Los Angeles Audio Show 2017-Steve's Faves

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
#1
There were several rooms that stood out in my mind that I would like to mention here

Having attended the Hong Kong Audio show last year and then spending a week in Manila where I heard many spectacular systems I have stated that for my ears the finest system I have ever heard anywhere was that of member here "jimmy" who not only had the most amazing room full of gear but so also a one off speaker made by Von Schweikert Audio. I came home with a desire to try to achieve some of the things Jim has achieved but honestly I don't believe that anyone will equal. His room is so one of a kind that I feel I can make such a bold claim about his room. His brother JackD201 had the second best system I have ever heard even though their only major commonality were speakers made by VSA.

Now along comes the upgrade to Jack's speaker the Ultra 11 which to my ears brings the sound so close to what I heard at Jim's house that these new Ultra 11's are a major contender. This is a tall one box system that comes with all of the rear speaker toggle switches that allows the user to shape the sound to fill the room proper for that room. I first heard this speaker just prior to the Singapore Audio show where it was launched and I was very impressed art the time.

To hear it yet under somewhat better conditions yet far from ideal and to hear it with the exact top of the line VAC amp, preamp and phono stage, along with a full loom of Masterbuilt Ultra cables I felt this was one that came close in majesty to that which I heard at Jim's. Even though this was only a 2 box standard speaker it has IIRC 17 drivers. There was a report out of one of the show's that suggested a larger than lifelike soundstage. I definitely never heard that at Jack or Jim's houses so I felt this could be something I needed to listen for. I was in the room 4 times and always enjoyed a lifelike presentation with a soundstage to die for. The bass was tight but not boomy. The top end was not bright and to my ears everything in between sounded just right. Nothing stood out. It was just music that to my ears sounded fabulous. I do have some bias here as I have drunk the Kool Aid on these cables and the sound I heard last August was to my ears something by which I judge all others

So for me the Best Of Show was indeed the Von Schweikert Audio Room. There were issues with every room and this was no exception. Comments were made previously that imaging wasn't ideal at Axpona. I wasn't there so I can't comment but I can about this show and for my ears this room topped the list

Very close runner up, and again just to my ears was the Vivid room where Philip O'Hanlon and Joe Cali were highlighting the new Vivid Spirit, the new flagship of the company

I have known Philip for at least 15 years and we ar close neighbors. I have heard every iteration of the Vivid in his large listening room and have always had jaw dropping experiences but for one thing and that was with the previous flagship, the G1 where I always felt that the tweeter was too high and as a result the speaker imaged tall. Not so with the Spirit where the tweeter is 4" lower. The subs are also far better, even though the G1 had enormous bass.Well the Spirit in my mind was far more "natural". Imaging IMO was perfect. Pitch, tone, timbre was as good as it gets. I felt there was an ease to the presentation that this speaker gave that the G1 lacked. This is a brute of a speaker and for this who thought the G1 was the goods, you need to hear the Spirit as it is so much better


My next room that was in my top 3 was that of Jonathan Tinn with his new Evolution Acoustics speaker along with his wonderful Wave Kinetics NVS TT, Durand arm and the working version of the pending tube DAC by Joel Durand

I honestly don't ever think I have been in a room done by Jonathan where I left disappointed and this was no exception. I never expected a new speaker by Jonathan and designer Kevin Malmgren so I stuck around and as in the sweet spot for a fair bit. Kevin told me the name of the speaker and I have forgotten all except it starts with "M" and is a musical term. The room not only looked great but sounded beyond what anything I would have expected. The external outputs I gather are similar or identical to the top of the line MM7. This speaker was a true surprise and I would bet anyone who heard this room came away smiling and shaking their heads. I loved the room. Kudos to Jonathan and Kevin. You can make end tables of those external crossovers. The sound was fabulous


