LA Show Report

Beautiful weather , relaxed atmosphere and friendly attendees made this show one I will remember fondly.This was an audio show primarily but the presence of Blu `ray was IMO , nice . I really want this format to survive. The Blu- Ray demonstration was promising and seemed poised for an agressive advertising attack .I was ambigously told that the start time up from disc insertion to play was far faster than the Hd Dvd which is a relief. The 120 inch projection demo looked pretty terrific overall.The Wilson 7 surround system was very good too.
Speaking of them , in another room ,Wilson showed the new Watt Puppy 8 which employs the tweeter found in the Maxx 2. What seems clear to me is that the company is progressively and steadily creating more natural sounding loudspeakers. The demonstration , presented by Dave Wilsons son and employing top tier Audio Research tube monoblocs and the Ref 3 was engaging and informative.The speakers are simply more of what the 7 brought to the table and it appears to me that this company is under intelligent design teams and moving in a tightly controlled direction. Dave Wilsons wife was there meeting and greeting and the woman is simply beautiful and graceful. All in all , Wilson is a class act.

Once again , for me , the best value was the Hyperion speaker. The flagship HPS-938 with 94 db effeciency , 6 ohm nominal ohm load and first order crossover struck me as pretty seamless as well as dynamic and open yet never strained or harsh . It was effortlessly being driven by a 17 wpc SET. For 6 k , this is the one to beat IMO.
Studio Electric was showing the Type One loudspeaker . It looked like a Mangar driver, head finished in chrome but wasnt. It also looked like a chrome B&W but wasnt. So what was it ? Clear and controlled in the midrange for sure . Female volals just jumped out at you . I liked it alot.

Like CES this year , the VR 4 Jr setup was excellent offering a sound that belied its size and stature. It was nearly butted against the model 5 but didnt seem to be smothered sonically . They offered a wide deep rich soundfield and palpable , natural midrange . Nice , once again for me.
I spent some time talking to Richard Bird of Rives Audio . He is so much younger than I would have imagined.We talked of his involvement in Mike lavignes incredible project and his enthusiasm for how it turned out was all over his boyish face. Make no mistake however, this is a focused intelligent designer and his contribution to our industry has no peers.
Dynaudio was showing in many rooms and the sound was always detailed , lightning quick and dynamic as hell. This speaker company has it together.They were showing the C4 with the Moon gear in one room which is simply gorgeous . The chrome exterior and large blue LED read out was worthy of being in an Art gallery. I think the Andromeda was the source in here and sounded excellent.
My friend Darren Censullo of Avatar Acoustics was at the show again .I can not say enough about him on a personal level. IMO , he is a consumate professional with a good eye for outstanding products. His honesty and enthusiasm , his intelligence and proactive nature make him someone I really look up to. I really feel he represents our industry with class and respect. We need all the Darren Censullos we can get to keep our industry alive and vital. Also , his ability to set up and tune a room is inspiring to me personally. Showcasing the new DynaStation 2 cd player, the sound was a breath of digital fresh air. . The new model now uses NOS Telefunken tubes and the sound was very natural and analog sounding. His Karan amps were also standouts offering a sound for the Ascendos that were image precise and unrestrained . His music collection is reason enough to search his rooms out year after year and I found myself scrambling to find a pen to write down many of his selections which were often exotic and obscure to me. As usual , he tunes the room with Frank Changs Resonators.
Everyone who is anybody at least respects Mcintosh. Anyone who forgot the Mac room this year needs Hospice. Simply Drop... Dead ... Gorgeous. The MC2KW 2000 watt Monoblocs were sexy sexy sexy. Stacked in colums between their XRT2K loudspeakers , I was struck at the complete freedom from the room boundaries and lack of glare at bone crushing levels. This new gear and this room , I will never forget.
It was an honor to meet Rick Schultz of Virtual Dynamics this year. Everywhere his cables were present , you remembered the sound as non fatiguing and uncompressed. Also the Tara Omega cables sounded beautiful in my all time favorite room year after year : the MBL room . I met Wolfgang this year and am struck by his genuine concern for the expression of " musicality " within the performance of a system . He never mentioned soundstaging .I got the impression that this is a brilliant man that cares about his product. His rooms are always contenders for best sound of the show year after year.
Speaking of excellent sounding rooms , The ESP Concert Grand room was arguably the best sound at the show this year . It could have been the most artistically tasteful as well. The sound was huge but with lazer focus . The soundstage was 10 feet behind the speakers and offered a glimpse into Seans design genius.The man himself was here this year and his enthusiasm was infectious. The new Concert Grand is indeed a colossal leap in performance over his earlier designs.

