On May 6 and 7, 2006 the Vacuum Tube Valley Audio Expo was held at the Embassy Suites in Piscataway New Jersey. The show was very much to my liking in both scale and the products represented. There were enough people present such that no room seemed empty, but neither was there terrible crowding as in some larger shows.
A variety of manufacturers were represented ranging from start-ups to those somewhat more established, though notably absent were the larger brand names such as B&W, J&M Labs, Linn and Naim. Not unexpectedly, tube gear predominated; no complaints from me! Also to my liking was the prevalence of turntables. Rather than providing an exhaustive description of the entire show, I will touch on some of the rooms that struck my fancy. In no particular order…
A number of presenters showed that good sound can be had without taking out a second mortgage. In one room were paired Omega speakers (http://www.omegaloudspeakers.com) and amps from RedWine Audio (http://www.redwineaudio.com/), courtesy of Louis Chochos and Vinnie Rossi, respectively. Sources were a turntable and hard-drive based music server. The sound from the hemp-based speakers, while somewhat limited in frequency extremes, was dynamic, coherent, and never fatiguing. Stay tuned for a review of the Super Hemps by yours truly.
Robin Wyatt of Robyatt Audio (http://www.robyattaudio.com) once again proved himself to be audio’s favorite showman. Watching Robin swap power tubes in his affordable Tektron amp (driving a pair of Lamhorns) while the amp is powered up is a treat in itself, as is his always-fun commentary. And oh yes, the sound was warm, enveloping and easy to listen to. Very nice stuff.
Newcomers to the scene were Cheer electronics. Manufactured in China, the product line featured a CD player and some nicely built integrated amplifiers – which used EL34 or 300B output tubes – with a price tag of less than $900. It was not clear whether this is the MSRP or the dealer’s price; irrespective, they appear to offer incredible bang-for-the-buck. The speakers in use – which do not yet seem to have a name – were delightful 2-way monitors which mated admirably with the electronics. I suspect we’ll be hearing more from this manufacturer in the near future.
Not surprisingly, some of the more expensive equipment was quite impressive. I was initially struck by the unusual appearance of the boXXer7 from Rex audio (http://www.rexspeakers.com), but their sonics kept my attention. These speakers are modestly sized cycliners with phase aligned midrange drivers and a tweeter, in an MTM arrangement. On top and bottom of the cylinder are subwoofers which are powered by an external amplifier which is included in the $4,400 MSRP. Keep an eye on dagogo for an upcoming review by Sandy Greene.
The Bastanis Prometheus Wood Loudspeakers imported by Bauls Audio (http://www.baulsaudio.com) have a tweeter and midrange in an open baffle, sitting atop a powered subwoofer. The sound was open and dynamic, with tight clean bass. Sandy Greene will again do the honors of reviewing these most impressive speakers.
As I’ve come to expect, the High Water Sound room had one of the best sounds of the show. Importer Jeff Catalano paired the Horning Hybrid speakers (my personal reference) with the gorgeous (looking and sounding) T.W. Acustics turntable and DaVinci arm, a Silvertone 300B amplifier, Kondo M77 linestage and the newly-introduced Model Seven phonostage from Tron. Digital duties were via the incredible Reimyo CDP-777 CD player. This room was about one and only one thing – -music – -and the sound was like Jeff himself: dynamic, passionate and without artifice.
The boys from Zu (http://www.zucable.com) showed their highly praised Druid speakers. The preamp and amplifier were from Wyetech, while a computer-based source fed into a Benchmark DAC. The sound was dynamic as all get out, raucous, and foot-stomping to the max. Definitely not your father’s Oldsmobile!
Last but certainly not least was Audio Note. Audio Note had three separate rooms, two of which used the AN-E Lexus Signature speakers. Though the two differed in the amplification and source (all from Audio Note, of course), they were both extraordinarily resolute, dynamic, and musically expressive. But the piece-de-resistance was the reference level system manned by Peter Qvortrup himself. This system consisted of the Audio Note AN-E Sogon speakers, M8 preamplifier, Kegon parallel single-ended 300-B monoblocks, and a 19 year old Voyd Reference turntable with AN-1s/SOGON tonearm and IoLtd field coil cartridge. (Yes, the cartridge has its own power supply!) Digital was via a CDT-2/II0 transport and (I think) a DAC4.1 Balanced DAC. Peter played some vinyl recordings from his world class collection. To say that I was impressed would be the understatement of the year. The timbre, inner detail and microdynamics of this system were first rate – – perhaps the best I have heard in a playback system. Its ability to communicate the emotional content and nuances of the music were uncanny. Now all I need to do is win the lottery.
All told the VTV Expo was a most enjoyable show. My thanks and compliments to the organizers and all those who presented.
Audio Note AN-E Lexus Signature (Bob Neill’s room) Audio Note CDT-Two & DAC 3.1x
Audio Note Meishu integrated amplifier (Bob Neill’s room)
PQ having a so-gone moment. (I get it ocassionaly, too. -Ed)
Peter’s Room, take 2.
Audio Note AN-E Slogon
Audio Note Kegon (parallel SET 300B)
Voyd Reference turntable with SOGON arm
Audio Note TT3 Reference Split Phase PSU
Audio Note M8 preamplifier
Audio Note CDT-Two
Top: (L to R) DAC 4.1x Balanced, M8. Bottom: (L to R) TT3 Reference Split Phase PSU, IO [cartridge] Limited Power Supply
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