T.H.E. SHOW NEWPORT 2018


Mono and Stereo's Senior Contributing Reviewer Ron Resnick reports from T.H.E. SHOW NEWPORT 2018. Take a look...

INTRODUCTION

T.H.E. Show Newport 2017, produced by the co-operation of Marine Presson and the Los Angeles Orange County Audiophile Society (“LAOCAS”) and others, became the most successful audio show in Southern California in many years.  After that show industry observers commented that the Newport show was ascending the throne as the biggest and best high-end audio show in the United States.  Even though the show has "Newport" in the name, that is for misleading glitz value, as the show's venues have been in Irvine, and not in Newport.

Success was not enough to satisfy the organizers, however, and they decided to snatch defeat our of the jaws of victory by splitting up over some disagreement, and by deciding to organize competing shows within weeks of each other.  Marine and the LAOCAS decided to organize a show under the name of the Los Angeles Audio Show (the "LAAS").  Because most industry participants and audiophiles credited Marine and Bob with the success of T.H.E. Show Newport 2017 most industry participants and audiophiles decided to support the LAAS 2018 and not T.H.E. Show Newport 2018.  It looked like the LAAS 2018 vanquished T.H.E. Show Newport 2018, which appeared to be withering on the vine.


Most people assumed T.H.E. Show Newport 2018 was on life support until just a few weeks ago when Marine suffered an emotional melt-down and pulled the pin out of the grenade and blew up the LAAS by canceling it.  This left many manufacturers and dealers scrambling to secure rooms at T.H.E. Show Newport, the organizers of which had already released many previously reserved exhibit rooms back to the hotel due to lack of interest.

After the cancelation several weeks ago of the LAAS nobody knew how many exhibitors and visitors would support T.H.E. Show Newport 2018.  Not surprisingly, several, or perhaps many, exhibitors were not able to secure exhibit rooms at the Marriott Spectrum Irvine because, again, the organizers of T.H.E. Show Newport had released many rooms since most people in the industry had decided to support the LAAS.  Everyone knew T.H.E. Show Newport would be small, but no one knew how small.

After all the drama the surviving show went on without a hitch.  There were only three (small) floors of exhibits, and most exhibitors did not bring their “A” game — meaning that very few exhibitors bothered to bring record players, which are a lot more difficult to transport and set up than are DACs and CD players.   There were few tube amplifiers, fewer turntables and even fewer tape machines.  I think only the MBL room enjoyed a tape machine, courtesy of Greg Beron of United Home Audio.

Overall, I don’t know how many people attended, but I would say the attendance was modest. The Marriott Spectrum Irvine is a brand new hotel, so the venue itself was beautiful.  It was very high-end compared to the generic-looking Courtyard Marriott across the street.  While many of the exhibit rooms were small, I hope the show’s organizers figure out a way to utilize this hotel again next year.

ALMA MUSIC & AUDIO / YG ACOUSTICS / DAN D’AGOSTINO

The physically largest room at the show went to Alex of Alma Music and Audio, in San Diego, California.


Digital front end: - New INNUOS ZENith Statement music server, Aqua - Formula xhd DAC

Alex put together a top-of-the-line flagship system headlined by the YG Acoustics Sonia XV Junior speakers ($189,600 per pair).  The speakers were driven by two pairs of Dan D’Agostino Momentum M400s ($65,000 per pair).

The power cords and speaker cables were Kubala Sosna Realizations and the XLR interconnects were Kubala Sosna Elations.

The Technics SL-1000R ($17,999) fronted the vinyl playback system which also included Dan D’Agostino Momentum Phono stage ($29,000).  The line stage preamplifier was the Audio Research REF 10 ($30,000).

The power cords and speaker cables were Kubala-Sosna Realizations and the XLR interconnects were Kubala-Sosna Elations.  The huge and impressive-looking Stromtank S 5000 HP ($39,000) hulked in the background.

Altogether this was a very elaborate, state-of-the-art, and expensive system in the biggest and best room of the show.

I was very grateful that Alex suffered the aggravation of dealing with vinyl replay.  The sound was spacious and dynamic and natural.  The huge room gave the system the opportunity to “breathe.”

This was without doubt one of my two favorite large rooms at the show.  From the comments and the conversations I overhead I think many people at the show considered this room to be the Best of Show.

