The jump back into normalcy for the audio show circuit hasn’t been with out its fair share of road bumps, but the Southern California T.H.E. Show 2022 has managed to soldier on though this year by hosting a 40 plus room event. Taking place in Long Beach once again, the 3 day audio getaway felt lively and most welcome to the west coast crowd, many of who did make their way from outside locations across the US.
My time at the show was well spent, and the Hilton Long Beach is large and accommodating for the crowds. Several of the “big rooms” are located right off the main lobby and about 4 floors of spaced out rooms help deliver a wide range of sounds and price points to attendees. While not the largest show in the US, the somewhat smaller footprint allows for writers like me to cover more ground, and show goers the ability to listen to essentially everything the show has to offer in a few days.
There was a dedicated space allotted to headphones this year, which THE Show calls their Headphonium. I managed to check things out a bit before opening hours on Friday, and it was a good time to catch up with some manufacturers that I haven’t seen since the pandemic began.
Amps And Sound was presenting their newest collaboration with Headphones.com with the LeeLoo Headphone Tube Amplifier ($2,899). This desktop amp was indeed named after the iconic character from The Fifth Element and is heavily influenced from the previous Pendant model that we reviewed back in 2018 under the ZMF Audio partnership. The main updates have been to the overall functionality of the amp, with the addition of some speaker taps on the back side.
Also new to the brand is the company’s Red October model ($12k). When asked why he incorporated separate jacks for each impedance option for connecting headphones, designer Justin said he liked to include the selection as a way to increase durability over a switch. Given the space, I can’t see why this doesn’t make for an interesting experiment for some sonic tinkering with any given headphone.
Up on the 3rd floor ADG productions was showing off some Ocean Way Eureka speakers ($14,800 with stands) with a large cross section of amps, preamps and “pre DACs”. ADG puts a Gallium Nitride Class D amp into a glass tube to give a classic look that can be rightfully deceptive to the power output. Their ADG Vivace Monoblocks ($15k) push out am impressive 200W each, all from within a single vacuum tube.
The new Auditions come in an even smaller form factor and retail for $7,500 a pair with 170 watts of output. Individual replacement tubes can be purchased separately in 200W and 400W for $1.5k and $2k respectively. The Occasional Podcast just recently covered the subject of Class D and its changing perception within the audiophile market. You can check it all out from here, or in the imbed below.
Retailer Sunny’s Audio And Video always makes for a nice stop at any audio show. This year room 423 (of his two demo rooms at THE Show 2022) was showing off a pair of white B &W 802 D4 speakers attached to Vinnie Rossi amplification, including the new Brama Line Preamplifier ($33.9k) (which manages to implement a 300B tube set into the line stage section of amp) and the Brama power amp ($38.9). Sources included a Brinkmann Taurus Turntable ($22.7k) and EMM Labs MA-3 DAC ($9.5k) with Neodio Origine S2 Ultimate CD Player ($24.9k). Cabling was Audioquest Thunderbird throughout. The system conveyed a tremendous sense of control and finesse in the medium-sized room. Even with a full crowd, you could get a feel for the solid tonal structure and low end contribution.
SVS joined in on the fun with a rare home theater setup located in the side corner of the 3rd floor. Packed with a dynamic movie demo of a Mission Impossible chase scene (among others) the bass response was tight and responsive during both explosions and classical music recordings. The surround sound system showcased a pair of Prime Pinnacle towers, Ultra Center, two Prime Bookshelf, two SB-3000 subs and two Prime Elevation speakers. Sitting in the sweet spot at high volumes really emphasized the capabilities of SVS’s stable of products and how dynamic the response can be. It really reminded me of a high end California movie theater, which usually (but not always) harnesses some killer sound quality.
At the end of the day, THE Show 2022 ultimately fulfilled my lofty expectations for the Southern California event. I really enjoy the location, as downtown Long Beach is quite pleasant this time of year and manages to side step some of the more aggressive summer temperatures and even more aggressive parking situations. The layout of the show isn’t too far to walk, and the escalator to the second floor really relieves some of the foot traffic through the elevator bank. The overall size is really ideal if your favorite brands are being represented, as room sounds were very decent – especially considering the unpredictability of moving thousands of dollars of audio gear into an unknown room for the weekend. A hearty thanks to THE Show organizers Maurice Jung and Emiko Carlin, a job well done.