Many, many years ago, I was part of a group of Manufacturers who participated in the very first “The Home Entertainment Show” in Las Vegas, known affectionately as T.H.E. Show, so I thought it only fitting that after over a year of no HiFi shows that T.H.E. Show would be the first to return and something that I could not miss. Despite a bit of trepidation on the part of all, T.H.E. Show 2021 felt like a complete success. Traffic was high, and everyone I spoke to was pleased with the attendance and the show in general.
Wyerd 4 Sound
A great sounding room featuring all Wyerd 4 Sound gear from cables to speakers, including their new RS1 speakers ($14,999 pr.), AURA preamp ($2,999), and AURA GaN amplifier (2,999), as well as the PS-1 Modular Linear Power Supply ($399), the PS-1 HCPS linear power supply($999), DAC-2v2SE($4,499), and the MS Music Server($2,999).
My vote for second best sound of the show, much to my surprise was the Pietra/Benchmark system featuring the Pietra Model 3SG (Silver Ghost) Solid Granite enclosure with a Marble Baffle Speakers ($19,000), the Benchmark AHB2 Amplifier (480W/ch into 6Ω bridged mono, $2,999 ea.), the Benchmark DAC3B DAC ($1,699), the Benchmark LA4 Line Amplifier (2,599), the Aurender N200 Audio Streamer ($6,000), and Benchmark NL2-to-NL2 ($42.95) and XLR-to-XLR ($38) Cables.
An interesting company out of Mexico was Margules and my favorite overall due to their emphasis on aesthetics and history as well as producing one of the best sounds at the show allowing you to buy a world-class system without breaking the bank. A company with over 90 years of history they offer another full system product line with stunning aesthetics both physically and audio-wise, starting with their very intriguing TT-10 Turntable ($2,900), Magenta Fz47 Phono Stage ($900), Kin Integrated Amplifier (TBA), Magenta ACRH-3 Tube Hybrid Integrated Amplifier ($4,000), QR-2 Line Noise Suppressor (TBA), I-240 Tube Integrated Amplifier ($6,000), Magenta SA-2 Speakers ($4,800), and Magenta Monitor Speakers($2,500). ANA® (Acoustic Neurologic Alignment) is a design philosophy focused on how we as humans process and perceive sound, prioritizing the harmonic structure over the fundamental tone. I was also really intrigued with their display of rare original Led Zeppelin posters.
Aaudio Imports is a high-end audio importer run by my good friend Brian Ackerman. His room offered exceptional style along with fantastic sound. On active display were an Aurender W20SE Music Server ($22,000), an HB Design PowerSlave Marble MKII Power Distributor ($18,500), Stacore Roller Anti-Vibration Platform with cryo-max ($4,180), Stacore CLD Footers ($900 set of three), Stage III Gorgon Interconnects ($8,300), a Stage III Xphynx USB Link ($6,700), Stage III Kraken AC Power Cables ($8,400), Stage III Poseidon AC Power Cables ($22,000), Stage III Cerberus Speaker Cables($36,200), Wilson Benesch A.C.T. One Evolution Loudspeakers ($39,500), a Wilson Benesch R1 Carbon modular Hi-Fi Rack ($8,500), Wilson Benesch Carbon Plinth isolation platforms ($3,400), a Ypsilon Phaethon SE Integrated Amp ($50,000), and a Ypsilon DAC 1000SE Valve DAC ($49,000). And on passive display were Stage III Power Cords, HB Design Power Distributors, an Isoclean Zero Ohm Breaker Panel, and Vibrance Series Silver Interconnects. In the cost no object category this was the most impressive sound I saw at the show.
One of the more interesting speakers at the show was the MC Audiotech Forty-10 ($35,000 pr.). While the top midrange/treble panel may appear to be an electrostatic panel, it is, in fact, an array of 10 MC Audiotech Wide Band Line Source (WBLS) Transducers which employ dual hemicylindrical diaphragms driven at their junction by a vertical wire loop located between a twin magnetic gap “voice coil” system. This sits atop a “Folded Cube” woofer which uses 2 18” Drivers. The system is meant to be bi-amped utilizing the included outboard passive crossover unit (labeled as a Low-Frequency Controller implying the Array does not need any crossover). For display purposes, the speakers were driven by an LTA (Linear Tube Audio) MicroZOTL Preamplifier ($5,750) and LTA Reference 40 Amplifier ($6,800). A Weiss DAC 501 Processor ($8,995) and Wolf Audio Systems Alpha 3 Music Server (price withheld). Frontrow Cables were used and a Parasound Halo 23+ Amplifier ($1,595) was on hand.
