Trelja and friends in New York, 2004

As we all know, the 2004 Stereophile NYC Show is this weekend. That means, like it or not, the annual TRELJA in New York Report is being submitted for your reading pleasure.

First, I would be remiss if I neglegted to mention my two compadres, mechans (Dr. Mechanic) and slipknot1 (Joe G.) for hanging out with me for the day. I had a blast, and my buddies being with me were a big part of why that was so. Thanks for putting up with me from 7AM to 9:30 PM guys!

Also, I should give a quick nod to the friends I met while at the show, some of whom I for the first time. Apologies for those I have forgotten, but Albert Porter, Vinh Vu, Lloyd Walker, Sandy from our audio group, Mark O'Brien, and Gilbert Yeung - it was a pleasure to see you all Friday. And, while I would have LOVED to see the Gilmore Girl, I am sure she could care less. I missed Victor Khomenko of BAT. I also got a chance to say hello to Bobby Palkovic, Ralph Karsten, Kalman Rubinson, meet Art Dudley, and Chip Stern.

Art Dudley wins the Gentleman of the Day award. It almost seems incongruous that such a kind, gentle man can create so much controversy in audio. But, I will reiterate my opinions that Art is a truly entertaing, funny, gifted writer who adds so much to Stereophile. He is better at being Sam Tellig than Sam is these days. Art has added a perspective previously lacking at Stereophile, evidenced in the gear he reviews.

I miss Chip Stern at Stereophile, my opinion being he was the best everyday meat and potatoes writer at the magazine. I was happy to get a chance to tell him yesterday. Chip cranking the volume up in the Rogue/Vandersteen room showed that I do have kindred spirits in audio, people who actually want to listen at loud volumes.

OK, my overall impressions of the show basically mirror what I felt in 2002, only to a much greater degree. Good sound was the rule. In fact, there was really no awful rooms whatsoever. That goes very much against how I felt in 2001, when there was definitely some dreck in more rooms than there should ever be. Like the good doctor said, it looked like the companies definitely got their stuff together and knew how to put their best foot forward. In fact, some of the rooms that I had previously felt were awful in the past made serious strides forward.

In that vein, let me get the worst sounding rooms of the show out of the way first, as it is a very short list...

In my opinion, going against the opinion of a guy we ran into raving that we had to hear it as it was the best sounding room there, was the Rogue/Vandersteen room. Now, I am an absolutely huge fan of Mark O'Brien, Mark Walker, and the crew at Rogue, but their products just didn't match well with the Vandersteen speakers and vice versa. Contrast that with 2001, where the same Vandersteen 5s driven by the Cary V12 monoblocks were what I considered to be the best sounding room of the day. The Rogue and Vandersteen combo was overly harsh, forward, bright, and kind of trashy. It was not terrible sound, and was better than a good number that I heard in previous years, but both companies can definitely show themselves in a better light.

Next up was the Halcro room, with expensive products galore, this room proves that money often has zero correlation with good sound. The home theater setup, playing the Eagles DVD, left me with the sole good impression that the Halcros sure are big amps. This was good for a mid fi demo, but come on, this is not a mid fi event. Funny, I even had the feeling that the sound was not in sync at all with the video. The salesmen were those who you sit there in disbelief as they are convinced of the absolute superiority of their sound, yet the product was on the bad side of neutral.

And, finally, the last bad sounding room I encountered was the Atma Sphere/Gilmore room. Ralph Karsten was a gem of a person, but the synergy between his amps and those speakers was poor. The achilles heel sonically of the Atma Spheres is wrestling a woofer's voice coil to the ground and gaining the submission. Four 12" woofers look to be more than the great OTL amps are capable of. On the plus side, the sound was a heck of a lot better than the previous two years, where the match with the Classic Audio Reproduction horns produced horrific sound. Ralph sure thought it was sublime, however, and his air guitar proved he thought the combination was rockingly good. Personally, I know the amps can sound a lot better, as I am the proud owner of a pair of M60 monos. And because of that, I hope one day, Atma Sphere shows with a speaker that will really show how special and real the product truly is - tremendous clarity, speed, realness, and openess. I now understand all of the clamor and controversy over the speakers at CES 2004. I think I'd look for a pair of Carver Amazing Platinums if I was someone into the look/design. I'm sorry, but I wonder if anyone sees a shred of value for money in this loudspeaker. There was a murderer's row of Atma Sphere amps there, the whole lineup. Whew, that's a lot of tubes to count. If you are a tube fetishist, you might just get yourself arrested in that room. Although, I love the cosmetics of the Mark 3 version of the M60s, as time passes, my regard for the looks of my silver Mark II.2 is going through the roof.

