This is the order in which the show was seen this year, and
the order in which the show report was written as well. The show
report reads more or less like a story (odyssey) of what it was
like for us at the show. The show report continues on in the Blog,
the Blog taking up where this show report leaves off... sort of.
Each page in this show report has about 125 photos. There are
room by room links down below (please scroll down).
LVCC South Hall
St. Tropez A
Venetian Level 2
Venetian Level 2 B
LVCC Central Hall
Floor 30 Wing A 1
Floor 30 Wing A 2
Floor 29 Wing A 1
Floor 29 Wing A 2
Floor 29 Wing B 1
Floor 29 Wing B 2
Floor 30 Wing B 1
Floor 30 Wing B 2
Alexis Park A
Alexis Park B
Floor 29 Wing C 1
Floor 29 Wing C 2
Floor 29 Wing C 3
Floor 30 Wing C 1
Floor 30 Wing C 2
Are We Purveyors of Audio Porn?
Yes. Yes we are.
Some people seem to think that the sleek line of shiny chrome,
big blue digital readouts, the perfection of an unmolested
mounting screw, electrons pumping threw massive cables, fine woods
from around the world and, last and mostest, the glow of the
vacuum tube - is all something that detracts and distracts from
the audiophile pursuit.
But we don't think that [Guess you could kinda tell that from
these show reports we do. But just in case, now you know]
Is It Unfair to Report What We Hear at High-end
We don't think so.
Some people seem to think that protecting certain brands from
being exposed as not sounding very good is best left to them or to
some mystical organization that at the time when the Earth is
finally consumed by the Sun, the oceans vaporized, ESPN, which is
covering the event to the tune of Barber's Adagio for Strings,
zooms in on a memo, scant seconds before it disintegrates with the
news that, "Oh, by the way, Meridian speakers suck for music
playback. Krelll with B&W speake...". And then it is gone forever.
They seem to think that it in some way protects the industry to
keep reporting that everything, everywhere is hunky-dory.
With respect to show reports their argument usually involves
something they call 'show conditions'.
Well, under 'show conditions', some systems [i.e. an amplifier
paired with a speaker - most other equipment just adds or detracts
from what is already the core sound of the system] always
sound good [plus or minus some fudge factor to account for real
show conditions] and some always don't. Different rooms,
hotels, cities, configurations.... whatever. Wonder why that is?
Maybe it is because.... oh, I don't know..... maybe that one
system sounds good and the other one doesn't?
And some amplifiers sound bad on whatever speaker it is shown
with, and some speakers display problems no matter what system
they are paired with. We all have NO IDEA why that is, do we?
Yes, determining what is 'good' requires listening, and the
hearing of and understanding of problems - not the happiest of
tasks, and kind of a downer to read about as well, sometimes, huh?
And there has to be a bar: set not as high as Romy would have
it, where nothing sounds good at all; and not as low as your
average reviewer, where everything SOUNDS GREAT! GO OUT AND BUY IT
TODAY! and not some bendy twisty randomly positioned bar that we
see on many forums. So we set it in the middle somewhere - maybe
not exactly where YOU might set it, but we hope it is at least
somewhere in the same neighborhood.
And that neighborhood, as we see it, is delimited by sound that
is, at whatever price, 'in kind' with the best equipment in the
world that is tailored to deliver the particular type of sound
under question. I.E. we say a system, at whatever price, is above
the bar, and deemed 'good,' if its 'balance of flaws' is similar
to the balance of flaws in the handful of super-systems in the
world [devolving this description can go on forever, but things
like compression on all sorts of levels, problems in decay
envelopes and harmonic color, etc are present in all systems
today. Long time readers will recognize this as the same as
whether a system is on the 'path' to the ultimate system, as
opposed to being off in some dead-end canyon with really high
cliffs and a lot of tumbleweeds and nasty cactus, out of water and
the temperature is climbing above 100 degrees Fahrenheit... and we
just sprained our ankle].
