HE 2005 Clement Perry
Home Entertainment Show 2005
New Yawk, NY. The Home Entertainment show converged on The City That Never Sleeps from the 28th of April thru the 1st of May. The first day was supposed to be reserved for "press only" but I witnessed scores of folks walking around with badges representing manufacturers names. This must have been a friendly gesture so to quench their rapacious appetites I'm certain. This chap proudly posing for your cameraman is well-known for his audiophile appetite. Audiopal (shouldn't we all have one) Bill Jiggetts, who also serves as a chef in real life to meet his audio needs, catered our 2005 Most Wanted Components party held on the weekend of the show. No one died or showed up lame so we applaud you Mr. Jiggetts on a job well done.
Missing last years show due to the Vegas-like Munich affair (which BTW, everyone should visit at least once in their life-time) was a case of trying to be two places at once. This year, luckily both shows were held one week apart.
That said, I am quite exhausted since returning from my cross-Atlantic trip. The 2005 Munich show, held for the second year straight at the M,O,C (their version of our Jacob Javits Center) was bigger than ever with over 9500 visitors. Expecting this, it didn't slow me down or cause me to lose my camera speed. I was ready and able to get the most I could from this HE 2005.
The HE 2005 Entertainment, besides the multitude of manufacturers who decided to skip this years show, wasn't as disappointing as some thought. Though the usual suspects (too many to enumerate) were not filling rooms I did happen to enjoy the new and exciting products that made their way to 53rd Street and Avenue Of The Americas along with all the usual suspects one expects to see each year. And believe it or not, most of the good sound came via, you guessed it, Native New Yawkers!
Highwater Sound's Jeff Catalano put on a show I would qualify as magician-like; he literally made loudspeakers disappear under show conditions! Speaking with Jeff on the phone but never having the opportunity to meet him gave me this chance. Now I don't know about you but I was teased quite a bit as a kid wearing high-water pants since I grew so fast in my early youth (I now stand 6'3"). You can understand then, when meeting Catalano for the first time, I immediately, just to be sure, checked his pant legs as well. You never know with the name High Water Sound. All was cool before I formally introduced myself, got a strong handshake, then took a seat to hear this stunningly good analogue based rig. The Horning Hybrid Perikles ($8500) loudspeakers were as good as Catalano had talked about in our previous (and long-winded) conversations. Obviously the SF-1 'table from Sound Engineering ($12,500) had a lot to do with the outstanding performance of this setup. For good measure and extra insurance Cantalano didn't hesitate pairing the SF-1 with the Dynavector XV1-S cartridge ($4,000) and DaVinci Audio Labs 10" arm ($6,200). Tron Electric Syren preamp (with phono $15,000) and Cantata 300B mono amplifiers ($20,000) sort of served as the extra insurance. I gotta tell ya, the Finite Elemente Master Reference Rack ($8,000) was like eye candy. Of course, I peered under, around and through this very well made unit and thought Catalano knew what he was doing like few others. I also noticed Jeff handled this room mostly by himself proving that you don't need but one cook in the kitchen. If you notice the photo atop, then you are aware that Shakti Holographs adorned the corners of the room while Sound Applications handled AC pollutants. Cabling was by way of Stealth, Audio Note and Harmonix. Great setup and certainly one of the best sounding rooms at the show.
David Karmelli of Damoka LLC, (another New York based dealer), put on another unusual showing (doesn't he always?) featuring the best of what is both old and new in high-end audio. His circa 1956 Vitavox Corner Horn loudspeakers looked quite odd loaded into each corner of the room but nonetheless sounded gorgeous. Feeding these ancient behemoths were all new tube technology that featured Lamm's ML2.1 mono amplifiers, L2 preamplifier and LP2 Phonostage.
Keeping nostalgic, Karmelli also chose the Thorens Reference as his 'table of choice among the many dozens he has in possession. Contemporary electronics included the Weiss Medea dac and CES TL1 transport when things digital were called upon. The rack used is one of my references in the Acoustic Dreams 4-tier reference ($6,000). Cabling used throughout was all Purist Audio Dominus. Overall, the sound was sweet, rhythmic and inviting. This is a sound that is not easily acquired. To understand its sophistication will take time. But given time and commitment one can be very easily seduced by its overall purity quotient and musicality. Gerry Gladstein, former owner of Fi magazine and personal friends of Karmelli and I, uses these very electronics except for the CEC TL1 transport: Gerry chose their reference CES TL0 as his own. And it is was there in Gladstein's listening room where I learned about the very art of seduction.
