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The Home Entertainment (T.H.E.) Show Long Beach Impressions June 7-9, 2019

  1. Odin412
    This year THE Show moved to Long Beach and had grown quite a bit from last year. This year the show had rooms on six floors at the Long Beach Hilton hotel. I thought the venue was quite nice – easy to get to and easy to navigate. There was even a hospitality suite that served sandwiches around lunch!

    I attended on Sunday and have added my impressions from a few of the rooms below. There was a good number of people in attendance, which is good since Sunday is usually the quiet day at audio shows. I’m very treble-sensitive so keep that in mind while reading my comments. YMMV, as always.

    • MBL showed their Radialstrahler loudspeaker powered by their own electronics. Very cool looking stuff with a very open and spacious sound. Maybe the tonality was a bit bright for my taste, but I enjoyed this room.
    • MST (Music Staging Technology) is a Swedish company that presented an add-on component that is supposed to enhance the spaciousness of the sound. It consists of a control unit and two very small speakers that can be placed on the wall above the main speakers. To my ears the system increased the spaciousness of the sound, but at the price of what I thought was an added and unpleasant brightness.
    • Scott Walker Audio had an interesting setup of two rooms with identical ELAC Adante floorstanding speakers and electronics. One room was set up with Best Buy cables and no added power filtering and other room tweaks. The other room had other (and presumably more expensive) cables and an assortment of tweaks including power filtering, a bass trap and something called (I think) a ‘room spatializer’. The idea was to start in the first room and then listen again as they played the exact same music in the second room to see if you could hear the difference. I was able to hear the difference, but I kind of preferred the first room. Sure, the second room sounded like the music had a quieter and firmer base (good), but it also sounded brighter and more incisive, which I didn’t like. I applaud the effort, though.
    • DCC Museum. Remember the DCC – Digital Compact Cassette? No? The DCC was an effort from Philips in the early 1990s as a competitor to Sony’s MiniDisc format and it basically encoded digital audio onto analog cassettes using an algorithm that resembles the MP3 encoding. It was a clever idea, but consumers didn’t care and the format failed spectacularly. However, as with so many things the format lives on and still has enthusiasts keeping it going. Very cool.
    • Audeze had a stand and I really enjoyed their LCD-4z driven by the SPL Phonitor amp. The LCD-4z is a lighter version of the wonderful LCD-4 and sounded really good to my ears with the trademark Audeze bass (nobody does bass quite like Audeze), a lifelike midrange and pleasant treble. I also loved the dancing VU meters on the Phonitor amp. Audeze also had their Mobius headphones on display. I purchased my pair during the crowdfunding campaign and I really enjoy them, but I learned that I need to update the firmware to get all the latest goodies. The version on display seemed to have deeper bass than my pair, so maybe that’s something to look forward to as part of the new firmware?
    • Elekit showed their TU-8600 300B-based power amp kit driving a full-range speaker. The famous 300B tube just has a magical midrange reproduction – so lifelike! I’m not sure that I’m comfortable building a tube-based kit amp, though – the voltages inside a tube amp can kill you.
    • Odyssey Audio was a new brand to me, but I’m glad that I stopped by. Their room was dark (turning off the lights helps focus on the music!) and had a CD Player (not sure of the brand), Odyssey preamp, power amps in a lovely mirror finish and floorstanding speakers. This room played very different music and I really enjoyed a Christmas choral (yes, Christmas music in June – and it sounded like the guy was right in front of me!), some Industrial (a bit too bright for me, but very engaging) and finally a superb rendition of a Santana track played from an LP. The whole system was priced at around $7K, which proves that you don’t need to spend a ton of money to get great sound. The power amp is priced at just $995, which has me very intrigued – I wonder how that would sound with my Zu Omen Dirty Weekends? And I wonder what the upcharge is for the lovely mirror (almost Burmester-like) finish?
    • Burmester/Magico. Burmester makes some of the most gorgeous looking equipment in the business, and local dealer Brooks Berdan had brought a 911 power amp (the amp, not the car) that is one of the most gorgeous and sexy looking power amps in existence. It’s super expensive at $35K and although I complain about the escalating prices of high-end gear, when a product is built like the Burmester 911 I feel like the asking price is almost justified. Almost. The main demo room had the even more insane Burmester 909 amp fed by other Burmester electronics and driving a pair of Magico speakers. The 909 is basically a cube about a meter on each side – it’s huge! I often feel that Magico speakers sound too ‘audiophile’ for my taste and that was kind of the case here too, although I thought that the speakers really filled the large room with good sound.
    • Gryphon/Magico. IMHO this was the best-sounding room of the show, bar none. Gryphon is a Danish company that makes some very cool-looking and expensive gear, and here they had the enormous Antilleon EVO amp fed by other Gryphon electronics (including a reel-to-reel deck! I love those) and driving a pair of Magico speakers. Whatever I said above about Magico sounding too ‘audiophile’ did not apply to this room. Maybe it was a different speaker model, but this room sounded so smooth, organic and musical with a deep, juicy, tactile bass that I completely forgot about the equipment and spent a long while there just listening to music. The presenter had created a tape of various (non-audiophile) pop music just to show that the system was enjoyable while listening to other stuff than just audiophile demo tracks, and he succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. I’m not sure if this is the best system that I’ve ever heard, but it sure comes close. Amazing. If I ever win the lottery, I’m calling the Gryphon folks.
  2. jwbrent
    I agree with your thoughts on the Burmester 911 amp ... timeless design and beautiful sound.
    Odin412 likes this.
  3. CreditingKarma
    Maybe with the exception of Abyss with the 1266 phi tc. But it is more expensive and not as stylish.
    Odin412 likes this.
  4. Odin412
    I heard the original Abyss 1266 and I remember that it had astounding dynamics but haven't heard the phi tc version. Maybe I'll get a chance at the upcoming CanJam SoCal event.

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