i had the opportunity to visit the show on saturday. while it was pretty crowded i was able to give a listen to several systems. i focused mostly on 2 channel systems and found the Von Gaylord Audio room to clearly sound best. funny thing is i think they were using the same Phillips CD960 that i traded into them on some Martin Logans over 10 years ago....the Analog room was impressive as well...i was pretty amazed at how unimpressed i could be with the giant JM LAB, Bel canto HT video setup, considering the price and the size of their room.
I was most impressed by the Cabasse Kara's driven by the Butler mono blocks. I've never heard the Kara's or any other Cabasse speakers before but I think some of the wonderful sound had to attributed to the Butler's. They are (to me) a most unusual design. A single 300B tube is used and is claimed to put out 100 watts! Part (or all) of that power may be due to the power supply which has 2 Farads of capacitance! To make it more intersting the amps had been on for four days and were only luke warm, the 300B was barely glowing. They run it at such conservative levels that they claim the tube will last the life of the amp! Price was said to be in the $9-10K range. Since the amps were just being introduced they didn't have any literature so I don't have any more details. This sounds like a product that will create a stir.
My most memorable experience was with the Avant Garde Trio played through some BAT equipments.
Pink Floyd was there in the room with us. The sound was just amazing.
For HT, I was moved by the Martin Logan setup with the Faroudja's projector.
I didn't think JmLab was a big deal, and I thought Von Gaylor was awsome for the size of their speakers, being able to produce full sounds.
I was very disappointed with the Wilson Sophia setup and also the Wilson Watt setup at the Sony's SCD demo.
Actually, I think the Sony Demo using Watt Puppies was being driven by a new Sony receiver if I'm not mistaken! I think they were trying to show off a new line of Sony receivers that's supposed to compete with the higher end receivers on the market currently(B&K, Denon, etc). I didn't hear that demo unfortunately...or fortunately..if it did indeed sound "not so good" or whatever.
That demo did not bring out the best in the Watt/Puppies, but the taste they gave us of Steely Dan's Gaucho in multichannel SACD made it worth the visit.
I'd like to single out three "value" systems that really delivered the musical goods and had me wondering if I could give up the high end forever. They were:
Creek, with a very nice new TT, a new SACD player, and $300/pair Epos speakers.
An all-Rega system demonstrated by Audio-Vision SF, playing analog over $595/pair speakers. Wonderful.
A system put together by several exhibitors, including Empirical Audio cables, Audion electronics, and Aliante speakers. What I heard was the Aliante Stile speakers driven by expensive Audion monoblock pre-amps and a very inexpensive Audion Edison power amp. I loved the sound of this system, though with those preamps and the Emprical cables, I suppose it doesn't qualify as "value." Source was an Amazon tuntable and I'm not sure which CD player.
That's not the first time that Sony has shot themselves in the foot. They acquire some decent speakers to use with one of their better SACD players, then they screw it up by running the signal through one of their crappy receivers!! (and bad cable sometimes) The Wilson speakers have metal tweeters in them which are borderline to irritating. They sound bad if the associate equipment is not up to snuff.
Cabasse sounded pretty good when I dropped-in to their big room. I was just getting comfortable, enjoying the (familiar) demo song they had on, when they suddenly stopped the music as the big climax to the song was coming!! I freakin' HATE that!! There was no one asking to play anything else, and there were a few of us enjoying the listen. It was stupid to interrupt just so someone could go into a marketing blab. They should have waited until the end of the song, when we would have been impressed with what we had heard, and in a mood to listen to a "pitch". I was outta' there like a shot, grumbling loudly!!
The room with the JM Lab Grand Utopias was playing boring elevator music, not the kind of material to impress people into buying a megabuck speaker. And there was no one around to assist anyone who may have wanted to play some real music...that they needed badly!!
