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T.H.E. Show Newport Beach 2016: five exhibitors previewed

  • T.H.E. Show Newport Beach runs for its sixth consecutive year in Irvine, CA this weekend and without long-standing show organiser Richard Beers who sadly succumbed to lung cancer in March. No doubt this year’s event will present numerous opportunities for many to properly mourn his passing.

    Photo credit: Stereophile Magazine

    Along with RMAF, ‘Newport Beach’ is one of the bigger regional Stateside shows, one that has enjoyed year-on-year attendee growth since its 2011 Californian inception. Last year’s event reportedly attracted more than 8000 people. Probably why Beers pre-emptively moved the show from the split Atrium/Hilton arrangement of previous years to a single venue. In 2016, the Hotel Irvine once again plays host to the west coast’s most popular audio show.

    Having covered ‘Newport Beach’ in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, I’m sitting this one out. The cheeky bastard in me wants to say it’s because of this:


    …or because classical and jazz still dominates the aural landscape of the audio show circuit:

    The real reasons are more pedestrian in nature. I’ve covered four audio shows already this year: CES, CanJam SoCal, Fujiya Avic and Munich High-End. That’s a lot of travel and a lot of show reports.

    Said reports aren’t farmed out to a team of writers and now that I’m doing video they each take many hours to put together. Each one is penned by me, which helps me maintain a largely unrivalled helicopter view of the high end audio industry but it also takes me away from the business end of DAR: reviews. I don’t want DAR to be endlessly plastered in show coverage.

    Moreover, covering a show in California does’t only bite a long weekend out of my schedule, it eats up two whole weeks: fly out to LAX on the Wednesday prior to the show; fly home on the Monday after (which puts me back in Sydney on Wednesday morning); spend another seven days (at least) writing show reports. Like I said, two weeks.

    I really WANT to go but just can’t justify the time away. Instead, how about we consider what I would cover were I there.

    What follows are previews of five key exhibitors:

    1. Wyred4Sound


    Getting busy with the caps-lock in time for their relatively short trip down south are Atascadero’s Wyred4Sound whose STATEMENT stereo power amplifier inches closer toward full production.

    We caught a prototype at last year’s RMAF but to Newport Beach, the STATEMENT’s designer EJ Sarmento and right-hand man Tony Holt are bringing a pre-production model.

    The headline here is that it’s Class D but it’s not an off-the-shelf module from IcePower, Pascal, Hypex or any of the usual suspects. The STATEMENT features an in-house designed module built from the ground up by Sarmento himself. The circuit’s power feed comes from a massive toroidal that nets a whopping 750wpc into 8 Ohms.

    The man’s claims about STATEMENT being the best sounding Class D available today might seem like marketing bluster until we remind ourselves that Wyred4Sound’s mINT and mAMPs have led the entry-level Class D pack for some years already.

    And as Sarmento rightly asserts, the STATEMENT “looks like no other amplifier on the market”. The machined top cover will be made available in copper or brass finishes whilst the 5” colour touchscreen will be used for VU meter display and amplifier configuration.

    Sarmento says that street pricing is expected to fall somewhere between US$5000 and US$6000 when Wyred4Sound officially cut the ribbon on the STATEMENT launch.

    2. “Down Under Audio” presented by Colleen Cardas Imports


    Colleen Cardas Imports will be showing not one but TWO rooms of audio gear, all sourced from Australia and New Zealand. Strewth, crikey, stone the crows etc.

    Falling under their “Down Under Audio” banner at Hotel Irvine will be (ironically) more Aussie/Kiwi manufacturers than you’d ever catch at a local audio show. Check it: Axis, REDGUM Audio, Brigadiers Audio, PureAudio, The Wand, Audio Union and Les Davis Audio.

    In Room 1011, the Axis VoiceBox S loudspeaker ($2500/pair) and REDGUM Audio amplifiers, sources, cables and even their equipment rack. Axis and REDGUM Black Series are both manufactured in the same Shenzhen factory under the watchful eyes of their respective designers John Reilly and Ian Robinson.

    Reilly’s VoiceBox has a fairly low sensitivity (85dB, 5 Ohms) so high-current amplifiers like those made by REDGUM won’t flinch when the connected loudspeaker’s impedance dips below 2 Ohms. Colleen Cardas Imports who handle Axis and REDGUM in the USA will therefore be showing the RGi35 ENR (US$2500), the RGi60 ENR (US$3500) and the RGi120 ENR (US$4500).


    In Room 1012, Brad Serhan of Brigadiers Audio (also of ONE Audio) will be debuting his BA2 2-way loudspeakers. The BA2 feature birch-ply construction, constrained-layer-damped enclosures and a Raal ribbon tweeter. Stateside RRP remains TBC but expect somewhere between US$11,000 and US$12,000 for a pair.