New York's Andy Singer of Sound by Singer usually puts on a huge display and this year was no exception. JM Lab's Nova Utopias ($37,500) were easily driven by four Balanced Audio Technology's VK150 SE mono amplifiers ($8,500 per chassis) along with a slew of BAT front-end gear designed by Victor Khomenko (photo right) featuring the BAT VK51SE ($9,000 with remote) and VKD5 CD player ($6,000). Sound was open and sonically delightful as one could and should expect from such lofty electronics. Rack as well as amp stands used were (H)armonic (R)esolution (S)ystems ($8,995). Analogue featured the Avid Acutus 'table ($12,000) and SME 5 tonearm ($4,000). Cabling as well as AC power conditioning was supplied by Shunyata Research. It didn't stop there...
The adjoining Sound By Singer room featured the Peak Consult El Diablo loudspeakers ($70,000) driven by the VTL Sigfried reference monos ($40,00) and VTL 7.5 preamplifier ($13,500). Digital was by way of the new dCS T5E transport and DAC5E converter ($25,000). These Danish transducers leave a lot of explaining to do as the price for the extravagant has obviously soared causing one of my good friends who toured the show with me to gasp "I heard that" upon hearing of their $70,000 price tag. He also gagged upon hearing their performance, stating "I don't know if they're worth it but they damn sure sound good!"
The dCS P5i ($15,000 above) debuted their first all-in-one CD player which according to folks in the know, is said to rival their more expensive separates.
I thought I died and went to Planet Affordable when the heard the sound of these electronics from New Yorker Roy Hall. His Epos Acoustics ELS3 mini-monitors, which retails for a whopping $650.00, stole the show with respect to what is considered affordable audiophile-grade playback. Their line of affordable Music Hall 'tables didn't let show-goers down either.
Sonic Spirits, another New York based audio dealer displayed their line of impressive electronics featuring Focus Audio's FS-78SE 10th anniversary loudspeakers (top $3,450), and the smaller alternative Focus FS-68SE ($2,050) monitors. Digital was by way of Dodson Audio's DA-218 Dac ($7,995) using an Empirical Audio modified Sony DVD player. Amplifier used was the Blue Circle NSCS 110-watt Integrated ($2495) as well as the BC202 hybrid amp ($5,295 shown on right of rack) and the Galatea preamplifier ($4,995). Interconnects used were Acoustic Zen Matrix Reference II while speaker cables were Acoustic Zen Hologram II. Power cords as well as AC conditioning throughout was Audience AdeptResponse and PowerChords.
The sound of this room was impressive throughout the many days I came back for second, third and fourth auditions. I think as good as the system sounded via the floor-standing Focus signatures, I really was as impressed as Greg Petan listening via the FS-68SE monitors. Their sound appeared more appropriate for the size of this relatively small hotel room though they did lack the bottom-end oomph the FS-78SE's provided in waves. Pick your poison 'cause you're gonna die from something. Guess it might as well be from too much low-end.
David Chesky of Chesky Records, a soon to be NY icon, is smiling brighter these days. Wonder why? I know, it's because Sal, his long time right hand man is on his right should opposed to his Brazilian sweetheart's left.
Jim Ricketts of TMH Audio had a room that was essentially a four-day clinic on "how to" achieve an excellent show room setup. This very well integrated display consisted of Mike Farnsworth's newly designed Talon Audio Firehawk loudspeakers w/optional diamond tweeter ($34,000/$24,000 w/standard tweeter), and electronics from WAVAC Audio Labs featuring their PR-T1 three-chassis transformer-coupled linestage ($30,000), and MD-300Bm 10-watt monoblock amplifiers ($20,000 pr). The equipment stands were the Symposium Acoustics Isis Rack, Ultra Platforms (under speakers) and various Rollerblock/Svelte Shelf combinations. Cabling and AC cords used were from Argento Audio. The sound of this new Talon was quite different from the older models. It had a distinctive openness to its character that was a sonic surprise. As a result, the overall sound in the room, aside from being well thought-out, gave the impression of experienced hands at work. Jim Ricketts is no newcomer to room issues and apparently knew how to get this room sounding better than most.
Forrest Gump's motto, "Life is like a box a chocolates. You never know what you're going to get." could not better fit the scene from the Analysis Audio/H2O Audio setup. Henry Ho's (photo left) ICE-Technology powered amplifiers (right, $4,000/pair) were as impressive as I heard at the show. This new digital-based design was driving the Apogee-like planar-ribbon Omega loudspeakers ($15,000) from Analysis Audio. The speakers were imported by NJ based MK Audio and all the cabling was supplied by HGA, Inc. The electronics were the Audio Research LS25 Mk II preamp, CD3 Mk II CD player and PH5 phonostage. Unfortunately, the sound of this room was not what I expected having personally heard this combination at length in MK Audio’s own listening room. The sound, even considering showroom conditions, was dead and lifeless compared to what I heard in private sessions. The first mistake, I felt, was to place amplifiers atop each other instead of spacing them apart. The MK Audio equipment rack and isolation stand didn't look like they were going to make the guys from HRS, SRA, and EquaRack run for the hills but it sure beats using the horrible hotel furniture I've seen in other rooms. Congrats on the hard work guys in attempting to get the best from this room.
There was something special coming from Marten Design's Duke/Ellington loudspeaker system ($15,000) being driven by Brinkmann Audio mono amplifiers. The room was full of new and exciting products featuring Brinkmann Audio's reference Balance 'table (left), Marconi pre, Fein phono stage (centered), and Oasis 'table. The sound of these amplifiers belies their diminutive size. I heard the same thing again driving Brinkmann's own loudspeakers at the 2005 Munich Show earlier this month. Digital was by way of Meitner EMM Labs. Audience's Adept Response AC conditioner as well as their cabling was featured throughout in this setup. The rack as well as isolation platforms were by way of Harmonic Resolution Systems. as isolation platforms was by way of Harmonic Resolution Systems.
Gini Systems of Hong Kong introduced their floorstanding JAS Orsus 4-way, featuring a twin-ribbon tweeter design (right). Apart from affordable (what else coming via China), the look, feel and overall sound coming from this room was by no means cheap. And again, the room was filled to the rim with JAS electronics as well as loudspeakers expected to reach the US market by end of spring. I strongly consider giving these guys a closer inspection, that is, if you're looking for an affordable but very well built line of new loudspeakers. Their was no price available at press but their website is http://av.gini.com/jas_orsus.htm for further inspection.
HE 2005 Faces!
C'mon, everyone join hands and sing We Are the World! The ST Gang (left to right) Greg Petan, Bill Wells, Key Kim and Clement Perry outside, you guessed it, the Ascendo/Virtual Dynamics suite.
MA Recordings Art Garfunkle gives me the "so what do ya think?" look regarding some of his newer releases. And as usual they sounded delightfully well-recorded.
Daniel Khesin, the very initials behind DK Design takes a pause for the cause.
Bel Canto's John Stronczer asks "the Doctor" Bill Wells his opinion on the sound at the HE Show.
NY based Damoka's David Karmelli urges me where to park my seat upon entering building.
Gilbert Yeung of Blue Circle should have a sign that reads "For Those of You That Like To Dress Their Systems!" The "lady" outside the room is Mary Lou and she's dressed to the gills with products that includes a pair of Music Pumps 25-watt power amps and a Music Purse preamplifier both from www.classicpumps.com. The bathing suit is made by www.tramplamps.complus a pair of Gallo Acoustic Nucleus loudspeakers. These products are available as a complete package or individually (Music Pumps $799.00 per pair, Music Purse $499.00).
Wonder what kind of braiding his jump rope uses with a dad like Analysis Plus' prez Mark Markel. Some kids have all the luck!
Lew Johnson, the other half of Conrad Johnson takes a moment to chat with yours truly.
George Mark Audio's George Bischoff and audio guru Ken Kessler seemed enjoy this year's Show
David Caplan of Shakti Innovations shows anyone who cares how important Hallograph Soundfield Optimizers can be. And believe me, despite their weird appearance, are as good as David advertises.
Robert Stein of the Cable Company was also caught waking the show by our trusty lenses.
Rick Schultz of Virtual Dynamics cables and Dennis Had of Cary Audio.
Rives Audio Chris Huston
Shunyata Research's Grant Samuelson looks on as if to say "one more song from that Burmeister sampler and I think I'm going to go Postal"
Lee Landesburg of Landes Audio Imports looks quite confident after the show-stopping sonics he put on that featured the Ars Aures loudspeakers.
Leon Rivken, Jonathan Tin, and Von Schweikert's Kevin Malgram were caught by our trusty lensman.
Henry Ho, designer of the ICE-technology-based amplifier called the H2O was enjoying his first HE Show driving the highly touted Analysis Audio loudspeakers.
The look of a proud parent, no? Albert Von Schweikert and his new VR9SE
At the end of the day it boils down to the music and there's nobody that is more endearing of this than Jan Mancuso.