I was on more of a parts/music hunt but Usher impressed me with some $750 speakers. Little light on the bass, (bookshelves) but nonetheless good musicality. Reminded me of ACI's Saphire line but with even more value.
I didn't make it into the Lamm or Wilson rooms due to industry crowds, but for me, Acoustic Image's room had some of the most original and best sound. Elliot was using $40k ESP Concert Grand SI line array speakers(15 drivers per speaker, 90dB) that sound exactly like large planars, but seriously deep and powerful bass. Amplification was $35k Wavestream monoblock monsters and front end was a ~$25k Brinkman LaGrange TT, Brinkamn tonearm, Brinkman phono, into a $16k Messenger preamp. Of course, at price it better knock your socks off.
I'd also put Brooks Berdan's room in a best sounding room for live jazz and classical. Also, it was the most balanced sound overall. Of course, that's what Brooks is famous for (besides TT setup). I walked in as a live jazz track ended with crowd applause and the room sounded like a jazz club five times the size.
Best rooms for rock, alternative, and anything not classical, jazz, or smooth jazz female vocals were both surprisingly high efficiency - Zu's Definitions(101dB) and Global Acoustics' Austrian WLM Lyra speakers(98dB) w/ Duo 16" subwoofer. Most high-eff wideband single-driver systems fall apart slamming rock, but of these stayed rich and meaty in big way. We sent the Diana Krall/Norah Jones "audiophiles" running for their lives several times.
Zu was using Audiopax 88 monoblocks and Global had impessive 40 watt Audio Aero 813 SET amps and a Brinkman TT.
I think your right about the $700 I should have had them play some of the music I bought. Either way I will definetly pay more attention to their line in the future.
I heard the ZU stuff in Vegas and thought it was pretty good, although I also was tired of Nora et al and the music played was a refreshing change of pace.
My favorite rooms were the Optimal Enchantment room with Vandresteen 5a's, Audio Research 610t mono blocs, and Ref 3 pre. The Wilson room with the new Puppy 8's, Audio Research 210 mono blocs and Ref 3. The Joseph audio room with their RM25si speaker not the room with their inwall. The MBL room was also very impressive but was slighty hot which I'm sure was the room and the close seating position they were force to work with.
I noticed the show was mainly 2 channel audio which was a pleasent surprise, I expected more home theater. There was numerous tube units and turntables which was also positive in my opinion.
Overall the show was smaller than I expected.
IMHO the Lamm room was the best sound at the show. The Acoustic Image room did not have the Lamm/Wilson's stage width or depth or purity of timbre. The losss of width was possibly due to the fact that the ESP's were in a smaller room and again IMHO, seemed too large for the room. Biggest problem they had was the boominess in the bottom (Again probably caused by the room).