Some good Audio rooms:
Naim/Wilson Benesch Chimera/Fujitsu
Music Lovers' Spectral/Wilson
Clearaudio turntable rooms
Good Video (I didn't look at all of them)
Good Guys showing D-VHS High Def. That looked really good!! I'm totally pissed-off that we only have a tape format for High Def. movies at home (crappy satellite feeds with butchered 4:3 picture and bad sound don't count!!) It'll be nice when I can go down to the video store and rent a High Def. movie on disc!! They were showing D-VHS in the Sharp/Parasound room, but something was screwing-up the picture in the details; they were mushy and noisy....and they didn't seem to notice!! Fujitsu plasma looked good in some rooms, not so good in others. That means bad cable, and/or bad set-up skills, and sometimes no line filtering.
Just to add to my last post...
I just checked Show coverage on the 'Net to find out who Clearaudio was exhibiting with. I couldn't remember the speakers...it was Avalon - no surprise there that the sound was good.
I was disappointed with the Meadowlark/Rogue Audio room; the sound was thin and edgy, and that was with a turntable source!! Now I've seen a show article that says the Meadowlarks only had twenty hours break-in before the show. Like, DUH!!!!!!!!! You don't bring NEW speakers to a show without break-in. That's just goofy!! I've owned a pair of larger Meadowlarks, and they absolutely have to be broken in for 100 to 200 hours. That was an amateur mistake on Meadowlark's part, and Rogue suffered for it.
There's a couple of rooms I missed because of crowds,scheduling, never making it back, etc. I've since read good things about a couple of rooms that I missed. Dang!
A note on show reports at Enjoy the music.com and Stereophile: If they liked the sound in a particular room, why did they not mention all the components in the system?! Speakers, amps, cables, turntables or CD players don't make sound all by themselves. So why not mention ALL of the components in the system? With Stereophile that's easy to figure out - no ads - no mention. A couple of companies have told me that recently...now I've seen it. Not fair, really...those same companies paid a lot of money to exhibit at the show. If they were part of an outstanding system, they deserve a mention. So, is it pettiness/payback or just incompetence that they are not recognized in the articles?
Thanks for the reports, guys!
I do have a few questions?
Did anyone who attended the previous two shows in NYC attend this show? If show, what were your impressions and comparisons?
Also, despite much more involvement by Audiogon, I see far, far less actual chatter and energy from Audiogoners here in the Discussion Forums. Is this just less people chiming in, or was the event on the West Coast more low key. NYC was an absolute madhouse, and I for one, enjoyed myself.
I was at both NYC shows as well as this one. This felt much less crowded, but the St. Francis is a more spacious hotel in some ways--the hallways are wider, better stair and elevator service, etc. Rooms seemed bigger here, and less noise in the hallways. I actually had the "small" Kharma room to myself for a few minutes on Saturday, which was quite a treat. It seemed generally easier to do serious listening than here than in New York. Works for me!
The show felt smaller to me in terms of exhibitors and it seemed like there was much less fancy home theatre on display (though I don't pay a lot of attention to that).
As always, some very big names were MIA: Thiel, Levinson, Revel, ARC, Aerial, Eggleston, Coincident, Classe, Paradigm....
Show is back at the Hilton in NY next year, in mid-May.
Sorry to hear of your problems at the Cabasse room, Golden-ears. Given the great room the big Cabasse was in, I am not surprised they could engineer a great sound. Still, I thought the Butler/cabsse put on a stunning show. It was the only room I visited three times.
At the Sony video demo, the LED projectures were neat, but I wonder how practical. The rooms were blackened, which leads me to believe the image is fugitive. that's not p[aractical in a home environment.
There were some big name rooms I did not enjoy.
I attended last year's show in New York and this year's show in San Francisco. I thought the individual rooms in San Fran were generally larger and better accommodated the crowds.....however, the rooms were much too scattered making it easy to miss them. This is quite unfortunate for the folks spending alot of time and money to put their goods on display.
As for my favorite two channel set-up, the Cabasse/Butler room gets my vote. The guys running the room were very accommodating, allowing "outside" music to be played. The Butler 300B tube amp (I believe they actually call it the 100A mono bloc amps)appears to be a new revolutionary (and newly patented) design delivering the sonic advantages of the 300B tube at a much higher wattage ie 100+ watts into 8 ohms. The thing a really liked about the Cabasse/Butler room was that everything they played, including several plain old redbood cd's I brought, sounded alive, exciting and musical. Professor Keith Johnson happened to be in the room when I was there and he was very impressed when they demo'd the system using his newly recorded material.