OK, that is it for the bad. As far as the OK goes, I should say that the Music Hall rooms with Epos loudspeakers were good, but not great. I think a better speaker would really show the brand's lineup, like the MMF25 (which I didn't see), to be perhaps the most obvious best buys in high end audio. The lineup of turntables pleased many an vinylholic to be sure. I almost feel ashamed not praising them here, as I probably need to view the speaker in the $300 light in which they are sold. It's kind of like entering a new Nissan Sentra in a Concours d'Elegance - a nice little car, but no one will be giving it a look there.

Also, the Chord stuff didn't thrill me, and I wonder if there is anyone out there who sees value in the interesting looking, yet very average sounding lineup.

I guess I could list all of the good or great sounding rooms and give a detailed description, but that might fill up a book. Instead, allow me to try to be as brief as possible, while still providing something in the way of description.

Best of Show - JMlabs/BAT. No question. Wow! $200K, and way out of my, as well as most people's abilities. Proving that you can get something for all that money. Steve Bednarski is one of the class acts of audio, but I do prefer a more free form approach to show going. The Sound By Singer structured demos were not what I would do, but the sonics were disgustingly good. And, the JMlabs Utopia line just might be worth the price in the non gargantuan models. If you can get that kind of sound, maybe they deserve plunking down that kind of money, as they just might give you sound that will please for many, many years. The speakers paired with Bel Canto electronics finally convinced me that home theater can actually sound good, but I am just as unenthusiastic about it as ever.

Yet, somehow, I was far more pleased with BAT in 2002. In two rooms, one solid state, one tube, they took a more accessible path for an audiophile towards attainment. A smaller system, featuring the new $3995 BAT VK55 was what I really interested in, but alas, was not part of the demo.

Biggest Surprise - Hyperion loudspeakers/electronics. First room we entered, and to be honest, spoiled us for most of the day. The prices were astonishing! I mean, from their looks, I expected the speaker to fall into the $12K - $18K range. Instead, they were $4000, with a generous show discount on top of that. We were so beguiled by them that while none of us need speakers, we came thissssssssss close to coming home with three pairs. The electronics will have you shaking your head to an equal degree at their $1500 price points. My only criticism was the preamp seemed to spit out some noise/hash when the volume was changed. In summary, those speakers trumped the likes of just about every great speaker at the show. And, the finish/looks were to die for.

All right, but canned. Von Schweiket/VAC. As stuffy as things get. A prescribed, yet underwhelming after further review event where the moderator actually threw one person out, as he had committed the atrocity of being the seventh person in a demo that allowed only six. Yo, lighten the heck up! While the speakers were meant to impress, the 30 second vignettes ultimately left me unimressed, and I never really connected with them, despite the fact that many will find them to be perfect. I am also wondering who would pair a $20K integrated with a $4000 speaker.

Blue Circle/Focus. The sound was incredibly open and good. You have got to see the size of the new industrial looking Blue Circle power amp. Mammoth is not an exaggeration. Anyone who tries to sneak equipment in past the wife should think about this beast. You could easily install it in the basement, and convince anyone it is part of your home's HVAC system. Gilbert Yeung had me thinking he was the son of the owner at HE2002, but he has wisdom of a grizzled audio veteran. He agreed the taller BC3/BC3000 preamps were more attractive, but most customers wanted a smaller package. I am happy to report the ridiculous preamp purse and power amp pumps were not in sight, and wonder why Blue Circle gear is so often overlooked in audio.

