February in Tampa is a really good time and place to be! When this present was first introduced, I knew I’d attend. If nothing else, it might afford me an opportunity to get out of Philly in February. Nevertheless it was greater than that. I had excessive hopes that this could possibly be a lacking hyperlink within the Hello-Fi present circuit…a present within the SouthEast USA early within the yr. This might present corporations a chance to launch their new merchandise after the demise of CES (Shopper Electronics Present) for the Hello-Fi enterprise. As the seller record started to spherical into type, two issues have been clear. First, the inaugural present would offer a really good glimpse into the Hello-Fi enterprise for attendees and second, that headphones can be sadly missing from that have. After considerably lackluster attendance by headphone fanatics at some previous regional exhibits, the business determined to take a seat this one out and watch from the sidelines. Based mostly on what I’ve seen, I’m hoping that gained’t be the case in future exhibits. Within the meantime, Headphone.Guru is right here and glad to report on the present highlights of each private audio and a few distinctive ‘Speaker-Fi’ choices. Right here we go!
Friday morning at 9:30 sharp, Michael Fremer, Stereophile’s resident Analog champion, reduce the ribbon on the present and invited the gang to take a look at the choices.
VAC/VSA/Esoteric/The Audio Firm
The primary room I visited turned out to be one of many easiest the present needed to supply! Kevin Hayes, proprietor of Sarasota-based VAC (Valve Amplification Firm), celebrated with the ability to present at a ‘Native’ present by bringing a wide selection of their distinctive electronics. One system included their Assertion line of phono preamp, line stage, and monobloc amplifiers. The 2nd system showcased their Renaissance mk5 phono stage, Grasp line stage and monobloc amps.
All of that, whereas lovely to take a look at, wouldn’t present a lot with out audio system! The audio system in query have been offered by Von Schweikert Audio. Damon and Leif introduced Four totally different speaker choices. The VAC Assertion electronics have been driving their new $90okay Extremely 55 audio system in a shocking purple end. The system topped out at about $600,000 earlier than cables and sounded prefer it ought to at that worth!
On the opposite finish of the room, their E3 and E5 audio system have been showcasing what they will do for a extra approachable worth level.
Each methods have been fronted by DAC’s from Esoteric. The ‘Huge Rig’ was utilizing their Grandioso D1 monobloc DAC’s, N-01 Streamer, Grandioso P1 Transport, and Grandioso G1 Grasp Clock.
Analog supply was the Kronos turntable with Hermetic Opus1 Cartridge
Sufficient concerning the gear…what concerning the sound? Merely put…chic. The Grandioso/Assertion/U55 system disappeared and transported me to the venue. Enjoying some reside jazz, all they wanted to do was pump some smoke into the room and I might have believed I used to be in a speakeasy listening to a reside efficiency. If in case you have the means, I like to recommend you verify them out!
Within the hallway proper outdoors the Huge Room was a modest desk manned by Chebon Littlefield of Mytek Digital. Removed from the grandiose scale of the earlier room, the distinctive Mytek Manhattan and Brooklyn DAC+’s have been driving headphones from HiFiMan (HE-1000), Audeze (LCD-X) and Sennheiser (HD-650). The Manhattan was related to each a digital supply and a VPI Cliffwood turntable since each the Manhattan and Brooklyn embrace an MM phono preamp. The brand new member of the Mytek household is their Brooklyn Bridge. This gadget provides you the sonics of the DAC+ however provides streaming capabilities. Through the use of their MyConnect App, you get Tidal, Qobuz and native HDD entry in addition to wi-fi connection to your smartphone, pill or pc. It has full MQA hardware decoding and may act as a Roon endpoint. Along with the wi-fi capabilities, you get direct digital inputs for optical, coaxial and USB. Oh yeah…and it’s a implausible headphone amp with preamp outputs. I used to say the Brooklyn DAC was the Swiss Military Knife of digital merchandise…nicely, this provides much more. All this for $2,995. Pre-orders are being taken at mytekdigital.com
Subsequent door to Mytek was the MBL ‘Huge’ room. They have been showcasing their Noble Line electronics powering their Radialstrahler MBL 101 X-treme audio system. The sound was BIG and nook to nook ‘Room Filling’, however to my ears, it lacked the exact imaging that I really like. Tonality was spot on from deep, taught and highly effective bass to glowing treble that was by no means fatiguing.
Subsequent cease was the Hegel room the place Anders Ertzeid was displaying off their mighty H590 Built-in Amplifier. The sound was so punchy and dynamic that I assumed it was coming from the separate energy amp on the bottom tier of the show, however Anders defined that it was simply the character of the built-in…one they designed to drive any audio system on the market! I consider him!
Marking their return to the US market, David Patching, Head of selling for Cyrus Audio, was displaying their Cyrus OneHD built-in amplifier with DAC and Excessive-current headphone amplifier. It’s going to drive headphones in addition to audio system with its 100w/ch ‘Hybrid’ Class-D amplifier, that includes SID (Speaker Impedance Detection). This design senses the load introduced by the audio system and adjusts the output accordingly.
This can be a terrific desktop system. Inputs on your pc or DAP by way of USB, Optical, SPDIF, line-level RCA (x3), MM phono and aptX BlueTooth and output on your personal headphone listening enjoyment or room-filling speaker sound. All this and it’s sufficiently small to suit in your desk. Pricing is $1399 on Amazon.
Top-of-the-line sounding rooms I got here throughout was the AVM room. Peder Backman was demonstrating their Evolution Line electronics. I discovered myself sitting there for a while as music washed over me repeatedly. Clear, clear, dynamic and with little or no clue that I used to be in a tiny lodge room. The guts of the system is their PA eight.2 modular preamplifier. This lets you determine what forms of inputs you need…line and phono choices in addition to digital…even a tuner. It additionally permits you to select a strong state output module, a tube output module OR BOTH! The headphone stage additionally has its personal built-in sign path, not simply an afterthought.
I’ve certainly one of their built-in amps in for an audition and a few images…keep tuned for extra!
Fred Ainsley was available from Swiss-based Lampizator and was showcasing their Golden Gate 2 DAC being fed by their Tremendous Komputer server. These have been sending the sign to the brand new Pacific amplifier by way of a VAC Renaissance mk5 preamp. All this was driving VonSchweikert E-Three audio system. The sound was delicate and delicate when wanted and forceful when the supply demanded it. When you’ve got the means, I extremely advocate checking them out!
In my persevering with seek for headphone audio, I discovered Sonnare tucked into the kitchen space of the Atrevit Acoustic room. Daniel Cheever, designer and proprietor of Sonnare Audio was displaying his award-winning Emotion Headphone Amp. Daniel took the 7 years of analysis he did for his grasp’s thesis and turned it right into a sensible answer for headphone lovers. The Soviet 4P1L tubes are configured as single ended and direct heated triodes. Energy output is 1.5W right into a 50ohm load and is a superb match for planar headphones just like the Audeze and HiFiMan flagships. The sound was pure, clear and large…sure, WIDE…with planars! At $1,795, this amp is killer.
ALWAYS a contender for greatest sound at exhibits (and this was no exception) the mixture of Doshi electronics driving Joseph Audio audio system is elegant. There’s a synergy that’s actually distinctive. The diminutive Pulsar audio system are so impactful that everybody who is available in asks the place the sub is. But they’re so revealing and delicate that they merely disappear and allow you to be correctly concerned within the music. The supply materials was reel to reel grasp tapes performed by way of a Studer RtR deck by means of the superb Doshi Tape Preamp, Line Stage, and Stereo energy amp. All of the wiring, from energy by way of audio system, was Cardas. Really a world class system.
One other room making lovely music by way of a Doshi Energy amp was the AURALiC room. Alex Brinkman was there together with Trevor Ryan of Ryan Audio system. The Digital Entrance Finish was made up of the superb AURALiC G-Collection electronics. This consists of the Aries Wi-fi Streaming Transporter, The Vega Streaming DAC and the Leo GX Reference Grasp Clock. This technique delivered flawless digital content material utterly freed from jitter on to the superb Doshi Stereo tube amp, which in flip was driving the smallest of the Ryan S-line of audio system, their S610. Delivering sound that belies their measurement, the Ryans offered yet one more exceptionally musical expertise.
