It was in New York City last year. Had a good time.. Not going this year, too far away.
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I just got back about an hour ago. It's a chance to see a lot of interesting stuff, but....
95% of the rooms were too small and sounded pretty bad.
I thought Vandy Quatro, MBL and the oddball looking Vivid(?) speakers sounded pretty good, but even these were bottom heavy.
Acoustic Image (a local retailer) had large speakers from ESL(?) sounding very good in a larger room.
Fun, but limited utility.
If you go, enjoy!
PS I found a dozen LPs: John Coltrane, Aretha, Richard Thompson, Sam Cook, etc that set me back $125. That was the highlight for me.
Just returned. Honestly, it made me appreciate what I already own.
A few highlight rooms: Lamm, Acapella, Audio Aero, Wilson, Berning (don't remember the speaker brand, but they were very nice). Honorable mention to the Gamut room for having a transparent and detailed sound without being bright and fatiguing (a problem in many rooms, IMO).
The loudspeakers in the Berning/Stillpoints room were Peak Consult InCognito X. Terrific sounding room.
John Atkinson liked the room a lot. He also liked the Gamut room. It's nice to have one's ears validated by a pro. :)
Stereophile Show Report.
I too just returned. It's my first audiophile show and the experience was like seeing my bookmarks come to life. Great to see and hear so much stuff I only read about. For instance handling the Oyaide and Acrolink stuff... The carbon fibre wall plug is awesome.
Spread across four floors, it's a fun "little" show. (I am used to much, much bigger.) Today everyone was relaxed and low key, I suspect that things will get a bit more hectic over the weekend. What amazed me was that there was enough power in the hotel to run all this stuff!
Highlights for me included:
The Channel Island Audio room with the D200s running Von Schweikert 4jrs and the new 5s. Albert, Dusty and Jim Wang from Harmonic Tech were all on hand. I thought the room sounded tremendous and it was a crappy little room...
The Van Gaylord (ex Legend) room was nothing short of amazing with a $55K liquid cooled tube amp (literally immersed in oil) and their Legend Speakers. Really wondrous to hear.
Sonics by Joachim Gerhard debuted a new design that looked and sounded amazing.
The Chord Room had some of the slickest industrial design I have seen in this market - and the Neat speakers they were running with their 480w monoblocks were fabulous - as was their music selection.
Kudos to Rethm Speakers with an amazing 102db efficient set of speakers with amazing bass horn extensions that are built in India.
The Berning/Stillpoints room Tvad mentioned above was very interesting because it had been extensively treated by 8th Nerve Acoustics. It had the widest soundstage I have ever heard.
Finally - with a decidely more mid-market approach Aperion provided a stunning vision of HT of the future with a 7.2 system that came at you from every direction. Amazing cluck for the buck.
Surprises to me as a show newbie included seeing people shopping for records, the almost complete absence of subwoofers, the barrage of cable the size of hawsers and finished like jewelry... and the absence of computer source - IMHO Nagra won that hands down. Hot new trend is painting your speakers with high end automotive colors - Watt, Zu and Usher are all racing ahead with that sure to please approach.
Like a number of the posters, I went home feeling really good about what I had. And good about the people I met. Definitely a pleasant 4-5 hours though it mayy take you longer on the weekend.
Meanwhile I will be checking out the VTV Expo. Not sure who hijacked who (I can guess) but its an interesting example of splitting a small audience... I'll try post on that one tomorrow.
Just got back from the show.. As usual, a couple of good sounding rooms and a lot of very poor sounding rooms.
What stuck me as interesting was the consistancy of pricing.
Speakers typically between $4K and $100K with 90% costing between$10k to $50K. I was looking for the $1M to $6M pair but was disappointed.
Funny thing was, when I left in my Rolls Royce it began to seem like I got a bargain on the car.
IMHO the best sound was in the Lamm room. Mr Lamm was playing LP's on a great looking table from Metronome ( didn't ask price)and using the Sophia 2's, he had the most relaxing sound with better palpability and imageing than any other room I heard.