ATC was displaying their full range of Active and Passive speakers along with their electronics. In their main system, they were showing the SCM50ASLT (Active Tower Series, $33,999 pr.), SCM50PSLT (Passive Tower Series, $27,999 pr.), and SCM100ASLT (Active Tower Series, $50,999 pr.) driven by their CDA2 CD DAC Pre-Amplifier ($4,999) run through their P1 Dual Mono Power Amplifier ($3,749) for the passive speakers, as well as a Triangle Art Hathor turntable ($,4000) and Triangle Art P-200 Tube Phono stage(Price not provided). On static display were the SCM20PSL ($4,500 pr.), SCM50PSL ($17,600 pr.), SCM50SE ($60,000 pr.), SCM40A ($14,999 pr.), SCM19A ($9,999 pr.), SCM19 ($4,799 pr.), C3C center channel speaker ($2,599), and HTS7C wall mount speaker ($1,998 pr.). Finally, they had a small tabletop system comprised of the SCM11 speaker ($2,899 pr.), CD2 CD Player ($2,349), and SIA2-100 Integrated Amplifier ($3,999).
One of the more fun rooms was Wayne Carter featuring a full display of vintage audio gear including a pair of Waveform Mach 13 bi-amped loudspeakers with their electronic crossover, a pair of JBL Atmos 13” woofers, Lazarus H-1 and 200/200 tube hybrid amplifiers, a Nikko Alpha 1 amplifier, and a Vandersteen WX-4 electronic crossover. Also proudly displayed was an original ‘70s vintage Maxell Tape poster. It was quite a treat to see the Lazarus 200/200 in use as it brought up great memories of one of my favorite systems I used to own.
What stood out from my experience in the PranaFidelity room was their really great taste in music. They were demonstrating their new Dhara loudspeakers (TBA) driven by their 400-watt purna/ma amplifier ($8,950). For sources, they had an E.A.R. Acute Classic Compact Disc Player ($6,795), an E.A.R. PhonoBox ($1,895), a gorgeous Helius Designs Viridia turntable ($7,195) with a Phaedra tonearm ($6,195) and Koetsu Rosewood Signature cartridge ($5,495), a Townshend Allegri Reference Preamplifier ($10,000), Silversmith Fidelium prototype interconnects (TBA) and speaker cables ($2,100 – 2m pr.), and Furutech power cords ($2,100 – 2m). Also on display was a vintage Technics RS-1500 Reel to Reel.
On a Higher Note/Voss Luxury Audio
Best sound of the show goes to my old friend and industry veteran Philip O’Hanlon from On a Higher Note who teamed up with Voss Luxury Audio to demonstrate his Graham LS5/8 Loudspeakers ($14,000 pr.) with a pair of Townshend Maximum Supertweeters ($1,500 pr.) which were driven by the Voss Steve Keiser Design Magnum Opus Stereo Amplifier ($80,000) via the Voss Vitra Reference Linestage Preamplifier($50,000). A SonoruS/Revox PR99 (Not Specified) running through a Merrill Audio Master Trident Tape Head Preamplifier ($19,000) was used as source and everything was elegantly displayed in Artesania Audio Racks. On display but not used was an Emotiva ERC-4 CD player ($599). Audience power conditioning was used throughout as were Gryphon cables. The sound was breathtaking as one was reminded what it was like to listen to the original master tape. Also to be noted was the excellent VOSS water being personally handed out by Philip.