Best Dac MSB Select

I said this last year and I'll say it again this year that the MSB Select Das with the dual power supply trumps anything that I have heard when it comes to DAC's. This DAC delivers the most "natural" digital sound I have ever heard. Last year I was played a CD with a piano claying and it was the most natural sounding piano I have ever heard. Tp my surprise not only did he play that track again for me but he showed me it was a piano album on the TBM label but remastered by Winston Ma and his FIM label. It is the first cut on the CD. I took a picture of the CD which is in my photos of the show

The newly redone MSB Reference DAC was also there at half the price and the entry level DAC at $9K is a steal



In my top 5 was room by Bill Parrish with his YG Acoustics 1.2, Kronos Pro TT with Black Beauty arm and the new top of the line Kubala Sosna cables. This room was beautiful, with a huge and very natural sound stage

I'd like to say that based on my bias that I would put a Wilson speaker in the top 5 but this is probably the first year I haven't. The big room by Sunnil with the new Alexx speaker was certainly a runner up as I enjoyed the demo by Peter McGrath and MQA. The room was far from ideal and too much idle chit chat that ruined an otherwise well intended demo. The Alexx as we know has much of the trickle down technology of the new Wilson WAMM and could be the reason Fremer who has XLF's is selling them to downgrade rot the Alexx which he considers a better speaker

Surprise Of The Show

This goes to Wynn Audio which is a high end store in Toronto Canada owned by Wynn Wong

Here is the system which consisted of a small bookshelf size of Japanese speakers that was throwing an image as big as any of the bigger speakers and I have no idea how

These speakers list for $10K. Much to my surprise when I had a close up look of the rack as it appeared to be a version of mine on steroids, did in fact prove to be the new flagship of Joe Lavrencik at Critical Mass Systems. I had seen pictures of the prototype several months ago that Joe shared with me and close up and personal was even better. Wynn turns out to be the Canadian distributor for CMS and brought the very first one to the show. Even Joe who was around the corner from this room didn't know he was there. I was also amazed that this speaker were so toed in that there should never have been a sweet spot let alone an image this life like

Hats off to you Wynn

CD/DAC: Metronome CD8S CD Player
Pre/Amp: Einstein The Amp Ultimate (Hybrid design, balanced integrated amp)
Speakers: Kiso Acoustic HB-1
Cables: ZenSati Seraphim
Rack: Critical Mass Systems Olympus


The Most Realistic Sound in an otherwise crappy room that gave me a glimpse of things to come in the TechDas stable was done by Danny Kaey from Einstein and TechDas with Bob Graham. Along for the show was none other than the master himself, Nishikawa San. There were Einstein Speakers (which I have never heard) and Einstein electronics including an Einstein tone arm and cartridge

On rotation was an AF 3 as well as an Air Force One Premium with the update controller which has an automatic self level, new spindle, firmware etc. The killer demo for me however and ddk who sat next to me was when Nishikawa San himself did the following demo to give us a glimpse of the AF Zero. He brought along the new beast of a motor that has 2 amps to drive it as it is spinning the new tungsten platter that must have weighed 35 lbs. The demo was in Japanese and interpreted by his aide Motofumi. Nishikawa put the icing on the cake by taking out two never played lacquers of Japanese music. I van tell you it gave me goose bumps and made the hair on my arms stand up as it was so real. I think David was just as impressed as me. David commented that it was finally like the old big Micro Seikei's of days gone by also designed by Nishikawa

I can say that I personally have never heard vinyl as good as this. Certainly the new lacquers played a big role as well. The sound was mesmerizing

So for those saving for the next year release of the AF Zero I say start saving your shekels as rumor has it that it will be in the $300K range

I could have listened all day to what he played

おめでとうございます
Omedetōgozaimasu Nishikawa San
 
Jan 29, 2014
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Cape Town South Africa
#2
Having had the G1's and having upgraded to the spirits a month ago .. I can back up your comments re the spirits ..its not just more of the G1.. its a different speaker altogether..
 