Gamut room was a joke, the system sounded fair considering the terrible room that it was located in. In all fairness, they did a great job with what had to be the worst room at the show.( I heard they good a good rate though; I would hope so)
Next year I hope the show comes back to LA... smog and all.
My wife and I had a great time at the show. Biggest surprise was that after listening to Wilson speakers 5+ times previously--and not liking them--we were felled by the Watt Puppy 8's. The most expansive, lifelike sound I've heard yet from Wilson. During one track with an operatic singer and piano accompaniment, I found myself holding back a cough so as not to disrupt the musicians. I love being surprised in that way, and there is simply no formula for achieving it. How do you put together a system with a goal of generating repeated chills up and down your spine? This one did it for us. Like I said, it was the biggest surprise of the show. We stood at the back of the very large room, and even the music of a solo bassist had the immediacy and energy of a live performance, pressurizing the room with an ease and composure that was outstanding. The Audio Research components mated beautifully with the speakers, and the room had been treated for the presentation.
We were also blown away by the Acapella La Campanella speakers, though not immediately. It took a few songs to adjust, and then we were completely sucked in. Most impressive was the excellent driver integration, and the high frequency presentation of the plasma tweeters. Like nothing either of us had ever heard. The highs had the attack of live music, but remained tonally rich with zero congestion. We played classical, jazz, a live rock album...they all shined.
Some rooms were a disappointment, but then again, listening in a hotel room with a one-day set-up schedule is far from ideal. All in all, the show was well worth seeing.
I spent 6+ hours at the show today , some observations...
1) That hotel is like a freaking maze, snaking off in all directions rahter than the normal north, south, east, west. I got turned around more than a few times.
2) Rooms ranged from small to pretty damn large. Unfortunately, many exhibitors were trying to demonstrate speakers too large for their particular room. Although, I was surprised at the ones who rightfully selected smaller products in their line to successfully match the venue.
3) Fat cables are IN this year. The bigger, the better, it seems.
4) Lamm seems to be "place to be". I wouldn't know, the room was so damned crowded with photographers and press you couldn't get in edgewise.
5) Wilson was naother "place to be", but their wisely gave demos on 20 minute intervals without interruption. I never seemed to catch the intermissions, so no entry.
6) If you are junkie for LP's and cd's, don't bring credit cards. Plenty of great stuff to buy.
7) Elliot Midwood always has a great sounding room at shows, but this time he was off the chart with the new $40k ESP Concert Grand SI driven by the massive $35k Wavestream amps, $13k Messenger Reference preamp, Lector cd & DAC, and Brinkman LaGrange or Balance turntable/tonearm/phono.
Anyway, the ESP's have four 8" drivers, four 5", and two tweeters per speaker. I suppose it's an array, but it sounds like a like a single planar panel with real world bass power. Mindblowing stuff and by far the best sound of what I saw. Of course, at $100k+, it ought to knock the snot of me.
8) Most "rocking" room for me was Globe Audio Marketing's. These guys liked to rip the rock tunes(like Zu) and let the classical/jazz/folk fans run for their damn lives. We cleared the room several times by tossing on a fantastic vinyl version of Tool's "Aenima" or Neil Young & Crazyhorse, etc.
Their were demonstrating Audio Aero's Prestige Monobloc Amplifiers - 40 wpc SET moster amps with 813 output tubes driven by 211's and 6SN7's for driver/input. That's easily 1,200+ volts coursing through those amps. These are SET amps on steroids w/o losing the delicacy, intimacy, and "magical" midrange. Great bass drive. Audio Aero preamp.
Speakers were Austrian WLM Lyra. These were really impressive - 98dB/8ohm 7" widerange driver with supertweeter. These suckers have weight, body, and drive. They do rock better than any other single-driver/wideband than any other I've ever heard. And also sound great with all other genres. Brinkman LaGrange turntable with Breuer arm and Dynavector XV-1S
Time for dinner, I'll have more info later.
