I think overall the show was a success. To me, the best room (with $200,000 worth of equipment) was the JMlabs/BAT/dCS room. The demo with James Taylor on SACD gave me goose bumps. Anybody know which JT song was used?
My only complaint was the small and cramped rooms on the 6th and 7th floors. It was a little frustrating to open up the door and be met by 15 other people in a small room trying to listen to stuff.
First, let me say that you can't really seriously evaluate equipment at the show because your listening in a tiny hotel room or a large meeting room. In addition, people are walking around and talking while your trying to listen. I love the people who just have to walk up and take the grills of the speakers while their doing a demo. Anyway, I'll only mention the stuff that sounded really good because it's not fair to fault somebody for a poor setup at the show.
Lets start with video. The sony true HD projector (1080P), with blue-ray dvd, was really nice. Almost makes me want to get a second mortgage to buy one. The only thing I'm going to say about the Sony audio demo is "why would somebody want to hook up NINE Wilson watt/puppies, a wilson center and sub, to a receiver?" Also, Sony's video without wires demo was impressive. A 15" wireless LCD TV($1500) that will let you watch dvd's and tivo from your home while traveling around the world. And, Sony had a new 60" rear projection LCD TV ($4400!!!)that was really impressive.
Anthem was showing a new processor and two new amps. They have new astetics and they are moving up-market - $5000 for the processor and $5000 for a 5 channel amp. Devore fidelity gibbon speakers, Focus Audio speakers, Bohlender-Graebener ribbon speakers and Almarro Speakers were sounding quit nice. I enjoyed the Wisdom Audio speakers, but the room was too small for such a large speaker.
On the low end, Epos (after they let me move the speakers), and spender were sounding good for the budget crowd. Also, Niam had a speaker that retails for about $2400 that was sounding real good. The Outlaw Audio sub was nice; A Hsu design.
Now, lets get to my opinion of best sound at the show. The way I feel, if you can get your stuff to sound incredible in a crappy room, then it should blow your socks off in a properly setup room. They Roque Audio, Clearaudio, Vanderstein 5A and Wadia demo was very impressive. They were switching back and forth between the Wadia $35000 CD player and the BIG clearaudio reference TT with two armboards. They sound was so good that you were hard pressed to tell the difference between the CD and the vinyl. Finally, vinyl done right! I think the retail on the Clearaudio was north of $75000. The Hyperion HPS-938 speakers ($4000) threw a big soundstage. Really easy to listen to. They look like the Wilson Watt/Puppy and sound damn close it it. Also, the were using their own amp and preamp which are beautifully built. The preamp uses two toroidial transformers and retails for $1300! The amp, again with two Toroidials, was also impressive and it retails for $1500! Both Innersound rooms rooms just blew me away. They were so good, my buddy wants me to get him a pair. And finally, the WHT Signiture speakers, driven by Thor tube equipment, was incredible; great bass, very smooth mids, and that oh so wonderful ribbon tweeter. You don't need a sub with this small floorstander.
Now, if I didn't mention your favorite manufacturer, it does not mean that they were not at the show. Like I said in the beginning, I'm only mentioning the demos that impressed me.
So, there's my take on the show. I got sick from a bad lunch, so that took away some enjoyment. Also, I had to ride the bus up and back which reminded me why I don't ride buses. It was a long day, and I only got to take three naps so I will be recovering today. And finally, the Crestron Breath Mints were good; I just had them for Breakfast. I'm going back to bed now.
Just a note. I didn't get to all the rooms. I missed about 6 including JMlabs and Von Schweikert. Some rooms had lines down the hallway and I just didn't have time.
JM Labs was impressive - big speakers in a big room with pronounced, defined bass. Don't try these babies in your average audiophile space.
I also thought the VR5's were very good, contrary to opinions expressed elsewhere.
The Wisdom/Halcro room is just another example that throwing big money at a system doesn't guarantee good (or even decent) sound.
SIlverline Bolero's sounded good with a brand new 805 tubed integrated - so new it was still butning off flux on Thursday.
Penaudio Charisma/Chara's sounded very fine. Too bad they look like they are made of matchsticks.
Totem was showing a mighty small speaker with a mighty big sound. Very impressed. And the room was tres cool too in a Tiki kind of theme.
The best of the best, sound only, that left a lasting impression, would be:
1. Walker turntable/vacuum tube Lamm/Kharma
2. Clearaudio/Rogue/Vandersteen 5A
3. Walker turntable/solid state Lamm/Kharma
4. dSC/BAT/JM Labs
5. Oracle/VAC/VonSchweikert 4jr
6. Kimber DSD recordings (sound only, poor performances)
also: Totem and Piega Speakers (electronics unkown)
Contrary to some other posts, the Thor and big model Innersound rooms to me were uninvolving and boring. Smaller model Innersound room was better. And Hyperion sounded too "HiFi" for my taste.
