TRELJA in New York, 2002

Well, another Stereophile NYC HiFi Show has taken place. For the second consecutive year, I attended. Like last year, I feel obliged to share my impressions on what I saw.

Before I get to the gear, I have a few general comments about the Show. Unlike like last year, when I attended on Saturday, this year, I went on Friday. My decision was to try and garner a better insight and listening position than the mob scene that was there on Saturday last year. The crowds were still impressive, however. But, I am sure Saturday was much more hectic. I could have also attended Saturday, as I was still in the city, and had 4 Day Passes. Also, I was there with my fiance.

I do believe those two things shifted my perspective on the Show; as I had a different feeling this year. However, my thoughts are that part of this may also be the state of the high end industry. I do hope that I am wrong, but I my impressions were that high end audio has lost a good bit of its zip over the past year. Yes, I know this is the truth. The economy has had a long, drawn out malaise, and audio equipment has not sold as briskly as it did two years ago. 2000 was probably the highwater mark. Audiogon was much more vibrant then. As were sales. As was the overall energy. And, we as a society are still not what we were before the barbaric events of September 11th.

My apologies for wasting this much space so far...

On to the sound!

If I have cast a pallor over the Show, that was not my intention. Many will be surprised to hear that my thoughts on what I heard are overwhelmingly positive. True! Unlike last year, where I was able to clearly identify several rooms with bad sound, that was really not the case this time.

In fact, please allow me to give my "Worst Sound of Show" award straight away. I don't think I will have too many people chasing me with blood in their eyes this time. It's Sony. Yes, after regretting for an entire year about missing Sony's Multichannel SACD Demo, I was able to sit in this time. Tickets are required for the 30 minute event, and I am told many are not able to get them. We got our tickets, walked around for the hour before our time. Ancillary equipment in the Sony demo were Manley Retro 250 monoblocks, and the revised Eggleston Andra speakers. An Eggleston subwoofer was also in use, although it should be unnecessary. In brief, the sound was nothing to have to wait for. The demo itself it nothing to have to wait for. The whole thing creates the anticipation we will encounter the best sound ever. I did not encounter any such thing. Or, even close. Things were OK, but if this is the Great Hope to save high end, we are being told to follow a false messiah.

I do think my feelings toward this demo are a function of my take on multichannel overall. As I got the same impression from all the multichannel rooms. What I always hear from the people who trumpet multichannel is "the hall", the sound of being at the live event, etc. I don't get that impression. At all. I feel as if I in a very artificial environment. As if my perspective is that I am in the middle of the band, only the band members are all 20 feet from one another. Me in the center. The sound coming from the front of me is fine. However, sound coming from either side, or the rear is not convincing. Or, even good. Not natural, in my opinion.

The reality is that this will probably become the standard of good sound. The audio press tells everyone it is so. And, judging from the success of DVD/HT, and the people's opinions who listen to it(the average guy), this is IT. I don't fear being in the minority...

One more mention of what I hear to be bad sound. Same as last year. Atma Sphere, pairing with the horn speaker company. I should really make it a point to remember their name(Classic Sound Reproductions? Classic something). Especially, if I am going to rip them two years in a row. Now, I am a big fan of Atma Sphere. I KNOW their amps are great. I know they can sound good. I even heard a track in the room this year that was almost decent. But, the sound coming out is mostly very, very bad. The horns are horrendous. Colored, resonant, congested. Destroying all of the magic that a great OTL amp, like Atma Sphere, creates. They do play loud. But, I guess I can use the reactions of my fiance as the indicator of a normal person. Like most people, she offers a reaction within a second or two. She walked out. Immediately. With the same expression a child does after a taste of anchovies. I stayed for a little while. Trying to hear some Atma Sphere magic through the haze of these horns. One cut did it. I could hear some inkling of greatness through the fog.

I have no idea why Atma Sphere doesn't see this as well. They are hurting themselves by being at the Show.

While I am on the subject of sound that could have been better, I should mention some brands who I like, but didn't put their best foot forward at the Show. Triangle. They do not know how to show their speakers. I am convinced of it. Like last year, they sound decidely mass - fi. They really are better than this. Pairing with Cairn also makes me wonder what the story is. Is it not interesting how Sam Tellig will spend two months on a company which no one in the US has really encountered before? They then show up with Triangle, whom Sam is the ultimate cheerleader for. Stereophile has been discussed here at Audiogon over the past two months, and this is the kind of thing that everyone gets mad about. My personal opinions of European gear is well known, but I am starting to wonder why Sam Tellig shares my views. Questions should be raised about how he is conducting himself.

Musical Fidelity could have also sounded better. They didn't really mate well with the room. Or, with Monitor Audio Loudspeakers. Kevro's David Solomon proved to be a more than congenial host. I offered a personal thank you to him for pointing me in the right direction to finding my Musical Fidelity NuVista interconnects two months ago. Sadly, he informed me that MF is getting out of the cable business. Believe me, there are many a cable I can list as being inferior to the NuVista products. All of them, a heck of a lot more money.

Linn. I am not sure if they want to demonstrate their sound, or the fact that they are big into HT and/or home convenience. They moved even further away from high end audio this year, going for a more "holistic" entertainment approach. Not that their sound was bad(not great), it was better than last year. But, they seem to be moving in the direction of Sharp and Zenith.

Now, the "Best of Show". I have to really take my hat off to the Joseph Audio/Manley room. It was really very good sound. Yes, the components were expensive. Most of the components at the Show are. They managed to separate themselves from everyone else. Part of it was getting the right room for them. Part of it was the fact that the new Joseph Pearl speakers are wonderful. While I like Manley, I have to say the reason things worked so well was the Joseph speakers, and the room they coupled with. Speaker to room interaction has to be the most underrated and most important relationship in the audio chain. Bravo, EveAnna Manley and Jeff Joseph!

Now, for some companies that I REALLY thought put out good sound. Just not "Best of Show".

Roman Audio loudspeakers. Again, like last year the best kept secret in audio. Electronics were different this year, but the sound was similar. Smooth, liquid, relaxed, warm, natural. What a series crossover offers. While I am on it, recent Joseph Audio speakers(like the Pearl) are implementing some series crossover topology in with the Infinite Slope technology. I am now a very big fan of Roman, having proven their merits to me twice. In very different rooms, with different ancillary components. My only fear is that I would need to prove that the speakers are not insensitive to the components feeding them. Not that I wouldn't be happy, as this is the kind of sound I crave. But, others should be warned. Those who prefer the cool, crystalline, or analytical sound should go in another direction.