I took my daughter today to accompany and give me a non audiophile perspective on the sound quality in various rooms. She too thought most rooms were really bad sounding. Surprisingly the best sounding rooms had Wilson's in them except the ESP speakers room. Agree with the post above. Lamm room had the best sound( wilson sophias) run with gorgeous looking metronome front ends. Next in line was the watt puppy 8 in the Wilson room with very sophisticated, nicely attired, presentation from Mr Wilson himself and his son. Brooks Berdan room was also outstanding which had Wilsons Sophias I believe. Followed by room with ESP speakers. Too bad I was swating front row on the right channel where eveything sounded not right, but gave me the impession of live quality sound, if a bit distorted. So I am a bonafide Wilson convert- these speakers does deliver excellent sound. Other notable included AZ adagios that fiiled small room with very powerful non hi-fi sound. AR/ Vandersteen room was okay. Most pathetic room was the Acoustic signature TT (this not at fault) with some tower speakers ( make??)spaced like 20 ft apart. Sounded horrible. So was the Mcintosh room. Joseph Audios in wall speakers demo was a revelation. Small speakers, very good sound. But don't even come close to the Lamm Room. Learned a lot from the sound balance form the Lamm room.
Just got back, too. I agree pretty much absolutely with Ckorody's comments. The Channel Island / Von Schweikert room and the Legend room were the best I heard.
The Vivid Audio speakers sounded horrible in the totally untreated room, but I got the impression that they could be magical.
Wilson speakers always impress me, and they did again. I heard the Sophia's with VTL amplification.
I thought the Acoustic Zen Adagios were great, but a little boomy. Again, it may have been the room, but I'm not sure. I had a moment of ego in that room, too. I was listening to "Sheherezade" being played on a Super Scoutmaster and thought to myself that the rake angle was way, way off. I went and looked at the setup and saw the tonearm height was so far low at the base that the boominess surely was caused by it (and the room, too, I'd bet). But I think "boom" sells these days, so it was probably done on purpose.
The Stereophile Room was definitely the best. Eighth Nerve products really made a difference in there (compared to upstairs where Rives had a before and after test set up with two rooms). Nathan Loyer is a pleasure to speak with and it's nice to be able to talk to the people who build the products you purchase. A $100k analog set-up doesn't hurt either, amazing sound.
The Venture Systems speakers were also a treat to hear. Albeit a bit out of my range at $54k. I agree with the comment on the CIA room as well. Overall some nice gear at the show. A block away was the VTV show and saw Audio Note, DeHavilland, and the TRL Sony 900 battery powered CDP and ST-225 preamp (with Tekline cables and Speaker Art speakers). In fact, the VTV show was a diamond in the ruff. Juicy Music was there and Baul's Audio had an APL-HiFi NWA.
Anybody else get down there?
Saturday I spent the day at the VTV Expo. My impression was that traffic was very poor and certainly below Charlie's expectations. Hope he and the other exhibitors do better today. There was a bit of cross-traffic from the Sheraton.
There was a ballroom on the first floor that had the look and feel of a swap meet with tables full of NOS tubes and boxes. One popular theory was that this was pretty tangible evidence of the impact of ebay and the Internet - why go see tubes when you can let your fingers do the walking around the world online...
There were a few surprises upstairs, high profile companies who by virtue of reputation and pricing I would have expected to see at the Sheraton - starting with DeHavilland. But the one that really blew me away was Audionote which was comfortably esconced in two suites.
I knew something was up when I walked in the room and the speakers were literally touching the walls on both sides of the room. The gaggle of electronica (some of it hors d combat courtesy of a overly diligent shipping company) was boggling. And then there was the sound. The gentlemen spinning the discs (Peter?) had a fondness for old LPs and one got the slightly eerie feeling that Satchmo was indeed back in town - though why he would stay at this hotel was beyond me.
On the new end of things, the American Electronic Project was there with their new line of three Cheer Amps and a tube CD player built of course in China. We listened to the EL34 and the 300B units and for the price they were pretty nice. IMHO the key to their success was a stunning pair of speakers ($800 including lovely wood stands) Not an inch of fancy cable anywhere - let's talk zip.
