T.H.E. Show At Newport Beach 2014 sneak peak

I only visited a few rooms that I was told "You HAVE to go and listen to this...." Since I was just hanging around helping out Elac/Thorens/Roksan do demos, I had a chance to visit a few of these.

Of all the rooms I visited, this one was definitely my Best Sound in Show. *disclaimer* I only visited 9 rooms, and the system I was helping out at does not qualify to be rated (it wasn't even in a room). 

Once I got over my prejudice, the sound really engaged me. It was coherent, musical and when I closed my eyes and tuned out the image of the speakers, it even cast a believable image and soundstage floating up where I expected it to be. The problem with a lot of show impressions is that it is very difficult to trust our ears. I have to make a considerable and conscious effort to be objective in every room I visited - otherwise my prejudices take over my ears. See the following video.

With this room, I had to work exceptionally hard to overcome my prejudices. The drivers were obviously too close to the floor (talk about floor bounce!!), and the form factor! It was difficult for me to take this room seriously as an "expert audiophile". My first problem is that no good hifi system would need a pretty girl to shill for the room. The sound should be so engaging that all audiophiles would beat a path to the door through the long grass. The carpet would be worn thin by the queues of audiophiles waiting to get in.

When I got to the room accompanied by my friend Steve McCormack who told me that I absolutely had to listen to this room, I thought that may be his ears got fooled by the illusion. So, in this case, you have to grab hold of the illusion to be sure that there is some substance there, and not just some vaporous figment of our imagination. Yep - texture is correct, soft and yielding but not too much. Body temperature rising, apparition verified as real. So, now we walk into the room.

Planters - yes, planters. Has Gary Koh taken leave of his mind? Voting a couple of pot planters as his best sound in show?

No, he has not. And I am being perfectly serious. Once I got over my prejudice and allowed the music to get through, it sounded great. The first track played was the live, acoustic version of Tequila Sunrise from Hell Freezes Over by the Eagles. Overplayed, but a track I know extremely well. The first place where I expected the music to fall apart - the lively and friendly cohesion between the members of the band came across extremely well. The bass was in time with the cymbals, the band hung together like a party. Then, he played an organ piece that had the full range - no hot spots, no boominess. The bass held tone color as did the midrange and highs. Compared to high-end systems, this one may have left some resolution and some detail behind. But all of the music came through. There was nothing that was fatiguing, harsh or missing.

As these speakers would likely be used for poolside party music, the final track I enjoyed was Cousin Dupree by Steely Dan. We didn't play any female vocals, string quartet or jazz but considering what I heard from the three tracks I did hear, I am pretty confident that these planters (I still can't bring myself to use the word for the things *I* design) would play them equally well.