MytekI've been consistently pretty impressed with Mytek Digital's Stereo192 DSD DAC, so I was eager to try out their new Manhattan DAC headphone preamplifier ($4,995, $3,995 introductory price), their first DAC designed solely with home use in mind. The prototype on display was exceptionally pretty (I particularly liked how the buttons on the faceplate blended into the overall design), and after comparing David Bowie's "Five Years" in DSD on the Stereo192 and Manhattan back-to-back, I was convinced that the Manhattan is an upgrade. The sound was richer, with a deeper soundstage, but retained the Stereo192's clarity. Comparing an unknown electronica PCM track was less definitive, due to my unfamiliarity with the music, but the Manhattan is definitely one to pay attention to if you're looking for DSD capability in a very attractive package.
I was too impatient to wait for the scheduled demo of MBL‘s Radialstrahler 101 X-treme loudspeakers (referred to by everyone in attendance as “those big-ass MBLs”), but the home theater surround sound demonstration next door was really impressive. Scenes from “Yellow Submarine,” Roy Orbison’s “Black & White Night” concert, and the film version of “Chicago” were exceptional in their realism. Home theater demos often leave me cold, seeming to focus on bombast and rumbling explosions, but the sound here was thrilling and refreshingly understated. It just sounded like great music, perfeclty integrated and three-dimensional.
KEF and Parasound, presented by Monaco AV, were producing some mighty fine sound in their two rooms, and in spite of their end-of-the-hall placement, the foot traffic was heavy and their rooms consistently crowded. The first room, which I was barely able to poke my head into, featured the R900 speakers ($5,000), Parasound P7 preamp ($3,000), and Parasound A21 ($2,500). What little I was able to hear made me question my previous assessment of the R900s as “kind of boring”; it would take more listening to really get a handle on them, but they’re thoroughly attractive both visually and in terms of sound. Next door, the KEF’s LS50s ($1,500), Parasound P5 ($1,100), and Parasound A23 ($1,000)were doing what the LS50s do best: delighting showgoers with their big sound and small footprint.
Gingko Audio, Dana Cables, Wells Audio, LampizatOr
Possibly my biggest regret of the show was not making it back to listen to this room. I stopped in early on in the weekend, and fully intended to come back, because the latest iteration of Gingko‘s ClaraVu 7 mIII speakers ($9,000) was sounding so superb. I really wanted to talk to Vinh Vu and find out what, if anything, he’d changed, because that was the best I’d heard from the ClaraVus.
I also missed out on really giving the DSD-capable LampizatOr Big 7 DAC a good listen. This is a dual chassis DAC: one box houses the DAC, the other the power supply, and it utilizes 2A3 power output tubes. Wells Audio was also on hand with their brand new Inamorata Signature amplifier ($13,000), which features Duelund Cast PIO Capacitors.
When I realized on Sunday evening that I’d missed my opportunity to give all of these components a good listen, I could have cried; I’m not sure that any other room at THE Show had such a high concentration of brand new Awesome.