Audiopax. The beautifully designed, yet expensive gear left me feeling that the high pricetags were definitely worth it. If you can swing them, definitely try to visit Rhapsody, formerly Avante Garde, in NYC. I truly loved the sound of this equipment. The gloss red sub/sat speaker system particularly had me drooling, and almost looked like a good value. If a pair ever turn up on the used market, I wonder if I could resist. The boys from Brazil definitely know good sound.

Audio Note - Kondo, Japan. As Kondo - san says, "Nothing is unimportant." The system featured the Ongaku - Neiro integrated with some really modified Lowther horns. The whizzer cone was removed, as was the phase plug, and a separate tweeter was added. Two large woofers resided on the rear of the gorgeous, large wood cabinets, and the horn exited at the bottom. The doctor might have been more impressed by the Gaku - On, but that would have been the only way they could have done any better.

While I am at it, I must say the Lowther based speakers sure sounded good to me. As I have purchased two pairs of drivers, PM6A and PM6C, I should be in for particularly good sound once I assemble my cabinets. The love/hate argument involving Lowthers that so pervades audio has been now settled in my mind - they are magical speakers. A 300B based Viva amplifier in the corner had us wishing we could give it a listen.

Speaking of Lowthers, the Rethms took my by surprise by sounding a lot fuller than I had been led to believe. While it is reported they have no bass, I had absolutely no complaints about them yesterday.

More great single drive sound that left us scratching our heads was the Mapleshade Audio room. The $999 Fostex based Omegas were superb. The whole system came in at a ridiculously low price, although I felt some of the elements, such as the Mapleshade speaker stands were left out of the equation. The 2A3 integrated even made some points with the doctor, who prefers his power amps to be jet engines, as we joke. This system sounded too good for anyone to now tell me that you have to be rich to be in high end audio. Were the speakers in the corners (not playing) Horn Shoppes? I wondered about Ginko Audio and Mapleshade being in the same room, as their solutions to vibration control are polar opposites, but everything worked.

Totem seemed a bit disappointed that the bigger speaker they brought sounded too full for the room they were in, but I was not. Reason being the Arro is my favorite in the lineup, and the liliputian sized woofer did put out some full sound. Partnering amplifier was a Plinius integrated, and those always saying to give Totems a lot of power proved quite wise to me yesterday. Totem also leapt over the pack when it came to decorating the room. It makes me wonder about companies who just show up, mope about the room, and then go on to show their products in an awful presentation.

If I had the money, I would buy some Thor equipment. No words can express how glorious I always find the sound of their rooms. Beguilingly rich, sweet, and warm. I am not sure I would be happy travelling that far away from openness and neutrality, but I sure would like to give a try. The horn speakers the amps mated with supposedly had trouble mating with other amps, despite their sensivity ratings. Go figure.

Bohlender - Graebender (apologies for spelling) were proud of their speakers, but I found the amps they set up to be just too cool looking.

April Music of South Korea makes me wonder if the brand will do as well in the world as their cars. Things were ho hum, until someone threw a dynamic disc into the equation, then everything perked up nicely.

I laud the presence of Jadis at the show, there with my favorite integrated in the world, the DA60. It is an absolute crime what has happened to the marque in North America over the past decade (I know, I sound like a broken record). The interesting Prame horns Northstar Leading the Way mated the amp with didn't please everyone, but I know that I liked the sound. As a Jadis integrated owner, perhaps one day I will own a DA60 to take its place in my second system. But, can the one with the DA60 really be the second system???

Walker/Kharma were making great sound, but does anyone expect any less? Lloyd's turntables transcend anything else I have encountered in analog, and he told me early this month, a lower cost turntable is in the works. I loved his response once when I told him that while I respected his products, they were way beyond my means. His reply, "They're beyond my means, too!" And, something about the Kharmas, is it the seamless and liquidity that a series crossover provides? Could be. This sytem cost some serious money, yet did not let down. I believe the amplification was Lamm, but please don't make me swear it was the case.

Perreaux had a pair of very powerful monoblocks driving Piega speakers. I still have nightmares of Perreauxs becoming oversized doorstops after they pulled the plug the last go 'round, but I can't take anything away from the sound. The Piegas left me a bit cold, however, I loved the cool red Italian(?) tubed preamp.