Given my interest in all things computer based, for me the most interesting room was Bauls Audio, showing the 100db efficient Bastanis open baffle Prometheus speakers with the Gemini tweeters that put a prodigious sound stage with tremendous detail.
As it turned out, the reason for this was that they were running a just modded Empirical Audio I2S (as opposed to SPDIF) P3 DAC. It was my first chance to hear Steve Nugent's work up close and personal and folks, it rocks. No skips, no pops, just lots of music.
Bill Allen reported that the speakers sounded excellent with Vinnie's battery powered 6w Clari-T amps, though they were being demoed with 300B monoblocs. Bill is on a mission to figure out how to bring the best of the new technology into simple low cost systems that make music. I think its fabulous that someone is bringing together this kind of talent.
I listened to the mBL's, Acapella's and the Dynaudio's.
Again, IMHO the Lamm room was extraordinary with better integration etc. The Mbl's and the Acapella's were impressive, however, I felt that the Mbl room was too loud and the speakers were very bright. The Acapella's seemed to be in too small a room; they sounded a little boomy ( possibly due to the room) and again the room was too loud.
The Dynaudio room was poor, the speakers sounded veiled and closed in.
The combo of the Lamm amps and the metronome and the Sophia's have put the Sophia's and the Lamm's on my short list.
I was there all day Friday and Saturday.
Thought the MBLs were amazing - very tizzy on the pop recording but an amazing sense of being right there at a live event on the orch tracks.
Since I'm a Joseph Audio owner I spent a lot of time in that room - great sounding room and Jeff Joseph is a great guy to talk to. Personally I like the style of demo that has the designer/owner right there answering questions, telling you what he's playing, what's new, etc. So many rooms were just salesman standing there looking bored with no insight to offer.
The surprise of the show for me was Dr Hsu of Hsu Research/subwoofer fame. He was showing a new 2 way bookshelf with horned tweeter. Very nice midrange, stable deep vocal image. They sell for $250/pair and he was running home depot speaker cable and a cheapo sony CD player - that was kinda depressing... will be available soon.
I also speant Sat. at the show. Reading some of the above comments just shows why we need so many different brands. We all have a different idea of what sounds good. I thought, in regards to high end speakers, that the Peak Empress were so bad to be unlistenable, while others thought it was the best room. I thought the Optimal Enchanment Room, The Brooks Berdan Room, and The Lamm Room were the three best sounding. Each was different so, it would be hard to give "best" to any of the above three.
There were some bargains with good sound there. When asked, the Usher room was willing to hook up their newest model, retail $700. A audiophile's dream speaker, no of course not but, very pleasant sound and more truthful to the music than some of the multi-thousand dollar speakers I heard. Excellent buy for a starter system, vation rental, second system, etc.
I also thought that the speakers in the Acoustic Zen room were quite good for the price. They were to heavy on the low end but, I bet that with a little foam rubber to tune the ports that could be overcome.
In the Rethim Room was a fascinating turntable. I would be willing to bet that few asked about it because it simply looked over the top expensive. Thick, 3 or 4 inch Ebony platter and Ebony plinth. Very impressive machined stainless steel (I believe, should have asked) for the rest. Two arm capibility, Maxon motor with controller designed by Tom Evans on the way. I think the builder said it weighed 160lbs. It rested on a very beautiful matching stand with cable suspension. I knocked on it while it played and the arm was unaffected. Total cost $8000. Not cheap but, if you bothered to take a look at it and then considered the cost of other TTs at the show it seemed a bargain. Of course, the most important part is how did it sound. I have no idea, never heard the speakers before, or the rest of the equipment so can't say anything except that in show conditions I couldn't say that the Coliburn sounded any better.
That table was from Sound Engineering out of Nashville Tennessee, and I must have returned to that room 6-7 times. That quality of precision machining and design was breathtaking. $7,900 is a lot of money, but if ClearAudio, SME, or any of the other big names were selling it, the price would have been $20-30k easily.
