This is a highly opinionated review
- this is what *we* heard. So *please* do not be
offended if *your* favorite component did not
sound right to *our* ears. For better or worse,
we are stuck with (to) these ears, just as you
We (my wife
and I) stayed at the New York Hilton hotel,
Midtown Manhattan NYC, the site of this year's
show. 2 block in one direction is Radio City
Music Hall (where the Tony Awards were held the
day following the show), 2 blocks in the other is
Carnegie Hall. Ah, life in the big city. We found
the natives to be very alert, intelligent and
friendly and we enjoyed our stay immensely.
The first day
(Thursday) was the least busy, with Friday and
Saturday having at least twice as many people.
Sunday was somewhat calmer. The last day
(Sunday), was the last day and the day during
which it was easiest to get one's own CDs played.
There seemed to be a distinct preference for
exhibitors to play audiophile-quality music -
some even had completely 'canned' playlists and
refused to play anything else (Sound by Singer,
TacT). Ole Lund Christensen (GamuT, more later)
played selections from Pink Floyd, the Wall, a
few times which created a real buzz.
themes at the show(s) were: More turntables
(especially Clearaudio) being played than at CES
2002, lots of DSD mastered CDs, a number of the
higher-end rooms had Rix Rax equipment racks and
Aesthetix equipment. Many rooms were setup by
dealers, as opposed to just manufacturers and
distributors (for the most part) at CES.
One of our
goals at the show was to hear state-of-the-art
systems and compare them, in time and space, with
our current system to determine just where we
stood in terms of overall performance. An
additional goal was to hear various lines of
equipment and determine if there was something
out there that we just 'had to' have. This was
much more difficult than just evaluating high-end
full-range speakers, like we did at the last CES.
There are too many variables. For example, one
could get a real sense of what the Pipedreams
sound like, by hearing them in 2 completely
different rooms and systems (all GamuT, tiny room
and Audio Aero, Tenor, large room). But trying to
evaluate the, say, GamuT CD-1 CD player against
the Audio Aero Capitole mkII? The Audio Aero was
overwhelmed by the character of the Tenors. The
GamuT was piped through a totally unfamiliar
GamuT preamp. That being said, we did come away
with impressions that we wish to share here.
thing. We should have learned this at CES 2002,
and we were better at it at HE2002, but we really
need to go back to 'awful' sounding rooms
multiple times, because sometimes the exhibitors
are able to 'fix something' that makes the sound
during our subsequent visits much more pleasing.
Many of the
rooms, especially the second day (Friday) played
their systems WAY too loud. We now know what
Pipedreams and Lumenwhites sound like when they
break up when over driven. How nice. But we did
like it when the rooms had literature describing
like lots of detail, bass, soundstaging, dynamics
all with the correct timbre. We do not rule out
(or in) anything based on price. This is a highly
opinionated review - this is what *we* heard. So
*please* do not be offended if your favorite
component did not sound right to *our* ears.
Piega P5s, Aloia,...). Compressed. Timbre was not
correct. [Caveat, we did not go back after the
$16K speakers). Imaged well and deep soundstage
in the smallish sweet spot. The bass seemed boxy
(trapped within the speaker, some resonances).
Wilson Watt/Puppy 7s. VTL monoblocks, and room
Wilson Watch Dog stage left of the Watt/Puppy 7s.
(NYC) (Watt Puppy 7, Watch Dog, 4 VTL
monoblocks). [1st day] The speakers completely
dissapear and image quite well. Neutral but not
cold sounding. Tiniest bit bright sounding, the
slightest bit compressed at the end of each note.
Slightly over the top (prominent) midrange still
there (the Wilson sound). Timbre very slightly
off. [2nd listen, Manley amplifiaction] Great,
tunefull and detailed bass. Still problems in the
highs with the brightness/beamyness/forwardness.
Disappears and images very well. Macrodynamics
not compressed. The WP 7s are quite an
improvement over the 6s. The WatchDog is quite a
beast. Very nice, detailed, extended bass with
the slam one expects from Wilson.
Pipedreams/Tenor/Audio Aero/Rix Rax room center
Hemisphere Pipedreams, Audio Aero Capitole mk II,
Tenor 75w amps, Silversmith (paladium) cables,
Rix Rax). [1st day] Good sound, great bass.
Imaging outside the sweet spot suffered quite a
bit. [2nd listen] My theory about the pipedreams:
Midrange energy is so full and open and detailed
in a wide band on these speakers - I think this
is what lends them their charm. Outside this
band, and outside that supported by the
subwoofers, is not handled as well (or perhaps
even badly) - but these areas are in those areas
(many of) our ears easily overlook. [3rd listen]
Take 5 - bass somewhat muddy, head in a vise
imaging, but nice big sound.
Rockport Antares and Halcro dm68 amplifiers.