DaveyF

Well-Known Member
Aug 1, 2010
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La Jolla, Calif USA
#4
Nice write up, Steve. Personally, I would swap the two top contenders around, giving the edge to the new Giya Spirits and the second place to the new VS's. Although I am sure that it was probably room related, the diffuse soundstage in the VS room bothered me a little.
The new Giya Spirit's were spot on in reproducing the very difficult jazz guitar track with Joe Pass playing solo, that Philip graciously played for me. I also liked the room with the larger YG's that our friend Alex at Alma showed. That would be in my 3rd position.
Unfortunately, and as usual, the rooms displaying horn based systems did nothing for me... including the room with the Volti's. This room was just bland sounding to my ears and had all of the issues that I typically associate with horns. Steve, what were your impressions of the horn based systems?
 

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
#5
Im not an existential on horn based speakers. Ddk's is my favorite. The only one I remember at the show was the Acapella that Nellie from Audio Federation showed.
 

DaveyF

Well-Known Member
Aug 1, 2010
5,862
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La Jolla, Calif USA
#6
Im not an existential on horn based speakers. Ddk's is my favorite. The only one I remember at the show was the Acapella that Nellie from Audio Federation showed.
Interesting that you mention the Acapella's. Of all the horn systems at the show, I thought these sounded the best...and a very nice improvement over the SQ that I have heard from them in the past. Still not to my taste, but at least somewhat listenable...and maybe even for the long term.
 

KeithR

VIP/Donor
May 7, 2010
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Marina del Rey, CA
#7
Interesting that you mention the Acapella's. Of all the horn systems at the show, I thought these sounded the best...and a very nice improvement over the SQ that I have heard from them in the past. Still not to my taste, but at least somewhat listenable...and maybe even for the long term.
It was the same setup they had last year basically. I don't get a 100k integrated, but what do I know :)

I didn't care for Volti or Spatial horns - yes, the latter was technically a waveguide according to Clayton, but I'm calling it a horn as it was so large.
 
Jan 29, 2014
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Cape Town South Africa
#10
They can overload a room , I have had to implement a high pass at 20hz with the spirits..Dirac measurements show that at 10hz they are only down by 2db!!!!
Not too much of an issue with most music , but some recordings have ultra low freq encoded and the woofers go mad!!!
 
Jan 29, 2012
907
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#11
The Einstein room was the best in show for me and highlights a growing trend: full range drivers supplemented by a super tweeter and woofer. Also I have to say I was impressed with the Vandersteen room, best I've ever heard a Vandersteen set up at a show, and the new turntable from Basis was stunning.

And...another joke of a display by Magnepan. Stacked .7's with a 1.7 in the middle behind a stupid curtain. Why can't they just set up the 20.7's and show the audiophile community the tremendous value there speakers deliver.
 

asiufy

Member Sponsor
Jul 8, 2011
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San Diego, CA
almaaudio.com
#12
Forgot to mention that I also through the wristband thing was not a good idea... Other than the forum folks I knew before, I didn't get to meet any of you, and I was in one of our rooms 99% of the time!
 

KeithR

VIP/Donor
May 7, 2010
3,115
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Marina del Rey, CA
#13
And...another joke of a display by Magnepan. Stacked .7's with a 1.7 in the middle behind a stupid curtain. Why can't they just set up the 20.7's and show the audiophile community the tremendous value there speakers deliver.
+1. Such a dud in a such a large room.

Also agree I've never heard Vandersteen sound better...and I don't traditionally like their speakers.
 

DaveyF

Well-Known Member
Aug 1, 2010
5,862
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La Jolla, Calif USA
#14
one interesting note - Philip changed to the G2s on Saturday as he said the Spirits were just loading the room too much.
That certainly wasn't a problem with the Joe Pass track that I heard on Friday:D. I brought this particular LP--on the Pablo label, as it is a very good indicator of how a speaker can portray accurate lower mids to highs. Joe's jazz box doesn't have anything in the way of deep low end...I had already figured that the Vivid Spirit's had no problem with ultra lows!! Do agree that Philip was smart to change them out if they were overloading the room with most material that had deep bass.
 

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