Impressions from T.H.E. Show at Newport Beach
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reeltime

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I got about a half-day of roaming around the T.H.E. show today-- a few impressions...
 
I finally got to hear a pair of Stax SR-009s.  They were married to a HeadAmp Blue Hawaii SE amp, and all I can say is it's the finest rig I've ever heard.  From bass depth and detail to vocals and soundstage, it's the most coherent outfit I've ever wrapped around my ears.  Simply stunning.
 
Not far behind the Stax (if at all-- take notice of this one)-- lived HeadAmp's new GS-X mk2 paired balanced with a Sennheiser HD800.  This was a formidable pairing that ignited the 800's 55mm driver, delivering by far the deepest bass I've ever heard from the HD800.  This is a must hear and should be immediately placed on the short list of desired amps for the 800.  It ran circles around my WA5LE, I'm sorry to say, even with a less-than-ideal source like iTunes driving the system.  It's got me considering a change, the amp is that impressive. Once again driving home how sensational the HD800 can be, if you take the time (and money) to find world class amplification.  
 
I also auditioned the new HiFi Man HE-560.  This is the next generation of the best valued HE-500.  I haven to say from build quality to sound, I walked away unimpressed.  The HE-500 was on a par with the Audeze LCD-2 to my ear.  The 560 was a step in the wrong direction.  I didn't like the new design, didn't particularly care for the fit, and the sound was good, without wowing me in any area.  
 
HiFiMan did also show their 901 player.  Equally unimpressive.  The jog wheel is too tight, the device is bulky, and difficult to navigate.  I tried this out after playing with the new Astrell & Kern players-- umm-- no thanks.  The A&K was a delight to use, while the HiFiMan crashed often.  If I were in the market, I'd say the A&K well worth the extra cash, if I had it laying around.  
 
Upstairs I jumped through a few rooms at the Hilton quickly.  
 
The KEF / Parasound room demo'd the much praised LS50, and for $1300 (show price), I was pretty weak in the knees with temptation.  The soundstage from these bookshelf sized speakers was so wide, it's unimaginable how these pint sized powerhouses are pulling off the effect.  The system lacks bass, no question. But boy do these speakers image well.  A must-listen.
 
I finally met Jack Woo.  Much younger in person than I'd expected.  I auditioned Woo Audio's crazy/expensive WA234 mono blocks.  The first thing that impressed me was the size.  These amps are much smaller than they appear in photos.  Wired as mono block headphone amps, I was expecting huge things from them-- and they delivered, but not $13,000 better than the WA5.  We chatted up the new Fireflies and power supply.  Jack ranks them higher in sound than the WA6.  I loved the WA6.  Unfortunately I was out of time and couldn't do any listening there.  
 
I stopped by the Wyred4Sound room, where an impressive lineup of pint-sized serious audio gear was humming away.   I learned a bit about what I was missing by not signing on for DSD.  My DAC2 can be made DSD ready for a mere $1349. I may do it, but not at this time.  
 
My lone purchase at the show was MIT's Shotgun AC power supply, which pulls a lot of gunk (allegedly) out of the power driving my WA5LE.  For a show-special $400 bucks, I'm going to try.  Will post the results separate.  
 
Good show again this year.  Wish I had more time, but I came, I saw, I was impressed.
 
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Cheers. Much appreciated for those who couldn't make it. Any pix to share?

Which AK DAPs did you try? Their flagship AK240 or their newer AK100/120 II's?
 
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reeltime

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Cheers. Much appreciated for those who couldn't make it. Any pix to share?

Which AK DAPs did you try? Their flagship AK240 or their newer AK100/120 II's?
 
I tried the 120 II and the 240.  Both excellent devices.  Best sound I've heard from a portable DAP.  Couldn't hear a major difference between the two, certainly not on the order of the 100 to the 120.  But nuance is hard to hear in a noisy convention room.
 
A bit heavy for a portable.  It's a two sided problem.  The build quality and fit/finish are as fine as you can imagine.  But the tradeoff for carving the case out of solid aluminum is weight.  
 
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