Rockport/Halcro room Rix Rax with Clearaudio
turntable, Aesthetix phono stage and Marantz
Antares, Halcro dm68 amp, Halcro dm10 pre,
Aesthetix IO signature phono stage, Rix Rax,
Clearaudio master reference turntable, master TQI
tonearm, Insider Reference Wood cartridge,
Marantz SACD-1). [1st day] Traditional hifi
speaker sound. Many box colorations. [2nd day]
Clearer, faster, than JM Lab Grand Utopias where
we just came from. Soundstage slightly
miniturized - otherwise fills the large room
well, speakers disappear and image well. There is
some kind of annoying compression in the lower
mids, some kind of box coloration - very
'speakerish'. Day 2 sounded much better than Day
1 -- they must have changed *something*. [3rd
listen] Neli was disappointed with the sound of
SACD on the Marantz, as compared to the vinyl.
Speakers still drop out in lower midrange
(soundstage contracts, sound comes from speakers,
resonance/congestion in a slightly wide band).
day] Very, very nice. So why do we not like this
sound more (we asked ourselves). Slightest bit
sterile. A little closed in (not as dynamic and
open as we like it). Essentially, it just doesn't
sound as much like music or have as much of that
'emotional appeal' that we like. [2nd listen]
'Slower' sounding than Tenor/Pipedream system.
(Pipedreams, CD-1, GamuT pre, GamuT D200s on
pipedream subwoofers, GamuT S 600 M (M stands for
Monster?)). [1st day] Plays loud well :-) Sweet,
musical midrange. Bass not as detailed as some.
[2nd listen] Still very nice. Imaging nice on
classical music - minimal compression/congestion.
Not as good as the Walker/Kharma exquisite combo
at CES... but nice.
& Video(Kharma Ceramiques 3.2, Lamm ML2 amps,
Lamm L2 pre, CEC TL1X transport, dCS Elgar Plus
DAC). [1st listen] PRaT, emotive, but compressed
bass (especially on lower-register piano keys).
[2nd listen] Ignore the very compressed bass and
it was pure music. Neli wished that they brought
some of the bigger Kharmas even though the system
fit the small room rather well.
TEchnology Airfoil 5.2, BAT VK-75SE amp, BAT
VK-50SE pre, BAT VK-D5SE CD player, Cardas
cabling). Compressed sound. Muddled. Lots of
LAB Grand Utopia and its two Lamm ML1s.
Singer (JM LAB Grand Utopia, 4 Lamm ML1 biamping,
Lamm L2 pre, dCS VERDI CD/SACD transport, dCS
purcell/edgar, Synergistic Research cabling).
Singer: "This is the best system there is.
If you ever think you hear better, have your ears
examined". Big, open sound overall, tonally
accurate. Could have more detail/definition in
the bass, not a lot of air. Interestingly: SACD
sounded cold, forward, 'CD-ish'. Upsampled CDs
Viola with 2 subwoofer modules and one midrange
speakers/system. Interesting concept of mixing
and matching bass and midrange units. Sounded
competant - didn't get a good grasp of what this
system really sounded like. Stereophile's Paul
Bolin was there and said he would try to get
Stereophile to review them.
5, Ayre amp, Aesthetic pre, Ayre CX-7 CD player,
Clearaudio Max Solution turntable). Clean,
speakerish. Sound coming from a box - no illusion
of reality. It is my thought that Vandersteen
makes one of 2 or 3 best sounding 'speakers'
there are, but that some speakers go beyond
sounding like speakers. Did a direct comparison
between CD and Vinyl. Vinyl won out by a large
margin (PRaT, liquidity, bass, ...).
Toys from the
Attic (Eggleston Savoy, Andra II subwoofer, Andra
center, Andra II in rear in a 5.1 channel
configuration, CAT JL3 monoblocks, VPI TNT HR-X
turntable, EMC-1 MkII CD player). [1st listen]
Bass full, tunefull, controlled, lots of
definition (this is in stark contrast to our
experiance in the past with Andra speakers, most
recently CES using Pass Labs amplification). CD
player and turntable sounded much closer in
quality that in the Ayre room. There was some
congestion if more than one instrument was
playing at a time. Still significant harshness in
the upper mids. [2nd listen] played both the race
scene from Star Wars Episode I and 2-channel
music. There was a sweetness to the 5.1 sound
that was in stark comparison to the Krell setup
(see below). Speakers image and disappear well
(but we were 4th or 5th row center - very far
DLP projector. Great picture, lots of depth. Very
clear and colorful in a black-curtained section
of the room. Some digital edginess though, and
some actors appeared to be digitally rendered -
front and rear of the Krell Lat-1.
Krell Master Reference Subwoofer.
fronts, 4 Lat-2s side and rear, master reference
subwoofer (120DB at 20hz), Fajoura). Can you
say... ssssibilants? Ouch. But the openness, air,
and dynamics matched anything I have previously
heard. Their speakers and sound seem very much to
be in the 'Wilson tradition'. Another
interesting, big, loud, deep subwoofer.
Calix Phoenix speakers.
speakers - various unrecognizable but
cool-looking equipment). Compressed/muddled
somewhat on massed instruments. But piano/violin
duo sounded very, very real. Female voices were
well rendered. Bass fairly detailed. This system
had a 'signature sound' that is hard to fathom.
