Los Angeles Audio Show - June 2-4, 2017 - Impressions

  1. Odin412
    This is a thread for impressions from the LA Audio Show that's happening on June 2-4 at the Sheraton LAX.

    I spent a couple of hours there today and I plan to go back tomorrow for a longer visit. I will post more impressions then. Here are a few quick tidbits from today:
    • I visited the Audeze booth to see how the LCD-Pro is coming along. It turns out that they're redesigning it and will present an updated version at a later date.
    • MrSpeakers showed a near-final version of the Ether Electrostat. It looks a bit different than the previous prototypes (I'll take a picture tomorrow), but still sounds wonderful. To my ears it's a fuller, richer sounding alternative to Stax electrostats.
    • Harbeth showed their 30.1 speaker and it was the most beautiful-sounding speaker that I heard today. Wonderfully musical.
    More to come.
     
  2. anach
    Thank for sharing your impressions! Does the Ether ES still has that "stat magic" though that many people here are mentioning about Stax? If not, then how does the Ether ES compare to other high end offerings? Seems like considering the price (probably around 3000$), amp requirements, Ether ES is going against the likes of Focal Utopia. Would be interesting to know what makes Ether ES special.
     
  3. Odin412
    IMHO the Ether ES is a different take on the electrostatic sound than for example the Stax 009, which many people love. The 009 has superb detail and a sense of 'air' that I haven't heard anywhere else, but to my ears the 009 is too lean and bright sounding. The Ether ES has a fuller, meatier sound signature while still having the electrostat sense of ease and 'free-flowing' midrange and treble.
     
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  4. Odin412
    I spent all day Sunday at the LAAS so here are some more impressions. Let's start with headphones. I'll post about the two-channel stuff later. As background so you know my preferences I'm very treble-sensitive and prefer smooth-sounding equipment.
    • Audeze showed their new LCD-4 derived in-ear headphone. I don't really care for in-ear headphones so I listened to the real LCD-4 hooked up to their King amp and to my ears that is a very nice combo. Classic Audeze bass with a nice midrange and smooth treble. An interesting feature of the King amp is that it has VU meters that show the sound pressure level in the headphones. I was surprised to see that my listening level was around 100 dB during the peaks, although I was playing a bit louder than I usually do.
    • Astell & Kern showed their new KANN player with Beyerdynamic headphones. The player feels very solid and well-built and it sounded good to my ears.
    • Sennheiser had a table with many of their headphones, including the HD 800S hooked up to their top amp. The HD800S is to my ears a lot smoother and easier to listen to than the original HD800.
    • Sony pulled out all the stops at this show and had a large room with headphones, TVs, surround sound and stereo sound, the latter two in separate rooms. I listened to the NW-WM1Z player with the TA-ZH1ES amp and MDR-Z1R headphones. The player is very well built and feels like is has been machined from a single block of metal, which it probably has. The headphone has a very interesting sound signature that doesn't give you that 'wow' feeling right away but grows on you over time. It's not at all bright and can sounds slightly dark at first, but it's not dark, just smooth, pleasant and enjoyable.
    • MrSpeakers showed the Aeon, which I listened to using the Schiit Gungnir/Mjolnir 2 stack. By now you've read that MrSpeakers has an additional foam insert that changes the tonality of the Aeon a bit and that will be made available to all buyers of the preorders. Great customer service! The Aeon sounds very good to my ears - for the price it's almost ridiculously good. It doesn't sound 'closed' at all, and has good detail without being bright. Some have claimed that it's bass-light. I don't think so - it's capable of very deep bass but the bass isn't boosted.
    • Finally, let me introduce you to one of the best headphone/amp/DAC combos that I've ever heard: The MrSpeakers Ether C Flow with the Cavalli Liquid Glass amp and a Mystique V3 DAC. This combo really blew me away: Deep, powerful bass with a lovely midrange and smooth but detailed treble. I listened to 'Stockings' by Suzanne Vega and heard a really, really deep bass line that I didn't know was there before. This is a really superb combo. I don't know anything about the DAC except that according to the front panel it's non-oversampling. I don't quite understand how that can work - I thought that you need oversampling to avoid steep analog filters that sound bad. However, technology aside there's no arguing with the sound: Very natural and realistic.
     