Other notable sounds for me were the Nola , Vandy 5 - ARC rooms as well as Ray Kimbers B&W demonstration room .

Vinyl was everywhere and played side by side in all but a few rooms.The 4th floor Rockport room was the best for me but Clearaudio,Kuzma , and Basis tables were in many rooms.

In conclusion , the show highlight was the lecture by Steve Hoffman . The faces of the attendees were like watching a room full of lottery winners.

Great show to all that bypassed it . You missed a ton of audio fun.
OOPS , typo error on the VR 5 above ! Sorry .
Nice is my contribution/opinion of the show for those who could not make it...I thought I had posted my thread, but see it did not make I will just piggy back.


Just came back from the show. Could not find any write-ups regarding the show, so here is my brief summary:

Attendance-I attended Saturday. It seemed a lot less people than when I went to the San Fran show two years ago. Some rooms were empty of show goers and I did not experience the lines into the hallway like what happened in SF.

The manufactures/dealers - Missing were some of high end's big names- Mark Levinson, Theil, BAT, Arcam, Conrad Johnson, Martin Logan, B&W, and some others. Really missing were many of the affordable high-end makers - NHT, Adcom, BK, Parasound, Paradigm, PSB, Triangle, Gallo, and others. The show was mostly two channel and very expensive stuff - Rockport, Dynaudio, Wilson, and other $$$ were there.

Analog - Lots of VPI tables.

Fun - lack of "fun" in many rooms. Outlaw did a great job of making audio fun. The DCM folks were really nice and happy. DR Hsu seems like a nice guy. However, some rooms (not a lot, but some) felt very stuffy. Overheard a group of people complaining that some dealer or manufacture went off on them for asking a dumb question regarding "why use analog." Not good.

Sound - Vandersteen 5 were great (powered by Audio Research in the Brooks Berdan room). Rockport speakers, Miras, were impressive. Gamut (a very large speaker) sounded good too. Outlaw was fun and their 7.1 sounded great (they had four of their new 12" subs going in the system!). DCM was there with a respectable speaker for 1K. Lots of rooms with bright sounding systems, but I will not go into to this - could be the room.

Music - Mostly, weird audiophile stuff was being played. Gamut did play a great choral CD. There was some Stevie Ray Vaughn, Pink Floyd, Coltrane....but, also...some sleepy piano music, sleepy slow jazz music, and off the wall audio phile stuff.

Home Theatre - I only noticed, Sony, Aperion, Outlaw and one or two others with HT. In San Fran, HT was much more prominent.

All in all....OK show, wished for more attendees, more makers, and a friendlier environment. Still, it was good to hear so much in a day.
Hi Brain,

Excellent, well written review! You mentioned listening to the VR-4jr's. Did you happen to listen to the VR-5's ? If so, would you let us know what you think of them?

The vr 4 jr was butted against the vr 5 se { thus the typo}. They didnt play the 5 while we were in there. I made the comment mainly because the sound was so coherent that one would have assumed that the 5 was in actuality playing. On another note , I have only recently seen the magic capable in the vr 4 jr. Both this show and this past ces had the speaker sounding wonderful. I am beginning to understand the intense loyalty now.
Brainwater, what were they driving the VR4jrs with?
Channel Islands gear.
Excellent Show Report, Brainwater!!!

You've really set the bar high. Great insight into what you witnessed there. It is a great help to all of us who were not able to attend.

Unfortunately, from what I see, the other sites, be they professional or not, pale in comparison. Not sure why they cannot come within a fraction of what you've put together, but once again, it's the Audiogon members who do the best work.

Thank you!
Appreciated Joe. I live for this stuff and am concerned for the industry as a whole and feel the more we can excite interest and generate passion for music and gear the better off the fuure may be for all of us. I am concerned by the attitudes , the skepticism and the lack of younger attendees at the shows I attend. This is why I am excited about the Hyperion speaker quite frankly. Here is a company that is making a sincere effort to offer fantastic value. I do everything in my power to energize the younger market to place their i Pods next to their Meridian gear and we need more members to be proactive. We all have a huge stake in this .
Like your show report, well said, Brainwater!
This coming from you Joe is especially humbling as I have always enjoyed your numerous contributions to the forum and your in depth NY Show reports . You are one of the most respected members of Audiogon and have stuck with them , like me , though many have jumped ship to AA for various reasons. Teamwork and a positive attitude will keep things strong and alive. Thanks again . Brent
Myself and another audiophile buddy went to the LA show as well. It was the first show of it's kind for me, and such fun. We spent a full three days there and I think we took in every single room on the four floors. I echo many of Brainwater's comments, especially on the Hyperion, ESP and MBL rooms.

