Last week I spent a few hours at the scene of NY’s Stereophile Show – HE 2004: a half-day on Thursday and 2 hours on Friday. As many other audio-shows it had many semi-ugly colorations, however as any audio shows this zoo trip brought it’s own “interesting specials”.
The nice part at this show was that I did not see (for whatever reasons) a huge army of the overwhelmed from their own pomposity audio industry heaters: reviewers, editors, audio-pimps, wonna-be reviewers, and other typical CES’s junk. For whatever reasons they were not flashy and more or less behaved. Or at least this time I did not see their typical presentation of themselves as the bellybuttons of Universes of this mind. The vendors also did not collapse in front of them and did not jump out of their skin with the whoreish intention “to please”...
The bad part at this show was the fact that electricity was EXTREMELY bad this week in NY City and each and single room was hugely affected. Friday the effect was WAY less aggressive then Thursday, and very same “electricity effect” took place in two private houses I visited on Thursday. Actually, during on of my visit it was very almost funny to watch as 20 minuets after the Thursday-Friday midnight the electricity was very rapidly improving right in front our eyes and within some 15 minutes after 00.40AM we had quite good sound …in NY. The middle of the wonderful Barbirolli Brahms IV, first movement (not EMI studio recording but the live recording from 1967 Vienna's Musikvereinssaal) still sounded like a brushing teeth with a dentist powder without water, the second movement was remarkably less aggressive… and the opening of the third movement Sound was practically perfect: very clean, free from the typical electricity artifacts. The rooms at the show that used some isolation transformers and other power devises had VERY SLIGHT advantages but unfortunately those devises introduce their own problems, and generally, in context of everything else, those “power helped rooms” sounded (electricity-wise) as unfortunate, as anyone else.
Certainly, no one who REALLY knows how to get serious Sound from a playback installation is looking for a serious sound at the audio shows (although the happy semi-accidents might take place) but to get some interpretive (contrary to absolute) values out of some elements and solutions is quite possible, in particularly if to know WHAT to listen.
Generally, if to cancel out the electricity invoked brightness and aggressiveness of each and single installation presented at HE 2004, edgy and “burned” upper mid range, flatten and “no space” sound with “expedited” upper bass and complete absents of THE royally-slow lower bass than some memorable results worth to mention in my report still there were present at the show.
I have seen there one more attempt to make a good linear tracing arm. Kuzma demonstrated their new arm with a price tag well over $8K. There room sounded very bad, the system was assembled “strangely” and to say anything about the performance of this arm was absolutely imposable, even under the light of my ambitious “listening intelligence”. However, the arm’s controls, regulations and the way how it was implemented did look reasonable and well done that I can not say about some other “stupid” linear tracing arms. I have no idea how it would sound and my limited experience with linear arms prevents me to predict anything but the new Kuzma arm was, I would say, “interesting”. Of course around any “good intentions” there was some “industry BS”: the guy who presented this arm (a distributor presumably) had no idea why he arm is so expansive and what this arm was all about. I sincerely feel that bring on market a tonearm with a price tag of a nice downpayment for a house in Montana and would not be able to support the target price even semantically is to demonstrate a great stupidity, to say at least. I sincerely have no idea why the audio industry professionals travel across country, rent the rooms and pay thousands dollars out of their packets and waste their time if they are not wiling to present their products more or less civilized. Also, the arm was defiantly worth attention but if it was an “job interview” then Kuzma has lost it.
I have seen there a company form somewhere Europe presented their new $15K horn-loaded loudspeaker, the name was "Hørning" but I do not remember if it was the model name of the company name. They used the Lowther driver in the only way it must be used: as mid range only (Eventually!!!!!!). Unfortunately the distributor who told me that he “knew everything about this speaker” answering my question begun to tell me complete foolishness, but despite his pile of BS (that I refused even to listen) the speaker was kind of interestingly sounding in it’s mid range. Nope, it did not sound “well”, even if I trued intellectually to cancel out the “electricity factor” and associated equipment (If I’ll tell you that I always can do it with 100% accuracy the I will be lying). The speakers still had that unpleasant Lowther’s 6kH touch, also they used completely wrong bass drivers (who in a normal mental health will back-load the rubber suspended, high excursion, low Fs driver into a undersized horn!!!) along with may other problems but all together it was defiantly move for the Lowther obsessed people to the very correct direction. Back-loaded, full-range driven Lowthers perform like junk (contrary to all wishful fantasies of the Lowther’s crowd). The Horning, on another hand, performed like a bad attempt but in a right direction. This company is defiantly worth to watch and this speaker was a pleasant discovery at the show.
I have not seen or heard at the Show any more or less serious analog attempts: the analog insulations there performed way most awful then digital. Ironically the only Walker room, the company that I do not like, demonstrated some remote potency but the horrible associated equipment and very unfortunate sound in the rooms did not allow say anything more defiantly.
This brings me to the final “interesting” discovery that I made at the Show. I’m taking about Avantgarde/ Eduardo de Lima’s room. Nope the Eduardo’s speakers was clearly lacking of the horn loaded bass and 109dB sensitivity, there were some other “proposed issues” but what very pleased me was the Digital front-end. It looks like a wily Jim Smith (Avantgarde distributor) locked out in his distribution muscles a wonderful line: the Zanden products. I have heard the Zanden DAC in two instances before (within very bad systems) and I did not detect any problems with this DAC. I had it in home ones but had no time to listen it in context of my installation, where I would be able to say the things certainly. At the show the Zanden DAC was combined with Zanden transport (about which I know nothing) and the result was quite peasant and musical. Defiantly for the people who already have stepped into the world of the Weiss or the wonderful DB technologies DACs, and those few who are familiar with the real capacity of a properly implemented PCM format, the Zanden should be probably considered for an evaluation. I do not know anything about the Zanden transport but it would be very interesting to hear it in context of well-organized full range installation. My preliminary estimate is quite optimistic (particularly after the Friday when there system sounded WAY better after some reported modifications and adjustments Jim Smith). The Zanden digital had nice lush and liquid musical flow with good articulation and quite high inner-tonal discrimination: something similar to CEC TLO only without the TL0’s upper bass limitations. Defiantly to say anything would requite more refine and objective listening evaluation and if someone had this opportunity then I would like to hear form them. The Zanden tandem did sound very promising. I did play there some demanding material on Friday in thier room and it was the only room where I was motivated to play any serious music.
In the end about the Music at the show. Customary the music played at the audio shows is very unfortunate. Even the people who presumably would bring to the show some interesting recorded material played either staled demos or the audiophile’s moron-accommodated sonic crap. A situation when you might loose up and a without paying attention to the miserable sounds or to the shine of the cable elevators to enjoy and to listen a deserving attention material did not take place (with exception of Kimber Cable room that facilitated very pleasant listening environment). In other word it was for us, the visitors, more like a heavy labor instead of a pleasant time spending….
In the end of the Friday I have found the room what although did not sound good but where, I though, I might quietly spend some “quality time” to listen some CDs that I was attracted to but the idiotic sense-of-self of the one of the room’s vendor/manufacturer – an raped by own anger wonna-be-a big-republican - screwed up my opportunity for the “enjoyable time” and I left the show laughing…
The HE2004 came and gone. Te only three products attracted my attention during my visit, and consequently I have mentioned them. There were no new interesting people and there were no new interesting ideas: there was just a bunch of the tiered people “doing business” (mostly very unprofessionally) and the there were just the waves of the very insulting sounds that never become Sound.
Romy the Cat
"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche