One could rarely argue that hi-fi isn’t an indulgence; a life luxury. Some rooms were keener reminders of this than others. The Triangle Art room won out in terms of sheer decadence – so much gear packed into one small room. Just look at those turntables: works of (err) art. AND they were playing opera.
The best budget digital audio gear at Newport Beach? I’m a sucker for integrated amplifiers and standmount loudspeakers. There was a LOT of interest in the Audiophile Desktop System at the CEntrance stand. There, a Music Hall turntable was also turning heads. Would that make Roy Hall smile? Possibly.
Both Peachtree and W4S are key digital audio players for those with under $2k to drop. I stopped by Peachtree Audio to see/hear the Decco 65 and Grand Integrated. And then to Wyred4Sound to express my enthusiasm for their mINT integrated. My photos might be blurred but their sound is anything but. Peachtree’s Grand Integrated sounded particularly crisp with a Buddy Holly reference recording. EJ Sarmento’s W4S is growing a neat little line in desktop decoding and USB-S/PDIF conversion.
Chris Sommovigo is a great guy who has been around the hifi traps for many years. His Black Cat Morpheus interconnect and Silverstar digital cable would drop right in to anyone’s budget system without breaking the piggy bank. The Black Cat/MA-Recordings room also sported the most bizarre of Japanese records: The Wrestling Album.
I dropped back to Gary Alpern’s room (remember: the Audion importer for the USA) to hear the very natural-sounding Human Audio muto DAC. Battery-powered decoding for around US$1500. Lovely and real. This is an auto-charging unit so the user is required to do nothing! Alpern punches in some Beastie Boys on his iPad (that remote desktops into Amarra on a Mach2Music Mac Mini) – groovy.
Don’t let anyone tell you that vinyl dominated the show. It didn’t. I’d estimate a 65/35 split in favour of digital front-ends. The convenience of iDevice remote control is possibly too arresting for most exhibitors. After all, that’s how I got to hear The Sisters Of Mercy and Talking Heads. It’s the easiest way for show-and-tellers can bring a broader selection of music (more on which in Part 3). That said, vinyl front-ends provided refreshing relief here and there…
…over at the Atrium, the Spendor dealer room might be playing jazz but it sounds astonishingly vibrant and exciting. It might have snaffled my best-in-show gong if I hadn’t stepped next door to hear (yet more jazz) in the Profundo / Blackbird Audio room. Here, an all-Heed amplification setup fed Heed omnidirectional speakers for a soundstage that went tall and wide and was oh-so inviting. Glorious. Best room, no question.