    Providing the power will be Gary Morrison’s PureAudio electronics from New Zealand. Expect to see the Vinyl phono pre ($4500), the Control preamplifier ($9500) and the Duo stereo power amplifier ($9500). Morrison will also be on hand to field enquiries.

    Now the big guns. For their analogue source, CCI will be showing the Audio Union Helix 1 turntable designed by Mark Doehmann ($40,000) fitted with Simon Brown’s The Wand tonearm. Brown is from New Zealand. Cartridge is TBA.

    Brad Serhan and I get coffee from the same local cafe in Sydney and his workshop sits directly behind my apartment building so I guess that makes us neighbours. And everybody needs good neighbours, right? I’ve suggested to Serhan that the Down Under Audio twofer goes all out with flags, inflatable kangaroos and that they even serve Lamingtons.

    I’ve also suggested they play music from the likes of Split Enz, Crowded House, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Yothu Yindi, The Mutton Birds, Augie March and Youth Group.

    3. DEQX


    Making the journey I’d ordinarily make – a 12 hour direct flight from Sydney Kingsford-Smith to LAX – is one Alan Langford. Langford comprises one third of Team DEQX about whom coverage in these pages has so far been show based and has centred on the company’s digital pre-amplifiers’ ability to correct a loudspeaker’s output in the time and frequency domains as well as apply room correction.

    At T.H.E Show Newport Beach 2016, DEQX are going all out with a four-way active solution.

    The aim is to have their HDS-1 sealed loudspeaker deliver an output with THD low enough that it doesn’t mask the resolution served up by the accompanying amplifiers: an in-house designed Class A/B 4-channel amp will provide 60-watts each to the 6” mid/bass drivers (<500Hz) and the 3” upper-midrange drivers (500Hz to 3kHz) whilst a 5-watt S.E.T. valve amp will drive the tweeters (>3kHz).

    The loudspeaker contains no passive filter network. Instead, the crossover is applied in the digital domain via a DEQX HDP-5 digital pre-amplifier. A second, daisy-chained HDP-5 will extend the crossover to a pair of 10” subwoofers to take the system’s frequency response down to 20Hz.

    DEQX’s aim is to keep each driver’s THD between 0.1% and 0.3% thus netting between 50db and 60db of resolution. According to Langford, the majority of modern passive loudspeakers rarely measure less than 1% THD and so only offer around 40db of effective resolution; a choir will sound like a mass of voices. DEQX’s four-way active system’s 60db promises the listener improved clarity and separation on the choir’s individual voices. Interesting stuff.

    Normally Langford and I only meet at shows but this year I made the 20km trip north to DEQX HQ in the Sydney suburb of Dee Why to listen to this very system. We didn’t listen to choral music but I did punch Isaac Hayes “Theme From Shaft” and Prince’s “5 Women” into an iPad’s Roon remote app. Select DEQX models will soon be Roon ready and the company will be showcasing a beta version of their code at the Hotel Irvine this weekend.

    Langford also tells me has sourced a heap of gangster rap to play at show – more power to him – but he also adds “We have 170,000 tracks at the show to chose from and all requests will be accommodated if possible if included in our library noting 60% jazz”.  The status quo is a powerful master.

    4. Peachtree Audio


    David Solomon is back with Peachtree Audio as VP of Sales and Marketing and to celebrate he has rebooted the company to 2.0 status. With three new Nova amplifiers set to come down the pike – the nova150, the nova300 and the nova500 – production has been returned to North America from China.

    The frankly gorgeous-looking wooden sleeve is still part of the deal, as is Class D ICEpower and in-built D/A conversion courtesy of ESS Labs but the switchable, blue-lit tube buffer of previous models has gone bye-bye. In its place comes an MM phono stage, HT bypass and much, MUCH better headphone staging. Catch up here.

    At Newport Beach, Solomon is keeping the Peachtree brief (umm) brief. “We’ll be showing the nova300 with the Wilson Sabrina and the nova150 with the ELAC UB5. In short, we are sticking with the ultra and ultra budget. This worked well at Axpona with the Martin Logan Summit X and the US$250 Elacs. We’ll return to this theme with Vandersteens next time out.”

    The original Peachtree Nova was this commentator’s first audiophile love and having to wait until RMAF 2016 to clock one of the new models in the flesh is gonna be tough going.

    5. Vinnie Rossi


    When I last spoke to Vinnie Rossi via Skype he could be heard raving about the microRendu from Sonore. Since then, Computer Audiophile’s Chris Connaker and AudioStream’s Michael Lavorgna have both enthused (in casual conversation) about its high value quotient.

