Words and Photos by Eric Franklin Shook
RALEIGH, NC (PTA) — You might expect one of the nations most innovative and successful high-end audio dealers to be located in the likes of New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles — but Raleigh, North Carolina?
Audio Advice, The Nations’ Premier High-End Audio Dealer of North Carolina
Once I began “working” for Part-Time Audiophile and traveling the American audio show
circus circuit, I found myself in many conversations that went like this…
Audio Industry Maven: “Where are you from?”
Me: “I’m from North Carolina, just outside the Raleigh area.”
Audio Industry Maven: “Oh, you’re lucky to have Audio Advice in your backyard.”
Me: “Really? Are they extra special?”
Audio Industry Maven: “Definitely one of the best dealers in the country.”
Color me proud. Color me spoiled. As it turns out, Audio Advice has been writing the book for over forty years on how to be a dealer, and in many cases leading the charge into what dealers will look like in the future. Audio Advice in recent years has extended beyond its brick-n-mortar Raleigh and Charlotte retail locations, to become a full-service online retailer.
Music Matters 2019
In North Carolina we eat first. Unless it’s a wedding or funeral. But even then, we don’t spare haste for the sake of ceremony. Catering for this evening’s event was provided by Empire Eats Catering, featuring their nationally famous The Pit Authentic Barbecue.
The Audio Advice Music Matters event is an annual celebration of music listening. With twenty-four brands — and their representatives — on hand to meet with Audio Advice customers and demonstrate some of the most exciting audio gear on the planet.
Everyone was ready for this year’s event to be bigger than ever, and it was. As always, the Music Matters event was completely free and open to the public.
This year’s event was indeed bigger, and younger than I remember from years past. Especially when I struck up conversation with our local WCPE Classical Station radio Assistant Music Librarian Nan Pincus, who at the age of nineteen bought her first turntable from Audio Advice, and has spent the following seven years assembling an impressive hi-fi system.
Bowers & Wilkins, Naim Audio
B&W was exhibiting their new Formation wireless Duo speakers (white), alongside a demonstration of the Diamond 802 floor-standers (black). Naim was showing a full stack of Naim electronics, staring the new Supernait 3 integrated. Which handled the large B&W speakers deftfully.
The new Supernait 3 includes an all-new phono stage, whereas the Supernait 2 did not. In our demonstration system, the Supernait 3 used an outboard power supply for the preamplifier section to lower the operational noise floor, and develop more detail in the music. For streaming it was the new Naim ND5 XS 2 which launched just a month ago.
Revel, Mark Levinson
The new Revel 226BE tower speaker was making its “audio-store world debut” at Audio Advice’s Music Matters event, alongside a hugely powerful new integrated from Mark Levinson.
Beryllium tweeters are the centerpiece of the Revel Performa(Be) loudspeaker series. The 5.25-inch mid-range and dual 6.5-inch aluminum cone woofers utilize Deep Ceramic Composite (DCC) cones. DCC is a plasma electrolytic oxidation process that uses a plasma discharge to create a coarse ceramic coating on both sides of the aluminum core. The deep ceramic layers sandwiching the aluminum core provide constrained layer damping that push cone breakup modes outside of the pass-band allowing the driver to maintain an ideal pistonic motion throughout its range.
The Mark Levinson 5805 pushing the whole affair is an 125wpc (8-ohms) Class-AB integrated amplifier. Which doubles its power at 4-ohms, and is stable down to 2-ohms. The integrated includes a built-in DAC and phono-stage.
The team from Klipsch was going over all of the improvements in the new Cornwall IV loudspeakers, while also highlighting all of the speakers on hand in the heritage series. McIntosh powered and sourced the entire affair, and proved to be a rather dazzling pairing.
Vandersteen, Audio Research, Transparent
Richard Vandersteen himself was on hand to demonstrate the new KENTO loudspeaker, with Audio Research’s new all-tube REF 160 mono-block power amplifiers powering the way. Transparent cables representatives were on hand to talk about the cables and their network technology.
Dave Gordon of ARC was on-hand to discuss the beautiful features of the new REF 160, and entertain the crowd. The REF 160 is the first ARC amplifier to feature auto-biasing.
The new Vandersteen KENTO replaces the outgoing Model 5 (personally shedding a tear) in the product lineup. The KENTO continues with all of the usual Vandersteen design hallmarks like minimum baffle, time and phase alignment, and essence derives its design cues from just about every Vandersteen speaker from the Model 2 up through the Model 7. The most intriguing feature of the new KENTO design is its dual-side firing 9-inch and 400-watt powered sub-woofers.
MartinLogan, Mark Levinson, AudioQuest
MartinLogan was showing off their Renaissance ESL 15A’s, being powered by a massively powerful pair of Mark Levinson mono-block amplifiers.
JBL Synthesis, SONY
Sony was delivering wildly entertaining experiences within Audio Advice’s flagship Dolby Atmos theater. JBL Synthesis speakers built-out to the nines, and Sony’s 885 4K projector bring light and texture to the images like no other.
Cambridge Audio, Revel
Cambridge Audio was showcasing their new ALVA direct-drive turntable, which features Bluetooth AptX HD. Also showing were the newly updated C-Series of electronics which included an Integrated vs Stereo Amplifier demonstration. Loudspeakers used in the display system were provided by Revel.
On static display were turntables, vinyl, and accessories from Mobile Fidelity.
Anthem was showing off their STR Integrated and ARC room correction software. Loudspeakers for the evening were from Paradigm’s Prestige series.
Running roost over a static display of Pro-Ject offerings, was Pro-Ject’s own “NASA SpaceMan” Buzz Goddard.
Rega was making a “world debut” showing of their new Planar 10 turntable, along with the Aphelion and Apheta 3 phono cartridges. The rest of the display system comprised of Rega’s own Brio-R integrated amplifier, and MartinLogan’s ESL X loudspeakers.
Audeze, Focal, AudioQuest, Chord
Headphones are the name of the game, and Focal definitely brought their A-game. Most dazzling was the Focal Utopian Assassin’s Creed edition headphones, which were customized by Tournaire which retail for $55,000 USD.