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T.H.E. Show at Newport Beach 2013: Part 9

Fidelis

The eye-catching Palmer 2.5 turntable ($12k) was fitted with a Stein Music Aventurin 6 cartridge ($6000) to anchor this system. LD phono preamplification ($1900) and amplification ($7500) powered the Harbeth Monitor 30.1 speakers ($6000). Gene Rubin Audio demonstrated a classic monitor sound here, with a full tonal palette and a soundstage that you could use as a bus map. If the system was dynamically limited, the fact that the room was overflowing for most of the weekend certainly demonstrated that dynamics aren't necessarily the most necessary component of all music.

Earo

Earo Systems was demonstrating their Hypex powered full range speakers — mostly the smaller, $7000 Ulf, but also the larger, $38,0000 Earo Eight. The source was an Antelope Gold DAC. Dirac Room Corrections software] was in use, and the difference between “on” and “off” was nothing short of stunning in this room.

Nola

Nola showed their new Micro Grand Reference speakers ($22k per pair) fronted by a VAC integrated and DAC for system that sounded surprisingly like big Nola speakers.

Sunny’s Audio

Vienna Acoustics “The Kiss” speakers ($18k) and a massive REL subwoofer fronted this room, but the excitement was all at the back.

Wadia‘s Intuition 01 ($8500) one box solution was hanging out on top of a rack that seemed stupidly large in comparison. This box was operated as both the front end and the more-than-credible amplification for the Vienna speakers. The sound on Friday was unfortunately edgy, but had mellowed into a very hifi presentation by Sunday afternoon. Despite its looks, it’s pretty clear that the Intuition should be considered a serious audio component, not a lifestyle accessory.

Wilson / Sunny’s

Audio Research Ref 250 amps ($25k) powered Wilson Alexia speakers (about $50k) to one of the most engaging sounds I’ve heard Wilson make in a hotel room. The front end was likewise ARC supplied, with a $30k Ref 10 preamplifier and $16k Reference DAC. I’m not sure how Sunny’s Audio managed to make this system sound so well fitted to one of the problematic Hilton rooms, but they certainly did manage it.

MBL

Let’s get this out of the way: MBL‘s room was fantastic. From a 15ips tape of the Talking Heads to a young man blowing the doors off and making the walls shake at the end of Sunday, this room offered just about all the musical love you can find. This room alone would have been worth a pilgrimage.

The 83db sensitive 111F Hybrid speakers ($42k) were fed by MBL’s more reasonably priced (did I just write that?) Corona line of amplification, the C11 preamp ($8800) and C15 monoblocks ($25k for the pair). As you’d expect, the amplification provided the necessary iron fist.

But there’s a problem. The 111F? Great speaker, but you’re not going to confuse its midrange with the so-much-more-spendy 101E. As fantastic as it is, it’s possibly better suited to a less demanding environment than its big brother. As for the amps, I’m afraid that the 111F’s high frequency reproduction was more than good enough (despite the occasional breakup modes) to show that the C15 monos are, indeed, Class D amplification, which certainly reduced the emotional impact of the otherwise magical tapes. If you’re the kind of person bothered by class D, you’re clearly going to need to win a very big lotto.

Harmonic Technology

Marten Getz Speakers were used to demonstrate a full line of Inex electronics and cabling for a fast, clean sound.

Audio Note UK

Ah, Audio Note. Redbook digital, tubes, hotel furniture, and boundary reinforcement. Audio Note makes every show sound like a most excellent living room. Ten grand worth of speakers, ten more worth of balanced DAC, twelve of cd spinner, and $5500 worth of PSE EL84 amplification for a surprisingly nimble twist on the ANUK house sound.

Writing a room description for Audio Note always seems like such a waste of time. You already know if this is your bag. For one thing, the unflattering picture alone would be enough to make you swoon. If that isn’t enough, here’s a topless shot.

Induction Dynamics

Induction Dynamics‘ ID1 speakers (starting at $12,00 per pair) were fronting a big Mac system for a big Mac, big rock sound.

Highwater

Is there anything you can say about a Jeff Catalano room that someone hasn’t said? How about this: not even Jeff Catalano could completely tame a room at the Hilton. The man, despite his reputation, is *not* a miracle worker. What he is an a music lover and the kind of extraordinary impresario that makes this all seem easy.

The High Water Sound system was once again fronted by the engaging Cessaro Chopin speakers ($40k), whose TAD compression drivers allow for a stunningly clear window into the rest of the chain. This year saw us treated to a full Tron stack (close to $100k at any given time), a TW-Acustic GTS deck and Miyajima cartridges for more nuance and less brute muscle than last year’s Thoress team.

It’s hard to write about Jeff’s rooms, because Jeff’s rooms are just So. Very. Good.

But I’m bringing my own Leon Russell albums next time.

— Mal Kenney

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