Merlin is the speaker I have been drooling over since hearing a pair in February. My encounter at the time so far exceeded my expectations for how a stereo system could sound that I actually began think that reality and presence were almost attainable in our hobby. I wondered if the speakers needed a bigger room than they were in, or maybe I would have liked to hear the system without the BAM in place. The sound was a bit too plump and plummy at times. While the pairing with Joule electronics sounded very, very good, it didn't match the sound I heard a few months ago. But, then again, how could it?

Portal mated their new monoblocks with the Finnish Penaudio loudspeakers. Many will find the speakers to be interesting looking, as they are very unique. Personally, I would have loved to hear the Portal Panache integrated, but I had no complaints regarding the sound through the monos.

The Naim Arriva speakers took me by surprise. The sound was engaging and lively. Perhaps I should give them another listen, as I have a dealer five minutes from my home. The last thing I need is another pair of speakers, but I did have a good time, and it might turn into a recommendation for fellow audiophiles.

I found the Innersound rooms to be outstanding, and wondered how the Isis is often so passed over on the used market. At the prices they fetch, they represent incredible value. Both rooms sounded great, but the room with the larger speaker sounded greater. The red turntable in the corner wowed me, it was as if a Ferrari were reborn as a turntable. Oh, and give Innersound some big points for the openness, honesty, and integrity of their representatives. Treating the high end community with respect and intelligence reflects well on the company and shows me why the company appears to be making strides in a difficult marketplace.

The Gershman Audio Opera Sauvage always impressed me with its interesting, boatlike looks. Perhaps playing on my love of the sea. The level of sound nearly matched its looks. But, then again, if you hate the cosmetics, you could say the sonics far exceeded them.

Birdland Audio components are so small, they make me think of radar detectors. But, mating with a $10K pair of Tetra speakers, the Odeon Ag DAC and itsy bitsy integrated proved that big sound can come in small packages. The gear was on was of the coolest racks around, too.

Jeff Joseph and EveAnna Manley have the Home Entertainment Shows down to a science. It's as if you are watching the San Francisco 49'ers of the 1980s. Precision, meticulousness, and excellence of execution. Jeff is humorous, comfortable, and relaxed in front of the crowd. The Pearl was only on display, as Joseph Audio introduced the new RM55, with Seas Millenium drivers. Trying to push most of the Pearl's performance down to the $12K price point, Joseph seems to always produce a winner when it comes to his speakers. The "Tubes Rule!" t - shirts sold by EveAnna were far too cool for Joe G. and I to pass on - hats thrown in gratis!

Simaudio gear sounded better than I have ever heard it, and improved on the dryness I have heard in past shows. Give Simaudio points for upping their performance over time. The DeVore loudspeakers seemed to be a good match. Everyone I know who gets near the DeVore seems to come away with very positive feelings.

But, the biggest improvement over past shows I noticed was MBL. The speaker is more expensive than ever at $45K, but I actually thought the sound was pretty darn good this year. The speakers felt like they came undone a bit during percussive passages, but maybe room setup could help that. Previously, the harshness/shrillness made the MBL room unlistenable. Nice job, guys! And, since I love piano black so much, the looks of MBL definitely appeal to me. The doctor called the radialstrahlers "pineapple speakers".

Also making a serious upswing in show sound was Silverline. The Boleros made beautiful music with their new 805 based integrated. The only problem is the $15K integrated looks way overpriced. At $2500, it would look like a good deal, as it is it looks like they won't be selling very many of them. I didn't hear anything special with the Sonatina and $35K solid state EAR in 2001, but Silverline certainly got their ducks in a row this year.

Due to time running out in the afternoon for us, we skipped the Sound By Singer Musical Fidelity rooms. I am certain nothing will be lost here, though as Sam Tellig will make sure everyone knows how wonderful he found it.

