Notable speakers at THE SHOW June 2011

Last weekend, the California version of THE SHOW took place in Newport Beach. The event turned out quite interesting and you can see the details along with the exhibitor list here:

I am writing with some news about notable speakers I heard at the event. I could not visit every room but here are four notable speakers without regards to price to begin the conversation…

Number 4: Tonian Labs TLS1 ($4300)
This is a new version of the TLD1 which features a modified SEAS driver and a modified ribbon. The speaker is quick and easily handles large shifts in dynamics. Minasian’s test recordings of drums and other instruments demonstrated a nice lively harmonic richness…while using a cheap CD player and an old Audiolab solid state amp… The speaker can rock as well as sing and it handled a wide variety of music with ease… Free jazz and “London Calling” sounded great! Thoroughly enjoyable with a no BS attitude!

Number 3: Legacy Whisper XD (~$20,000)
Big sound in a big room. The 1812 Overture never sounded better with reproduction of the full orchestra done beautifully. The speaker features DSP correction and the woofers are amplified internally; so all that is required is an amp to drive the highly efficient mid/high section. The problem? Small trios seemed too big…

Number 2: MBL Reference (~$70,000)
We were packed in a tiny hotel room in a *super* near-field situation with the speakers about 6 feet away at the most. The great thing? It did not seem to matter. A full sound stage with all instruments reproduced beautifully. No “hotel room” excuses offered or needed…Stunning…

Number 1: Tannoy Yorkminster ($18,000)
This is one that simply blew my mind. Ease of presentation, accuracy of timbre, all types of music reproduced with ease, a realistic sound stage, and a capacity for high volume without strain… all in a run of the mill hotel room (and Cary SET amps using 845 tubes). Measurements in the room apparently showed ½ db down at 20 Hz. We heard organ music, chamber music, orchestral with choir, variety of jazz, female vocals and on and on… The clincher? “Sympathy for the Devil” never sounded so right… and at an unbelievable sound level that made us all want to get up and dance.

Who else went to this event? What did you enjoy?
I enjoyed the show, but it was both more and less than I expected. I was disappointed that, for the most part, the roms were pretty bad but maybe that is normal for this type of event. Thye speakers that impressed me were:
1- Focal Grand Utopia (as usual)
2- YG Acoustics
3- MBL
4- the little Lindemann bookshelf speakers were amazing
5- Earo active horn speakers

I was least impressed by the Zu room. I understand that the room and the setup were compromised, and most of the music they played was grunge crap, but still I think that this was about the worst sound I heard at the show.
I liked the Marten speakers; very musical, with a gorgeous mid-range. The highly polished wood cabinets are beautiful too.
The Sasha speakers paired with VTL amps were a favorite also.

I took some heat in other threads for stating that the Zu speakers were well.. unimpressive. My exposure was at a Las Vegas CES (in a hotel room) --- and like you, I left there thinking "wow... that was not at all good." perhaps it was the setting or the room, the crap music... I am not sure. Zu has their followers and they are rabid.. but like you, my only exposure was at a show and I left unimpressed.

Zu people may hate on you as they have me... but thanks for calling them as you hear them.
I also liked the Marten Coltrane speakers. They were exceptional. I also thoroughly enjoyed the TAD Reference Speakers and the MBL 101E II speakers. A very enjoyable show. Hope they do it again next year.
Bodotes/Robsker- I think the Zu room suffered more from music/bad recordings more than anything. Sean even said that while i entered the room on Sunday. He put on a well recorded track and the system sounded quite decent to me---much better than Druids I had heard at prior shows.
Overall, I found at least half the rooms suffered from typical "audiophile" performance. That was a high level of detail, loudness, and good clarity but lacking in a sense of body, real dynamics, and musical realism.

Still, two stood out as my biggest speaker disappointments -

I agree on the Zu. In all fairness I had high expectations based on all the good comments their models receive here and other sites. But instead I heard an "OK" system, like 100s of others.

The other was the Tannoy Kensington SEs. Admittedly I had a previous audition with both the Canterbury SE and Yorkminster SE that presented some of the best musical enjoyment and connection as any systems I've heard. So I expected a similar experience with the Kensingtons, albeit with less bass. Perhaps it was the set up, they were on the side wall in the Yorkminster demo room which required a 90 degree shift in chairs. And they were driven by an 8 watt SET amp while Tannoy recommends at least 50 watts. But the result lacked the involvement and rich musical connection I expected based on previous Tannoy experience.