The Hyperion room also showcased some tube amps sporting the 845 tube - they looked a little DIY, but for the money ($4k new for the pair I think it was), the looked like bargains. The MBL room did give me goosebumps - the sound was really vivid and fleshy although I would have liked to have listened to their big speakers with some tube gear upstream, rather than their solid state ensemble.

In particular I echo Brainwater's thoughts on the ESP room. The speakers were driven by scary looking $30k Wavestream monoblocks, and sources included the Brinkman TT and a lush Lector digital front-end. It was possibly the best sound in show for me. Like Brainwater hints at, it was the type of room I wanted to put my feet up in and hang out for an hour or two - the music was just dreamy, effortless and non-fatiguing. Part of what made this room great was that it was managed very well - the guy just kept playing music. This was in sharp contrast with a few other rooms including the Usher room and the Wilson room, where I found myself getting a lecture on how their speakers are so great, rather than listening to music. The Usher bookshlef did sound great though, and the Wilson's also sounded great - I'm just wasn't a fan of the 'experience' where they make you feel like you're about to witness a solar eclipse or some live music event. I found the sound great, but found so many other rooms more pleasantly humble and respectful of my time (you had to line up at the Wilson room for a 'demo', followed by a few intros to the music about to be heard).

One other stand out room for me was the room by Rives Audio. Actually, they had two rooms there -identical rooms but one with room treatments and one without. That experience was such fun, because you could compare the two identical systems both with and without the room treatments. The Rives hardware was there in the treated room, but was not in the signal chain as they found that the room didn't need it. Even with the 'passive' treatments, the room was so clearly better than the untreated one next door. It was such an eye-opener for me. Even then, I should emphasise that the untreated room sounded superb (just not as creepy good as the treated room). Gear in the room was Rockport Mira speakers (I think it was Mira?), Gryphon CD player and Gryphon integrated amp.

Gosh, I could keep talking but I'll try and end this spiel soon. Another room worth mentioning was the ZU Audio room - I really liked the speakers there, all the moreso because the front-ends they were using were quite humble. I find their speakers unique and fresh and would consider a pair at their pricepoints.

There were rooms I was very disappointed with, but I should hold my tongue lest it was simply that the rooms offered poor acoustics or had some other kink in the signal chain.

At the end of the day though, back at home base, I still like my system and find it unwanting of any immediate upgrades, although I'm sure I'll upgrade something soon just for the hell of it - you know how it goes.
Outlier , first let me say that your system looks really great!

I forgot to mention the Rives room . We were having a chat with Joe Kubala and he said not to miss it as we were leaving the show. We went back upstairs to the 4th floor for a quickie demo and stayed an extra hour going back and forth. Wasnt it Real Traps and RPG being used by Richard? Anyway, the demonstration was astonishing. In the untreated room , it sounded good for what they had put together. You might not have known just HOW good it could have sounded had the treated room not been right next door.

Upon entering the room , had you been blindfolded you might have guessed it was Ray Kimber doing his Isomike demo again .It simply sounded like a Quad recording . Sound that was maybe 2 dimensional in the untreated room took on an organic expansiveness that was at once natural yet surrounded the side walls and rear of the room with an ease and lack of attention drawn to itself.
This was a text book example of what we all need to be concentrating on if musical reproduction is important.
I also felt that Eliiot of Acoustic Image had the best sound at the show with the $40k ESP Grands. Believe it or not, those tall line arrays have 10 drivers each - four 8", four 5", and two 1" soft dome tweeters. Yet, the image and sound like true planars with nearly the same speed and immediacy, but seriously deep and tight bass. The sound seemed to eminating from a single point sourde.

The rest of the system used were massive $35k Wavestream monoblocks, two chasis $16k Messenger preamp w/ built in phono, Brinkman LaGrange TT w/ Brinkman arm, I think a Dynavector XV-1S cartridge, and the Lector CDP & DAC.

Yes, that's silly down-payment-on-a-house kind of money for a system that I would not nor could not ever pay. But.....

If I were ever to hit the Lottery, THAT, is how I would like my systems to sound. They played a solo classical piano piece that was so emotional and real sounding that several grown men were wiping tears from their eyes afterwards. I-shit-you-not! Honest to God truth.

The piece was off a supposedly impossible to find Helen Grimaud cd(in that vinyl room) "Chopin Ballade No. 1, etc." (Denon CO-1786). I don't know which track, but it was played with a heart-wrenching fury. All the more incredible because Grimaud was only 18 when she recorded it. It was played with the emotion of someone far beyond her years, and I'm not even a big classical fan.

