T.H.E. Show in Los Angeles

Just returned from T.H.E Show and if you are able, you owe it to yourself to stop by. While its impossible to seriously visit each room for a serious listen, I popped in to many rooms as was convenient while taking in each floor. I started at the 10th floor of the Hilton and worked my way down. its amazing how many start a the bottom and work their way up. I never stood in line for an elevator and only a couple of times did I have to wait to get into a demo. In the interests of being kind and giving every exhibitor the benefit of the doubt, if I thought the sound in their room didn't measure up I'll chalk it up to show conditions in a hotel room. Many were able to overcome it, several did so to such a degree that it was astonishing. Without further adieu, and I'll keep this short, starting at the top.....floor of the Hilton that is.

1035) Stopped by Audio Note, very good. Always want it to be incredible but it seems to fall just shy for my tastes. VERY good though.
1001) Empirical and Vapor, ok sounding, but with great potential....it was early.
805) Upscale Audio, always cool, no music was playing when I stopped by but Kevin Deal is a great guy and has done more for the tube side of the hobby than he is given credit for.
716) Evolution Acoustics. Nice sound from the MM1(?) speakers but the room was boomy or lean, depending where you sat. dude was adjusting lights on the speakers and should have been working with placement.
709) Voxativ, driven by tubes, a little too loudly as to screw up the balance of the speaker. They were showing their smaller stand mount single driver and it was nice but nothing special. Steve Hoffman was there in front of me and being chapperoned by a big guy, who seemed very deferential. Needs a haircut.
703) KEF. Playing the LS50 stand mounts. Simply the best buy in audio....I'm going to have to buy some of those to support a company that puts out a product like that. They would shame MANY of the floorstanders at the show and the midrange was just right.
704) Fidelis. Showing Wilson Benesch speakers which they now distribute for North America(USA?). Nice and smooth, imaged very well. Dont remember the electronics. The speakers were real eye candy....a dark burl gloss walnut!
603) Katli Audio. Went by the room, Fred Kat is a great guy butno music was playing, I didnt see Fred in the room and I kept moving. pass Labs always sounds nice though.
619) Venice Audio. Peter Selesnick was showing Harbeth 30.1 speakers and Naim electronics. Outstanding sound and a great guy. Those 30.1's are too small to sound that full. Nicely done.
San Clemente Room) On a Higher Note. Vivid speakers sounding great.
Monarch Ballrooms) The Source A/V. Showing McIntosh, Boulder, D'Agostino. First of all, the D'Agostino gear looks like it was made by Bugatti. Very nice. While the black with copper accented integrated was impressive, I thought the equipment in natual aluminum was nicer looking. D'Agostino monoblocks playing through the big Focals was breathtaking. Probably 30 seats and there was a line to sit and listen. No worries though, it seemed no matter where I went in that room, it was the sweetspot, huge, natural sounding performance reproduction. Jason Lord of The Source is always good for advice and he'll tell you straight, a great dealer. he also had a room full of MBL but I didn't want anything more that what I'd just heard from the D'Ags/Focal.

Arium Hotel
Lobby) Burmester stand mounts were very, very good.
230-232) Blackbird Audio and Profundo playing Trenner & Friedl Pharoh speakers and Heed amplification. Profundo was playing Viba tube Gear with the RA Box. Nice mids but something wasnt right for me. Bass was absent for the RA Box which cant be right based on what I've read. Both rooms were playing too loudly.
231) Wavetouch. Makes small standmounts with what looks like small horn guides for each of the 2 drivers. The owner of the company was quite courteous, left you alone and let you listen. The were terrific sounding, I was surprised. Attractive aesthetics.
222) MSB. MSB electronics and Wilson Benesch speakers. Wow. Wow! You could walk through the soundstage it was that 3d. Smooth, elegant, dynamic. The gentleman in the room named Vince was very nice, accomodating and I was shocked to discover they borrowed the speakers for the weekend. This room had the sound that led me to believe this equipment was purposely matched with those speakers....maybe they should in the future.
219) Volti. Beautiful and large speakers. Sounded better than any Klipsch I ever heard. The owner apologized when I walked in that the music was too loud but some VIP wanted it cranked. What a nimrod, (the vip not the owner). The speakers were rocking but hard to tell about smooth it was so loud. Worth a second look.

Various headphones and amplifiers and DACS. Standouts were Audeze and Woo, Chord Hugo.

My best of show was a tie between the Source A/V/D'Agostino/Focal combo and the MSB/Wilson Benesch Rooms. YMMV
It appears that audiogon posted this after the show closed. Unfortunate but oh well. What rooms did you guys enjoy?

Thanks for the roundup. I wanted to but didn't make it as my left knee is acting up and standing all day was not an option (have to look into that some day).

Glad to hear the KEF LS50s sounded so good. The last time there I heard the R900s and thought to myself: I could easily live with these babies. I don't see why they don't get the press and accolades they deserve. That goes for the entire R line.

Your appreciation for the Wavetouch speakers makes me wish I had taken up an offer for review (as a layman).