Zingali Acoustics had quite the lineup to support their model Twenty Evo 1.2 Thirtieth Anniversary Edition loudspeakers ($21,045 pr.), for amplifier they had a pair of Cary Audio CAD-805 RS Single Ended Triode monoblocks ($15,999 pr.), with a Cary Audio SLP-98P preamp ($4,995) using 1940s vintage Tung-Sol 65N7GT Black Oval tubes, and a Pear Audio Blue Kid Thomas turntable with a Coronet 2 Tone Arm ($5,995), Pear Audio Blue Outboard power supply ($1,995), Ortofon Credenza Bronze cartridge ($1,960), and Pear Audio Blue Reference Preamplifier/Phono Stage ($5,995).
Cake Audio was demonstrating impressive looking $92,000 Alsyvox Botticelli speakers with $30,000 Alsyvox External Crossovers. Driving these was a $40,800 Vitus SS-103 Stereo Amplifier with a $34,800 Vitus SL-103 Preamplifier and $38,400 Vitus SP-103 Phono Stage. On the source end, they had a $25,200 Vitus SCD-025 CD Player/DAC, a $15,000 Computer Audio Design CAT Music Server with a $12,000 Computer Audio Design 1543 DAC, a $1,995 Computer Audio Design GC1 Grounding Block, as well as a beautiful $34,660 Kuzma XL DC Turntable with a $12,495 Kuzma 4Point 14 Tonearm and a $9,450 Dynavector XV-1T Phono Cartridge. Purist Audio Design Dominus Cables were used throughout (price not specified). Not necessarily the most expensive system at the show, but certainly a mouthful.
It was hard to tell whether Tonian Labs was there to demonstrate their Orianco G6 monitor speakers ($3,500 pr. with stands) or their CDs. For electronics, he used a Denon PMA-1600NE integrated amplifier ($1,699), a DCD-1600NE CD player ($1,299), and a vintage Marantz CD player. Also on display were a pair of KEF LS50 Speakers.
I really loved the aesthetics of the Heavenly Soundworks FIVE17 tri-amplified active loudspeakers ($10,000 pr. plus $1000 for the matching stands), the combination of fine wood and leather adds a significant elegance to what is otherwise a rather conventional box speaker. And of course, the sound is glorious.
AGD Productions’ solid-state amplifier in a vacuum tube is nothing if not unique. To be specific they are Gallium Nitride power MOSFET Class D amplifiers built into KT88 (GaNTube TM KT88 MKII), and KT120 (GaNTubeTM 120KT) tubes. Ocean Way Audio Eureka loudspeakers ($12,000/pair with stands) were used powered by AGD Gran Vivace monoblocks ($18,500/pair) with the AGD Andante Preamp/DAC/streamer/Phono Stage ($12,500) as source. Also on display were a pair of AGD Audion monoblocks ($7,500) and a pair of AGD Audion SE monoblocks ($8,300 – comes in a polished finish).
J&J Audio Solutions
J&J Audio Solutions were demonstrating Spatial Audio Lab M3 Sapphire Loudspeakers ($4,950) driven by an LTA Z10 ZOTL Integrated Amplifier ($4,900) with a Quad Artera Solus Play Wireless Streamer (2,495) as well as a Gold Note Mediterraneo Turntable ($7,800), Gold Note Donatello Gold Phono Cartridge ($1,200) and Gold Note PH-10 Phono Stage ($1,595) all wired using Cardas Cables.
In T.H.E. Marketplace I encountered a new up and comer Auribus Acoustics. They were showing a prototype of their new unique Dynamic Driver Headphone which is slated to be priced between $650 and $850 and will be a bargain at either price point. The build quality of the prototype was exemplary and the sound was surprisingly good.
Awedyo Audio is a local dealer who is importing high-end Chinese brands directly from China. I was able to record a short video with him introducing his product line so rather than belabor the point, I have included it here.
There’s not a lot I can say about Jamie Audio Speakers ($9,800) since they were not set up for listening other than they are pretty, and that they have an aluminum woofer and titanium tweeter, built-in isolation feet with contoured spikes, and unusual binding posts.
T.H.E. Marketplace had the usual mix of Record Dealers and associated accessories such as wall art depicting famous musicians and just to show a bit of the unusual there was an Opatra London booth demonstrating their Synergy Non-Surgical Facial Lift Skin Care Device.
And that concludes my coverage of T.H.E. Show 2021 an exciting beginning to what I hope will be a great year for audio.