In heavy rotation - Patricia Barber and Diana Krall, but neither to the degree of things in the past

Missing in action, music - Jacintha. The beauty from Thailand with the silky voice was overplayed at HE2002, but only in evidence in the vinyl/CD racks in the marketplace this year

Missing in action, equipment - Coincident

Well, that is this installment of TRELJA in New York, 2004. Hopefully, everyone who attended HE2004 had just as good a time as I did.
Great Job Trelja.......sorry, but I must have missed you in the very, very large crowds?
Thanks again for taking the time to provide us all with a wonderful review. I wish I could have been there ... maybe next year ;-)
I'm a serious Thor believer. I own the TA-2000 preamp and the TPA-60 monoblocks. Simply unbelievable. Music lovers rejoice. Worth every dollar, and Paul at Thor provides extraordinary service unmatched by any other service I've every asked for in any line of business. And the lifetime warranty? Too good to be true.

Trelja - do you remember the speakers Thor coupled their equipment to?
Nothing left for me to say except: great summation of what we saw and heard yesterday Joe. And, as always you are a blast to do the show with. We had a great (but loooong), day, hung out with some great folks.

PS: Albert Porter: it was great to meet you in person and get a chance to talk with you. I'm looking forward to your show photos.
Great report! Really captures what goes on.
A couple of corrections: What you referred to as the Mapleshade Audio room is actually Robyatt Audio room. They do use Mapleshade wires and speaker stands, but the amplification is from Tektron-Italia (single ended triode for Italy), Omega horns, Wilson Benesch Circle turntable, and Pioneer DVD/SACD.
Yes the speakers in the corners are from the Horn Shoppe.
They also have Audio Zone solid state gear from Canada.
All vibration control platforms are from Gingko Audio so there is no conflict with Mapleshade vibration control stuff. Gingko platforms and rack are also in the Kharma/Lamm/Walker room and the Reference 3A/Antique Sound Labs/Kuzma room.
The crowd seems to enjoy a very entertaining and engaging Robin Wyatt of Robyatt Audio, especially with his hot tube changing act!!!! All if all, I am glad to be in such a fun room!
Vinh Vu
Gingko Audio
Leftisleft, you must be a very happy man, in addition to obviously being a wise one. The speakers that mated with Thor were WHT Joe didn't really care for them, but again, as always, the Thor room just captivated me.

Joe, I am happy you had such a good time. I was expecting you to take me behind the woodshed for my opinions, but I guess we are on the same page.

Vinh, thanks for the clarifications. But my biggest mistake was misspelling the name of your company, Gingko Audio. I feel horrible. The one company owned by a true friend, and I mess that up. How can I make it up to you? The sound of the rooms you were in was uniformly great. See you in July!
Darn, I just realized that we missed the ASL/Reference 3A room! We were itching to see what ASL brought along, although I did find this particular combination to sound nails on the blackboard screechy in 2004. Since then, a friend's 1009 monoblocks are among the finest tube amplification I have come across.

Big correction, Jacintha is from Singapore. I've known that for a long time, and am so sorry for messing that one up.

One more that I should have listed in the bad sound at show, but forgot probably due to the fact that we stayed there for only ten seconds - Almarro. When the sound came on, it was awfully bad. The system just cannot play at normal volumes. They frantically backed off the volume, and I guess the sound then was nice enough, but if you cannot play at low - moderate volumes, what exactly is the point?

And, a final clarification, the turntable we praised, but did not hear, in the Innersound rooms was the Redpoint. Great literature, if on the lightweight side. The rear of their handout features a takeoff on Don Fagan's "The Nightfly" album, with a guy smoking a cigarette in a radio studio.
Trelja, Thanks!
Did Nelson Pass show up? I'm wondering what his speaker is all about. Ern
I respectfully believe you are mistaken midficollege. The only reason being the doctor is an 845 junkie, and got into a long conversation with Mr. Yun's assistant about why they chose the 805, in addition to the price being way out of whack.

Hey, we're definitely East Coasters, and not shy in the least about telling a manufacturer what is on our minds. The amp sounds great, but is way overpriced. Perhaps as a one off, I can understand it, but there is no reason whatsoever it should be priced over $4000.
Hmm, I don't know. I was just looking at pictures of the tubes last night, and the 807 seemed more like the tube used in the amp, because of the caps used on the tops of the tubes. The Shengueng, or Shengyeng, or something website showed the 807's, but not the 805's, using those same caps.
Here's what I'm talking about. Shuguang. The Anode cap doesn't seem available for the 805...
If it is that important an issue with you, maybe you should just ask Silverline...
Yeah, but I'm too proud to do something like that..., I was just trying to find it out for myself to describe it to other people. All that really matters is the fantastic sound, right?
Just got home from the show, brought in my luggage and fixed a snack.