Sometimes it is spot on, sometimes... not.
demonstration). Swapped in and out all 5 lines of
Nordost interconnect to illustrate their
differences. Very educational. Most people seemed
to get/hear the differences just fine.
TacT). Excellent approach to sound reproduction,
impeccable implementation. But... sounded
processed, not much air, not much definition in
the bass, flat soundstage. It did not sound like
music. It did not even sound like good hifi.
Acoustic Dreams room.
Dreams (Lumenwhite 'Whitelight', VAIC Classic
52-B Monoblocks amplification, dCS upsampling,
dCS VERDI CD/SACD transport, Shunyata). Very
crisp, clean, tonefull, quick presentation. Not
as big and open as the bigger speakers at the
show. Beautiful rendition of Spanish guitar.
(The Legend?). Outside the door it sounded great,
at least a drum solo did, very realistic for any
size speaker. But 1. the room was always dark -
so who knows what the equipment was and 2. it was
very, very LOUD. Ear damaging loud.
speakers, BAT equipment. Tiny speakers, big
sound. More accurate than the Sonus Faber
Electas, maybe not as sweet. We heard these right
at the end of the show so only got to hear them
Singer (AudioPhysic Vergo III, Accuphase DP-85 CD
player, Hovland HP-100 pre, Hovland Sapphire amp,
Hovland cabling). Nice sound, not much in the
deep bass or air categories, and a little too
much zip in the high-mids. Detailed and musical,
wishing they had used a more bigger sounding
speaker (but it was a smaller room so perhaps not
as big as the Tannoy Churchills that were used at
Accoustics. The big boys are still boxy sounding.
Merlin. Both the rooms were nice - but we wished
that Joule had chosen more detailed and fuller
sounding speakers so that we could hear more what
they - the Joules - sound like.
Roman Audio speakers have a nice mid-range, while
lacking in bass and air.
Chesky Audio speakers. Lots of midrange detail,
also lacking in the bass department.
FPS F1 speakers did not do it for us.
Marketing (no website: 800-554-4517,
email@example.com). Interesting selection of
audiophile CDs: Chinese SACDs, test CDs, Wilson
(www.redtrumpet.com). Audiophile CDs, LPs and
equipment. Many popular DSD, 24 bit, millenium
edition, Japanese import recordings (DSD Miles
Davis, 24bit Wishbone Ash, King Crimson, etc.).
Fully functional website.
JVC XRCD. On
sale (sort of) for $20. (except Dire Straights
Brothers in Arms, Eagles Hell Freezes Over, etc.
- i.e. the ones I personally was interested in
Very nice people. Hand made very high quality
recordings of somewhat obscure artists. http://www.marecordings.com
We had good
luck with dining in NYC -- in direct contrast to
All these restaurants cater to both vegetarians
and omnivores. As you can see, we prefer ethnic
Both of these
East Indian restaurants are on 58th between 2nd
and 3rd avenues.
We had an excellant meal at each. If any of you
are foodies, Madhur Jaffrey (cookbook author)
consults on the menu at Dawat. Dawat is slightly
more expensive than Chola. There is also a third
East Indian restaurant in that block which we
(Ethiopian) - 468 W. 47th between 9th & 10th
Excellant food, perhaps the best collard greens
on the planet. Probably the healthiest meal we
ate in NYC.
Very inexpensive. Very nice people.
Topaz (Thai) -
127 W. 56th St. between 6th & 7th.
Very good thai, and only 2 blocks from the hotel.
We ate there twice. Fast service. Not fiery hot.
We ate Chinese
food twice in Midtown. One was cheap and OK (too
much sauce), the other expensive with snooty
not much selection, and food not worth the price.
Neither one warrants a review.
for next time are gladly accepted.
Stairway to Heaven
from the 4th to the 6th and 7th floors were,
seemingly, not intended by the Hotel to be used
by their clientele and had a nice,
Frankensteinian atmosphere to them...
|"Wonder where that
goes to?" they ask innocently....
|"What the heck did
we get ourselves into now?"
||Follow the white HE2002
|Maybe those arrows lead
to audiophile hell instead of heaven...
||Hmmmm. Me thinks I will
not go exploring just now...
||Ah! Another arrow. Maybe
not all is lost.
|OK. We are lost, forever
||Another HE2002 arrow. We
||Floor 6. There be
audiophiles here! Heaven or hell, we are
Best of Show 9-way Tie
had something that was not quite right, nothing
stood out head-and-shoulders above another. So
accolades goes to those systems that we were able
to listen to and enjoy the music without being
overly distracted by 'quirks'.
Watt/Puppy 7/Watch Dog (Innovative)
Ceramiques 3.2, Lamm ML2, L2 (GTT Audio &
JM Lab Grand
Utopia/Lamm ML1, L2 (Sound by Singer)
JM Lab Grand
Utopia/Lamm ML1, L2 (Sound by Singer)
Watt/Puppy 7/Watch Dog (Innovative)
Ceramiques 3.2, Lamm ML2, L2 (GTT Audio &
See y'all next year!