Trelja in New York

Well, here it is. My own personal show report. I guess I should be ashamed of myself. Taking up all of this space and all. First, I regret that I did not meet anyone from Audiogon at the show. The show had a MUCH larger attendance than I ever could have anticipated. I mean it was gigantic. And many people there had no idea about high end audio. Second, my lucky day! While I was standing in line to purchase a ticket, a guy announced that the show sucked, and was offering to give his away. Guess who the lucky recipient was? Well, I was able to save the price of admission. I did give my $4 coupon to the guy behind me. Now, for the show... I was disappointed in the sound of most of the rooms. Other than exhibitors displaying on the 2nd and 4th floors, the rooms were just too small. It was a joke. Virtually everyone displaying on the 9th, 10th, and 42nd floors were in bad rooms. Especially, those on the 9th and 10th floors. These manufacturers simply overpowered the rooms they were in. Sound was horrible. One exception to the "too small room" set was Talon speakers. A lousy sounding speaker in my opinion. Thin, weak, and underpowered. Anemic. They definitely get the "all show, no go" award. This is a speaker with a 5 digit price tag? I wonder how someone who owns this speaker feels. They were eclipsed in the "biggest disappointment" category however. By none other than the $85K Dynaudio Evidence. Yes, they play loud, and without strain. That is the best thing I can say about them. But, they need to go visit the Wizard. They have no heart, or soul. These two speakers are proof positive of two things. One, you don't have to spend a lot of money to get good sound. And two, brains and money do not necessarily go hand in hand. Next up for duds was the Creek demo. Nice turntable, but their amp/speakers were terrible. I have heard Creek amps sound a heck of a lot better. Poor job by a good company goes to Rogue. I forget the other companies in their room already, and they should take my lead. Their electronics are a bit pushy, and need to be mated with speakers and cables which are more mellow. It was not the case here, and the sound was bad. Linn was also getting poor sound, despite the fact that they were in a good room. Too much bass and brightness. Are they going for the boom and sizzle crowd? Silverline and Triangle speakers can sound much better than they did at this show. And what is going on with Alon these days? Here was a great speaker company. Their new products seem to be aimed squarely at Donald Trump and Fabio. Expensive would be a supreme understatement. What happened to this company, with its value oriented philosophy? They would dominate just about any room. Nice treble coming from the Raven tweeter. Guess that answers our questions. Seems to be a great, high sensitivity tweeter. Should we think of this tweeter for the SET crowd? Another disappointment, Red Rose Music. They are coming hard, but give them a good listen, and see that if you stop listening to what they tell you you are hearing, the sound is definitely not worth the asking price. Don't believe the hype. Nice treble though, ala the ribbon tweeter(just like Alon). One more. Whoever that horn speaker company is who was in the Atma Sphere room, please GET OUT of the speaker business. Now. And Atma Sphere, you did yourselves a tremendous disservice by teaming up with that company. Fundamentally flawed is all I can say about those horns. Speaking of horns, I was not able to listen to the AvantGardes(ran a demo every 30 minutes), one of the few I could not hear. As I said, most of the sound was bad. I wonder how I would feel if I was showing my products with this kind of sound. Mortified, I think. OK, enough griping, let's get to the winners. First up is Trelja's "Best of Show" award. It goes to the Vandersteen 5s, driven by the new Cary V12 amps. By a landslide. A LOT of companies should take a lesson from what these guys are doing. Impressive. Most impressive. Next up is "Most Stunning" component. This one is also a landslide. The forthcoming Western Electric 300B amps. Yes, you read that right. Art deco. They are not yet operational, but coming in the summer. Just let me put it this way, if they sound 25% as good as they look, they will be the best amps you can buy. And, actually a bargain at $16/pair, complete with WE300B tubes. JMLabs speakers sounded great. These guys are pros. Coincident took the "Best of Show" on one of the tough floors. I know I may seem to lack credibility on this one, but it is true. They did not destroy their sound, and that was enough to earn them the Blue Ribbon. The word smart comes to mind when thinking of the Musical Fidelity room. Unlike Rogue, they mated their products very well. Enough so that the whole system sounded warm and full, despite the new MF line being more neutral and analytical. These guys understand what good sound is. They used Analysis Plus cabling, and it was good(Megasam knows a good combination when he hears it). Merlin speakers struck me as something to try to hear more of, despite not sounding well in their rooms. Cary amps sounded good in most of the places they were playing. Mirage sounded good to me, despite having one of the empiest rooms in the whole show. The Joule Electra room(I forget who they teamed with) fell into the same group as Merlin for me. Not spectacular at the show, but I would like to hear them in a better setting. Dick Sequerra was a prince to me, despite being a God in this industry. Israel Blume was also stellar, though he is not yet a Dick Sequerra. All in all, not a bad time. Just that there were far too many people to be able to give some companies a really good listen. I think less attendance would be a boon to people like us. We would be able to focus more into every room. Hope everyone else who went enjoyed themselves.
Trelja, I must commend you on your systematic approach towards reporting on the show. You must have taken notes, and even with them I do not believe I could have been so thorough. Thank you for your report, your opinions, and your defense of the manufacturers doing a poor job. I will now relay a story of one manufacturer.