I can hardly believe Trelja has had time to write such a through and excellent review. I am still jet lagged and looking for Advil to relieve my tired feet from dragging photo and computer gear for five days.

The only thing I would add to these already excellent comments is the sound from Marten Design speakers shown in the EAR room. These look and sound similar to Kharma but for much less money.

I also heard nice sound from the Chimera carbon fiber speaker by Wilson Benesch. They were great the first day, but the exhibitors swapped the transport and DAC for a integrated CD player and never got the magic back again. I would really like to hear that one with quality tube front end, amps and cables.

There was another speaker that fascinated me, the Epiphany model 12-12. This is the next to best model from this company and was demonstrated with and without the dual 18 inch sub. I could not help but think of the Pipe Dream while sitting in front of them. I listened at least six times while at this show and on some material I was impressed while other times the balance became brash and hard.

First it would seduce me, then trade all the texture and finesse for "in your face" dynamics. The multiple auditions were very confusing for me.

Then, the last day I noticed dark strips of colored tape on the carpet. When I ask about them they replied "That's the various room positions we've tried during the show." (No wonder I can't keep up).

I would like to hear these in a better environment with tubes instead of Tenor transistors and analog instead of CD. Maybe some day.

I hope Arnie receives the CD's with images tomorrow (Tuesday) and can begin posting them for you guys to see. It was a fun photo shoot and a great show. I very much enjoyed New York after being away so long. It's one of the most exciting cities in the world with a great diversity of people, fashion, lights and sounds.

After the show each day we walked from the hotel in search of food and drink. Among my favorites were Smith and Wolinski Steak House and Angelo's on 57th.

Did I mention the dizzying array of beautiful women? I should. More than I remember seeing in one place in such a short period of time.
The SIlverline amp was so new on Thursday that it was still throwing off fumes - perhaps from the trannie paste or perhaps from flux - who knows. It sounded damn fine then but better on Sunday after breaking in.

WHen we asked the name of the amp & the price he said it was still too new. He was trying to get impressions from people before he decided, but threw out a $15,000 approximation. Well, a lot of people liked the sound here, not to lose any credit that belongs to the Bolero speakers though. So he'll probably stick with that price tag.

I agree, $3000 would be fine - $15,000 is way out of whack.

hi Trelja,

I thought I might add my two cents regarding the Atma-Sphere/Gilmore match.

I started playing string bass in 7th grade and have continued to this day in various groups and orchestras over the years. So far the Glimore has presented the most realistic reproduction of string bass I've heard in an audio system. The 4 woofer array is easliy driven by all of our amps, but for those unused to planar bass the lack of box energy is unnerving.

I myself have box speakers at home and they simply do not play bass the same way as any planar owner knows. Since they obviously play down to 40 Hz as natural as can be I have to assume that the octave below is presented accurately too, as it was also obviously resonace-free.

The highs on the speaker are at once relaxed and detailed, although you had better watch what you play on them- a poorly recorded cd can change your impression pretty quick, and not for the better. As per the usual, I had to endure more bad recordings then I would have liked at the show.

Even though some of the music I choose is poorly recorded, but that's different... I guess I can't blame someone else if they listen to bad recordings too :)

FWIW, that was air bass, not guitar :)
Ah Ralph, I must apologize for making that mistake. I should have paid a bit more attention and realized it was air bass. Hopefully, you will forgive me. I think I was too busy bothering you about upgrading my pair of Atmas and basking in all the tubes you had lined up along the side wall.

Nevertheless, I guess we just have different opinions when it comes to the sound in that room. Again, I am in agreement with the many who found the Gilmore speakers to be a major disappointment at CES 2004. It could be that they are fine sounding speakers, that just did not mate well in that setting. I won't put the blame on the amplifiers, as I am a living, breathing advocate of Atma Sphere, and know they sound a lot better than I heard on Friday. My own pair with Coincident speakers sound far superior to my ears.