Balanced Audio Technology. Not just in one, but in TWO rooms! One room solid state, one room tube(with the AirFoil speakers - not bad at all in the small room). Again, different ancillary components, but still great sonics. Natural, grainless, effortless. This is what high end is supposed to sound like. Like music. Steve Bednarski was the most cordial host at the Show. Whereas, most people have to be approached before talking to the public, Steve went out of his way to introduce himself to everyone, share a genuine conversation, and thank them for coming. Victor Khomenko was also splendid. As their company is local to me, their products are without question, and they are great guys, I really should buy something from BAT. Recommended to ALL audiophiles!

Rogue. Much better choice in speakers this year. Last year, they paired with Audio Physic. While I am definitely in the minority with my feelings about the combination, I have to be honest. I find the sound terrible. Bringing out the worst in Rogue. Cold, bright, sterile, thin. This year, Rogue mated with Meadowlark, and things definitely improved for the better. Much warmer, more natural, and full sounding. Mark O'Brien is a great guy. And, like BAT, a local company to me. As I am in the market for a new power amp for my second system, I think it will be the Rogue 88 Magnum. In my opinion, the Rogue Magnum Series is as good as almost anything sold. At the price, it is a no brainer. A component that should not be labelled a great budget amp, but a great amp. I would feel a bit of disappointment in not picking up an Atma Sphere or BAT, but I can only buy one amp. For a second system, money comes into play a good deal, and the Rogue takes a back seat to only the finest products. Mark O'Brien offered an invitation to my fiance to pick up the amp at their place, and take a grand tour of Rogue. That assumes we buy the Magnum.

Legend. I am still flabbergasted that the Legend Starlet integrated is a Class C Component on the Stereophile Recommended list. Even when the scale was more true(before JA), this would have certainly merited a Class B rating. Today, when just about anything from Musical Fidelity is Class A, the ranking of Legend is not an insult, it is an act of treachery. Coupled with the pyramidal monitors, the sound of the Legend monoblocks was rich, real, and ideal. Every experience I have had with Legend has been nothing but positive. This is a good marque.

Wilson Audio. Yes, I am on record for speaking negatively of the WATT/Puppies, but they sounded splendid. A good room helped.

The funniest thing I saw was Roy Hall performing the ultimate tweak. Consuming whiskey(Scotch, I would think) in the Creek/Music Hall room. That will make any system sound warm, rich, and ripe. Roy is a funny guy. Would love to work with him, I bet he makes every day seem like a vacation. I am disappointed about the $249 Music Hall tuner he believes he will not be offering. His feelings are that tuners are not a good seller these days, and he would need to import a few hundred in order to make the buy. I personally would make sure he sells one. If there are any others who have enough faith in Roy Hall and want a nice tuner at a great price, perhaps we can take up the cause. We could all write him, maybe that would be enough to get him to go for it. Let me know.

Jimmie Lee Robinson gave us a serenade. About an hour before he started to play for real. They don't make them like that anymore. The weird thing is that I almost bought a CD of his last week. I guess I have to go through with the purchase now. Buying it at the Show would have had it personalized.

Special mention to a super restaurant, Churascaria Plataforma. An all you can eat Brazilian bar b que. As they say, "Meat as it was meant to be!" Not for PETA members. One of the three great meals of my life. I can still taste it. Expensive, but everyone should try it, once.

Thanks to Stereophile for another Show!
Great post for those of us who couldn't attend. Thanks, Trelja!
Thanks for posting your thoughts Joe. Very entertaining to say the least and pleasant to read. Sounds like you had an overall good time and that came across in your post.

Personally, I like the Atma / KAR combo even though i think that the bass is a little loose on the KAR's. I know that not everyone always likes the same things even though we seem to agree on the Atma-sphere part of that equation being excellent.

I see that we also agree that the Legend gear is WAY, WAY, WAY under-rated. In comparison to the SS Musical Fidelity gear receiving Stereophile "Class A" ratings, i would call the "Class C" rating more of a "crime" or "dis-service" to say the least. No comparison between the two in my book.

As to your comments about the Sony demo, kind of funny how one can throw money and brand names into a room and still come up with a mess. An expensive mess at that. Just goes to show how important system synergy and working with the entire installation truly is. Sean
Thanks for the post. I'm looking for a good tuner -- my Marantz can't pick up a station if it's life depended on it (come to think of it, it does). Sign me up! Thanks again.
Great post, thanks for sharing your thoughts; anyone else have any thoughts from the show??
Great post!!! I agree with all of your thoughts.Especially the one about more rooms sounding better this year.I was so impressed with the BAT/System Audio room that I believe these will be my next purchases.Although I think I will go with the VK-500 instead of the integrated.But the integrated was oh so impressive.And as for the Joseph Audio's,they were fantastic,however a little out of my budget at this time.We went on Thursday this year and it was heaven.Almost as if we ahd the whole show to ourselves.Everyone was so friendly,not like the Saturday crowd from last year.Thanks Joe,great perspective on the show.
I am glad to hear that I wasn't the only one underwhelmed by the SACD demo. It was bad enough to hear half of Diane Krall's band in the rear speakers, but the sound was simply no good. I had though about getting an SACD player to replace my aging Pioneer PD-95, those plans have been shelved for the time being.

This was particular surprising considering that they had a lot of room treatment and used the same Manley amps that made the Joseph room the ultimate experience for me (and easy best of show vote). It may just be that Eggleston speakers and I are incompatible, I also disliked the $40k Savoy biamped with a lot of CAT tube power (a total of 64 6550s!). I also agree that those horn speakers that was playing with the Atma Sphere were horrible.

There were plenty of other high-priced disappointments (Rockport/Halcro, Krell multichannel, Pipedreams).

I also enjoyed the Legend setup. I think I like the speakers more than the amps (hard to separate them from a short demo).

The Wilson demo was a very positive surprise (those speakers take too much flak) and I liked the Tact setup a lot too.

Let me end on a positive note with Innersound. They played their electrostatics in a small room and still managed to get wonderful sound with inexpensive electronics. The guy played some of his own 2-microphone DAT recordings and a young female singer doing "O mio babbino caro" at a competition years ago brought me to tears (and getting that kind of emotional response is what this hobby is all about for me).


