T.H.E. Show at Newport Beach 2013: Analog Madness

Digital may be sounding better every year, but analog continues to dominate the scene and the imagination. Analog, which was declared dead thirty years ago, is still around simply because — and let’s be clear about this — it’s awesome.

That’s what this post is for, you understand. This about the awesome. This is about eye candy. This stuff all works, of course — the best of it is extraordinary, and even the worst of it is excellent — but that’s not the point. This isn’t about specifications or pricing or performance; this is just about gawking at so many of the ways in which the process of spinning plastic so you can drag a rock over it can go about making music.

This is, in short, content-free. You won’t learn a thing reading it. If I were you, I’d skip the words entirely.


The AMG Viella table was used in several rooms at the show. In the Channel D room, undressed without its extra-price wood base, it was paired with a Zu cartridge to demonstrate that analog and digital can make a great team.

Music Hall

Described by one show-goer as “pedestrian,” Music Hall turntables were well represented at the show. This MMF-11 in the Affordable Audio room capped off an aspirational everyman’s system.

Another MMF-11 in the Coffman Labs room didn’t cap off anything. Here it was a workhorse, spinning disc after disc from Damon and Rob’s bags. These folks showed up with music, and they didn’t seem to plan to go home unless they listened to all of it. Whether it was Portishead Live or Three Pieces for Blues Band and Symphony Orchestra, a merely “pedestrian” turntable was all it took to keep the music going well after closing every night.


Battery powered, as subtle as a strobe light, and always right on time, this Hartvig fronted an all BMC system in a big room in the Atrium. Say what you will about the color, but it sure makes the gold tonearm less of an eye catcher.

J-Corder Pioneer

J-Corder didn’t just bring their modified Technics decks to this show, they also a couple of the compact and well-loved Pioneer 702 decks.


Describing Kuzma‘s new Stabi M as a battleship isn’t far off the mark. It’s a hulking mass painted in a textured black. If the Hartvig is flashy, the Kuzma is its opposite. There’s nothing but business here.


Magnetic bearings and curves galore make the Hanss decks stand out wherever they pop up. This T-60 with a Durand Tonearm was attracting stares from the hallway.


If Darth Vader had a turntable, this would be it. Whether or not it sounds good is almost beside the point. Nothing that looks that good can sound all bad, right? I walked away from this show thinking that I desperately needed one of these. Not that I could tell you why, of course.


Unison Research The Giro blended into the background in the Colleen Cardas Imports room — possibly the last time someone will say that about this turntable. It’s clearly made to be displayed, not hidden in a corner.


Audio art can almost get out of hand at these shows. My notes say that it was a PBN deck. My notes are not always to be trusted.


A Clearaudio Innovation Compact took the pride of place in one Audio Element room. It was also the only turntable I encountered spinning Daft Punk all weekend.

Grand Prix

The almost freakishly compact Grand Prix Audio Monaco deck and a not-inexpensive Lyra cart handled the front end duties in the other Audio Element room. This answered the question about what you can use to stand up to the speed and precision of a dCS stack on the digital side.

Denon, Part 1

Concert Fidelity’s restored Denon motor units made some surprising appearances. Tape or vinyl, old school analog was well represented in the Electra-Fidelity room.


You want one. You know you do. Stop pretending.


VPI was everywhere, including fronting a Martin Logan system in the Hilton.


Rega was almost absent from the show though.


Helius debuted a new turntable, the Alexia. I didn’t hear much of it, but the ergonomics were excellent.


A rarely-seen DPS deck showed up sporting a positively insane Rigid Float tonearm for one of the most instantly impressive sounds at the show.

TW Acustic

TW’s usually sober look has been exchanged for an Oreo cookie in this year’s outing. The sounds was, as always, wonderful.


United Home Audio provided no-compromises analog to the MBL room. The Talking Heads were mind-blowing on this deck.

Bob’s Devices

If you’re going to go analog, you’re going to have to engineer around some of the problems. Bob’s Devices has engineered around a long cable run to the step up transformer by mounting it to the tonearm.


There’s no room for pretty when your back panel is all business. The impressive DSA Phono II shows off just how versatile it can be.


If you’re going to run a classic system, you’re going to top it with a classic table. VPI was everywhere.


Pioneer would like to take this opportunity to remind you kids that they’ve been at this game for a while now.


PBN puts together their own GrooveMasters, because sometimes you need to make your own art.


Baroque industrial art that can inspire a hernia, Triangle Art’s turntables also inspired more than one drool puddle.

Micro Seiki

Old school met new school in the PTE room. A Micro Seiki 1500VG and a Fidelity Research arm sported a Soundsmith Sussuro cartridge. The phono preamp, in that easily-missable wooden box, was PTE’s own $1600 marvel. Trendy? No. Thoroughly modern sounding? Yes.

Denon, Part 2

Concert Fidelity showcased one of their restored Denon tables.


The TriPlanar arm stands alone as audio art on the back counter in the On a Higher Note ballroom.

Well Tempered

A Well Tempered Amadeus and EMT cartridge fronted the Venice Audio system. The Well Tempered Arm remains one of the great hacks. In this system, it showcased just how much body an EMT TSD 15 cartridge really brings to music.

George Warren

The ubiquitous George Warren turntable caps this rack. It’s only at a show where a piece of analog art like this can be called “ubiquitous.”

Basis Work of Art

Finally something that fits right into the decor! At least, it fits right into the decor if you happen to be a Kryptonian living in a Fortress of Solitude. The Basis Work of Art turntable demonstrated just how much seismic content could be excavated from an unassuming LP.

Mal Kenney


  1. I’m sure I’m the only one, but I’m not that enamoured with the Triangle Art tables. It’s just a bit too much.

    • MickyC: I’ll happily admit that I find them a bit much of a muchness myself. You’re not alone. I get a hernia if I even think about hoisting their larger deck onto a stand. It looks like it needs a crane to lift it on to some NORAD Blast Shield type of reinforced concrete super-stand if you don’t want it to fall right through the floor of your house. On the other hand, there were enough faces full of unconcealed lust in that room to make me positive that our taste isn’t an outlier. There’s also the not-irrelevant fact that they sounded fairly spectacular in that system.

      If anything at this show were going to win on looks, I’d give the nod to either the Audiowood Big Easy turntable or the Transrotor Dark Star. My id keeps telling me that I desperately need one of each. Sound quality is a totally unrelated matter, of course. Fortunately for us, sound quality has nothing to do with pictures.

      I grew up in the compact disc era of boring boxes. I may not love everything I see, but I find it pretty easy to get excited by the sheer variety of superb analog on offer these days.

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