Thank you, Joe, for such a thoughtful and comprehensive post.
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Grant and Nate for your input!
It would be cool if we could have the information zipped up, with thumb pointing up or down next to each entry, along with a + one could click if they wanted to read the whole thing on the room. Oh well, check the other sites or wait for the mags to come out if you're looking for less information, and just about no opinion.
Must be the ghost of Freud in me when it comes to Jolida. Yesterday, I mess up Mr. Allen's name when I meet him. And, in the show report, I call his company Joliday. Yeah, you're not dealing with the sharpest knife in the drawer here...
It was a fun, low key show. That made for being able to listen to the components, and spend the time with the company owners and reps to get your questions answered. Though we expected otherwise, there was nothing of the mob scene the Stereophile Show in Manhattan is. At less than 30 minutes outside of NYC, for anyone within a few hours drive, I encourage you to make the drive there today to see a lot of audio gear you won't have the opportunity to get close to otherwise.
Thanks Joe, very nice. Just wondering since you mentioned sloppy lower bass on several speakers, do you think this may just be an overall room issue? I mean I realize the room is always a factor I just find it interesting that your comments about disparate speakers were so similar in that regard. Keep up the good work and feel free to share more with us. By the way, are you still involved with Fried?
Nice writeup! As one the pals who encouraged your writeup, I must again say that I wish I could have joined you there.
Couple of questions for you...
Did the Art Audio room have analog? I've heard good things about their new reference phono stage.
Were the FJ speakers you disliked the small floorstanders with the upward firing driver? I heard those at CES in the Quest For Sound room with the Consonance turntable and Allaerts cartridge and it sounded great! Regards,
Thanks for all of the feedback!
Johnd, somewhere in 2002 - 2003, I became a lot more critical regarding bass than I used to be. One day, while I was out auditioning speakers with a friend, I noticed the port resonance, and recognized it as distortion. It's been all downhill since then. Now, I'm far more critical of this kind of bass than many an audiophile.
While the tube renaissance is something I am a part of and welcome, the rise of ported speakers to near total market domination has brought with it a lot of poorly designed and implemented ported speakers. Most surprising, there is no correlation between price and engineering competance. I've heard a highly regarded $35K speaker in the past month, owned by an industry insider that was so flawed in this regard I was completely taken aback.
So, yes, I rail against this a lot. Getting involved with Bud Fried did nothing to hamper this tendency, as once you are exposed to better designed loudspeakers, those that exhibit this seem to bother me even more greatly now. I'd rather have someone either put forth more effort in design than put so much emphasis on quality veneers and/or finishes.
Drubin, I tried to look for the speakers on the AZ website, but I must apologize as I couldn't find the speaker I heard yesterday. Nevertheless, I think it was the model you are asking about - it did look like a TL. As I just spoke about the difficulty most manufacturers seem to have with ported speakers, I would venture to guess things become even more difficult for them when they try to do a TL. The saving grace is the one note bass issue won't be there. But, a TL is a lot harder than most expect. Bud obviously did a good job, but he used to confide in me that 99.9999% of people who tried simply used to screw it up - there's a couple of little secrets he told me about, and virtually every other implementation I've come across go directly against that and pay the price (like Meadowlark). It seemed AZ probably did OK, but I wasn't enamored with the speaker. I realize it impressed a lot of folks at CES, so perhaps it was the setting yesterday?
You're right, Spencer, you are one of the main reasons this thread exists - thank you! The Art Audio room did have an analog ride; what seemed to be a nice one at that. And, yes, that was the FJ speaker. Was not to my liking whatsoever, but I have been impressed with the smaller FJ speakers in the past. Maybe bad room?
Kubla, I don't think Cayin itself is a controversial company, apart from their roots, which doesn't need to be fleshed out here. I think a lot of what I'm talking about is the fact that it's a Chinese company, and whether we admit it or not, there is surely an anti - Chinese bias in audio. Some people in threads become a bit overzealous on both sides of the argument, and I've personally seen Cayin at the center of these debates.
Porziob, based on what I heard yesterday, so long as the word gets out, and about the only knock on the Dynakit people is that they didn't seem as industry savvy as some other companies, there should be enough buyers to keep the venture going far into the future. The product lineup looks to be built to an incredibly high standard, and a lot of audiophiles still feel they have yet to find a better tube amp than an old Stereo 70.
Finally, Joe, vinyl was all over the show. Definitely at the highest level, in terms of percentage of rooms, I have witnessed.
Thanks for the write up Joe. I, too, was there and concur that the rooms, like most of these "hifi hotel" sitatuations, did not do the systems any favors. That said I really wasn't very impressed with what I heard throughout the day. The only room that really impressed me was the High Water Audio display with the Horning Hybrids--that system made music despite the poor acoustics. Everything else to my ear was mediocre hifi. The Acoustic Zen set up was particularly disappointing given hype. I was also really curious to hear the Audio Note stuff and while I found their systems to capture the essential midrange quite well the idea of cramming speakers into the corner and the consequent collapse of any soundstage entirely unacceptable. Even with the bass boost that was supposed to be provided by the corner placement I also felt the Audio Note systems sounded thin and emasculated on the bottom end.
Overall, the show really didn't offer much in the way of musically involving stereo systems. I'll say it again--the rooms probably deserve most of the blame here but I have to wonder since the High Water system was able to put together some engaging sound in the same space as everyone else.
Im the Bob Z mentioned above. I just want to clarify my association with NAT/Quest. Stephen Monte is the owner of Quest for Sound (retail store) and NAT Distribution (importer and US distributor for Consonance products and AAD loudspeakers, among others, and creator of the Sound Quest products). I have no financial interest in Quest or NAT, but I am a fan of the Consonance and Sound Quest gear. My affiliation started several years ago as a Quest customer and I now consider Stephen a friend (even though I am a bit jealous of Stephen for running his own business while I remain a lowly wage-slave, an indentured servant to The Man). As I was planning to attend the VTV show I thought it would be fun if I volunteered to help Stephen out at VTV. I mostly hauled boxes in, unpacked them, packed them, and hauled them back out (a middle aged roadie if you will). Oh, and I occasionally dolled out misinformation on the products when Stephen was not available to more intelligently answer show goers questions. ;-) Sorry if I lead anyone astray with my woefully inadequate knowledge of the specs/pricing on all the various products.
Nice write up! Ill throw in my two cents on rooms I was able to spend more time in and enjoyed
VTV Show Sonics - I was unable to hit all the vendor rooms at the show. But, based on how I know the Consonance and Omega speakers to sound in other rooms Id agree with Joe and say the sonics were fair to good, but not great. Large speakers producing lots of bass did overload the small rooms. A bigger problem was that the listening positions were, in general, too close for many speakers (with the exception of monitors designed for closer positioning, like those in the North Creek room that you mention enjoying).
Dynakit - I too was impressed with the new Dynakit (http://www.dynakitparts.com) and so was Gary Krakow of MSNBC http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12689936/. Dynakit sells parts kits as well as individual replacement parts, including chassis, for the old units. I spent some time speaking with Kevin Devaney about the kits, including a walk through of the manual and a look at a partially assembled kit. Kevin has obviously put a lot of time and effort into getting this right and ready for market. (One of his associates mentioned that Kevin has put something like five years into this, and it shows.) The parts quality is outstanding (and all US sourced). The assembly procedure is extremely well planned and the manual provides all the pointers, tips, and tricks of the trade that an experienced assembler would know. Putting all this in the manual will make it easy for even a first time builder to have a Dynakit that looks professionally assembled. After showing the online manual to an EE coworker of mine (hardware engineer with 20+ years of RF design experience who repairs vintage audio as a hobby) he was most impressed and thought that the 35 could be easily assembled by a newbie in four evenings. (As an aside, the new Dynakit as no association with the current Dynaco.)
REX Loudspeakers The show proved that Vytas Viesulas Boxxer7 design works well in smaller rooms. These speakers have a punchy, articulate bass mated to very smooth mids and highs. They are not bright and convey the music in a non-fatiguing fashion that, to my ear, hides the presence of the crossover very seamless. And they are beautiful and beautifully constructed. The craftsmanship put into them is obvious.