EVOLUTION ACOUSTICS / DARTZEEL / WAVE KINETICS / DURAND TONEARMS

This year the exhibit of The Audio Association, which is the dealer in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas for Evolution Acoustics, darTZeel, Wave Kinetics and Durand Tonearms, was presided over jointly by Kevin Malmgren, the Director of Operations and Product Development at Evolution Acoustics, and Joel Durand, the Proprietor and Designer of Durand Tonearms.  These gentlemen were substituting for the traditional Master of Ceremonies, Jonathan Tinn.


Leslie Brooks, of Analog Audio, also was missing because he is in the middle of a business relocation in Florida.

Kevin was demonstrating the same Evolution Acoustics Maestoso loudspeaker he debuted last year ($18,900 per pair).  Electronics by darTZeel consisted of the NHB–108 stereo amplifier ($39,000) and the NHB-18NS preamplifier with integrated phono stage ($44,000).

The vinyl front-end consisted of the Wave Kinetics NVS turntable ($45,000) and the Durand Tonearms Tosca prototype (price to be determined) on which was mounted the brand new ZYX UNIverse Optimum cartridge ($16,500).  This exhibit was the world premiere of both the Tosca prototype tonearm and the UNIverse Optimum cartridge.


The cross-over for the Maestoso loudspeaker continues to be the most unbelievably impressive-looking cross-over I have ever seen.  

Overall the sound of the system was terrific:  transparent, dynamic and natural. There was not a hint of excessive brightness anywhere.  I liked the sound very much!

This was the first time I had an opportunity to speak with Joel Durand, and his unveiling of the prototype Tosca was a good excuse to initiate contact.  The Tosca is Joel’s first tonearm design with a gimbal bearing.  

Visually, the Tosca reminded me of the SAT tonearm.  But the Tosca looks even more solid than does the SAT.

The Tosca has what looks like an intermediate connector (that black piece) to attach the headshell to the armwand.  Joel said this allows the user to adjust azimuth easily.  I am wondering if I would prefer a more solid junction between the headshell and the armwand.  

Since I am planning a second tonearm cartridge combination I was very intrigued by the Tosca.  Having heard Joel’s Telos Sapphire in Mike Lavigne’s system, I asked Joel what are the sonic differences between the Telos Sapphire and the Tosca.  Joel replied, coyly, “We will have to wait and see.”  (Mike Lavigne is the renowned audiophile in Bellevue, Washington, who has functioned as kind of a beta tester for Joel over the years.)

With the Tosca looking more massive than his unipivot designs I asked Joel if the Tosca has a higher effective mass than his unipivot tonearms.  Joel answered that the Tosca has approximately the same effective mass as the Telos.

I think it may fall to Mike Lavigne to describe for us the sonic differences between the Telos Sapphire and the new Tosca!

JBL EVEREST DD67000

For JBL horn aficionados we saw and heard the top-of-the-line modern JBL horn system:  the Everest DD67000.

Driven by 80 watt push-pull amplifiers a friend of mine and I heard great dynamics and dynamic range.  We both found the sound to be on the bright side, but a friend of ours who heard the system the next day — and who owns the PBN Audio M2!5, which features the JBL D2430H mid-range/tweeter compression driver with dual-diaphragms in a custom M-T-M configuration — did not agree.


PROJECT EVEREST DD67000

Under a program called Project Everest, JBL® engineers designed the ultimate loudspeaker system: the Project Everest DD66000. But they wanted to outdo themselves. Using the latest technologies, they created the DD67000. This three-way speaker features dual 15-inch (380-millimeter) three-layer (pure-pulp layers over and under a foam-injection core) sandwich cone woofers for articulate, authoritative bass response. Clear high and midrange frequencies come through a 4-inch (100-millimeter) pure beryllium compression driver. And a 1-inch (25-millimeter), pure-beryllium ultrahigh-frequency driver delivers sounds up to 60kHz – far above the range of human hearing.

Available in rosewood and maple, the Everest DD67000 stays true to our heritage: the world’s most coveted sound equipment.


