The courtyard of the
hotel where VTV was hosted this year. A very nice courtyard.
Lovely in fact. If only the
hotel's room decor was correspondingly lovely...
The VTV was hosted in
rooms on the 2nd floor except for the general marketplace room
down on the first. One just had to circumnavigate the courtyard on
this 2nd floor, looking for yellow signs on hotel room doors
proclaiming them to be part of the show, gently push open the door
(so as not to bump someone on the nose or noggin coming out) and have a
This show was
about one tenth the size of the Stereophile / Primedia-sponsored
Home Entertainment Show 2006 show (you might want to also check out our
HE2006 show report) which was, oh, about one quarter to one half mile away. Easy to
walk to, not to much traffic on the streets, and was quite a nice
walk - good to get outside for a bit.
There were a couple of rooms with more
expensive gear (Audio Note, de Havilland) who had chosen to
exhibit here rather than at HE 2006, and the rest were of lesser
known and/or less expensive equipment. The Stereophile Show is quite a
bit more expensive relative to other shows and many manufacturers
and dealers cannot afford to exhibit there.
There was a steady stream of people, and the
lack of crowds allowed one to have a seat and listen for quite a
while, without feeling the need to get up after just a few minutes
so as to not bogart the sweet spot. However, I am sure the
exhibitors would have liked more people to show up.
OK, a question. Why oh gawd why are so many
rooms using cheap, yes cheap, DVD players as digital sources? No
we're not talking about modded Sony DVP9000ES's or anything. About
half the rooms here and about 20% of the rooms at HE 2006 across
the street seem to be using $100-$500 players to demonstrate music
on what are sometimes $100K+ systems. Do they actually believe the
rhetoric by some popular web denizens that all CD, and DVD,
players sound the same? Is this what the manufacturers use to test
with, their dealers use to demo with? Like Neli says, at least get
a cheap turntable - its going to sound sooo much better.
About our listening process: it may be cruel
to think about, but it only takes seconds to recognize and
categorize the sound of a bad-sounding system, but it may take
days, weeks, years to plumb the depths of a great-sounding
one. Like wine, someone hands you vinegar, you can tell pretty
quickly that you do not like the taste, and why. Someone hands
you... OK, out of my depth here... something else, it may take a
few cases for one to decide that the wine has a slightly annoying
aftertaste 5 minutes after consumption. It also helps if one is an
experienced wine taster - judgments can be made about the better
wines, not the great ones but the better ones, much more quickly
if one has tasted a lot of the greatest wines in the world
This report will also, like our HE 2006
report, traverse the show in the same order we first experienced
it, except that the large Audio Note room, which was easily best
of show, and most expensive of show, will be saved for last (we saw it third
the first day and also on the second and last day).
describe the sound we experience in terms of our categorization of
the purpose and behavior of hi-fi music reproduction systems, to
As a minimum, as a
baseline, the sound should not be "Terrible" nor "Offensive", the
sound should be able to degrade gracefully when faced with overly
complex music material:
The most commonly desired category. 
A big soundstage, powerful bass, lots of macrodynamics.  Lots
of midrange detail.
The most neglected category by the very
high-end.  Competent sound (dynamics, frequency balance,
soundstaging, timbre is not terrible). Nothing offensive.
Enjoyable plus something extra. 
Timber and note envelopes altered to sound more like music does
when the listener has consumed alcohol
Also enjoyable and pleasant 
Often thought to be at the end of the
high-end rainbow, but repeated experiences with blues and
melancholy music pushes one to go farther.  The music pulls
at the heart in the direction of the emotional content of the
musician's message. This effect can be of varying strengths. 
Leads to mood swings and to listening to more ?fun?,
lighthearted music than before.
True timbre and note envelope
development.  The subtleties of the sound is real. The
correctness of the macrodynamics, level of detail, etc. is not
necessary for this category
The ?Absolute Sound?. Comparable to the
real thing. The most often mistakenly heard category.  Able
to suspend the listener?s sense of disbelief. Transparent -
ability to ?see? the stage and the musicians.  Sufficiently
technically correct reproduction but only to the degree where it
satisfies requirement .
The voice of God. Contact with the
Cosmic Consciousness.  Some things occur inside the listener
which are not typically associated with listening to music. The
music becomes a pathway to experiencing things and ideas that
are beyond the usual daydreams one has had before, and in fact,
quite strange, but in a good way.  Rampant confusion and
respect caused by 
Our preference is for the
system to address each one of these categories, to max out on all
of them in a well-balanced splurge of a musical feast. As a
system may fail to do this, or even attempt this kind of a
magnificence, it is my preference for it to be enjoyable and Neli's, I think, for it to be sophisticated.
In all categories, in all
respects, it is necessary that for the system sound to not be
Terrible, that it degrade gracefully when confronted
with music too complex for it to handle. That it not chase one out
of the room - if it collapses into a wall of murk, fine, but
please not have
lots of screechy, ear piercing, 'weapon of mass ear destruction'
kinds of nasty behavior.
And one final note: In
all of our reports, and this is the
to date, it is only the rooms with expensive, or over-hyped,
or well-established, equipment that we describe with unflinching
prose whether they sound great or disappoint. About the small guy
however, unless they exceed our expectations, we will just say a
few words, or nothing at all.
OK, room by room, then: