

A quick listen tells me that Harbeth and Joseph Audio have a new competitor. It would appear that Sony may be taking this seriously. These things were surprisingly good.

Lotus Group

The Lotus Group was demoing their G2 speakers with Esoteric A-03 amplification and an SMc VRE-1c for preamplification. Digital duties were being handled by a dCS stack, while the gorgeous Hanss T-60 turntable sat depressingly unloved on top of their rack.

Red Dragon

The Hanss T-30 turntable (kitted out with a Durand tonearm and an Ortofon MC Windfeld cartridge) in this room was fed into a Modwright LS100 preamp. Digital duties were handled by a Modwright-ed Oppo.

All the signals went to Red Dragon‘s M500 monoblocks ($799 each) and Studio Electric’s Type 3 speakers ($8500 for two). The sound was convincingly integrated, with the trademark speed and authority that Class D amps bring to the table.

I’m starting to think that Studio Electric’s speakers may be a secret that’s too well kept. I keep being surprised by how much I enjoy them.

Wells Audio

Wells Audio hooked up their Innamorata stereo amp ($6000) to Chapman Audio Systems’ T-8 MKII ($9995) for what I can only describe as a romantic monitor experience. In short: this was one of two Chapman rooms where I lost my wife.

I suspect that I might have to give these things some more time.

Coffman Labs

The speakers here were the fairly amazing Audio Machina Pure MKIII speakers ($32,000). These things are milled out of aluminum, and they sport a powered bass section that digs right down into seismograph territory. They give every impression of being an ungodly pain-in-the-neck to manufacture.

Amp duties were handled by Manley Labs NeoClassic SE/PP 300B ($9200), the turntable was a Music Hall MMF 9.1 ($2000), the cart was a Sumiko Blackbird ($1100) and the power conditioners were from Audience (I didn’t get the model or the price). The preamp was the limited-run Coffman G1-A ($5500).

Disclosure: I’m friendly with Damon Coffman of Coffman Labs. I’ve had his preamp in my house, I like the guy, and he’s been known to buy me a beer. I have even been known to buy him a beer. I think he’s a great guy, I think his preamp is killer, and we shop at the same stereo store.

The system was basically a monster. The problem was — and there’s no nice way to put this — Friday was lousy. It stank on ice.

By Sunday, though, I was stopping in every half hour or so to just to relax with this system. I think. I lost track of time in the room a few times. Night and day doesn’t begin to describe the difference. I was honestly surprised that this room wound up being one of my favorite spots.

Coffman was also displaying their H1-A headphone amp ($2300) with a Parasound Halo CD 1 ($4500). The H1-A is family favorite, so I didn’t listen to it much at the show. I can only report that I did indeed put on the headphones, and the system did indeed make sound.

Mal Kenney

5 Comments on T.H.E. Show at Newport Beach 2013: Part 1

  1. Friday was our very first trade show day, ever, and we had a lot of kinks to work out. Friday night was a very long night of changing tables, damping the turntable, changing interconnects, fighting hotel AC power, changing speaker position, etc. By Sunday we were firing on all cylinders, and the G1-A showed what it really sounds like. Next show will have the benefit of this experience. All-in-all it was a great show and I had a wonderful time.

    Damon Coffman, Coffman Labs.

  2. Christopher Murphy // June 12, 2013 at 1:35 PM //

    Thanks for the coverage. Just a quick correction: the Gallo Strada 2 speakers are $999 each.

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