HIGHLIGHTS

• Dual 15″ (380mm) three-layer sandwich cone woofers for authoritative bass response
• 4″ (100mm) pure-beryllium diaphragm for crystal-clear highs
• 1″ (25mm), pure-beryllium diaphragm for extreme highs
• Extremely smooth and wide frequency response
• Proprietary Bi-Radial® horns
• 100 – 500 watts suggested amplifier power range
• Excellent terminals and system controls
• Bi-wiring capabilities
Flawless enclosure construction (Less)

SPECIFICATIONS

Description Dual 15″ (380mm), three-way, floorstanding speaker designed for a superlative listening experience
Frequency Response 29Hz – 60kHz (half space); 45Hz – 60kHz (anechoic)
Recommended Amplifier Power 500 watts
Sensitivity (2.83V @ 1m) 96dB
Nominal Impedance 8 ohms; 5.0 ohms @ 80Hz; 3.0 ohms @ 40kHz
Crossover Frequencies (Hz) 150Hz (LF1 6dB/octave) 850Hz (LF2 24dB/octave) 20kHz (UHF 24dB/octave)
Ultrahigh-frequency Drive Components 1″ (25mm) pure-beryllium compression driver
High-frequency Drive Components 4″ (100mm) pure-beryllium compression driver
Low-frequency Drive Components Dual 15″ (380mm) three-layer, pure-pulp sandwich/foam core cone woofer
Height 43.7” (110.9 cm)
Width 38” (96.5 cm)
Depth 18.5” (47 cm)
Weight Weight: 313 lb (142.1 kg) / Shipping Weight: 383 lb (173.9 kg)
Finishes Rosewood or Maple

MAGICO / VALVE AMPLIFICATION COMPANY

Kevin Hayes, the Founder of Valve Amplification Company, of Sarasota, Florida, was exhibiting his Phi 170 tube power amplifier. Fronted by an Acoustic Signature turntable a suite of all VAC electronics powered Magico A3 loudspeakers. The A3 is Magico's new, entry-level speaker.


The sound was wonderful! This system demonstrated that you do not have to spend an ultra-crazy amount of money to achieve the fantastic sound.


I think Magico will do well with this A3. And VAC tube electronics are among the most natural sounding and the most highly-regarded tube electronics in the world. 

MAGICO A3

Driver Complement
1" MB7 Beryllium Dome (X1)
6” Midrange Graphene Nano Tec (X1)
7” Bass Graphene Nano Tec (X2)

Specifications
Sensitivity: 88dB
Impedance: 4 Ohms
Frequency Response: 22 Hz – 50 KHz
Minimum Recommended Power: 50 Watts
                Maximum Recommended Power: 300 Watts
Dimensions: 44”H x 11”D x 9.25”W (112cm x 27cm x 23cm)
Weight: 110 lbs. (50Kg)

VAC PHI 170

Type:  Vacuum tube power amplifier with transformer coupled output

Features: 
VAC iQ Continuous Automatic  Bias System ™
Class A1 triode input & driver stages
Direct coupled input & driver stages
Low feedback design (6 dB)
12 volt trigger
Detachable power cord

- Fully balanced or single-ended input
- Stereo or mono operation
- Power Output:  85 watts/channel stereo continuous, 170 watts mono continuous
- Speaker Matching Taps:  1-2 ohms, 2-4 ohms, 4-8 ohms
- Frequency Response:  4 Hz to 71 kHz, +0/-3 dB
- Full Power Bandwidth:  15 Hz to 63 kHz, +0/-3 dB
- Residual Noise:  Typically > 95 dB below rated output

Input Impedance:
200k Ohms, Stereo, Balanced
100k Ohms, Stereo, Single Ended
100k Ohms, mono, Balanced
50k Ohms, mono, Single Ended

Gain:  
30 dB, Stereo, Balanced
33 dB, Stereo, Single Ended
31 dB, Mono, Balanced
34 dB, Mono, Single Ended

Output Polarity:  Non-inverting

Balanced input is Pin 2 positive

Tube Complement
4 x type 6SN7
4 x type KT88
Compatible with KT120
Compatible with KT150

Operating Voltages:  Available factory set for 100, 120, 220, or 230/240 volt operation

Connectors
Cardas rhodium RCA jacks
Neutrik XLR jacks
Cardas rhodium binding posts

Dimensions
17.8" W x 14.2" D x 8.5" H
452 mm x 361 mm x 216 mm
Excluding connectors

Weight:  68 lbs., 31 kg

MARTINLOGAN EXPRESSION ESL 13A

Peter Soderberg, the friendly and long-time Western Regional Director of MartinLogan Ltd., was exhibiting the Expression ESL 13A driven by Constellation electronics.  I have enjoyed MartinLogan speakers for over 18 years, starting with the Monolith, then upgrading to the Monolith III and then moving to the Prodigy.  I consider MartinLogan loudspeakers a standard sonic recommendation, especially for audiophiles who love vocals.


I like very much the sound of the Expression ESL 13A itself.  But I have never cared for the sound of any ML loudspeaker driven by solid-state electronics. 