CD picture

Ballade no. 1 in G minor, op. 23
Balladen, Kl, op. 23
Après une lecture de Dante
Chopin, Frédéric
Grimaud, Hélène [Mitarb.]
DENON Electronic
1 Compact Disc, Beih.
EST d. 1. beigef. Werkes: Années de pèlerinage, année 2 . - EST d. 2. beigef. Werkes: Sonaten, Kl op. 11. Interpr.: Grimaud, Hélène [Kl]. - Aufn.: Leiden, 1987. P 1987.
I made a mistake, I think Elliot meant that the vinyl release of Grimaud's performance was nearly impossible to find.
I liked the Ayre Electronics and the Vandersteen Speaker System. This room sounded excellent on Sunday because of equipment breakin but sounded very bad on the previous days. The show was mostly two channel with very expensive equipment. People visiting the show for the first time, or those on a limited budget, had to be in "sticker shock". I strontly suggest that future events have a hotel section for systems limited to $2,000, $5,000 and maybe $10,000 (max) for people to hear. It is very important for the industry to promote high end audio and you cannot do this with equipment priced so high. A section of an audio show with lower priced equipment will better promote audio and allow more people to hear something they can afford that sounds good. The attendence seemed low and I was disappointed that many mfg's did not attend.
Yes, I think manufacturers (and retailers) miss an opportunity at these consumer-oriented shows by playing mostly their top-end gear. The typical configuration has huge monoblocks on the floor connected to multiple sets of gigantic speaker cables with everything sitting on exotic woods and diamond studded stands -- the whole things screams EXPENSIVE (but doesn't necessarily sound good). Whereas a more modest set up (the Ayre and Vandy room was pricey but at least looked accessible) might get a consumer to actually find a system at the show they would want to buy and actually could buy. But I guess it's hard to resist showing off your supposed masterpieces.
Totally agree with Hgeifman and Drubin. The lack of lower to mid price stuff was concerning. While the ultra high end gear is interesting to listen to and gives people perspective of what is possible - end of the day, people can only buy what their wallets allow. Many of us, started with NAD and some budget speakers and then slowly trade up, when $$$ is found. Gear in this price point often provides great sound at prices much closer to what Best Buy etc. offers. A show that represents all of "high-end" would be great.
Exhibiting at the show is voluntary, of course, but Music Hall, Usher and others represented good value, imho. Even more would be nice, though.

**"06-07-06: Drubin
Yes, I think manufacturers (and retailers) miss an opportunity at these consumer-oriented shows by playing mostly their top-end gear."**

Interesting point, but I wonder if exhibitors/manufacturers have come to "state of the art" demonstration policy from years of exprience that the value/return economics is simply not in it for then to show mid-price($2k-4k) products.

I, too, was a little shocked to find very few components under $6-8k for display.
In our room (Joseph Audio) we played $2300 speakers (the new RM7XL) driven by a Manley Stingray ($2300) and an Ayre CD player ($5k or so) and a VPI HRX/Soundsmith Strain gauge.

The front end was pricey, but the speakers and amp were pretty affordable.

In the Moscode room, our new RM25XL's ($4199) were run on the Moscode amp ($5k) and a Placette Preamp, with a Yamaha SACD player.

Still affordable by High End standards, and with "more moxy" than many of the bigger systems at the show according to Wes Phillips.
The Joseph Audio and Moscode rooms were exceptions to my observation, and there were others. Kudos to them.
From a 'pure press' perspective:
I have often noticed that the rooms that get the press are the ones with the best sound, and not necessarily the best price. Just as in boxing , the bantam-weight boxer gets no credit for going against a heavyweight. Many rooms have personally bragged to me about having super-cheap cables or a low-cost low-powered amp, yet somehow, the bottom line is still the sound; and if that room's sound is not as good as it can be, it gets burried beneath the raves of sound of other systems.

From a 'end-user looking for nice equipment' perspective:
Many end-users rarely note the price of accessories such as cables and power devices. I often have seen rooms that brag about affordable components while running off cables and power devices which dwarf the cost of the system.

As sad as it may seem, even those systems pointed out by JosephAudio would not have qualified for the "sub-$10,000 systems section" suggested by Hgeifman above. In fact, I think that the only system I recall seeing at the show that qualified was the Onkyo room (and, not surprisingly, it was not a 'best sound at show' room, nor have I seen much press on it).

Bottom line is that if you are a boutique audio company with a cool product/component that doesn't cost a whole, you would still have the overwhelming temptation to be exhibited with a system that showed off your component in the best light (cost no object).