Obviously, you are the boss, and can think and show how and with whomever you choose. But, in my opinion, I think Atma Sphere could easily find a superior match. I will say that I thought the sound with the Gilmores was several steps up from the Classic Audio Reproductions horns from 2001 and 2002, however.
Well heck, we got *good* reviews back then!

I must admit that the Gilmores had me thinking about the nature of reality. I am so used to box speaker presentation, especially in the bass, that the way these speakers make bass was really something different for me.

I spoke to Mark Gilmore about this at length (as he seemed quite happy about how the amps were handling the speakers, and I imagine he ought to know...). I listen to a lot of modern music -70s, 80s, 90s and beyond- and as odd as this might sound, IMO the box speaker has become part of that culture, so to speak. So as a result bass coming from an electric bass has a completely different presentation from that of bass coming from a string bass.

IMO, the Gilmores excel at the string bass part, but I don't get the energy with the electric bass part. Mark explained that the speaker does not 'retain energy', i.e. it is non-resonant. He points to that as to why the presentation is so different with the two types of basses, even though they play in the same range. Yet at the same time, organ pedal notes of 16Hz (Saint-Saens Organ Symphony on EMI) were reproduced properly and effortlessly.

If I was having trouble with this, I cannot doubt that others would have too. The Organ Symphony was the eye-opener, as it did demonstrate that the bottom end was there and not lacking.

Mark claims that most speakers (planars included) retain energy for various reasons- box resonance, frame resonance (in the case of certain planars) or the inability of the diaphram to return to center (or the resting point) as in the case of certain ESLs. By placing the resonant frequency of the baffle an octave below the cutoff of the drivers, and by having no box at all, Mark avoids these issues, but boy is the bass different! He says if you add a little bass boost to simulate the energy retention of other speakers, that then the bass is presented the way most people are used to hearing it, but he maintains that such is not correct.

Are we used to hearing overly bloated bass?

We studied the room with an audio analyzer. The bass turned out to be remarkably flat, with anaomolies only showing up in the midrange (room related) and (also room related, due to the curtains we hung) not much response at all above 15KHz.

It was weird to see the readings on the instruments, hear naturally recorded stuff come off fine, and then have some of the rock stuff come off as different as it did. I suspect this speaker is going to have people scratching their heads for a while.
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Yes, that's precisely my point. The Bass Guitar cabinet is self resonant, and then that sound is close miked, so that's what is recorded. So we have become acustomed to this sound in rock recordings, but its not right. Not right anyway, if you go to live shows and hear the same bass amp and guitar in a live environment, and not right, as the recordings are close-miked.

Still messes with your head though.
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We agree on more then that. The problems with re-amplification- well, they suck. I too prefer the close mics, although:

If you ever get a chance to hear the recordings that the BBC made of rock bands back in the early 70s (I have one of Pink Floyd), the sound is *amazing* and its done with with a Decca mic tree and no overdubing or post-recording effects. Just live into the stereo tree- no mics on the guitar amps or the bass amps. But there is also no additional PA to dirty things up, just the instrument amps themselves. Easily the best sound of Pink Floyd ever recorded.
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There are two 'sources', both LP. The fist is if you can find the original radio-play LPs. These are very rare. I've never seen them. The second is if you can find 'Rhapsody in PINK (the Psychedelic Years) by the Screaming Abdabs. Obviously a bootleg, the vinyl is excellent (I've had three copies) and the transcription sounds as if it came from the tapes themselves.