Most of the music played was mediocre. I know that exhibiters try to play music that make their equipment sound good (and you accept that the music is a bit boring because of it), but why do we get people playing uninteresting music that doesn't even sound good.

It is probably not a coincidence that the best sounding music I heard at the show were the abovementioned 2-mike DAT recording and a 1959 Armstrong recording (single Telefunken) that Jeff Joseph used as his last demo example (*). Simplicity rules!

That record (yes, vinyl) was so good that I almost felt that Joseph audio was getting an unfair advantage by using it. The speakers were great and the other music he plays sounds really good, but most people walk away from the demo dazed by the sound of that record.
I fully agree with TRELJA on Atma Sphere. I love OTLs, and although I've not heard the Atma Sphere before, I really had high hopes for their sound just based on all that I've read. I came out of the "Morris" room (Atma Sphere room) quite dissapointed -- must have been the speakers.
Hi Joe; Thanks for sharing your observations on the New York Hifi show, I really enjoyed the read. Cheers. Craig
Thank you for sharing your impressions. I was there on Friday as well and for the most part enjoyed my stay. I had the opportunity to speak with some of the manufacturers and found them all to be gracious. I found two presenters and their systems to be superior to the others that I had heard. I also would like to tell you that Gilbert from Blue Circle Audio was a great guy and deserves our business. I believe that he is in it for the music, not for the money. He was not showing his equipment so I cannot comment on the sound.

The two presenters and their systems were the solid state Balanced Audio Technology system and the Totem Acoustic system. The BAT room featured their integrated amplifier, their VK5SE CD player and a pair of two way monitors from a Danish company called System Audio. I was blown away by the clarity, depth, and low end of this system. The speakers are model SA2K-M and I believe that we will be hearing more about these speakers soon.

I found that the Totem Acoustic speaker room was almost as musical as the BAT room. I was very impressed with each speaker in the Totem line. They all seemed to really emotionally connect me to the music. Many different types of music were being played and they were all executed well. A speaker line worth looking into.

This was my first show. It was fun to speak with the people who I have read about in the magazines and have spoken to online. I saw people who I had purchased from and people who I had sold to. I look forward to attending more of these shows in the future.
WOW !!! Either the KAR's have been changed for the worse or something was WAY different from the show installation that i heard. As i commented before, the demo that i sat through using Atma amps and KAR speakers received a standing ovation from a crowded room !!! As i mentioned in another thread, that combo was one of the three best at Hi-Fi '99. Talk about a turn-around !!! Sean
While I hate the notion of a $175,000 system, I have to say that the Lamm, Utopia, DCS system was as good as it gets.Not spectacular sound, but just beautiful, natural sweet music with the most musical bass I have ever heard. I left this room depressed.I agree that most of the other supersystems were disappointing. And yes the Atmasphere demo drove me from the room .
Thanks to everyone for the feedback! I think a thread like this really belongs to us, and invites all to offer up their impressions. I am but one person, and certainly no authority.

It looks as if we all were on the same page with BAT and Joseph. Great sound from both of these fine companies!

In regards to the Atma Sphere/KAR room, it seems we are all in agreement. Sean, perhaps the horns need what you have recommended in the past, some horn "dampening". My impression is that they sound very hooty. It seems as if the horns are resonating to the point of fogging up the sound. The room they played in this year was of the same dimensions, and I believe it may have even been the same room. It is a high ticket affair, on the 2nd Floor. Where people like Sony, Wilson, Linn, and the Registration are. Maybe the speakers are different than those that sounded so good before.

A few things I have left out...

Coincident. Not sure why they were AWOL, but they were certainly missed. I am kind of at a loss to explain it, as I would think Coincident would be one of the healthier companies. More so than Legend, Innersound, etc. I planned on picking up a pair of speaker cables, but Israel was nowhere to be found. Actually, I was prepared for it, as I had read they wouldn't be showing earlier in the week.

I also missed Western Electric. Their 300B amp was the coolest looking amp of 2001. Even if they didn't play it. Not in attendance this year, at least I couldn't find them. Was really gassed at the sight of their amp last year. Too bad.

Blue Circle. Like Drewfidelity, I didn't get a chance to hear them in their room. I forget who they were showing with, but the "other" company(not one of note) was doing all the playing. Blue Circle did win my "Most Interesting Component", with a pair of blue high heel pumps that had mono block power amps built into them. Funny.

Anyway, as I have just purchased a Blue Circle BC3 preamp, they definitely have my vote as being a maker of great audio components. I feel their preamps are as good as things get in high end audio. I am sorry that others didn't get to hear the magic of Blue Circle.

Totem. As has been mentioned by Drewfidelity, Totem offered up some very nice sound. I have been around Totem for a long time now, as my friend sells their speakers. They had their stuff together at the Show. Which to me, would be a prerequisite of showing up in the first place.

Maybe I should take notes or something. But, doing all of this from memory causes me to miss as many as I hit. One brand I would like to mention, without remembering their name was a very unusual speaker company. They showed with a triode tube maker, and used a single whizzer cone. Their speakers were very well finished, and featured funny dimensions. About 3 1/2 feet wide X 4 feet tall X 6 inches deep(approximately). Very clear, fast, and fun sound. I know someone will remember these. They were in the bottomost floor. Saw the amps last year.

It may be me, but I really have to say that good sound was all over the place this year. Very, very few rooms were not good. And, even some of them were OK.

Like Musical Fidelity. I hope I didn't come across as MF sounding bad, they were not. They were just average. Triangle/Cairn, they could have used some improvement. My feeling is that Triangle really needs tube amplification, and excellent setup.

Hopefully, others will jog my memory about notable rooms I came across.

A weird thing was ebay. They really put up a strong front. To the point of having a whole row of computers, where people could jump on, and bid on merchandise. It kind of seemed out of place there. I mean, did people actually spend $25 to attend the Show, only to log on to ebay, and bid on a Pez dispenser? I guess I don't get it.

I would like to say something about Sony. And SACD. A couple of weeks ago, I picked up a demo Sony SCD - 333ES SACD player for a very low price. I didn't expect much. I mean, it is a Sony. It should be thin, harsh, brittle, bright. Sizzle, without the boom. I figured, "What the heck?" At the price I got it for, I could always sell it for at least as much as I paid.