The Tenor/Kharma rooms were also impressive and the guys running those rooms couldn't be nicer.
There were a number of high priced upper end rooms that left me completely unimpressed. How or why anyone would buy this equipment based on those demo's is beyond me.
The sound in the Von Gaylord room was very sweet and almost intoxicating. Unfortunately, they would not allow outside music, so I don't know how the system would compare on "regular" source material. It's generally a turn off to me when a room will not allow outside music to be played. I understand they cannot accomodate everyone, but to turn away a truely interested listener just doesn't make good business sense to me.
The Avantgarde/BAT room was hotter (as in heat) than hell. I'm not sure why they thought they needed what appeared to be six BAT 75SE amps to power the most efficient speakers at the show! I thought the system sounded nice in general, but the Pink Floyd demo at high volume was a real treat.
Some disappointments included: Cain & Cain speakers, they were absolutely gorgeous, but just didn't have the sound I like. The new Utopias...again looked great...sounded so-so.
Wilsons and Pipedreams lots of money and didn't really tickle my fancy.
Very best part of the show was meeting old friends and making some new ones....looking forward to next year!!!
A darkened room is not practical? Oh, I'm sorry, that word is not relevant in the HT/projection world. :-) If you want to leave lights on, you get a rear projection TV, or spend huge bucks on a top-of-the-line CRT, DMD or DLP. If you want to watch movies with a more affordable projector, you turn the lights out for best results. I can find my drink and munchies in the dark, and I don't want to see anything else in the room but the picture. That wouldn't be.....er, well, practical!!!!! ;-)
Oh, and I forgot to heap a little abuse on the idiots who hired two gorgeous women in miniskirts to haul people into their 6th floor exhibit room. (See pictures of them at www.enjoythemusic.com , under "Show Girls".) They were awful purty, yep. But that's all the room had going for it; the sound was crap; a giant boombox!!!
Geez... were they playing "who let the dogs out" in that room? I mean they look like "very nice" gals but come on
get some girls there will make everyone forget about the
hardware... This is California not Croatia :-)
Golden Ears, Maybe I should have said, "Not practical in my case." The picture of the LED sets rivaled the plasma sets outside. That is, with black absorbent drapes all around.
I use my set for ordinary use as well as pop corn catered movies. For instance, I might be going throught the mail while catching the news.
If I had a dedicated movie room, sure, the new projectors would be on my list. The big prototype probably even has the attention of Keith Yates.
Compared to conventional projectors, the new Sony is leagues ahead.
did anyone compare the Fujitsu plasma with the Sony? Was it just me, or was the Sony in another league?
(Drubin)...An all-Rega system demonstrated by Audio-Vision SF, playing analog over $595/pair speakers. Wonderful...
I must concure with Drubin's comment on the Rega system he mentioned, as being a "wonderful" sounding system!...I forgot about that room. For very cheap, that system was very musical and pretty sounding! Many budding audiophiles, and anyone wishing to "down-size" to a less ambitious, yet quality sounding system, that system they played was superb. Did just about anything you could want from a conservative high quality souding system!...it also made me remember how good analog is, from records. IT was very very nice, and one of the better stops I made. Good Job Rega!
One observation I made last year, in contrast to 2001, was that just about all the rooms sounded good. Very few systems last year sounded poor.
In 2001, that was not the case, and I would say a fair number of rooms were particularly bad. Cost had no bearing, as some very high priced systems left me wondering if anyone was really foolish enough to spend so much for such unlistenable dreck.
What changed between the two years? I am not certain. But, it is nice to know that manufacturers these days are able to produce a quality product. Products which are able to provide people of a wide strata of income a very satisfying system. Again, it takes brains, heart, and your ear to make a good sounding system, not necessarily money.
See you all in NYC next year!