There's a copy on eBay right now, item number 4014797591. Last I saw the bidding was up to $99.00. I've seen them go for $250. For anyone into Pink Floyd, though, its must-have.
Trelja and I must have have identical hearing, I got exactly the same impression of all rooms exactly as written here. Read his review see what I thought. Among the unknowns I would like mention the to the honest to goodness performance of the Stello booth.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) I missed the best in sound. I left the Singer room after the thiel room, the BS/min of music played was simply too high. What a pimp show, I wouldn't be caught dead in the joint.
Amazingly bad bass was coming from these speakers in the basement, I don't recall the name: two tweeters, two midranges open baffle and a few woofer units in reflex arrangement, you know what I am talking about.
Very bad sound also coming from some recently very highly reviewed MTM that were played on a chord rack and on another room with unheard of electronics Living Voice I think they were called. Remarkably they sounded MUCH worse on the chord setup.
Reference 3A sucked on big pipes too.
Never heard Lamms before and I found them unremarkable. IMO their 50K 6c33 amp sounds like a $1500 almarro, I am not sure if it is a compliment to almarro.
VonSwantz/VAC wins my award for worst of worst. Heavily processed CD material and what the hell is single crystal copper? I suggest them to brush up on their inorganic chem.
MBL and wilson benesch where playing loud and left me totally cold. There seems to be something negative to be said about scandinavan/danish drivers in ultrarigid cabinets. They are very precise and dynamic but sorta lifeless. In the case of joseph audio the Manleys and vinyl seemed to help alot.
Thanks for the nice reporting and detail. BTW - Do you have any input on the Odyssey room?
>Biggest Surprise - Hyperion loudspeakers/electronics.......

Dear Trelja,

I was a little sad that you did not return after you told me that you would have brought 3 pairs of our HPS-938. It is probably our speakers are not good enough. Woooo......

Just Kidding…..

Thank you so much for your wonderful report. We really appreciate your help and support. You are more than welcome to come back to us, if you change your mind later for buying speakers.

Yours truly,

Albert Wu
Albert, I am sure you remember us. Joe, Dr. M, and myself were the guys who kept coming back on Friday. I think we may have visited your room four times. And, we got into some pretty serious negotiations with you out in the hall. I figured my wife would tell me the last thing I need is another pair of speakers, but she seemed fine with the fact that I very nearly bought them. She told me if I really wanted them, we could return on Sunday. By the way, they would be going in her system anyway. I think the only other room we revisited was Merlin - one time.

At $4000, your loudspeakers carry my highest recommendation here on Audiogon. I sincerely hope that some of our members give these HPS-938 a try, as they will be seeing a truly first class loudspeaker at a particularly modest price.

The three of us may just get in contact with you in the future, although I am in the process of getting involved with a speaker company myself, which I will need to announce here on Audiogon for ethical reasons. Still, my objectivity - subjectivity (I'm not sure which) will always take precedence, and I would love to own a pair of Merlins and Hyperions in the future, in addition to the Lowthers I am building.

Thanks much for adding your insight here, Prossi. I always enjoy and appreciate honest opinion and a great show review.

By the way, have you noticed that's show report should probably be renamed I don't know about you guys, but I am a stereo guy through and through, and feel there are enough outlets that pump up HT and video that guys like us should just stick to audio.

Thank you, Djbnh, but if we did hear the Odyssey room, which I think we did, my memory now has faded. Perhaps Joe or Dr. M can chime in here...
How dare you drop a teaser like that! You can't just tell a bunch of rabid audiophiles that there's going to be a less expensive walker available and then walk away. Why don't you just shout "fire" in a crowded theater?
I should correct an omission that I had made originally. The Lowther based Rethm speakers I found to my liking were paired with solid state Red Planet amplification. Despite the conventional wisdom that a "sand amp" will not make good sound with a Lowther, again, the sound in this room was terrific.
Just now reading this post,really good,concise descriptions.Thanks alot Trelja, for your time and energy,Bob
Great Stuff, the only thing to add is that Jacintha's from Singapore not Thailand.
The Hyperion HPS-938 speakers are truly superb, and a great value! Coupled with their pre-amp and amp, they produce sonic clarity, pure and simple.
The tubed red preamp you mentioned is a Audio Tekne IT-1...very cool and very musical!
Wow! What happened to this forum? Here, in 2004, we have an actual rendition of something interesting in audiophile land! Now, all I see on this forum is BS-whiners and know-it-alls. Here's to the old days...
If you notice they were respectful of each other. Once the keyboard warriors started showing up in waves, the smart, interesting people began to post less and less. A lot moved to What's Best.

Having been a member here since 2000, I echo the opinions of the last two posts.  One used to be able to have a meaningful discussion, and one could actually learn something.  Now, not so much.  Sad.  You know who you are.
@palasr Sadly, I don't think they DO know who they are, as they suffer from a lack of self-awareness.