T.H.E. Show at Newport Beach 2013: Part 6

Hilton Marketplace

The Catalina Room in the Hilton was once again turned into an open bazaar for music and gear. I’m going to concentrate on the gear, because Chad Kasem (in the big pink shirt) managed to take enough of my money that I was simply too broke and afraid togo see the other music vendors.

Bob’s Devices

Bob was mightily proud of a new step up transformer at this show, so I have to apologize that I didn’t remember to take notes about this model’s particular superpowers. In my defense, I was a little too entranced with his way-too-cool $1650 VPI Box product. This piggybacked two CineMag 1311 transformers right on to the back of the tonearm assembly. Other than the gorgeous integration, there are some pretty strong sonic benefits to minimizing any cable run that’s going to carry something as small as the signal from an MC cartridge.

VPI seems to be getting the kind of aftermarket that Rega has enjoyed for years. They must be thrilled with this.

Dynamic Sounds Associates

Douglass Hurlburt of DSA was on hand to demo his reference-level Phono II phonostage. It’s a differential, solid state piece with three inputs (balanced or single ended), a pair of outputs (also balanced or single ended), and a swiss army knife tucked into a kitchen sink when it comes to adjustability. Loading for each of the three inputs is adjustable with an easy bank of big-enough-for-clumsy-fingers switches that usually stay concealed behind a sturdy door on the front panel.

Yes: the front panel! Where you can get at it!

Auditions were through Audeze headphones powered (very effectively) by a prototype DSA linestage. Give the unfamiliar setup, it’s hard to say much about the kit except an asking price that hovers around $12 grand seems like it’s almost certainly not unjustified. I’d love to get my sweaty hands on one of these for a while.


Norm and Vinh were both in attendance this year, and they brought the whole array of goodies. Most of their table space — and a ton of their enthusiasm — was given over to their DanaCable interconnects and speaker cables.

The rest, of course, was given over to their isolation devices. Unlike last year’s demo, the guys from Jersey didn’t bother setting up their Stax headphone listening station. The demo this year consisted of a well-beaten laptop and a couple of accelerometers, and it was far more convincing than waiting in line behind ten guys who just wanted a chance to listen to some pricey cans.

Yes, a Cloud platform came home with us.

Living Sound

Out in the hallway, Living Sound was showing their art printed on some acoustic panelling. This is the kind of thing that you really just don’t see anywhere else.

— Mal Kenney