February 6, 2013

Two Days in Paradise

Las Vegas


By David Thomson

It’s sick! Music, music, everywhere, and I forgot my American Express card.

T.H.E. Show, (THE stands for The Home Entertainment) and the high end audio division of International CES (Consumer Electronic Show) fill their respective host Las Vegas hotel rooms, and suites, with audio equipment designed to teleport us to recording studio, or stage, and the sublime musical experience.

With systems ranging in cost from a couple of thousand to, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it,” both these audio conventions offer a walk into the crystal ball as we see, and hear, the future of musical reproduction at its best.

Remember that you are reading RCN, We like vinyl — as do most audio geeks. So, be forewarned, there was so much to hear, and so little time, we focused tho,’ not entirely, on exhibits that had both turntable and digital offerings.

And, the consensus is: It’s sick! The time has come, and I didn’t think that I would get to say it in my lifetime, that the LP experience is now available digitally.

Alex Sventitsky and wife Nina

Alex Sventitsky and wife Nina

DSD electronic files, playable directly thru computer and DAC to your preamp/amp has the all the detail, depth, presence, soundstage, and warmth of vinyl. Yup, the warmth, too.

The TAD room, always a winner, had creator Andrew Jones hold us captive for at least an hour as he demonstrated their mere $30,000 speakers with DSD files he had prepared just to impale us on the couch. (A previous commitment demanded that we must attend, otherwise, we may still be there)

Another room, featuring yet to be released DSD files from Sony Legacy, we heard Willie Nelson’s “Georgia” with such presence that I truly thought that he had been invited to perform there. (Maybe, it was the buzz from the booze that they booby trapped me with in the balls of chocolate liqueurs.)

Kudos to the Musical Surrounding’s room. They faked some out by having an unconnected turntable spin while the real source of the music we were hearing was an iPhone playing through the their impressive Musical Surrounding DAC.

The Zesto, TAD, WyWires, Merrill Williams Turntable partnership reminded me that vinyl wasn’t dead yet. Zesto’s George Counnas, the electronic guru behind the tube phono stage and preamp — creatively packaged by wife Carolyn — were spinning Illinois Jacquet’s “Swing’s the Thing,” The analog reproduction demanded that I, immediately, connect with the ubiquitous Chad Kassem at the Acoustic Sounds booth in the lobby to get my own copy.

I already have, and love, the Illinois Jacquet CD. My superlative sonic experience, listening in the Zesto room, necessitated that I acquire the 45! Yup, the Acoustic Sounds double album, analog remastering, truly, is that much improved. So, don’t get me wrong, When it come’s to the vinyl experience, the CD still can’t cut it. Just not enough bits and bytes, I guess. But, wait till you get a download of these DSD files. They’re a comin.’

Chad isn’t sweating DSD any time soon. Acoustic Sounds has just acquired the use of the name UHQR, the now defunct, yet highly regarded, vinyl process that can still command thousands for the likes of the now, out of print, Beatles Box Set.

Using UHQR, Acoustic Sounds will release Bill Evans, “Waiting for Debbie” and “Sunday at the Village Vanguard.”

Another vinyl lover, Elliot Midwood of Acoustic Image in Universal City, is now a DSD convert too, altho,’ he states that both have their merits. Elliot, somewhat incognito behind both a baseball cap… and a tie, informed us that he is currently perfecting his critical and demanding version of the DAC process right now. If it is anything like his award winning Messenger Pre-amp, which he is adding the ever-in-demand remote control module, it will both amaze and astound.

So, get ready for the DSD conversion and, of course, the record companies selling you the same old music all over again. Ah, well; the price of progress.

Back to the, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it,” statement. The Lamm/Wilson suite had the gargantuan, robot-like speakers spit dulcet tones that drenched listeners in a warm bath of mellifluous resonance.

The LP experience is now available digitally.

Alternating between vinyl and digital, an octogenarian DJ ambled back and forth to switch, seamlessly, between the Kronos turntable (with a Graham Phantom II tonearm and ZYX Universe II cartridge) and the NeoDio DAC and transport, all pumped thru the LAMM Signature amp, preamp, phono stage configuration. Then, there were the “accessories:” Kubala Sosna Elation cables, Maxxum component stands, and whatever else to hold this behemoth of a sound together; Total outlay: $534,565! Where is my American Express card?

My “Best-of-Show” bookshelf speaker altho,’ on stands, was the Evolution Acoustics MM Micro One. These lush little hush puppies filled the room with a wall of sound that would fill Phil Spector’s cellblock. No expense was spared on the pleated diaphragm tweeter, the pair of ceramic matrix midrange drivers or, the ultra-smooth, hi gloss wood finish. The result; a speaker so musical and compact that even your wife will like it. BTW: They go down to a low 35 cycles. That’s bass-like, baby! All this for $2500 — designer stands included! And, they are made in Oregon.

For those of us with neighbors, the smooth and silky Grado headphones seemed to be the “Can of Choice” to demonstrate many of the digital, and tube, headphone amps represented.

Dan Meinwald

Dan Meinwald

Then, there was the entry-level equipment: Wharfdale debuted a superb pair of floor standing speakers priced under a grand. Peachtree Audio does a fine integration with amp and pre-amp that’s clean and affordable. Morrow Audio, an audio cable company, offered 50 buck interconnects that compared to others costing much more.

Speaking of cable companies — and we don’t mean Comcast — we mean speaker cables, interconnects, USB interfaces, and power cords; the glue that pulls your system together. Award-winning WyWires seemed to be partnered with more hi-end
outfits than any other manu-facturer — Cary Audio components, TAD and Tannoy speakers, TriPlanar and Scheu tonearms, Dynavector and Soundsmith cartridges, just to name a few.

Critics describing Wywires products use terms like, “musical” and “realistic,” and concur that they offer greater value than any other wire in their price range — and they are made right here in Van Nuys, CA.

Owner Alex Sventitsky informed us that he is really excited to attend the preeminent Munich Audio Show with Cary Audio where they will partner together, again. (In the interest of transparency, I use WyWires in my system — pun intended)

The challenge with these smorgasbords of sound is that it’s impossible to hear everything. It also unreasonable to impar-tially evaluate equipment without listening to the same music with the same components then, swap out the, e.g., speakers, or DAC. or turntable, or — my favorite — the cartridge.

And, in all fairness, you have to be the judge. We all experience sound, just like color, differently. In fact, I heard a system I love, paired with a digital remastering of “Whole Lotta Love” that was so “bright” it had me run screaming from the room. (Someone must have liked it)

So, if you want a big bang for your buck, and don’t mind the line for the elevators to whisk you directly to audio heaven, then register early for next year’s events and you can attend for FREE.


This just in! T.H.E. Show is back in Newport Beach, CA, May, 31 – June, 2, 2013. Write and tell us what you liked.

One Comment

  1. Some genuinely fantastic posts on this website , regards for contribution.

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