Consonance - What can I say? I like the products. The Droplet CD player hooked directly into the Cyber 800 tube mono-blocks (78 watt) fed the Consonance M15 horn speakers. The closeness of the listening position to the M15s made them sound brighter to my ear than they are in a larger room but the setup sounded great overall and is extremely engaging. In spite of generally preferring tubes to solid state, I actually like the Forbidden City Turandot CD player (all SS) and Calaf Integrated Amplifier (hybrid, tube pre, with 200 watt SS power that is class A to 40 watts) with the M15. The room received many complements and many a folk with PRESS badges requested to make arrangements for review samples. When a PRESS person is tapping his toe to the music, the room must not be sounding too bad, right?
FJ Speakers - The Hudson Audio room is where I believe Joe was listening to the FJ speakers that you disliked. If this was the room, the speakers are the new three way FJ Super-OM. I spoke to Tom Hills of Hudson about them. They use a soft dome mid-range driver. My understanding is that the show sample speakers were straight off the boat, fresh out of the box, and playing at the show. In my experience with auditioning the smaller FJ OM and Mini, the FJ speakers need lots of run time to sound their best. Patience is rewarded with the FJs because when they are broken in they sound excellent. By the way, Tom is a great guy, very energetic, and (you will appreciate this Joe since you like your music LOUD) late in the day he could be found cranking up heavy metal and classic rock at balls-to-the-wall concert volumes. In fact, his was the only room that I know of that the hotel management asked to turn down the music as it was disturbing guests dining in the restaurant. That should add some points in the Super-OMs plus column for those who like lots of dBs!
Omega & Red Wine - I really liked Louis Chochos Omega Superhemp speakers in past auditions and the show conditions did not change this. These are great speakers to my ear and when I can get an in home audition, to prove whether they will fill my rather large listening room, they may stay with me. This was my first opportunity to hear the Omega XRS speakers and the Red Wine audio products. The Fostex based XRS was in the Dynakit room driven by the 17.5 watt per channel Dynakit 35. I was surprised at the amount of bass emanating from a single 4.5 driver. The tonality and timbre seemed accurate, the instruments sounded natural and real, if not full sized (in this case, the trumpet sounded small). In the Red Wine / Omega room there was a prototype XRS with a 4.5 Hemptone driver and this was also very good, and perhaps a bit warmer sounding than the Fostex based XRS. While digital amplification is not my cup of tea, I really enjoyed the Red Wine / Omega combinations. The music came across in a natural and relaxed manner; high fidelity without hi-fi exaggerations. When I asked about the source I was surprised to be told that it was a music server. A music server?! This is something that I had not considered but I must say that Vinnie Rossi (Red Wine) makes a persuasive argument with his modified Olive unit (numerous mods including change to battery power). If you want the convenience of a server but dont want to sacrifice sound quality this may be the way to go.
Nicely done, Bob!!!
Just to put my own two cents in, Bob Z. is one of the finer people you'll meet, audio or otherwise. It's always good to know people like Bob, and when they happen to share the same hobby as you, it's all the better.
I think Bob helping out Quest For Sound just for the heck of it on Saturday speaks to the type of person he is - he gets involved to help out with whatever is needed, with no thought of personal reward.
I must say that Vinnie Rossi (Red Wine) makes a persuasive argument with his modified Olive unit (numerous mods including change to battery power). If you want the convenience of a server but dont want to sacrifice sound quality this may be the way to go.There are many of us out here who are very interested to get some opinions of the sound of the Olive as it compares to other DACs. (I know the Olive is more than a DAC, but the DAC is the most important element in the box, IMO). It seems like an ideal solution to me...especially the Opus model.
Red Wine's battery-powered Monica2 DAC has made a great impression on me. Coupled w/Pioneer Elite DVD as transport, I'm getting sound much better than I expected at the price, and in some ways better than many more expensive digital rigs.
Vinnie definitely has some cool stuff out there! Cheers,
Awe shucks (I blush) ... you flatter me! Thank you for the compliment. I just wish the reality of me could live up to your fanciful description. If I was what you say, alls I would need is to perform a miracle and sainthood would be assured. ;-)
Besides, I had plenty of thoughts of personal reward, just not of a material nature. I was there from Fri-Sun as a mini-vacation from reality (I stayed the nights in the QUIET hotel next door to get a break from those ROWDY VTV vendors). The weekend was much cheaper than I imagine psychotherapy is, and definitely more effective than I know it to be. Now, if I could only convince my wife that T.H.E./CES is also great therapy. I cant understand why any wife would object to watching the kids for a week while her husband is alone in Las Vegas attending T.H.E./CES at the same time as the annual Adult Entertainment Expo (pornographic convention). Whats up with that?!?! ;-)
Stephen had other help as well. It was a pleasure meeting Henry and his son Kyle, local (NJ) friends of Stephen who also helped out Fri-Sun. Henry is a dedicated SET/full-range enthusiast who helped me gain a better understanding of what that has to offer. And teenaged Kyles enthusiasm for audio is inspirational and gives hope for the future of high end audio (get a high paying job Kyle, youll need it). And lets not forget about Larry Z who found time in his busy schedule to come up from Philly to help out on Saturday afternoon.
Thanks again Joe for your kind words.
P.S. - In rereading my show notes post above ... DUH! ... I meant doled out misinformation not dolled out misinformation. I are a engineer not a English professor. What the heck would dolled out misinformation even mean?
P.P.S. - Sorry to hijack this thread with meaningless non-audio related drivel.
The speakers with AER's were Lamhorn 1.8's, the amplification Tektron-Italia, both imported by Robyatt Audio. The amp plays 45's,2A3's,300b's,50's,Vt52's,463's.
The Technics SL10 had a original Sumiko Blue Point, bypassed the inbuilt step up and used direct into a Tektron phono stage(Mullard 12AT7's).
BTW. You are wrong about the AER's -WAAAAAAAy better than Lowthers,apart from 6c's and 7's. Smoother less ragged deeper bass. Youb probably just heard them with a 300B in line at the time? Should have heard the 50's or Sophia "Princess" tube!!!
Robyatt, thank you for your input.
I find Lowthers (own the PM6A and PM6C) to be far smoother than what I heard from the AER drivers, but will again say that the VTV rooms are not the be all and end all in terms of sonics.
For what it's worth, in our audio group, as far as I could see in our myriad conversations at the show, or on our discussion board afterward, none of us fell in love with the AERs. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, and say I'm more than willing to give them another shot, but for now, I'll take the Lowthers.
I did hear the 50s and maybe even the Sophia Princess, as I laid out you hot - swapping the tubes in the initial write up. I liked most of the tubes you tried in the time I was there (I remember 300B, 2A3, 45, 50), but I think the 50s were my favorite evem if it's now hard to recall.
Like the turntable. LOVE the amps!!!
Joe, great job on reporting the VTV show. I got that you were very favorably impressed with the Horning room, so perhaps I should give them another listen when the opportunity arises. I was pretty hopped up about them (from what I had read elsewhere) before attending the RMAF in Colorado last year, but was unimpressed with their sound at the show. They were in two separate room with two separate models of their speakers, but there was a common muffled quality to the sound in both rooms. I could only speculate as to the cause, but I wondered if it was the result of some kind of enclosure resonance/anomaly. If that was an inherent trait of the speaker, it certainly wouldn't win my favor. Some others I spoke to didn't seem to pick up on this coloration, but it stood out in spades to me. Just went away scratching my head as to what was supposed to be so great about them.
Therein lies the problem with shows.
Nice post, Dean!
First, in my opinion, you have to be honest. If you didn't like the speakers (or, any component or room), the right thing to do is say so.
Now, they might not be your flavor, they just might be bad speakers, or the room might not have been conducive to them making good sound. Them not being your flavor is always a possibility, again my "vanilla and chocolate" thing. If you are sensitive to a particular resonance issue you raised, I can certainly relate to that, as I have my own list of sonic faults that drive me crazy. It's a "princess and the pea" thing sometimes. A component being bad can also be true. The first two I give some leeway towards, but rooms not sounding good I have a lot less tolerance for. A company pays a lot (money, setup, time, aggravation, putting on a good face for a wide array of visitors) to get into these shows; not doing all they can to put forth the best sound possible is pretty much inexcusable.