I expected it to be bad. It is not. In fact, it is a wonderful player. I would characterize the sound as warm, full, rich, and forgiving. Bass is powerful, definitely unexpected. Usually, you have to buy a VERY good player to satisfy me in terms of bass, fullness, and richness. This player does. Last week, I picked up some SACDs. Even better. Does it leave me as if I have just gone to the mountain top? No, but the sound of SACD is quite good.

My only criticisms of the player would be in refinement, detail, speed, and delicacy. They could all improve. A lot of very upmarket players sound more refined. This player has kind of an EL34 sound, whereas a lot of expensive players do not give music that kind of sunny, warm glow.

I fully believe that when people like Ric Schultz, Stan Warren, or Dan Wright mod this player, it makes up all of the distance it lacks with the ultimate machines. Parts upgrades are just inline with the direction this player needs to go. Along with getting rid of its awful captured power cord. So, in going in to this whole thing, I figured that I would just mod it. But, I am happy with the sound as is. It is not the best I have come across, but I am happy. So, I am torn in taking the sound to the limit, or keeping the 5 year Sony ES warranty intact. Hmmm, have to think about this one.

I guess my point is that Sony can make a nice player. So, if anyone can find a nice two channel player, I recommend buying it. Had they kept their focus on two channel, maybe a lot of us would have converted at some point. They did not. Instead, they drew their aim on multichannel. Newer and better? It seems as if we are all not fans of multichannel. I bought my player because it is two channel. I have no HT aspirations. It is basically the same player as the SCD - 555ES, but 2 channel vs. 5. I like the two channel player. It offers the interesting digital filters, to tailor the music.

But, one thing that REALLY would turn me off with a multichannel player is how they default to multichannel. Two weeks ago, in listening to the Cary Rocket 88, I used some Marantz SACD player. It would always default to multichannel. And, on the James Taylor SACD, it would be Shawn Colvin singing instead of JT. Until, 2 channel was switched over to. Annoying, and not for the audiophile.

Sony, Philips, get it together. I know I am dreaming, but I think they would do well to go back to stereo. You could make a lot of us happy.

Ozfly, if you are really serious(as I am) about jumping on the Music Hall tuner, I think we should give it a go.

Again, THANKS to everyone!
It´s really interesting having an impression on what´s like to attend such an event. I´ve been in expositions but mainly for my previous job in the chemical industry and look forward to having the chance to attend an "audio" show.

I really apreciate the time and effort you took for sharing with us.....
Did Music Hall show the Tubed Cd Player from China.
Wow, it's amazing how we hear things differently sometimes. Sean, there is a first time to everything and I couldn't disagree with you more about the Atmasphere/KARS system. When we were there people were leaving so fast you thought there was a fire. One of my friends commented that it sounded like the biggest, worst (no insult intended) Radio Shack speakers from the 70's. A stranger muttered "what were they thinking". IMHO the second worst system I have ever heard. We all loved the MBL system. I was alone on my enjoyment of the Tact room. My friends really didn't like it all. I can't help but think that this system requires(!) one to sit in the sweet spot as I found dramatic differences from different listening positions. My friends were so turned off that they didn't even want to give another seat a chance. We all felt that the Thiel 1.6 were the best value despite the electronics. The Chesky speakers were promising. Despite the the criticism they recieve here, I continue to be impressed with the Wilson Watt/Puppies always sounding quite nice with different electronics. The Pipedreams didn't deliver, but couldn't help believing they could with a little coaxing. Biggest dissapointment was the paucity of music. Too many demos of drum solos. Second biggest dissapointment, lack of ehibitors. Where was Dunlavy, Huff, German Physics, Cable Company, etc..Best demo, hands down, Samsung across the street. Despite the flaws in plot. Free popcorn,soda,candy and a T shirt with the best picture and sound I have ever heard at a movie. Thank you Samsung. For those who care we ate at the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station. During the last two weeks of May you can enjoy the Holland Herring Festival. Genever Gin, herring at it's best and a truly great offering of oysters, yum!

Hi all. I have been visiting this site for about two years but not submitted anything up until now. Having read Trelja's review of the NY show I feel compelled to add my thoughts.

I too visited the show on the Friday and suprisingly agree with nearly all of Trelja's comments. And I thought I was the only one at times sitting in demo's wondering why the Emperor wasn't wearing any clothes!

My over-riding impression from the show is that you do not have to spend huge amounts of money to get a great music system. In fact, I preferred nearly every 'modest' system to the so called 'state-of-the-art' systems.

So, firstly the major awards;

Best sound; Legend a fair margin. Not familiar with this crowd but their darkened room with all Legend equipment was sensational. 100w of pure triode pleasure. Smooth, liquid and real. I went back a number of times to this room just to check I wasn't dreaming.

Worst sound; A number of contenders but due to my prior expectation level, Halcro/Rockport.

Great sound;
Totem/Plinius (first time hearing these speakers and both models on display sounded fantastic)

Good sounding products;
Atmasphere (I'm putting them here because I have the gut feel that they were screaming out to be in better company at the show)

Stuff I didn't like;
Atmasphere and the awful horn speakers
Merlin/Joule (ok everyone...what's all the fuss about?).
Linn (well, didn't like their confusing exhibit)
Tenor/Pipedreams (another letdown based upon their reputation)
Eggleston Works speakers
47 Laboratory

Further thoughts;
Best video product; The DLP based Infocus projector for $5k.
There were more woman at the show than I expected.
A better show than I was figuring on.
What's with mainstream audio reviews? I'll put money on the major's putting some shoddy precis of the products at the show.
If Trelja is right and any Legend product is Class C I'll eat my hat...
Most manufacturers that I got to meet were the nicest people (Mark from Rogue, Victor from Totem, Ray Kimber, Ole Lund from Gamut, Jeff Joseph). It's fantastic that we have audio lovers like these guys that make great gear for us all to enjoy.
It's amazing to me that basically every contributor to this thread has similar assesments of what we heard at the show. Why can't the audio press be so clear on their ratings and thinking? (that's a rhetorical question!).
I did not see every exhibit and I think two days would have been the ideal amount to time for me to be at this show.
Multi-channel sounds just wrong for music...even a lot of movies sound wrong in multi-channel.

Anyways, can't wait for the next show! I had a great day in NYC.

Thanks for listening to me everyone.
Great review Trelja. Thank you for sharing your impressions, and thanks for putting such careful thought into your detailed words (or for putting such careful words to your detailed thoughts). In any case, I read every word of both your posts and found them enjoyable and informative.
Thanks to all for offering up their views!

