T.H.E. Show (Newport Beach) 2012 Coverage

June 8, 2012


T.H.E. Show (Newport Beach) 2012 was an event – a high-end audio show coupled with a small, but impressive auto show, and lots of live music. The lobby bar and restaurant at the Hilton was a happening place with hundreds of people eating, drinking and talking from morning to night. An adjacent conference room was doing a brisk business in vinyl, audiophile discs and tweaks.

The hotel rooms at the Hilton were on the small size, but that pretty much goes with the territory. Few exhibitors bothered to treat the rooms acoustically; those that did were well rewarded. Really, why bring tens of thousand of dollars of cables, racks and accessories and leave the acoustic treatments back at the store? Which do you think will have the greater positive impact on the sound?

Friday, the air conditioning wasn’t working, so it was about 90 degrees in the hallways, though it was cooler in the rooms. Thankfully, by Saturday it was up and running again. It’s unfortunate that the whole show couldn’t have been located at the Hilton. The spillover was at the Atrium hotel next door. The rooms were smaller there, and the hotel smelled like mold and mildew. As a result, it was more sparsely attended, which is a shame, because some really nice equipment was being demonstrated there, including Magico’s demo of its new S5 loudspeakers with Constellation electronics.

Despite the kinks, it was a great show, larger than T.H.E. Show in Las Vegas, and larger than AXPONA in Jacksonville and New York, though not quite as large as RMAF.

The usual caveats apply. I think it is extremely difficult to say that this front-end component, that amplifier, or those cables sounded good, better or best in the context of a show. Each room had a specific system comprised of a many different components, cables and loudspeakers. No two were the same. How one can say, for example, that such and such preamplifier sounded great without comparing it to something else in the same system, baffles me. It is why reviewers have reference systems; at least they are supposed to.

Loudspeakers, however, are a different matter. Demoing loudspeakers in a hotel room is not ideal. If a loudspeaker doesn’t sound good, the fault may be, and often is, with the room. If a loudspeaker does sound good, it will likely sound as good or better in your listening room. Systems that sound great in a hotel room are the exception. Accordingly, I won’t generally comment on the sound in particular rooms unless I thought it was exceptional.

Nevertheless, although I really didn’t think there was a Best of Show, there were a few systems and individual components that caught my attention and bear further investigation, either because of the sound they produced, because they were new, or because they were intriguing:

● Antelope Audio Rubicon phono stage, atomic-clocked DAC and preamplifier
● Audience ClairAudient 1+1 and 16+16 MK II loudspeakers
● Audio Research Reference 75 stereo power amplifier
● AVM CD player, preamplifier and power amplifiers
● Magico S5 loudspeakers with Constellation electronics
● Magnepan MMC-2 loudspeakers with Bryston electronics
● Marten Django loudspeakers with E.A.R. electronics
● MBL Corona series CD player, preamplifier, and power amplifier
● Sonorus reel-to-reel tape deck, preamplifier, amplifiers and electrostatic loudspeakers
● TAD Compact Reference and Evolution One (E1) loudspeakers
● Thiel 3.7 loudspeakers with PrimaLuna electronics
● Triangle Arts Reference turntable
● Vivid B1 loudspeakers with Luxman electronics
● VPI Traveler turntable
● Weiss DAC 202U USB DAC and headphone amplifier
● Wilson Sophia 3 loudspeakers with Audio Research electronics
● YG Acoustics Anat III Signature loudspeakers with Luxman and MSB electronics
● Zesto Leto preamplifier

And now for the photographic tour

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