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Paul S
San Diego, California, USA
Posts 2,334
Joined on 10-12-2006

Post #: 1
Post ID: 22654
Reply to: 22654
THE Show, 2016

Gluttons for punishment, Mark and I went to the Newport Beach audio thing-ee again this year. Generally, I was most struck by how much lower audio expectations seemed to be, even lower than last year. It seemed like it’s sunk to the point where nobody’s even trying for decent sound any more.  Is streaming audio at the root of this, or is it part and parcel?  We did hear some classical music, but it was not well rendered, and my only sustained interest was based on simple curiosity based on targeted aspects of the sound I heard.  First stop was the Audio Note room, which was spilling what sounded like a live cello recital.  Yes, it was a nice, live cello performance. After that, AN went back to their demo, and we took off immediately; it was the worst I’ve ever heard from them.  Perhaps bad electricity was a factor, it was common enough. However, there were exceptions. Generally, sales focus seemed to be based on the looks and theoretical “capabilities” and “features” of the gear rather than anything one could actually hear from any demonstrations.  But even this approach was tepid, and I actually missed the roving hucksters from previous shows. I went most hoping to hear big Wilsons, also the latest TechDas TTs, which are an uber model of the AF 1 and a “lesser” model, the AF 3, which yet features a vacuum hold down and an air bearing. Unfortunately, TechDas did not use the nice AudioMachina speakers this year, and they only demo’d the 3.  I suppose I will never get to compare these ‘tables, but I could not fault the 3 (paired with a Graham Phantom arm) based on anything I could gather from the demo I heard.  Speaking of comparisons, we sat for a fairly lengthy Nordost cable demo, and improvements were quite obvious as they moved up their product line, swapping only the DAC link.  Back to TTs, I was “impressed” (and a little surprised) at the terrific job done by the new-ish Brinkmann DD TT, paired with their own 14” arm. The cartridge was an unfamiliar Dynavector, but the music was pitch-perfect, issuing a wonderfully clear iteration of Mark’s nice, clean copy of Tossy’s rendition of the Sibelius VC.  In the digital department, we finally “heard” the expensive Lampizator DAC through a not-so-good system that included L's amps and someone else's speakers (vs. previous years’ headphones). Sound was scrupulously “clean”, showing “potential” in this.  Guessing wildly, I would say this thing likely “maximizes the source”, whatever this means when the source and the speakers were considered. This is no way to sell high end gear, IMO; but I don’t actually sell high end gear, do I?  Another digital thing that has almost got me hypnotized is the Astel and Kern 320 portable DAC.  This is light years better than mp3, which I never did and never will own/listen to.  However, once the streaming and headphones bridges are crossed, this thing might be worth consideration, or one might plug it into a second system. On to Wilson, they rolled out the biggish “Alexx”, and it was horrendous. Likewise, the baby Cessaro, which was the only one they demo’d. “Best” speakers might have been Stein horns, which featured DEQ LF. Big JBLs suffered from abominable feed. Quite a few speakers did excellent soundstage, but nothing else.  Quite a few smallish speakers sounded like they might have been OK if high passed above maybe 500-600Hz. “Interesting” to me were a couple of OB speakers. One was the bigger Emerald Physics, which normally features DSP EQ, but they also offer analog correction for digital naysayers. Another “interesting” speaker was from Audio Project. This might or might not…) have been the room that had a “ground box” that was supposed to solve “ground issues”.  I wish the same rep would have demo’d the Voxativs he had sitting there, silent, but we couldn’t stand to hang around until the hour they planned to plug those in. Closing, the (very expensive) Yipsilon SUT and phono stage might be OK, based on a fairly crappy demonstration. 5 food trucks that were touted as “gourmet” looked and smelled bad; we ate well enough in the house restaurant.  Sorry, that’s all, folks.

Paul S

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