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.
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:
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.
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