Flyboy9999, please offer your thoughts in the future as well.

What a difference a year makes! Last year, after ripping Talon, I had two guys who just wanted to kill me. This year, Sony and the horns paired with Atma Sphere elicit nothing but agreement. I hope that Atma Sphere is reading this.

Natalie, the tubed Shan Ling CD player imported by Roy Hall was at the Show. My thoughts on the player may raise a few eyebrows, but here goes. I think this is a fine player. However, I also think that the hype about this player is overblown. We all(myself included) fell in love with this component based on its picture. The exposed tubes, the funky styling, the silver color, the transformers. My opinion is that the player looks better in a picture. In person, it seems a bit cheesy. I also question the build quality.

This is a $2000 player. There is a lot of competition at this price point. $2000 is where the really esoteric players begin to show up. I am not sure the Shan Ling makes that cut. At $999, it would be a no brainer. However, where it is priced, I have to pass. Not not recommended, but not recommended. A buy it if you like it.

Personally, I feel that the Music Hall MMF-25 CD player is the one to buy. At $600, I feel it is about as good as almost any CD player under $1500. On par with the Shan Ling, I think its close. They are different, and despite being a tubeophile I prefer the MMF-25. It's more open, silky, quick, and airy.

In fact, I bought one a couple of months ago. It's a very musical sounding player, the sound is light, airy, detailed, refined. A great deal better than anything at its price point: Cambridge D500 SE, NAD 540/541, Jolida 603, Arcam non Ring DAC players, and the Rotels. I put it in the league with the MF A3 and Arcam FMJ 23. I like it much better than the Rega Planet, but I find the Rega slow, dark, and plodding. I can only criticize the Music Hall's horrendour remote(it's even worse than that), and the fact that it doesn't offer the most powerful bass response(I find the vast majority of CD players do not, but this player's bass is quite good).

I forgot to mention Merlin. Personally, I like Merlin. They were in two rooms. The rooms were next to each other. I didn't pay them a whole lot of attention(so I cannot say who they were presenting with - my apologies), but my feelings are that one of the rooms sounded good, and the other did not sound good. On the one hand, I question why they would show their speakers with ancillary components that did not flatter them. On the other, it tells me the speakers produce what is being fed to them. I am not sure if they deserve their $6000+ price. I would probably opt for Roman Audio.

I have also forgot to mention Reference 3A. They had the guts to team up with Antique Sound Labs. An upmarket speaker with a budget amplifier company. I admire that. While the sound was not great, it was OK. I personally feel that Reference 3A should have found a more romantic tube amp. But, for those who like a fast, forward, analytical sound, you would probably be pleased. I prefer more warmth, but we all have different tastes.

Another company I forgot was Thor. Thor sounded great! If you are a tube fan, you would be smitten. Warm, rich, full bodied. To me, what tube fans buy tube amps for. Classic, romantic sound. But, very different from some of the newer tube companies like Rogue, who are more neutral. I would love to own some of the pieces that Thor displayed. But, that will not happen. Number one, the monoblocks were $16K. Number two, the looks are really unconventional. A lot of people would find them ridiculous. Blue lit large acrlyic(?) slabs. Hmmm. I kind of like them, but if I ever got tired of the look, I would be in trouble. And, the eccentric looks would not be kind to resale. You would have to REALLY love these to buy them. The most difficult thing is yes, they do sound THAT good.

I think I may have a bit more perspective on my opening words from the Show. Having thought about them more. It seemed as if there were about the same number of rooms as last year. But, I think the overall vibrancy took a big hit. I did list some reasons, but I would like to add that perhaps last year, 4 companies being prominently featured in a room was the rule, not the exception. Perhaps, the density was higher last year, and that was the difference. I noticed a great deal many more companies in attendance last year.

Maybe, it's me?
While trying not to be redundant with what's already been written, have to comment on Legend/Von Gaylord Audio . Was simply drawn into the room by the sound of a gorgeous female vocal - pure seduction. Returned 3-4 times hoping to try a couple of my own jazz and orchestral cds without success due to crowds. Love to hear if anyone else has heard them with other music.

Roman audio. Loved the sound up until I was able to test with a favorite cut of Coltrane's "Gentle Side of ...", and the timbre of the horn was just wrong! Weird. May have been that my ears had been wrecked by a full day of being assaulted by then.

The Audio Physic Virgos sounded very good on short listening, and the Hovland Sapphire amp looked great, along with the Thors my favorite "look" of the Show.

Joule/Merlin room disappointed at first, in a crowded room with music played at ear bleed levels. Returned and got to hear at a more reasonable level, and understood why this combo is considered one of the standards in the industry.

Speaking of ear bleed sound, after several attempts managed to listen to the Von Schweikert/Spectron multichannel demo. Sound level must have been 120db, but I thought it was the only multichannel room that showed that the technology may have some potential. Of course with 5 VR5-HSEs plus subs one is talking about around $70k in speakers alone! But the Von Schweikerts and Spectrons sure seem to work well together.

Biggest disappointments? Pipedreams (although crammed into unsuitably small room); Rockport/Halcro (the only thing to excite the senses in the Lincoln Room were the stunning RixRax racks, which, along with the finite elemente Master Reference Pagodes, were the best I saw).