Carl Marchisotto of NOLA audio system was available to exhibit his diminutive Brio Quad Four-way system consisting of two tiny screens and a couple of eight” lengthy throw powered subwoofers that make use of an A/B amp quite than the standard class-D amp. The screens use 2 Three.5” drivers, one in a ported decrease enclosure and one in an higher open-baffle association, to deal with from 180hz up whereas the Sub handles the remaining. These have been pushed by Rogue electronics. The sound was seamless with no actual trace of crossover points. The tiny measurement (5.5” x 5.5” x 12” excessive) of the screens would make this an distinctive private audio system. Pricing for the Brio Quad is $5000 for the set. It’s also possible to get the Trio model with one sub for $3500.
Smaller and Smaller we go! Typically the tiniest bins yield the most important surprises! Buzz Goddard from ProJect was available to exhibit their line of budget-oriented turntables, however the show-stopper was their diminutive Pre-BoxS2 Digital and the model new StreamBox S2 Extremely. The previous is a preamp, headphone amp, and DAC all in a field the dimensions of a few decks of playing cards. In that itty bitty field, you’ll discover dual-mono design, twin ESS Sabre ESS9038 DAC’s, MQA hardware decoding and the power to play every thing as much as DSD512! For these in search of an all-digital answer that matches anyplace, this might be it!
The matching StreamBox S2 Extremely brings the world of streaming to your desktop as properly! Need to stream Tidal or Spotify…achieved! Need to join a tough drive…finished! Need to use it as a Roon endpoint…finished? Need to management all of it out of your smartphone or pc…achieved! Need to hook up an HDMI monitor…achieved! Pair this with the Pre-Field and a pair of amplified audio system and your favourite headphones and you’ve got a wonderful private audio setup.
One other stalwart of the Private Audio business is speaker producer Vanatoo. Gary Gesellchen was of their room displaying off the Clear lineup of powered wi-fi audio system. The tiny T-Zeros are astonishing within the bass they get from a very desktop enclosure, however the star was the brand new T-One Encore speaker. Nonetheless sized to suit on a desk, but in addition able to filling a small room with nice sound, these audio system are amplified and have inputs for USB, Toslink Optical, Coax, analog, and Bluetooth! The sound was wealthy and delicate and simply crammed the lodge suite. In case you’re on the lookout for a SOHO various, these may be it!
Jo Parvey invited me in to take heed to the system constructed round his really high-resolution audio server, the Alpha Three. This 5,995 server is principally a high-end pc with a base of 2TB of storage and an interface that lets you simply type and entry all your digital music. It may possibly run Roon, JRiver, Audionirvana and is an MQA decoder. It handles native DSD to 512 and each audio format I’ve ever heard of! There’s a built-in DVD/BR reader to can help you rip your bodily media to no matter format you select. However most significantly, His rooms at each FLAX and Capital AF have been among the many absolute best I heard.
Within the kitchen space of his suite, he was additionally displaying off the Alpha3’s little sibling, Luna. The Luna options the identical performance and similar 2TB base storage because the Alpha3, however is in a smaller field and makes use of a barely decrease powered processor. Similar sound, smaller package deal…smaller worth at $Three,600. Joe had me take heed to it via an Ayre Codex headphone amp driving Focal headphones. I stay blown away by the sound and the consumer interface.
No report can be full with out mentioning the official streaming platform of the present: Qobuz. David Soloman was roaming the present and almost each room was providing the attendees the chance to stream high-resolution music from an enormous library of artists. Now that the service has formally been launched within the US, I feel we’ll be seeing and listening to tons extra about this nice service.
Because the present wound down every night time, attendees and exhibitors mingled within the bar space and have been handled to what that is all about…music. Offered by the likes of chamber quartets and jazz ensembles.
Kudos go to Bart Andeer and his crew for placing on an ideal first present, to the venue for offering precisely the fitting really feel and facilities and to Frida for spectacular climate! I do know I’ll be again!