I have a friend who is building speakers. He was playing them for days and days before he carefully packed them for shipment on wednesday. When these speakers were set up the first time in the room friday they were horrible. (as told to me by my friend) They experimented with room treatment and to no avail. The bass was really missing and the stage was not up to standards. My friend told me "I was about to pull my hair out" when the cause of the bass problen was found. One of the walls was between them and a storage area. This wall was very thin and was causing the problem. My friend told me had they not discovered the problem he would have pulled the speaker from the show. It was 10 PM when they started tearing the system down and moving to a better position. It was very late before everything was ready for the show.

I felt that everyone should know that some people do care how their system sounds and apparently others do not.
May I repeat my question? How many rooms had no or poor acoustic treatment? BTW, thanks for the thorough post.

And Joe, thanks for bailing out my 5350SE. I have been crying for a couple of days now, but I have just unpacked her and put her back in the system where she belongs. Whew, that was close.

Trelja - there is really no need to defend yourself against the naysayers. You are honest and heartfelt and, above all, reasonable in your observations. Your fairness should serve as a model for all who frequent this site. The criticisms you make are not about taste. Plainly, people need to realize that so much of the gear is hyped and should never see the light of day. Instead of a cornucopia of wonderful sounding-equipment (which I yearn for when attending audio-shows), I ALWAYS come away feeling duped and cheated. I have few brand-allegiances, nor do I like to "trash" various manufacturers, but on no account am I willing to tolerate high-ticket or highly advertised components which are just mediocre-sounding. Hopefully, this wonderful forum will engender a more critical attitude about what really constitutes good equipment and help to purge this otherwise great hobby of the detritus that some are unwilling to acknowledge.
Thanks Trelja for starting this. I came away with a little different impressions. As my mother does not celebrate anything anymore I spent all 3 days at the Hilton.
My take on the TAS room was that the sound was decent and the presentation well run. But together with some other rooms are addressed to Bill Gates and family. It is usefull to listen to the state of the art but I am more interested in things that I can hope to acquire some day. In this same league I would place the mbl system that occupies half the surface of a typical living room. However it sounded very nice especially given the constraints of the small hotel unit. I was not impressed by Egglestone and in the past I have liked their Andras. I think that Egglestone the person is not connected with the company anymore. The Airfoil hybrid is intriguing but with serious appearance problems ( and I have no spouse to contend with). In the cost no object level Lamm monoblocks and Utopias sounded impressive. Vandersteen lacked some magic. Spectral MIT Wilson : the bass was simply too much for that small room. Sonus Faber Amati hommage next door sounded more delicate. I, also agree with the reservations of others regarding Red Rose (they did feature SACD and a middle aged New Yorker salesman with regulation pony tail though). The Europeans who featured VAIC tube amplification with Ultimate Line (? not sure about the exact name) speakers produced superb results (speakers for $38000 featuring a tweeter made of diamond plasma). Cds were playing through the complete dcS chain. I enjoyed a lot the downstairs space of Headroom where one could check virtually every headphone under the audiophile sun starting from Grado sr60s to Sennheiser Orpheus . Included were Stax and every specialized amplifier. I ended up investing in a pair of Beyerdynamic 931 and the Wheatfield tube unit. I also liked the Grado amplifier.
Any opinions on the Tact? I think they are into something and both presenters were extremely were informed and pleasant. Their room compensation method works as it was easily demonstrated (on the other hand perpetual technologies was a disappointment; they played through Martin Logans that I never liked anyway and in a A to B comparison the sound was different but I would not say better with the compensation). Excellent sound I found in both AudioPhysic rooms both driven by tubes . The smaller Spark speakers were combined with Rogue Audio. The larger AvantiIII with Hovland. My vote for the best sound was this system fed analogue by Immedia and Lyra Helikon. Very pleasantly surprised I was when I discovered tucked at the end of 2nd floor Roman Audio (based in Texas and not in Italy). They featured a speaker they call Centurion that is a reworking of the drivers inside the Cabasse Farella. As noted already the crossover employs the diaural system of Kimber. This $5400 system sang in a pure Krell room and for my ears was better than the Krell LATs speakers upstairs ($10000). I concurr with the positive things said about Legend. In the large Linn room the CD12 sounded better than the LP12 combo but my judgment could be affected by the frisson of sitting next to Mike Fremmer.
In the category of entertaining Europeans Lars from Nordost gave a convincing presentation of the importance of cables with quick switches of interconnects. I would like to audition the Valhallas again. Music played was not audiophile crap but Cream, Doors and Led Zeppelin.
My overall impression was that the show was a great success and 2 channell is alive and well. But hey,if your cup of tea is home theater with Avantgarde or JM Labs their reps will be very happy to sell you some.
Hi Trelja: Nice report, I think, and too bad that the overall sound was not better as this should be what the show is all about. Better luck next time. I am not surprised by your comments at all when I think about all of the audio showrooms that I have visited over the years with good gear, but mediocre sound. These guys spent 50+ hours a week in their shops and never got it right as it could have been. It is however difficult to throw together a system in a short amount of time (in a new room) and get it down pat. We all know this as well as that it is the many small things that add up to make a significant improvement overall. We spend months and even years doing to our systems what the reps are trying to accomplish in a very short time frame. The people that did get great sound though are either extremely lucky or gifted or perhaps a combination of both.