Biggest personal mistakes: somehow missing the opportunity to hear the Joseph Audio/Manley setup and seeing the Samsung Plasma tvs.
As there is a lot of misunderstanding of multichannel and why it sounds one way or another I feel ,after the past month of participating in some amazing demonstrations ,I must offer some of my opinions.As it is well known I have a strong affilation with Sanibel Sound and am very proud of the products we offer and the new technology we are bringing to the U.S.If this post is biased I hope you understand I have 25+years as a retailer and over 30 as a hobbiest and also am a performing musician with over 40+years of experience.
I find it very interesting that people will make comments about the "new" technologies when they really don't understand the real differences that exist from one to another.I personally have been a 2 channel advocate for most of my career and have not been eaisly swayed by the hype of new formats without being personally convinced they are improvements over other existing technology.As my retail customers will tell everyone we have never recommended SACD or DVD audio prior to this posting.I still don't feel SACD's all it's drummed up to be and the reasons were made clear to me over the last month with the help of Dr. Mark Waltrip Ph.D President and CEO of AIX media group.
I know this responce is long but it does get to my impressions about the sound at the Prime Media homeentertainment-expo and is about DVD-A recording and playback as I currently see it and not as nearly focused on equipment.I should mention the Dr.Waltrip is a professor at UCLA teaching digital media and recording and is ,as far as I'm concerned ,the top or around the most informed expert in this field.
We have provided, thru our retail store, some of the most sought after and highly reguarded equipment offered to the audiophile.I feel it's important to mention this as qualification for some of the statements I'm about to make.We have been in the past and always intent to be the first to push the envelope with new and important technology.Our list has included brands such DCS,Accuphase,Tenor,Kharma,Lamm,Dodson,Halcro,Audio Note Japan,Quad,Verity and numerous others and we are somewhat responsible for their visibility today.As you can see by visiting our website there are new names emerging as some of the most intriging and revolutionary now available.This is my exact point pertaining to DVD-A.
We participated in a seminar in Greensboro ,NC the week prior to the N.Y. show and used a similar system to N.Y. but with a few very important differences.Our front end was a more mid line product and the preamp was also a processor with analog pass- thru for multichannel playback.I was truly intrigued with the sound and immediatly saw the potential.This was a $10,000 processor and a $3500 player so they were not slouches.The amps were basically the same and the cables ,line treatment ,and power cords were also the same.As good as this was little did I relize that upon placing the Meridian 800,861 combo ,and replacing one amp so we had matched Aloias on all channels ,what I would hear would forever change a die hard two channel afficionado into also a die hard advocate for DVD-A playback. It must be noted that the recordings we used were native resolution discs recorded and produced by Mark and his partners and are not representive of commercial recordings and are truly labors of love.This is dramatically different as opposed to remastered discs placed into a format offering no more resolution or dynamic range than the originals.As a matter of record I must say I hear the new distortion introduced along with the old and this is one of the reasons I have balked at both new formats.Not the case on AIX and Hi-RES.These things are amazig.Never have I heard better or more interaction between players in any musical style.Whether it's vocal,classical,jazz,folk or any other type music this has to be heard to be believed.Adding much greater dynamic range,lower noise,and greater availability of spaciousness only stands to reason it will destroy lesser mediums.It does.The point I want to make here is this demo was produced as a somewhat all out attempt at "hi-end DVD-A" playback and may not be applicable to most comsumers but neither is the highest end 2 channel.I urge anyone to encourage your retailer to set-up and demonstrate this at the top level and I would be interested to see the reports.Unfortunatly we could only give a concise presentation to 20 people at a time limiting us to about 7% if the traffic was at 15,000 people as originally projected but the ones who did hear this were generally in agreement,It was awesome.
I expect to hear a lot of naysayers about this post either placing it as a market tool or a huge hornblow but this is how I now feel.In the last 2 yesrs I listened to about 100 live performances including thse National Symphony of the Netherlands doing Mahler, Keb Mo 3 times, Jackson Brown solo ,a dozen times for great Braizilan and other latin at Zink bar on Houston in N.Y.,Bela Fleck and the Flecktones,David Sanborn with full symphony etc.I do know what live music sounds like from an audience perspective and also from a performers perspective and I must agree with Mark this is the closest ever.
I have encouraged Mark to do a writing to explain in detail the differences in DSD and DVD-A and will have it available asap.Please contact us or watch for a post so you may aquire it when available.You will be suprised,as I was, at the differences and why.
To close this long post I enjoyed hearing that one of the conductors on Marks recordings for the first time was able to listen from his perspective and was really excited.I will also mention these recordings have 2 channel,Audience perspective and ,stage perspective ,and some interesting video if your so inclined.Good luck hearing this format it is truly an eye opener.If you would like a complete list of equipment and recordings please feel free to contact us by phone or web.
Steve Davis
Forgot to mention my most fun at the Show award - Gilbert Yeung of Blue Circle, with his preamp purse and 25w monoblocks in a pair of pumps. Great guy (says he's 33 but looks 18 - perhaps perspective, I'm pushing 60) and nice sound from Kirksaeter speakers, which have to be the best inexpensive speakers I've ever heard.
Flyboy9999 write: Best video product; The DLP based Infocus projector for $5k

That was my impression too. I was very surprised to find the best picture at the show from a relatively inexpensive projector together with hardware (NAD, PSB) that were quite inexpensive. I didn't look at that many video demos (only had 9 hours), but it was better than the Krell/Farouja.

Thanks for the report. We in the boondocks appreciate it. I also found Hififarm's comments interesting concerning DVD audio. The most telling comment was regarding the recordings being a labor of love. If more artists, producers, engineers took this approach I would be a happy man. All the new whiz-bang gizmos will never be able to fix a compromized recording session. Garbage in, garbage out.

I applaud equipment manufacturers for keepin on keepin on in spite of the lack of overall committment in the software side of our hobby.

Thanks again for the post. It's was informative and well written.

Happy listening,
Hi Everyone!

It has been interesting reading all of your comments on the show. It seems that everyone who posted had a great time and was glad they were there. I had a ball this year and was very excited by the number of attendees, most of whom seemed to be enjoying themselves a great deal as well. I can tell you that the feeling in our room was overwhelmingly positive throughout the show.

I'd like to respond to a few posts, but before I do I would ask you to consider in contemplating what you heard at the show that the larger rooms are more difficult to tame, especially in the time allotted. Unsound wisely pointed out what a different experience he had visiting the Tact room at various times and leaving with a different impression depending on where he was seated and how many other people were in the room. Grandpad mentioned the same thing about the Merlin/Joule Electra room, with the extreme experiences of being dissappointed the first time and understanding why this is one of the most highly regarded combinations in the business the next!!! Well Grandpad, imagine taking what you experienced in their room to one of the large rooms. The extremes are even further apart. The larger rooms are more difficult to integrate the speakers into in the short set-up time allotted and the nodes and points of reflection take more time to sort out as well. We voiced our room for 3 out of 24 chairs and often had more people standing than sitting during our demonstrations. Not only does that totally change the characteristics of the room, but imagine the difference in sound experienced by someone in the sweet spot as opposed to someone 5'6 surrounded by people 5'10 in one of the back corners! I don't want to sound like I'm being defensive, just offering some food for thought.

Natalie, Roy did have the new CD player at the show, but I didn't get a chance to hear it. His MMF-25 is an incredible value, as is every other product he offers. Based on that alone I'm willing to bet it's going to be great. After I've had a chance to hear it I'll follow up with you.

