Big ‘o Loudspeakers Part 1 – T.H.E. Show Newport 2014

It may be just me, but it feels like the music that plays in the loudspeaker rooms at audio shows is getting a little further away from Diana Krall and Stevie Ray and closer an acceptance of new songs. I still heard that acoustic version of Hotel California wafting through the hallways like a popcorn scent at a Target checkout line multiple times, but there were some interesting tunes spinning unprompted in more than a few rooms this year at the T.H.E. Show Newport. Progress?


So this year I would like to kick things off with the fine upstanding gentleman who had this interesting album on tap in vinyl. Matthew Payne from Audio Element had an interesting mix of nice (but not off-the-wall pricy) gear on display. When I saw the album on display, my request to hear it was quickly addressed and he didn’t choose the billboard hit, good man. I have the budget Rega Brio-R in the lab here and its pretty fantastic for a sub $1k integrated. Audio Elements setup consisted of the Elicit-R integrated ($3k), Aria Phono Stage ($1,500) and the new RP-10 table (with Apheta cartridge, $7,500) all by the british-based Rega. Sonus Faber’s flagship was perhaps one of the greatest sounds of AXPONA, and the Olypica II didn’t disappoint here either. I usually only observe price tags above $10k from afar, but Sonus is really caught my attention as of late.

Dan Meinwald of E.A.R USA had these fairly pricey, but yet not physically huge Maretn Coltrane Tenors ($85k) blasting some easily digestible classic rock when I walked in. E.A.R. also makes a top tier headphone amplifier, but it was not on display in this room. The amplification rig consisted of the E.A.R. 509 mono blocks ($15.7k) and the 912 pre ($13k).

Focal busted out not one, but two Utopia setups in the same area on the lobby level of the show. Their room featured the Maestro Utopia in white ($50k/pair) and the Grande Utopia EM in red ($180k/pair) that you usually see at shows like this.

Speaking of pricy flagships, one of my show favorites MLB finally brought out the big guns to a regional audio show. The Radialstrahler 101 X-treme pictured above is usually reserved showing only at CES, but it looks like the guys at MBL finally broke down and hauled the $500,000 system down for a little listen.

I ran into these two jokers making the rounds at the show as well. Mal and Kirsten Kenney were covering the weekend’s events for ThePartimeAudiophile and make for great company poolside. The pair has deep understanding of all things loudspeakers and provided plenty of welcome color commentary over the duration of the ‘fest. When they aren’t tromping from room to room spreading good cheer (Kirsten mostly) you can find Mal conformably sitting at table 4b in the courtyard, unless its in the sun, then its 5c.

Check out [Part 2 here].

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