    Alas, Rossi’s original plan to build a microRendu module for his LIO system had to be aborted due to it being not quite small enough to fit inside the LIO. However, Rossi didn’t kick the project to the curb entirely. He instead found a way to power the external microRendu with the ultracapacitor banks found inside the LIO; the new DAC+ module has the 7V isolated, super-regulated power output necessary for the Sonore brick.


    Rossi ran this re-jigged solution at Axpona way back in April and he’ll be bringing it to SoCal this weekend along with his DHT PRE. An Acoustic Signature Triple X turntable will be fed into the LIO’s phono module whilst the 25wpc MOSFET loudspeaker module will drive a pair of Volti Vittora 3-way horns. Wot no Harbeth? I jest. Rumour has it that Rossi is also quite taken with Clayton Shaw’s Spatial M3.

    The other important thing to remember about Rossi’s room at shows is that he’ll graciously accommodate more unusual music requests.

    Further information: T.H.E Show Newport Beach

    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. John, will you be doing a review of the Sonore microRendu in the next few months?

      • Alas not. I asked Jesus for a review unit be he simply replied that he was all sold out.

    2. Great video! Unfortunately, most manufacturers play the usual boring jazz and classical tracks. The most interesting music came (as usual) from the Zu Audio room. I always enjoy stopping by the good folks from Zu to hear some great music!

      • Ha! You’re a man after my own heart, Odin412. Yes, the Zu room is pretty much the ONLY place where one hears a *constant* stream of interesting music.

    3. “Gansta cRap”? Pass. I will avoid that room like the plague. Yogurt left out in hot weather for a week has more culture to it than does that filth. The room will doubtless be filled with adult males of all colors, shapes, sizes, etc., dressed like the 3 Stooges going golfing.

      Too bad, the photo you put up shows some nice equipment (red!) but there’s no way in Hades I would subject myself to that stuff. Like I said before, if I want that I can just get caught in LA traffic. And puhleeeze don’t claim my remarks are “racist” as that makes you out as ridiculous and you are anything but. I am as human as any cRap Arteest, I just have better taste in music, clothing and manners.

      I’ll look in on Peachtree and if they’re there, Schiit. By the way, Schiit ain’t crap, it’s tits. Boss. Gear. Fab. Bitchin’. IOW, it works, looks good and puts out great sounding music.

      Thanks man, for the heads up on what to see (and avoid!).

      • Here’s the thing though: other’s people’s music choices often requires tolerance. And lots of it. Precisely the kind of tolerance many of us have to show when faced with wall to wall jazz/classical. And do you really think DEQX are gonna play gangster rap constantly? C’mon, it’s bound to be interspersed with more common audiophile fare.

        Gangster rap isn’t my thing at all. I don’t listen to it at home. But I welcome its occasional inclusion at audio shows demos.

    4. John, I don’t consider myself to be an “audiophile”. I like music. I don’t consider that stuff to be musical in any sense of the word. I enjoy traditional Jazz and Pop music, don’t care much for Classical though but it doesn’t get on my nerves.

      Perhaps that’s due to it not including references to killing policemen, raping anybody or being the Neanderthal equivalent of Old McDonald Had A Farm (i.e., “with a MoFo here and a MoFo there. Here a Mo, there a Fo, everywhere a MoFo”…). Dammit! Now I’m going to hell, huh?

      I like a variety of music some of which comes from the Beach Boys, the Beatles, George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” ( a fave for over 45 years now!) as well as “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) and today I bought on CD “Barton Hollow” by “The Civil Wars”. I am listening to it now. Good stuff. And not a “MoFo” was heard among any of them.

      If an album cover screams “Fuck You, _______!” ( or similar) I am likely not to want to listen to it, much less buy it. Sometimes being “tolerant” is nothing more than sidestepping the patently offensive so as not to offend the perp in the name of being PC. I have yet to force Sinatra on anyone while in my car, LOL!

      If I hear something like a repetitive 20 Hz thud coming from a room, I will just walk on by.

      Again, thanks for the ideas on what you might recommend were you there. I do appreciate it and would not say as much were it not so.

      • Jeez SS, you make it sound like all rap music (or electronic music) is artistically offensive. It might not be to your taste, and yes, the misogyny in some rap music troubles me too, but don’t you think that audio show demos could do with a HUGE dose of different?

    5. That Statement amp looks like the business. I’ll start saving now. Or perhaps i can sell off a kidney? One carefull owner, bids welcome……

    6. Hey SS: I have heard that very system ands rather impressed. You’d be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t drop in for a Listen. DEQX can do amazing things in every system i have heard/used one in.

