February 2019
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What a Great Show!

By | February 15th, 2019|Categories: Stereophile|

I’ve attended a lot of audio shows since I started writing for the high-end press close to two decades ago. Yet rarely have I experienced one with a vibe as upbeat and optimistic as the inaugural Florida Audio Expo’s. Despite the fact that the majority of exhibitors know me from previous shows and feel comfortable sharing their bitches and peeves with me, I received nothing but positive feedback from everyone I spoke with.

Certainly no one complained about the attendance. Some were surprised by Friday’s considerable turnout, which included far more than retirees, or by Sunday’s smaller but still noteworthy showing.… Read the full article

The Big Systems of Tampa Day Three

By | February 15th, 2019|Categories: Stereophile|

As I began Day Three of the FAE, I was surprised to discover that I only had four rooms plus the sole hallway exhibit left to cover. With the realization that I could actually spend some time in the sun before flying home during the Pacific Northwest’s most paralyzing Snowmaggedon episode in many a decade, I allowed myself to take more time in each room.

It certainly wasn’t hard to linger in the mbl room on the second floor. Thanks to Jeremy Bryan’s set-up acumen, Nat King Cole’s impeccably enunciated “Stardust” and Blue Tofu’s “A Battle Between” both sounded warm and spacious, with fast, near-ideal bass.… Read the full article

Q Acoustics Concept 500 loudspeaker

By | February 14th, 2019|Categories: Stereophile|

Q Acoustics was founded in the UK in 2006, but has appeared on the radar of US buyers only in the last few years. Until recently, Q has aimed its efforts at the budget sector, earning enthusiastic reviews and commercial success.

But during that time the company also been quietly working on a product considerably more upscale, though still affordable in a marketplace now glutted with products at if-you-have-to-ask prices. The result is the Concept 500 ($5999.99/pair), first seen in the UK in 2017 and recently made available here.… Read the full article

John Coltrane's 1963: New Directions

By | February 14th, 2019|Categories: Stereophile|

Only a few months after the extraordinary news and release of John Coltrane’s Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album on Impulse! Records, which revealed the tenor and soprano saxophonist deep in transitional mode, comes Universal Music/Verve’s attempt to cash in on the Trane fever. Joining music from The Lost Album with selections from other albums recorded by Coltrane in that year, 1963: New Directions brings Coltrane’s legacy to our commercially crass, modern marketplace.

Okay—that’s how I imagine my compadres in the press describing this mother lode of early-’60s recordings, available as sets of three CDs and five LPs.… Read the full article

Qobuz Hi-Rez Streaming Launches in the US

By | February 14th, 2019|Categories: Stereophile|

Qobuz, the French subscription hi-rez streaming and download service, finally launches in the US today, right before the start of CanJam NYC. Qobuz not only offers more than 40 million tracks, over two million of which are said to be hi-rez, but also includes liner notes for many albums. The service has also secured partnerships that enable it to position Qobuz as the “official” streaming service of CanJam and other US high-end audio shows.

“There aren’t any big holes in our catalog right now,” Qobuz’s “Chief Hi-Res Music Evangelist” David Solomon explained by phone.… Read the full article

Tampa Day Two Ends with Highs and Lows

By | February 14th, 2019|Categories: Stereophile|

Is this report’s title referring to sound, substance, or more than a bit of both? As you ponder the not-exactly-hidden nuances of this decidedly less-than-metaphysical tease, you may also wish that you could have experienced both and more in the room sponsored by Audio Advisors of Palm Beach, FL, headlined by Wilson Audio’s Sasha DAW loudspeaker ($37,900/pair) and Audio Research’s Ref 160M monoblocks ($30,000/pair), Ref 6 stereo preamplifier ($15,000), Ref Phono 3 phono preamp ($15,000), and Ref CD9 CD player/DAC ($14,000).… Read the full article

Tampa Spotlights Old Friends in New Settings

By | February 14th, 2019|Categories: Stereophile|

It’s always nice to encounter fine old friends in new contexts. In this case, it was an all-but-the-speakers system from Germany’s AVM, whose MA8.2 monoblocks ($31,990/pair) were the first amplifiers I reviewed for Stereophile. AVM’s PA8.2 modular preamp ($18,785) with phono, DAC, tone input card, and tubed output card is no stranger to Stereophile either—it was reviewed by Michael Fremer in our December 2018 issue.

Complete with AVM’s MP6.2 media player ($9995) and R5.3 turntable ($7750) with Hana cartridge ($1500—precise model not identified), Raidho D2.1 speakers, Shunyata cabling and power conditioner, and Stillpoints equipment rack, this system delivered Tony Bennett’s classic “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” with great beauty and a touch of warmth.… Read the full article

More Good Sound in Tampa

By | February 13th, 2019|Categories: Stereophile|

Without question, the 5th-floor room headlined by Joseph Audio Pulsar stand-mounted speakers ($7700/pair) and Doshi Audio’s stereo amplifier ($19,995), line-level preamplifier ($17,995) and tape preamplifier ($17,995), connected by Cardas Clear and Clear Beyond cabling, earned its place on many an expo-goer’s “Best Rooms of Show” list. Aided by an Aqua La Voce S3 DAC ($4750) and Innuos Zen Mk.3 server ($2600), the system stood out for the beauty of its midrange. I know I’ve mentioned the midrange a lot in these show reports, but you really needed to hear the glowing warmth of this one.… Read the full article

Some Great Sound on Floor 5

By | February 13th, 2019|Categories: Stereophile|

Vanatoo’s two diminutive, bargain-priced self-powered speaker models were among the many excellent-sounding exhibits I encountered on the fifth floor of the Embassy Suites by Hilton Tampa Airport Westshore, during my second day at the Florida Audio Expo. Nor was I the only attendee to realize how good Vanatoo’s speakers sounded: The Seattle-based company’s Gary Gesellchen was DJing to a standing-room-only crowd when I arrived.

I spent most of my time revisiting the larger Vanatoo Transparent One Encore ($599/pair, on the right in the photo above, next to the $499/pair Transparent One), which I’ll be reviewing for Stereophile.… Read the full article

From Country to Classical in Tampa

By | February 13th, 2019|Categories: Stereophile|

The apotheosis—some would say the nadir—of country music suffering was reached in the Western Electric Sound System room put together by Déjà Vu Audio South. There, Vu Hoang (above) took the perilous step beyond Steely Dan’s “Black Cow” (as in black sheep?) to Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Please Release Me” and The Carpenter’s “This Masquerade.” The superb sound got me through a succession of despair-laden tracks from Western Electric Sound’s The Perfect Vocals CD that were titled—I kid you not—”These Days I Barely Get By” (Daryle Singletary), the aforementioned “This Masquerade,” “The Man That Got Away” (Rosemary Clooney), “The Party’s Over” (Nat King Cole), “Cry Me a River” (Jack McDuff), and the final track, “Only the Lonely” (Shirley Horn).… Read the full article