It is an entirely new version of their SE-1 with a new plinth design and in black ebony wood with brushed stainless metal instead of Cocobolo and gold. The wood platter is made up of a constrained layers of differing thinkness plies(?). Bob Benn, the owner of Sound Engineering, told me that the ply combination was actually designed by the experts at Gibson Guitars, which happens to be just down the street from his shop.
The tonearm was the $6k Swiss made DaVinci Audio Labs (pic1, pic2). The designer/builder is actually a fine Swiss watch and clock maker by trade. And it shows in the workmanship.
In fact, it is the arm that Brinkman sold with their top tables until they decided to copy it on their own. Theirs does not even come close even though the appearances are nearly identical.
Agaffer, I was one of those who didn't ask because I didn't want to hear a number starting with 20, 30, 40. It's astonishing that, in this market, he's asking $7900. Maybe $7900 can never constitute a bargain for a 'table, but it's hard to believe that his economics aren't completely out of whack relative to the competition. BTW, I concur: Bob is a real gentleman and engaging tour guide.
Agaffer, I agree Coliburn in the way it was set up was a let down, even with Koetsu and Steel head in the chain. I blame the small speaker and amp it was mated with. Looks wise also, there are better looking TT's out there. I am sure it would have done great if it were paired with big speakers/room/amplification.
Product at the show I want most: the new Spiral Groove turntable from Allen
Perkins. An industrial design that is a superb, understated blend of retro and
contemporary. At $20K, I'll never own one.
Highlights for me were the field trip to RTI/Acoustech Friday night and the
recordings Steve Hoffman played Saturday in the Lamm room from his secret
stash. Especially the Beatles stuff. If only...
Also, this was perhaps my fourth or fifth Isomike recording demo from Ray
Kimber and it was just as impressive as always. No real commercial potential,
I suppose, so Ray is doing this as a labor of love. He deserves a medal of
I haven't been to a HE show in 2-3 years, but this one seemed small and
underattended. So many usual players were MIA. I wonder if there's a future
for this show. At least in LA.
Thoughts on the Zu room? First time i had heard them. Seemed like the couch was setup in a room node (i asked as bass seemed weak for 4 10" powered woofers) which hurt bass response of the definitions, but thought the rest was really good for the money. I didn't care for the Druid demo however. Weird.
The Lamm room garners praise, but when i was in there the music bored me to tears so perhaps that is why it wasn't memorable.
I thought the W/P 8 room with ARC, 5As with ARC, and Sophia 2s with VTL all were great systems with high price tags. The 8s don't seem worth 30k to these ears. And the Sophia 2s sound very much alike to my originals.
All-in-all---this show has dissipated over the past 4 years. SF was good and NYC was good 3-4 years ago. Since then however, the show has had poor attendance.
btw, noticed the basic entire lack of home theater comapred to the nyc shows of past..
If you have $30K idling about as spare change in your pocket and no real compunction about how you distribute these funds, then putting the whole wad into a pair of speakers is no worse than some other things that have been chosen by others in the past. On the other hand, if you have a mortgage or car payments or kids who need you to pay for schooling or any of several dozen other real world obligations, such a purchase would be difficilt to reconcile. There are just too many more pressing needs in most of our lives. Consider how much money $30,000 really is and what it can buy. I don't care what Wilson speakers are made of or what sort of hallucinogenic value structure you apply. There simply is no way on earth that the cost of a pair of Watt Puppy 8's (might be 8A's before I finish this sentence) could possibly approach that of a loaded Accord.
RElative to other manufactured goods hi end audio is scandalously expensive for what you get and Wilson appears to me to be leading the pack. The reason given for switching from the 7's to the 8's is meeting European lead free restrictions. So we are eliminating the lead and selling the same product for what,$5000 more?
So, to answer Boa2's question........ No speaker is worth that much money.
I think at 30k you need a sense of scale that only larger speakers can give you. While the monitor/sub combo has matured with the 8, and its a great speaker, at some point value has to come in. The low end, while good on the 8s isn't close to say the Maxx. I do think the 8s are smoother top to bottom than the 7s.