      • Very good word play, SS. OK, we get it, you don’t like rap music. Time to move on…

    7. I suspect that when you’re pushing equipment costing tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, and it’s your business and your money and you only have one, maybe two shots this year to make a good impression on a wide scale, you too would be inclined to play the best recorded music you could find, and even if you wouldn’t, odds are the other manufacturers you’ve paired up with would; a lot of jazz and classical is very well recorded. A lot of target audiences are apparently into jazz and classical. Maybe you’re blaming the game when you should be blaming the player i.e. the customer.

      • The game and the players are inseparable. I see it as a closed loop: manufacturers trying to please *existing* potential customers and therefore only attracting the same kind of jazz-loving *new* customers. How does one attract new blood if one doesn’t first play different music? Chicken, meet egg.

      I was fortunate enough to be able to attend The Show Newport this past weekend. As always I had an amazing time, lots of superb stereos and sound and great recorded and live music and great people. For me the best part is seeing and partying with all the friends I’ve made over the years attending this show and the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. I missed seeing Reviewer Darko this year. I’ll start with John’s preview list.
      EJ and crew are some of my favorite people to hang out with at shows and they always have sweet sounding rooms. He and sidekick Tony are perfectionists. And it pays off. Wyred4Sound won a Richard Beers Innovation Award for their new Statement class D amplifier. The new amp looks great, and sounds great. It has a huge torodial transformer, EJ’s proprietary power modules he designed a touch screen and lots of features and EJ is thinking about adding a variable impedance function. They had a new prototype music server feeding their SST Thoebe II preamp with DAC and the Statement amp powering EJ’s new KEF Reference 3’s with Wyred4Sound cableing, which I own and it is awesome. Also their new class A headphone amp, DAC on static display. I stopped by Thursday to say hi and listen and attempted to helped them for a while trying to get the speakers to sing in a particularly difficult room.
      Saturday their room was one of the better rooms Id’e yet heard. A bunch of other customers and friends happened to be their also and a party atmosphere ensued and we were all loving what we were hearing and Tony was rocking us out playing lots of fun music loud. It was the finest and most engaging Id’e ever heard Led Zeppelins Whole Lotta Love and everyone was shaking their head and patting EJ on the back for a job well done. EJ’s rooms are always one of the most popular rooms at the shows and there is always a steady stream of attendees, press and industry people coming in who know EJ and are happy to see him and listen to his latest creations. He is constantly coming out with new innovative products that are among the best sounding in the industry. A bunch of us agreed the Statement amp sounded a lot like a very expensive class A amp. The music easing out of the KEF’s was smooth yet detailed, musical, and engaging, with extended highs and deep, powerful, controlled bass. The soundstage was very open, with quiet space, ie the music coming from a very black background and had very good depth and was 3D. The bass was among the best I’de heard at the show and basicaly it was music a person felt.
      The KEF’s are fantastic speakers outperforming lots of far more expensive speakers at the show and I think one of the very best values in their price range.
      Saturday night I went to the Richard Beers Innovation awards ceremony and Wyred4Sound won an award for their new sexy Statement amp, but no one told them they were winning an award so EJ and Tony weren’t present, but they still got one of the biggest cheers at the ceremony. I texted EJ to let him know and went to their room to celebrate with them and we stopped by the Rossi, Volti, Triode room to congratulate Vinnie and then to the hotel bar. We went back to their room to listen to music on their award winning system and Tony still wasn’t happy with the sound, knowing he could make it better, so we kept adjusting the KEF’s and listening, and having a blast, until we found musical nirvana. The musical tapestry solidified and had more depth and width extending beyond the walls.
      When I stopped by Sunday I heard some of the very best sound I heard at the show and once again jammed out hard to some great music with some fellow Wyred4Sound enthusiasts. I really want to hear the Thoebe II pre and Statement amp with speakers I’m hoping to buy someday, Zu Druids in a crushed ruby finish.
      Congratulations EJ, Tony and the whole Wyred4Sound crew.

      • Sounds like I missed out on a lot of fun. Glad you could stand in for me, George. 🙂

      • Hi George,

        Great as always to see you there and we appreciate your comments! Glad to hear you thought the room sounded great. We felt we did the best we could with a somewhat difficult layout. Cheers!

        Tony Holt
        Wyred 4 Sound

    9. John

      Please can you let me know which valve amplifier the DEQX people are using. I could not identify it from your photo.

      Many thanks

      • It’s a custom made unit about which you’ll need to email DEQX for specifics. Their website lists sales at deqx dot com as the best email.

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