Since the show is now over, thought it might be useful for others to move reports over to the general discussion forums. Overall, attendance seemed down when I was there late Saturday and Sunday was light per usual (I sat in a sweet spot in 9/10 rooms). Since it's hard to judge based on recordings I'm not familiar with, I took 4 discs down with me and used them:
Daft Punk- Random Access Memories (folks can laugh, but 10 people requested it when they saw it in my hand- it's also well recorded)
Bliss- No One Built This Moment
Chopin Piano Concerto in F Minor- Krystian Zimerman (DG)
How To Destroy Angeles- Welcome Oblivion
Kudos to Magico for playing Metallica on Sunday afternoon--and KEF for jamming house and other non-audiophile stuff. I still heard tons of Diana Krall, go figure! The LS50s on Daft Punk had people streaming into the room--that's good audio, folks. On the other end, I had no patience to wait for a 30 minute Synergistic sales pitch on Magico Q7s...and USATubeAudio actually turned off my requested track as he heard some synths on it to put on Leonard Cohen ---really?
5 Sounds I liked:
Zesto/Vac/TAD- by far the best of the TAD Evolution One showings this year. Tons of resolution, but an organic, palpable midrange. The TADs with Concert Fidelity also were very good despite the terrible room.
Rockport/BAT- this is a great pairing. The BAT may be a hair dark, but works really well with the Rockport BE tweeters. I preferred the tube amps they used last year, but the dealer prefered the higher power of the 655SE on the Rockports. Brinkmann table sealed the deal.
YG Sonja/Tenor- much, much better driver integration with the lack of powered sub. great detail, but the Tenor hybrid let the music flow with ease. Tenor seems super overpriced to me, but to each his own
Martin Logan/Herron- tough to guage bass integration in a hotel room, but the mids were glorious and the top end extended with ease. I don't hear stats often, so take this with a grain of salt. Keith Herron is one of the most underrated guys in this business (and with a great name!).
Voxativ/Kronzilla- a different kind of sound, but this was SET with huevos. Hard to judge bass in the room, but very open/clear window type midrange with snap and tremendous dynamics
4 Sounds I disliked:
Harbeth/LFD- I almost fell asleep in this room and preferred the Harbeths with Leben--which weren't offensive themselves, although really not my cup of tea. EL34s always sound good, I've been saying for years
ARC rooms- sibilance in the upper midrange in the Wilson room (which i don't think was the speaker). The Vandys were dull and non-dynamic IMO with a hooded over sound (just like last year)- was it room, amps, or whatever? I have no idea. As far as P/P amps- Vac sounded better in both NOLA and TAD rooms. I missed the VTL room.
Trenner/Viva- creamy, smooth, non-realistic sound. Beautiful looking amps, but not accurate at all.
Sanders- not to be contrarian here, but the ML room down the hall was much more open and resolute- and not that much more expensive. Sanders also rigs their room with audio track selection--so to be fair, didn't get to hear my own music.
Random thoughts....Aesthetix w/ Wilson is another pairing that "just works". Same with Ayre and Sonus Faber, although SFs are a voiced speaker to me. TAD won the Magico/Wilson/TAD debate in this round, although sounded much better not on his own electronics. Mola mola amps couldn't save O'Hanlons amazing recordings. The Magico S1 was a tad ascetic compared to the S5 last year---i think the 3-way fleshes out the mids better, who knows. Ultimate Dynaudios have a lot of potential despite being in a cavern this weekend...didn't see SF Aida or D'Agostino products which was disappointing. MBL sounded great, but just for some reason i still won't buy a pair (efficiency likely factor)...there seems to be a "super smooth" vs "hyper detail" debate still raging in audio--my favorite rooms were in the middle.
Final thought- we all have different ears and prefer different sounds. Fremer heard me say in the hallway there is no absolute sound and yelled out something to the tune of "of course not!" I'm sure many will think I'm a fool and that makes me feel good