There are many speakers at 30k that I would look at while considering purchase of the 8s. Dynaudio, JM Lab, Peak Consult, Von Schweikert etc. just to name a few. The new 5SEs looked and sounded tasty at HE2006.
btw, i own Sophias, so am pro-Wilson. The 7s at 23k are pushing the limit in my view---30k is just over the top to me for what you get. It's a great, small speaker which is what they designed it for. I could say the same thing about several Kharmas as well.
btw, the new grill covers are 10x better than the velcro of old like I have.
Macrojack makes some very good points IMHO. He probably forgets that Wilson caters to the buyer who makes $1 Million a year or more. So $30K is pretty much chump change to these guys. Not sure why they are only $30K for the 8's and $135K for the Alexandria's. Probably could charge $200K for the 8's and $500K for the Alexandria's. OOps that's for the 12's and the Alexandria version X next year.
Was at the show on Friday only and saw it all 3 or 4 times.Best of show ? Close but I'll give it to the Joseph & Moscode room with 2nd place to Channel Island and VSA. Most unusual ? The Zu room. These speakers do some things marvelously and other things not so well but for all that I sat there totally involved in the music (and they had big variety) for an hour. Another odd speaker Studio Electric was a must hear.
I'm surprised no one has pointed out the big difference between the $1500 my hypothetical Honda dealer makes on the Accord versus the more than $10,000 the Wilson dealer brings down for selling W/P 8's. That is, of course the biggest difference between the comparative pricing structures and I think it argues strongly for the factory direct marketing model. If you were to buy those $30,000 Wilsons wholesale, they might cost you $18,000 and that's less than 4 times what they are worth.
Macrojack,......... it's volume. I'm sure Wilson could slash the price of their speakers if they sold more of them. They will never sell a huge volume of them....there aren't that many audiophiles. Every family has a car...some families have three or more cars. The same thing has happened with televisions and computers...sell a zillion of them and the price drops.
The speakers are worth exactly what someone is willing to pay for them. To you and me they are not worth it, but I'm sure Wilson has a list of clients that feel differently.
Inventory your own system, then tell any person that listens to music on a mass market Best Buy type system what you paid for it, if you have audiophile grade stuff, they'll surely tell you your rig isn't worth what you paid for it.
It's all a matter of personal opinion.
There simply is no way on earth that the cost of a pair of Watt Puppy 8's (might be 8A's before I finish this sentence) could possibly approach that of a loaded Accord.When did Wilson declare itself the "Honda of the audio world"? Wilson is a high-end speaker manufacturer inside of a fringe hobby. Honda is an international manufacturer of mass-produced automobiles, dirt bikes, and generators. Wilson's value is not defined by price, which is the reason it will never speak to the Honda customer, whose every purchase is reasoned accordingly--yes, pun intended. These are two completely different markets, two completely different products, two completely different customers. There is no basis for comparison between the two, and there is certainly no bridge of common value perception that exists between them.
So why is Dave running ads justifying his price?
He wants to establish his product as a good value, something Honda has done as well as anyone.
You say there is no common ground between Wilson and Honda. I think there is.
Are there any Wilson owners out there who also own a Honda?
And, by the way, Wilson speakers are mass produced, their customers seem to argue that the value is there and Wilson would love to be dealing in Honda size numbers. That's why he employs blanket advertising.
I haven't seen the pricing ad, but the rest of the (excellent) campaign is clearly designed to promote the brand around a few core strengths: design and manufacturing excellence and the quality and dedication of Wilson employees. All of which are basically true and are characteristics of many enduring luxury brands. Again, think Lexus. Lexus customers feel they get excellent value. But a Honda customer may not feel that way about Lexus.
The concept of value may be the least agreed upon, and most misunderstood term in all of marketing. Price is only one element of value. Perceived quality and one's satisfaction (the most nebulous of all) with a product also contributes to value.
I believe it's quite possible that a music loving Honda owner could consider WP8 loudspeakers a terrific value if they added enough positive benefits to the owner's listening experience to outweigh their cost, especially if the owner determined the WP8 would be the last loudspeakers they would ever own.
Of course, if that owner was a true audiophile he/she would flip those babies in less than two years.