Brunhilde, the Savoys were being run with only the new CAT JL-3 monos. They were bi-wired, not bi-amped. The other two amps you saw were running the center and rear channels of the video portion of the system.

Flyboy, you mentioned that you liked the sound of the CAT amps and pre, but not the Eggleston Speakers. I was wondering how you came to this conclusion?

Thank you to everyone who took the time to stop and introduce yourselves to me. It was a great pleasure to meet so many of you and to be part of such a successful event.

Mario, I have to agree with you re: seat placement, relative stature (I'm the 5'6" guy) and the inordinate # of people sharing the listening experience. Obviously the point of the show is to get comparitive impressions and perhaps speak with the designers, not for serious auditions. I do disagre with you re: relative room size. I thought many of the smaller rooms may have suffered from early reflections too little spacing between speaker to speaker and speaker to listener. The close proximity of rear channels may be why I didn't care for the multi channel exhibits (very distracting and unnatural). On the other hand I found the larger rooms to suffer less from crowding and to offer better presentations despite the often seen artificial rear walls. The smaller rooms could not fit much room treatment. Even TacT used a tiny bit of room treatment in thier rather large room.
Well, it seems like a distant memory to us right now, but Stereophile has entered the fray with this year's Stereophile NYC HiFi report.

I am happy to see Wes Phillips contributing more. I think he is an excellent reviewer. In my opinion, Wes is well written, entertaining, and does a good job in conveying the sound of a component.

It seems as if Stereophile and us are mostly in agreement. The sound this year was good almost across the board. There are some differences in our reviews. Mine is a hack job, hammered out from whatever I can remember upon logging in to Audiogon after my return home. It's a wonder I don't throw something in about the Mr. Softee truck parked outside, definitely a highlight. People in NYC or Philadelphia will understand - everyone else will think all manner of crude things. The professionals take the task much more seriously, and take notes, pictures, use a digital voice recorder, have meetings and an itinerary, etc.

Another difference between us is how things can be presented. We will both sing the praises of a room that has great sound. But, I have never read a show report in Stereophile that said anything negative. If it isn't glowing, it will just list the components, ancillaries, and maybe some prices.

As the impressions of me and my fellow Audiogon members have been previously submitted, they can be contrasted to the opinions of Stereophile. It seemed we members are very much in agreement this year. Mostly good sound, some great sound, and a couple of poor sounding rooms.

The Joseph Audio/Manley room fared very well in everyone's opinion. Personally, I think a significant reason was the room and the speakers. Excellent match, and not possible in most show rooms.

The Wilson/VTL room was also universally praised. I have not been a fan of late of the WATT/Puppies, but this is a new revision. Good sound is good sound. I have to give the devil his due, this was better than good sound. The room was big, which Wilsons need. Excellent move. They did a great job in presenting their product.

Some others were Roman Audio and BAT. I did think that Legend Audio was really nice, and wonder if there is anything between Legend and Stereophile. I guess I overreact to the Class C Rating. Audiogoners checked in quite enthusiastically, yet Stereophile paid them little space. On the plus, they did throw a picture in of the speakers, but could it be because they were really showing off the Wilson Benesch, which most of the Stereophile reviewers mentioned?

Speaking of Wilson Benesch, they garnered praise from every direction in the Stereophile coverage. I can't comment, as I really didn't give them much of a listen. But, the amount of praise might be a bit over the top. Any opinions of Wilson Benesch at the Show?

We did disagree on some fronts. Most importantly was the MBL room. Mentioned in superlative terms at several junctures of the Stereophile coverage. I forgot to write about it previously, but I found the sound quite bad. Very unnatural. Bass with boom, probably a result of the bandpass alignment. Midrange that did not integrate well whatsoever, in addition to being harsh. Screechy, irritating highs. The best description I can use for the overall sound of the speaker is unnatural. Yes, the looks are love them or hate them. Personally, I love them. But, I do not like the sound, at all.

Atma Sphere/Classic Audio Reproductions room opinions seemed more or less universal here on Audiogon. Horrendous. Yet heaped with lavish praise by more than one Stereophile reviewer. I really cannot explain this. As I said, I don't expect Stereophile to trash the room, but they don't need to throw out these kind of superlatives either. I cannot say they do not know good sound, because they do. But, outside of their review, most people clearly thought it was dreck. And, I know that Stereophile is not in bed with Atma Sphere, as I cannot remember any recent ads or reviews on either party's side.

The Sony/Manley/Eggleston room was tremendously underwhelming to me. 5.1 channels of put me to sleep sound. I can only wrench at the cost of this system. Figure something like $10K/speaker + sub + maybe $5K/amp. Whew, maybe upwards of $100,000? Many an audiophile could best this for about $2500. But, we all know what is going on here, it's SACD and Sony.

The Blue Circle power amp pumps and preamp purse are ridiculous. Period. I am disappointed that they get so much positive press. I fear Gilbert Yeung may actually read all of the press clippings, and waste his talent on this type of folly.

Next, a brand that I admire, but like Atma Sphere, have not sound good at a show. Triangle. Very unnatural. Congested sound. Classic case of the box getting in the way of the sound. Praised by several at Stereophile. One quote even went so far as to call it "most realistic orchestral sound of speaker I heard at the Show that cost $3000 or less." Huh?!?

I may be in the minority on this one, but I am not so fond of Dynaudio's latest efforts. I find the sound dry and uninvolving. I don't feel much emotion there. Not the kind of speaker I could ever love. Vanilla, white. They really make no statement, which one could argue is the ultimate statement. Then, there is the price... It may be just a function of me tending toward a more romantic sound. As I said, maybe it's me, a lot of people seem to love Dynaudio. If this was a different company, I would probably rip them as being boring and way overpriced, but I have a lot of fond memories for what can come from Dynaudio kits, drivers, and the like.

I do wonder why Musical Fidelity didn't get more ink. Basically, just got what most companies got. MF is beyond being a Stereophile darling. I am a big fan, but it is definitely not the last word in audio. Not even close. Well, maybe it's coming next month.

All in all, I must say the writers this month have done a yeoman's job. Hopefully, next month will bring more of the same
not all. I do concur with Robert Hartley on the Karma/Lamm room but can't say that it stood out more than "among the best". I believe the Joseph audio room to also fall into that category due to the room, speakers and the controlled demonstration. It was very well done and the musical selection, especially the finale, St. James Infirmiry by Satchmo on 45 RPM vinyl, was about the best thing I heard at the show. I bought a copy. It was absolutely a life like portrayal of the performance. Louie was right there all right.