In California and in London I heard the Neolith driven by tubes, and I loved the sound.

I think ML loudspeakers remain relative bargains in each of their price categories.

FEATURES

- 44x13-inch Xstat CLS (Curvilinear Line Source) Electrostatic Transducer
- Dual 10-inch Powered Force Forward Woofers with Dual 300W Amplifiers
- +/- 10dB Bass Control and +/- 2dB Mid-Bass Control
- Audiophile Grade WBT Binding Posts
- 24-23,000 Hz Frequency Response
- Advanced Vojtko Crossover with 24-bit DSP Engine
- Anthem Room Correction ready (for woofers)
- Sealed enclosure

MBL / UNITED HOME AUDIO

Once again the partnership of Jeremy Bryan, Chief Executive officer of MBL North America, and Greg Beron, Proprietor of United Home Audio, created some of the very best sound at the show.

Jeremy was exhibiting the 101E Mk. II, driven by the MBL Noble line of electronics.  I do not know what sonic attributes the Noble line gives up to the Reference line, but I value the slightly smoother presentation I think I hear from the Noble power amplifiers.


The system, fronted by Greg’s newest top-of-the-line Ultima 4 tape machine with outboard power supply, wowed listeners with the combination of dynamics, extended frequency response, life-like energy and the unique omnidirectional spatial attributes that only the omnidirectional MBL Radialstrahler can create.


My wife and I attended Jeremy and Greg’s standing-room-only after-hours music extravaganza.  Listening on tape to the first twenty seconds of the driving and pounding instruments at the beginning of Hugh Masekela’s Coal Train Greg remarked to us “only tape can do that.”  And I think Greg is correct.  While most people at the show were hunting for vinyl, I was sniffing for tape.

The MBL / UHA room was one of my two favorite big rooms at the show!

ON A HIGHER NOTE / GRYPHON AUDIO DESIGNS

Philip and Pandora O'Hanlon are the delightful proprietors of On a Higher Note, which is the North American distributor of Gryphon Audio Designs of Denmark.  On a Higher Note is located in San Juan Capistrano, California.


Philip assembled a relatively simple but very involving system around the Gryphon Diablo 300 integrated amplifier.   The Mojo S, Gryphon's smallest speaker, displays much of the quality of sound of the larger Gryphon loudspeakers.  Despite its diminutive size it is built with the same care and attention to detail as the larger Gryphon speakers.


Classy as always, of course Philip took the time to set-up a vinyl playback system.


Even in a difficult room due to a corner of glass Philip was achieving wonderful sound!  The Mojo S sounded transparent, dynamic for its size, and not at all bright.  I think the system sounded natural.  The Mojo S gives you a strong flavor of the larger Gryphon speakers.

PERFECT8 TECHNOLOGIES THE CUBE

Jonas Räntilä, the Chief Executive Officer of Perfect8 Technologies, was at the show to exhibit his smallest loudspeaker:  The Cube.  Driven by Ypsilon electronics The Cube sports a pair of 10 inch kevlar/glass/carbon fiber composite cone woofers.


TRANSROTOR RONDINO NERO

Arturo Manzano, the Chief Executive Officer of Axiss Audio, the USA distributor of Transrotor turntables, was exhibiting a relatively modest new model of turntable, called the Rondino Nero with TR 5012 Tonearm ($21,300).  


TRIANGLE ART

Tom Vu, the owner of Triangle Art, of Anaheim, California, was exhibiting his gleaming, jewelry-like creations in silver and gold. He was showing the Master Reference turntable with Osiris Mk II tonearm.


Also on display were Tom's TA200M Class A, transistor amplifiers.

CONCLUSION

It will be interesting to see how the organizers of T.H.E. Show Newport 2018 build on the event next year. It will be interesting to see if there will be some sort of rematch between the organizers of T.H.E. Show Newport 2018 and the Los Angeles Audio Show. I suspect that Bob Levi, the head of the Los Angeles Orange County Audiophile Society, will want to do something or to be involved in some way.

My two favorite big systems this year were the Alma Music & Audio / YG Acoustics / Dan D’Agostino and the MBL / UHA.

My two favorite smaller systems this year were the Evolution Acoustics / darTZeel / Wave Kinetics / Durand and the On a Higher Note / Gryphon Audio Designs.

I hope that the paucity of turntables this year was an anomaly which will be remedied next year!

Ron Resnick - Mono and Stereo Senior Contributing Reviewer