All the best,
What about the Big Basis Audio turntable? Get to see?
No I didn't although, while I appreciate the engineering and the last drop of the performance that can be wrung out of vinyl, Its just not worth the fuss to me so I simply keep moving. Those Rube Goldberg style turntables are cool as heck though. I also like mechanical wristwatches and manual transmissions.
The comments I heard on using the DSD format were very confusing to me. All 8+ people on the Saturday DSD panel highly recommended we start using DSD immediately. They spent time discussing the recording process and the benefits of DSD but did not answer the operational questions that I had. This includes where to down load the DSD files to (not in iTunes folder, DSD needs separate folder), how to add album art, how to send it to a DAC (cannot use iTunes) and other questions on what DAC to use. They mentioned that some DAC's accept DSD BUT convert the DSD stream to PCM for processing. They mentioned other DSD recording problems that I did not fully understand. DSD format modifications were mentioned for improved sound such as double DSD and quad DSD. These higher sampling rates are, most likely, not available to the general public.

I discuseed DSD with Amarra and they mentioned that a Amarra DSD capability is a work in progress but had no other comment. I was told that other software packages were available that already supported DSD today (MAC to DAC). I discovered the IsoMike disks (Kimber Cable) I purchased included a DSD layer but I cannot load them to my MAC Computer. I have the Oppo 105 in my video system and plan on using these DSD disks in the Oppo 105 to see how they sound.

In summary, my feeling is that DSD is a work in progress and not ready for everyone to start using. Some people I spoke to said listening to DSD recording produced outstanding sound quality but others were not in favor of the DSD format. After hearing the discussions at THE Show, I have no plans to start using DSD format. I am going to continue watch it but no use it at this time. I am keeping what I already own that works fine.

I wish the audio industry could settle on a single high quality format and be done with it. However, I know that technology is always changing and so new formats are a fact of life. I

I would be interesting in hearing what others have to say about DSD to include how it sounds compared to other options.
First of all, buy Pure Music for your Mac. It uses iTunes as a filing medium only and can handle all of your format needs. DSD is not that big of a deal to implement. It sounds great, 24/96 sounds great, they all are capable of tremendous results. Personally, I think you are overcomplicating it. File location is also not a big deal. Pure Music will drop a bookmark into iTunes file system and it will be there just like all of your other music. Relax and try it. You can download a no obligation trial version of Pure Music. Even if your dac is not DSD capable, Pure Music can downconvert on the fly so you can buy DSD music now and buy a capable dac later. Visit the Pure Music (www.channld.com) website and read up. There are plenty of outlets for DSD music right now, acoustic sounds is one. Also, go to www.computeraudiophile.com and read up. Should be helpful for you.
Thanks for this write up!
Do you remember if the wavetouch speakers were powered by SS or tube?
PBN Audio with the new VPI direct drive turntable was stunning. The Zesto room with TAD speakers was right up there for best of show, and I believe the sleeper of the show was the Lawrence Audio room with their Cello speakers.
I have an EMM Labs DAC 2x and some DSD files I play back over USB to take advantage of the DSD conversion on the EMM Labs or over a BNC connection that converts back to PCM. I use a Baetis Revolution II music server and can honestly say the DSD files sound better played through the BNC connection on the Baetis and converted back to PCM! I think the real issue with DSD is the poor transfer of bits over the USB connection and the BNC connector I have sounds better in PCM than the USB sounds in DSD. The marketing hype on DSD got me and I wish I had kept my very musical sounding EAR DAcute 192 tubed DAC that could easily handle the DSD files converted back to PCM via JRiver Media Center 19. By the way, I have had audiophile friends over and have played the standard CD, the 24/96 and the DSD version of the discs I have in all three and everyone agrees, the playback sounds best over the BNC in PCM versus the USB in DSD and in some cases the 24/96 version was preferred to the DSD version. This is the dirty secret in audio that few, even the reviewers don't know or won't admit; that PCM done right over a SPDIF or BNC connection sounds better than DSD over USB connection.
Sutphen, the wavetouch were powered by a mosfet amp, if I recall correctly.
Hifimaniac, thank you for sharing your experience and I find your conclusion very interesting. I do have one question though. Did you reach your conclusion only using the EMM Labs DAC, or have you found similar performance with other DSD capable DACs? If you have only used the EMM Labs in this test scenario then the "dirty secret" as you call it may just be due to the implementation of the USB vs. SPDIF receiver circuitry in that specific DAC, and may not therefore be the case with other DACs. Thanks in advance for your further thoughts on this matter.
Hi Bill K, I know the same result occurred in the Berkeley Alpha 2 DAC when this test was tried. Beyond those two I am not familiar with any other DACs this was tried. All I am saying is DSD isn't all it is cracked up to be and you can get excellent sound converting to PCM on the fly that in many case surpasses that of the native DSD. Personally, I believe the reason is the USB connection not being made for audio like the BNC or a SPDIF is. Try it yourself with your own DSD DAC.
We (the LVAC) have pics of this show. Enjoy.