When you consider how expensive it is for exhibitors to show ($10,000 - $20,000), the incentives may just not be apparent to do otherwise.
I enjoy seeing and hearing the high-end stuff, just as I enjoy seeing a Ferrari test driver exercise a last year Formula One car at Laguna Seca. Most of us who have listened to audio for some time are only too aware of diminishing returns. The cost-audio qualty curve gets nearly asymptotic at pretty low levels of cost, and it's usually more a matter of preference. If you like a manufacturer's high-end (i.e. expensive) sound, chances are good you'll like their more price-friendly gear.

Chances are you will not go to Laguna Seca to see your neighbor drive his Chevy SUV around the track.

The sellers of discs and LPs seemed to be doing a brisk business Sunday at LA HE2006.

I have often noticed that the rooms that get the press are the ones with the best sound
I don't know. First, the statement products are no guarantee of good sound. Audiophile press reports alwasy include several mentions of the modest rooms that got good sound. But I think something else is going on, which is that rooms with the most exotic or impressive systems have a good shot at getting press, regardless of the sound. So that could be a motivator for exhibitors.

Don, we all like to hear the big stuff we can't afford. There's definitely merit in that. When I leave one of these shows, I have a short list of products I want to audition in my home. Nothing in the megabuck rooms gets on that list...but perhaps those products get on others' lists, who knows?
But I think something else is going on, which is that rooms with the most exotic or impressive systems have a good shot at getting press, regardless of the sound.

Funny, after hearing so much about the Lamm room, I finally decided to go see what it was all about. When I got there, I could only open the door 1/3 the way because the room was packed, and I mean packed, tight. I was able to lean my torso in far enough to see that it was filled solid with photographers and audio press. Someone from lamm was speaking, I think, and the audience was eating it up - they were hanging on his every word.

Conversely, I went a couple of doors down(I think) into the big Clearaudio room where they have every line of turntable they make along on wall and some strange futuristic, quasi egg-shapped, speakers driven by some massive monoblocks. I was the only person in there besides the reps. 4 rows of seats 5-6 wide, all empty except me.

Oddly, there were playing cd's - with all those TT's and even their statementtable, digital was on. I listened for a good ten minutes, but the sound was flat and uninvolving. Actually, mediocre, at best. As I left, I asked the rep how much for the speakers - his reply "$130,000".

I was also unimpressed with McIntosh's massive system.
Perhaps it's coincidence, but in my opinion some of the best rooms were single or dual manufacturer rooms. I enjoyed the all-Gamut room, and the Wilson/ARC electronics room. Many have commented on the excellent sound in the Ayre/Vandersteen room (although I found the sound marginal).

Anyone notice a similar theme?
You must have arrived when Steve Hoffman was doing his seminar - packed like sardines! Steve was regaling us with his stories including one about Ray Charles visiting Circuit City to buy a walkman - funny stuff and nice to hear the private side of a genius singer.

We were also playing selections from music he has mastered uisng our amazing Metronome "Kalista" CD transport & C2A tube DAC. Easily the best digital source I've ever heard in my reference system or anywhere. Breathtaking aesthetics, too!

More Metronome info at
I must comment on the Metronome room as well. The Kalista transport and Gaia turntable was something to behold. Visually , it might have been the most magnificent looking gear I saw at the show and the sound was layered and full of harmonic texture. A show stopping room for sure!
It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that the Primedia/Stereophile show in L.A. had relatively poor attendance by the Trade. (manufacturers, distributors, retailers, etc.) The show is horrendously expensive for exhibitors, and for that reason alone many good companies avoid it. Plus, as noted by others in this thread, attendance by the Public was not all that great, so why would exhibitors want to spend all that money to set-up there?
If an exhibitor is paying that much to show there, they are usually going to put their so-called "Best Foot Forward" and show their best stuff, even if it doesn't sound good in that room. Particularly with speakers, the smart ones show the smaller models that sound better in the room, and have the more expensive stuff on display.
Many exhibitors have felt in the past that if they do not advertise in Stereophile, they don't get the attention in the show reports - even if they have great sound. This is a common and petty attitude with other magazines and webzines too.
So, many of the good exhibitors ignore Stereophile and save it for better shows like the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest.
MacIntosh?! Don't listen with your eyes. They also had a huge set-up at the Montreal show in April, and it stunk! An award-winning musician had a booth set-up near that room and commented on the poor sound, as did many other people.
Loved the Nolas too.
Yes , absolutely . The Nola room was extraordinary. I couldnt get what I needed out of the sound because of the constant chatter all around me. They were however in my top 6 without question . I like the idea of putting the crossover in an external box behind the speaker. Very coherent soundfield and the speakers dissappeared .