  5. Odin412
    Here are my impressions from the non-headphone parts of the LA Audio Show. As mentioned before in this thread I’m sensitive to bright treble so if you’re looking for gushing reports about Wilson Audio or Magico speakers and Audio Research amps you’re reading the wrong post:
    • Hegel is a Norwegian company that makes amplifiers and DACs. They also have a CD player called the Mohican (as in ‘Last of the Mohicans’). They played music from an Apple laptop – first on their $30,000 Reference DAC/preamp/power amp stack and then on their $3,000 Röst all-in-one integrated DAC/amp using a pair of KEF Blade 2 speakers. Was there any difference? Sure, the $30K stack sounded cleaner, more resolved and more dynamic, but I suspect also less forgiving of less-than-perfect recordings, of which I have plenty. The Röst sounded very nice and I could easily live with that.
    • ELAC showed their $5K/pair Adante speakers. When I first heard their Debut line I was speechless as to how good it sounded for the price ($500 for a pair of tower speakers). The Uni-Fi doubled the price point but still sounded very good to my ears. So did the Adante at 5x the price of Uni-Fi blow me away? Well… no. The Adante speakers sound too incisive and ‘audiophile’ for me. For example, the treble of ‘La Habanera’ by Yello sounded bright and harsh to my ears.
    • As I was walking down one of the hallways I heard ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ playing and since I love that record I of course had to step in. I think it was one of the rooms by Scott Walker Audio and they were using a reel-to-reel deck as a source with unknown (to me) electronics and Magico speakers. I haven’t cared much for Magicos in the past, but here they sounded very good with exceptional bass.
    • The Harbeth 30.1 speaker wins my price for the most beautifully sounding speaker at the show. Wondefully musical without being fatiguing at all. They played a piano track and the piano actually sounded like a real piano in the room. Well done!
    • The Vinnie Rossi room featured some really strange-looking speakers from Spatial Audio with a gigantic woofer and a huge horn. The speakers were placed far apart and quite close to the listening position, but still produced an incredible sound stage and a very life-like sound. On the other hand I suspect that the interior decoration-score would be on the low side...
    • Zu Audio showed their new Druid 6 speaker fed by turntables, a preamp that looked more like a mixing console and a First Watt power amp. All Zu Audio speakers that I’ve heard image really well, but the Druid 6 is in a different league altogether – the soundstage is borderline holographic. Zu Audio speakers are high-impedance and easy to drive – I use a 20W per channel Audioengine amp to drive my Zu Omen Dirty Weekend speakers and they get plenty loud for my needs.
    • Big kudos to Positive Feedback (@slefty) and their Getting Started room that showed that you can get good sound for not a lot of money (at least compared to most other rooms at the show). They played ‘Orinoco Flow’ by Enya from Tidal through the Schiit Bifrost DAC, Freya preamp, Vidar power amp and Magnepan .7 speakers and it sounded wonderful. I’ve had mixed experience with Maggies before but in this setup they sounded really good.
    • The McIntosh room had a huge stack of gear hooked up to Sonus Faber speakers. It’s hard to describe in words how beautifully designed and made these speakers are. And of course McIntosh gear looks really cool with sound that is legendary and really good to my ears. And I love the blue VU meters. Bling? Definitely. Expensive? Very. Want? Bad.
    • Sony had what I think was the most fun room at the show. They had a 4K TV hooked up to a 4K Blu-ray player and surround speakers. They had another room with a high-end 4K projector and high-end surround and Atmos ceiling speakers from their ES line. Outstanding picture quality (4K on a large screen has to be seen to be believed) with very immersive and dynamic sound with an earth-shaking bass. They also had a room with their ES line high-res player feeding their ES integrated amp and their AR line of high-end speakers (don’t recall if it was AR1 or AR2). Exceptional imaging, good and deep bass, nice life-like midrange, but slightly sharp treble for my taste.
    All in all a fun show. See you all next year, I hope!
     
  6. ToroFiestaSol
    Anyone took a pic of the MrSpeakers Ether ES?
     
  7. Odin412
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2017
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  8. ToroFiestaSol
  9. slefty
    Thanks for stopping by our room. We had a lot of fun, especially taking musical requests instead of forcing standard audiophile demo tracks on everyone. We were able to find almost every request on Tidal HiFi or Masters, or on the hard drive I brought from home. I hadn't listened to that Enya track in years. It was nice hearing it again, and sounding as good as it did.

    The folks from Magnepan had been up to our room before the show opened to verify our setup was up to snuff, and were very pleased with how well the Schiit Freya/Vidar combo drove the Maggie .7 speakers. The Heed Elixir integrated amp also drove them really well.
     
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  10. Odin412
    Your room, the headphone exhibits and the Sony room on the ground floor were my favorite rooms at the show. Come to think of it - my favorite rooms at a show dedicated to (mostly) high-end audio were 1) a room that focused on moderately priced components and non-audiophile music, 2) headphones and 3) Sony's room - mostly because the very cool 4K/surround sound demos. Is there a message here about the state of high-end audio?
     

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