Newport 2014: Mal’s grab bag, stuffed with SPL, Resonessence, ESS, PTE


SPL Phonitor 2

hiresnewportlogoforwebSPL was on hand to show off their round-about-two-grand-ish (list and street prices bracket that number) Phonitor 2 fully balanced headphone amp, preamp, and matrixed crossfeed swiss army knife. A quick audition showed it to be more than capable of powering a pair of Audeze LCD-XC, and the matrixing options were quickly addictive. The sound of that useless sack of audiophile pablum, Chris Jones, coming out of a banged up Numark cd player didn’t give me a lot more to go on.



Resonessence Labs

This room deserves more thorough coverage, but I’ve decided to hold off until Resonnessence Lab‘s Dreadnought-Class amplifier, the “Projecta,” actually sees release. The folks from RL suggest that the price will be “somewhere in the mid twenties,” and this prototype certainly gave the impression that it’s going to be very competitive in that market. As a tube fetishist, let me say that this prototype showed a whole lot of promise.




ESS Labs

A pair of the Greatest Heil — the Transar — dominated two corners of a Hilton room. This pair was finished in the traditional prototype paint job and blinged out with purple lights in the bass column. A SOtM music server and dac handled the source duties, while Dared’s ingot-like Renaissance line preamp and monoblocks gave everything a thin veneer of sophistication.

I have enough memberships in various speaker cults. The sound from the Transars had me running out of the room. If I stayed longer, I might have joined another. Those things are special.





I’ve spent most of the last two years twisting arms nearly out of their sockets to get people to go sit down in front of a pair of PTE’s active speakers. They’re just under ten grand for the really great, really pretty model; just under six grand for the almost as great, kind of ugly model. These things are some of my favorite sleepers.

I have to admit that I was downright embarrassed to think about how much I’d sound like some paid shill if I wrote up another glowing report on one of their show rooms. Fortunately for me, Mark Thoke, the PTE frontman, didn’t have any new product unveilings to worry about. I told him that we probably weren’t even going to cover his room. Instead of a speaker audition, we just turned the volume down and talked about other things for a while. Family, vintage audio, road trips, the price of unicorn hair cables — that kind of thing.

In other words: Mark Thoke is a sneaky bastard. He finally figured out how to make me listen to his speakers at a low volume. It turns out that they’re just as good when they’re whisper quiet as they are at live levels. I want to smack the guy upside the head for giving me another nice thing to say about his products. I’ll settle for posting this incredibly flattering picture of Mark in all of his exhausted, end-of-show stupor.

I really want to listen to a pair of these things in a place that isn’t a hotel room. I want to do that soon.



T.H.E. Show at Newport 2014 Show Sponsor