I disagree with you on the Wilsons. I was initially impressed but after about 5 minutes the Wilson/ear synergy started going awry, maybe too loud or maybe too bright? Something wasn't right as it always seems to happen with Wilson and me. The Legend system was very nice for what they played but it was all very light, acoustical music, nothing too dramatic to test the system. Tonally very nice and a great choice for a small room. I did go back a few times.

The Roman Audio system I have heard before in a dealer showroom and they struck me the same way at the show, bold and dynamic but they didn't move me at all. Too rich for my tastes which equates to too much flavoring. I would recommend extended listening before committing to them. Some will love them others will hear them as I do. The dealer loved them with Cary and I'm scratching my head, what am I missing here? I didn't tap my toes but did my fingers, impatiently waiting for the demo to end, not a good sign and a perfect example that we each have our own tastes in how music should sound and be served. There is no sure thing in this hobby.

I would put the Merlin/Joule Room right up there with the most musically enjoyable. Possibly because I own them and didn't have to try to analyze their presentation, I just enjoyed the music. The Anatares were impressive but I'm sure I didn't hear them at their best, the Pipedreams weren't singing when I listened although they did have nice staging with great depth and the promise was certainly there. Sure would love to hear those Tenors further. Has anyone out there listened to Merlin/Tenor?

The Sanibel Sound multi-channel room was interesting but I don't need to sit in the middle of the orchestra to enjoy music. Fascinating demo it was though. I DID very much like the seamlessness of the Piega speakers used and would love to audition further. But no tubes, too bad! Innersound was very nice and furthered my long term impressions of stats and planers in general, wonderfully coherent, boxless sound and natural tonality but the dynamics are too subdued which robs the music of life, and I haven't ever heard a subwoofer mated to a stat that did didn't bring attention to itself. Maybe the big Soundlabs?

Unfortunately I only had a day (Friday) to spare and couldn't change my impressions of the systems which showed potential if not magic.
A comment on the Sony SACD demo, I too was underwhelmed by this presentation. They played a Stones demo that sounded terrible and I did not like the Diana Krall Multi-channel mix. However, I have to say Sony did a nice job last year with the SACD demo. They played passages where the rear only added ambience. I remember a recording of a church choir and the rear only provided small info. It sounded scary real. In my session they also played a unrecorded jazz selection again the mix was true to the recording with ambience info to rear channels. Again very real. The only selection I hated from lasts year's demo was a James Taylor mix. Like this year's demo I really did not like hearing instruments from the rear channel. Very unrealistic. I'm sorry I can't recall specifics, but it was over a year ago.

Based on a very brief demo of multi-channel SACD, I think it has potential. However, part of it depends on how they end up mixing the recordings. If it's to truly reproduce the original recording: GREAT! Unfortunately, I see this going into funky surround recordings that appeal to the mass market. Just my thoughts.
Tubegroover, thanks for your input. As always, a fine job.

By, the way, I agree about Merlin speakers. I am a very big fan.
P_mmk, I wish I was able to see last year's demo.

Not directed toward you, but multichannel in general, I do not have a ton of exposure, but I can say that from what I have encountered so far, no thank you.

First of all, the mixes I heard seemed to try to impress. It seems as if they think that I should be in the middle of the music. When I go to hear live music, I am just about never in the middle of the band or orchestra. They are on stage, and I am off stage. I don't think its so great for the engineer to put me in the middle of the action, as it is not real. I do not blame the engineers, they are only making a living. The task must be daunting. Especially, in light of the fact that history has taught us that a 2 channel mix is difficult to do correctly.

I have also so far failed to see a multichannel disc that presented the musicians in the space they normally occupy. Something that stereo at its finest does quite well.

I cannot disparage the sound of the high resolution formats. However, the sonics are the same in two channel or 5.1. SACD is SACD. As 2 channel seems more realistic to me, I have no compelling reason to move away from it. I also have no interest in buying another 3 speakers and a dedicated subwoofer for my main system.

Just one man's opinions...

I have to agree with you. Sometimes the mixes sound ridiculous. It doesn't even sounnd like you in the middle of the band or orchestra unless all the musicians sit about 10 feet apart or more from each other!

However, when listening at a concert venue (not a studio), there is sound that does reflect from walls etc. And it's that ambience that could be captured in multi-channel sound. I know little about recording so the rest of this may make me sound clueless. I can see a recording where mikes aren't placed at only the musicians, but elsewhere in the room. If these were then recorded and mixed to faithfully reproduce the original event, couldn't at least the potetial for a more realistic recording exist?

I'm sure doing this is not easy, but to me the potential is there. I agree this probably will not happen since the guy who bought 5-7 speakers at Best Buy wants to hear them all working at once. Realistic or not.

So until then, like you, I spend most of my money on 2 channel. My surround and center speakers don't match my 2 front speakers and neither does the level of electronics for that drive them.

Paul and Trejla

I don't buy into multi-channel other than to extract the ambience of the venue. This was originally done digitally by the introduction of the Yamaha DSP-1 digital processor which came out in the mid 80's. In addition to your main speakers and amp/pre-amp an additional 4 speakers and a 4-channel low powered amp was required. What was so nice about this unit was the infinitely variable adjustments that could be done to extract the natural ambience of a recording or embellish it if one so chose. I had very good success with this unit until I moved 10 years ago. It couldn't be used in the new room. I had the settings set minimally so that it wasn't even apparent that music was coming from behind or to the sides of the main speakers. The set-up was 2 speakers to the side of the mains, preferably to the back and above and the 2nd pair at the rear corners of the room, elevated.

The key to using the unit successfully was to keep the settings minimally set so it wasn't apparent that anything but the main speakers were playing. The only clue that the processor was in the loop was when when the surrounds were muted. Eveyone really seemed to enjoy the music more with the processor in the mix, even my audiophile buddies. What I didn't do was run the main speakers through the the DSP-1. This dramatically denigrated the sound as you can well imagine.

In retrospect I really don't know how this would appeal to me now since I haven't listened in such a while but I think in the right room and set-up properly it would be a bonanza to otherwise dry recordings and really great fun for live recordings. I had a lot of great listening times in the 5 years I had that unit in the system and there are times that I wish I could capture in some recordings what it offered. I still have it along with the M-35 amp that I used with it.