Vertere, Wilson, GoldNote, Rutherford | T.H.E. Show 2019

If you’re waiting for my Sunday’s Highlight post for T.H.E. Show 2019 to follow up Friday and Saturday, there isn’t one. You probably haven’t noticed yet, but Eric Franklin Shook and I took on the daunting task of covering an entire high-end audio show between the two of us. Every. Single. Room. I think we did it, but not at the cost of quality over quantity. That means we were up to our necks in audio on Sunday, and the next two days of my life were spent relaxing and having a great time in Los Angeles with good friends and decompressing. (And yet I still managed to hear two great systems on my days off.)

There are two things I take away from T.H.E. Show 2019. First, and I’ve already mentioned this, the rooms at the Long Beach Hilton sounded uniformly excellent, with very few rooms being sonic disappointments. Second, which I’ve also discussed, is that I walked away from this high-end audio show with a new-found respect and admiration for Wilson Audio speakers. I’m not going to bore you with tribalism by telling you that I’m not a Wilson Audio fan. That’s almost become a cliche in our industry. But there are changes afoot, and nowhere was this more obvious than in the Rutherford Audio room where I fell in love with a fairly simple system consisting of Vertere Acoustics analog rigs from Touraj Moghaddam, amplification from GoldNote and a perfectly lovely pair of Wilson Audio Sabrinas.

First of all, I got to meet Touraj and hang with him a week prior in Philadelphia at the Vertere event at The Voice That Is! I’ve loved his designs for years, and I have to admit I was slightly starstruck when we first met. At T.H.E. Show 2019, I had the awesome experience of walking into Touraj’s room while he was speaking to a room full of audiophiles and have him see me, stop what he was saying and come over and warmly greet me. Every audiophile in that room immediately checked out my name badge and tried to figure out who I was. I was superbad for about twenty seconds.

Fifteen minutes later, I had completely forgotten about that very cool moment. I couldn’t believe how great this system sounded. It was warm and full of love and textured and rich and relaxed and all the words I like to use when I’m describing the sound I prefer. I’m already a giant fan of the current Vertere line of turntables–Touraj brought the same three turntables as he did to Philly, so I’m already getting acclimated to the pure, quiet and transparent Vertere sound. But these Wilson Audio Sabrinas? Fabulous full-range sound, coupled with a small footprint and a decidedly non-Wilson price of around $17,000/pair, depending on finishes.

I had some casual conversations at the show about this new direction for Wilson Audio, and I threw out the idea of a post-David Wilson shift in voicing from son Darryl Wilson that emphasizes more human qualities than before. That’s what I’m thinking about as I launch into this group of show reports, more than just about anything else.