So, if you are prospecting for high-end audio gold, and want to
check out some canyons, fine. We are just letting other people
know that 1) it is a dead-end canyon, and 2) if you want a really
great system, you are going to have to come back out of that
canyon and get right back on the path. And for those of us trying to
minimize the drain on our finances of this hobby of ours, staying
on the path is kind of a good thing.
[Yes, I know. Too many brackets  and some sentences require
multiple readings so that the original 'sentence without the
brackets' can be understood. Sorry about that. It's gonna get
worse by the time this show report is finally done with. I just
Unsafe At Any Volume
We are starting something new [uh, today, in the middle of the
report, and we are retrofitting some room reviews] - offering
opinions on how to try and make some show systems sound better
next year. Not like the Mixibitors, which move components from
room to room, but typical things an audiophile might try if this
was their system.
The Show Tone This Year
The overall quality of the sound we hear at shows seems to
be... well it is like this:
The worst sound is getting better. There were only one or two
rooms that were serious candidates for Most Terrible of Show.
Good sound is getting worse. With cable manufacturers now
making speakers, and speaker manufacturers making amps, and rack
manufacturers making speakers... well, you get the picture... and
the fact that 1) they are charging a pretty penny for their new
products, and 2) they don't sound very good [or very bad, they are
just noticeably worse than others at the price point], and 3) there
is a heckuva lot of these out there now, is all serving to bring down the quality
of the sound in the 'good' (fairly expensive) category.
[and it doesn't help that a large number of rooms use iPods or
laptops with under-performing DACs.]
The best sound is getting better. But it is getting WAY
The thing to do is buy speakers from, uh, speaker
manufacturers? And similarly with amps and cables, etc. And rely
on the trickling down of last years uber expensive technology into
the rest of their product line. Assuming that is, that they even
have uber technology and that their uber technology sounds good to
you [some manufacturers put out ho-hum technology year after year
and get away with it because of aggressive and persistent
marketing, and frequent version upgrades].
The Most Loved Of Show (in no particular order)
The criteria being that 1) I got to hear the system and 2) the
system did not have so serious of a flaw [or two] that it put it
outside the expectations for its price class and prevented it from
being enjoyable, and 3) that the overall performance was above
average for its price class [in terms of the overall flaws, as
compared to real music whether electronic or acoustic].
We are also leaving out our Audio Note rooms,
[$15K], even though I
think most people would think they belong on the list (and we were
happy with them) most people probably want to know what other
rooms we liked...
Because we are seeing a lot of new visitors, who may not
be familiar with the prices of various pieces of equipment, we are
including an approximate cost
for each system - as we heard it [i.e. if we didn't hear
the reel-to-reel or turntable, we are not including it in the
Lamm* / Wilson / Zanden / TW-Acustic / Kubala-Sosna / SRA
Resolution Audio / EPOS
EPOS / Creek / Music Hall
Von Schweikert / Audio Space
Marten* / EAR / Jorma Design*
Zanden / Cessaro
Sunny Cable Technology / Ayre
Evolution Acoustics / darTZeel / EMM Labs*
GTT Audio / Kharma* / Tenor / Vyger / Kubala-Sosna
GTT Audio / Kharma* / Tenor / Vyger
Audio Machina / Atma-Sphere / ModWright
Tidal / ASR / Oracle / Argento
Hansen / CAT / EMM Labs* / HRS*
Acoustic Zen* / Halcro
Atma-Sphere / Classic Audio
Vandersteen / Joule Electra
/ Aesthetix / Clearaudio / HRS* [$130K]
These rooms will be covered in greater
detail, where it makes sense, in the Blog after the show report is
There are so many, many open chassis here at the show this
As we mentioned before, turntable manufacturers are now making
components, equipment rack manufacturers are making speakers and
turntables, preamp manufactures are making cables, and on and on.
Now is the time when all manufacturers seem to think that
broadening their offerings will bring them success. Is the grass
really greener over in the other guy's section of the high-end
audio marketplace? And what happens when they find that it is not?
Venetian: Meeting Rooms Level 2