Prpixel, next time bring energy bars to eat. Saves mucho time (gave me time to wait in line for the JM Labs and VonSchweikert) and no chances with NYC food!
For the friend or relative who just wants to listen to music, and have somebody else get it all together for them, I heartily recommend a look ( internet direct seller ), and a listen ( money back guarantee ) at odysseyaudio.com, the most value oriented system integrator at the Show.
Klaus Bunge manufactures, tweaks, integrates, and keeps the prices low. Also, a real gentleman, who values a customer choosing his $1500 package system just as much as the slightly higher rollers who go for his more elevated systems. He sells components separately, too.
Another gentleman, a Southerner, and I guess you could call him a legend in his own time, Lloyd Walker, showed off his best turntable, with its astronomical $27,000 price tag ( worth it, too ) and in the twinkling of an eye, returned to earth, and politely sold me his new SST Contact enhancer for a Show bargain price of $55 ( regular retail is still quite reasonable ). I am finding that this may be one of those universal tweak ideas that keeps improving a system's performance, as you apply, step by step, to power cords, interconnects, speaker cables, and, even the pins on tubes.
It actually inspires you to call up an audio buddy, to quickly come listen. And, then he wants to "borrow" your remaining supply; fair enough because he always lets me hear his best CD's.
Another impressive tweak, which was being applied on some of my interconnects from home, while I was at the Show, and to which I returned home for a thrilling listen, is offered by cableburner.com. I entrusted two pairs of recently "retired" Marigo interconnects to the burn-in gadgets of George Saubon, who delivered back to me an enhanced interconnect performance which would have been priced in the stratosphere if I had elected to purchase this IC quality from other wire vendors at the Show.
Luckily, I have a number of systems, allowing for separate evaluation of different upgrade efforts. It gets very complicated when a tweak lets an item "leapfrog" in performance over its competition. Then the competition may be able to re-gain the lead, when the same tweak is applied to it. I plan to send some more wires for burn-in, and will gladly be paying for this service that I was fortunate to first try out as an introductory free offer (yes, it was a public ad right here on Audiogon :>)
Hope this review of some inexpensive ways to get great sound, by taking advantage of ideas from conscientious vendors, may be of help to someone who values a bargain.
The JT cut was the last song from "Dad Loves his Work."
Part of the reason for going was to have a good meal. I guess you can tell that I don't get out much. I should have picked the restuarant, but my buddy was paying so I let him choose. As far as energy bars go, I have to take my naps or I fall down and go boom. I went down to the bottom floor and found a quit corner and closed my eyes. I told you guys that I would be the one sleeping in the corner but you didn't beleive me.
Despite the naps, bus and upset stomach, I had a good time at the show.
I went to the show in hopes of losing my "babe in the woods" audiophile status. I was a little intimidated at first by the complexity of components and serious looks on the faces of those I imagined to be serious audiophiles. I brought a few cd's of my favorite music (MFSL versions of Santana Abraxas and Dark Side of the Moon). The closest thing to rock that I heard emanating from the plethora of demo rooms I strolled by was James Taylor and Steely Dan. My cd's never made it out of the bag. The second thing I realized by listening to the fine products of Totem, Walker, Joseph Audio and MBL was that my ears are just too plebian to catch the subtle nuances required to call myself an audiophile. The little totems sounded great to me. I sat in on Jeff Joseph's demo of his newest speaker. He led off with a self congratulatory rant about how great his Pearl speakers were and how magazines had conspired with other jealous manufacturers to eliminate voting for Best Sounding for fear of Joseph Audio winning every year. He played some new in wall speakers first and then his newest high end speaker powered by Manley monoblocks and the speakers sounded stunning. The prize for visual aesthetics goes to MBL. Their components looked better suited to take out a Death Star than play the new Patricia Barber album. I'd never heard of this company before. They're from Germany. The speakers looked both antique and ultra modern simultaneously. As I recall the speakers base were pyramid shaped and the top part looked like a lamp without bulbs or lampshade. The other components had a McIntosh-esque blue glow. The visual impact of these components made it hard for me to swich from eyes to ears and evaluate their sound.The demo song was a laid back jazzy female vocal version of "Spanish Harlem" and sounded extraordinary. This stuff looked pricey so I didn't even want to know how much it cost. I spoke with the salesman from Kimber who extolled the virtues of his 880$ 8 foot speaker cables but subsequently spent most of my time meeting the people from the software companies I only knew from the internet. Music Direct, Red Trumpet, Elusive Disc were all present. I bought some cd's from David Chesky himself on his recommendations. I also met the co-creator of XRCD technology, a nice Japanese fellow who explained what OBI meant. (I'd always wondered). In summation the 2004 HE Show taught me just how little I currently know and how long the road to true audiophiledom is.
Since you don't want to know, I'll tell you. MBL's full top of the line system goes for $160,000. The speakers go for $40,000.
Madmilkman : If you search ptmconsulting's threads, you'll find his pictures of this year's show. The MBL set-up is towards the end of the batch. At 140K I wonder how many systems they sell per annum.
Jsonic: As long as you enjoy your music, don't worry about the road to true audiophiledom! You seem to have your priorities straight if you went to the music vendors.
On your description of the mbl speakers: must be a generation gap thing, but the mbl speakers, which I've always liked, remind me of the pods from the movie "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", which is how they were known back in the 90s when they first started appearing on these shores.
Rcprince: I like your MBL description better than mine. Forgot to mention I met a man from Audiogon at The Rives Audio booth. Having a tough time figuring out what either of them do. Thanks for your words of encouragement. I have since found out that the demo song I referred to is : "Spanish Harlem" by Rebecca Pidgeon fron the album The Raven on Chesky Records and is now available as an SACD hybrid.
Maybe it's just my taste, but I just don't get that MBL stuff. Nevertheless, I won't deny that their sound is appealing to many.
I also will give them credit for showing up. I can't believe how many WEREN'T there compared to Frisco and NYC 2 years ago. Just off the top of my head, I count the following MIAs that had notable demos before:
Dynaudio, Wilson Audio, Avantgarde, Rockport, Piega, Nordost, Dali, Callix, Genesis, Denali, Talon, Pipedreams, plus many more smaller ones.
Heck, even Musical Fidelity wasn't there except via the Sound by Singer demo. Two years ago, they had the Monitor Audio/Musical Fidelity full boat demo room.
Here's a link to my pics of the show. MBL Room
The MBL's are there and looked very pretty in a shiny black and gold and huge and expensive kind of way. Yeah, their sound always impresses me every time I've heard them. Now I need to find a friend who could actually afford a setup like this and see what they can do in a real room.
>I sat in on Jeff Joseph's demo of his newest speaker. He >led off with a self congratulatory rant about how great >his Pearl speakers were and how magazines had conspired >with other jealous manufacturers to eliminate voting for >Best Sounding for fear of Joseph Audio winning every year.
"Self-congratulatory rant? "
"How great my Pearls are?"
"Magazines had conspired with other jealous manufacturers?"
That wasn't quite what I said! I did start out by discussing our sucessive wins at the show (three times in row - no other manufacturer can claim that) and then explained why no votes are being counted this time out. The info about other manufacturers upset with our victory was reported directly to me from the magazine's publishers as the reason for the cancellation of the voting.
>He played some new in wall speakers first and then his >newest high end speaker powered by Manley monoblocks and >the speakers sounded stunning
Thank you! Isn't that what this hobby is all about???
I would like to say that while I have absolutely no affiliation to Joseph Audio, I attended HE2004, and the last thing that Jeff Joseph did was launch into any self congratulatory rant.
In fact, as you may remember Jeff, he had gone through a tour of the entire system and was about to begin the demo, when I opened my big mouth and asked him about the speakers. How is that for going into a self congratulatory rant? A man whose sole audio product in the chain was his loudspeakers, and he didn't even mention them. Of course, when I asked, he went into a short description of the new RM55, and how his goal was to push the performance of the Pearls down to the $12K price point. After thanking him, he said, "NO, thank you!"
Jeff is a good person, who puts on a very good demo at the show, and beyond that, is one hell of a speaker designer.
As I stated in my post that Jeff responded to " the RM55 was stunning.' It is my opinion that the entire scenario about the Pearls winning Best in Show was unnecessary. The magazines that conspired to eliminate a competition for fear of Joseph dominating it have become puppets for the manufacturers throwing the most revenue at them anyway. Audiophiles are smarter than that and I believe their most important vote is with their wallet anyway. What is the owner/designer of a speaker going to say about his product? That it's pretty good but Wison is better? How come if Jeff's speakers were the only product of his in the system no one spoke about the other fine components in depth? The Manley girl (oxymoronic?) was present and Theta had some components in the mix too. The objectivity lies with the listener. When Jeff fired those babies up it was more meaningful than anything he could've said. Many of the rooms just had their products playing music and let the consumer ask the questions. The fact that Jeff even responded to a post on Audiogon says a lot about his character IMHO.