One of my favorite rooms and overall sounds of the show came from the MBL display. While their nearly half a million dollar top tier system is something that I probably won’t own anytime soon, I still enjoy peeking my head in whenever I get the chance. The main system I heard on Friday was based around a CD-based source, my second visit to the room on Sunday was supplied with sound from an open reel tape machine from United Home Audio. The Talking Heads demo track sounded almost bigger and better than real life.
The omni-directional MBL 101E Mk.2 speaker ($70,500/pair) sounds extremely transparent. The voices simply hover in the air of the room, as if produced from some unseen force. I say the sound is “bigger than real life” because I bet the sound of an actual personal singing in the room would seem smaller, coming from a reduced single point. The soundstage the MBLs throw is like listening to giants sing. The effect is such that it appears to come from a very large source, like a 5′ by 8′ mouth that is clear as a bell…delightful.
Another top tier loudspeaker that makes the rounds – the Focal Grand Utopia EM ($190,000/pair) had quite an enthusiastic room on the first floor. I have seen these big guys at nearly every audio show. Some some reason the design always reminds me of those giant worms that rise out of the sand in the movie Beatlejuice. They certainly demand the attention of any room they are placed in.
On the other side of the economic spectrum, british-born REGA had their popular turntables and wallet-friendly amplifiers on display. Powered by the REGA Brio-R ($900) integrated and pushing their new RS3 ($1400) loudspeakers, the system offered great punch for the dollar. REGA also had their new turntable the RP8 ($3,400) on display. Barnaby in the REGA room gets the AudioHead show award for the-most-interesting-character-who-knows-how-to-rock-a-bow-tie previously held by [this man].
Perhaps a nominee for the new-and-crazy-speaker award, the Newform Research Coaxial Ribbon LineSource ($11,400/pair) stood very tall in the Happy Sounds room. Using a [Oppo 105] ($1,200) and Wyred4sound music server 2TB ($2,500) as a source, the Wyred4sound SX-500 monoblocks ($900 each) really made the setup sing.
The Music Hall room is always an entertaining stop on the show tour. The company strives to bring top quality audio at prices that are attainable for all. They were showcasing their new turntable the Ikura (projected $1,000) powered by the new Creek EVO-50A integrated amplifier ($1195).
The big “budget news” for Music Hall was the addition of the new bookshelf-sized speaker the Marimba ($350/pair). We should have a review forthcoming in the next few weeks, but from what I heard at the show these speakers seem to come in with some real promise.