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Home Entertainment 2001

Home Entertainment 2001

Show Report

All the Vermeers in New York:
A Fractured View of
The Home Entertainment 2001 Show

by Clark Johnsen


Here's another hoot. In the Hovland room Alex Crespi has
just put on Pictures at an Exhibition and I am smitten. Rarely
do I surrender myself at a show to such a warhorse piece of
music, but here is great playing and even better sound and
mirabile dictu from a CD! Giving up, I lean over and ask Alex,
what? Well, it's a burn he made at home over Hovland phono
gear from an original Reiner LSC. Damn! Fooled me! Yes, he
explains, it's very good, but you should hear it after-hours
when we're able to dispense with some of the stuff we're stuck
with by our co-exhibitors.

Another pleasant surprise: The Rogue Audio room with an
88/99 combo playing over Audio Physic Spark IIIS. Designer
Mark O'Brien, clearly a proud daddy, is a personable presenter
as well. With Rogue's affordable fine sound and attractive
appearance, tube gear may finally come of age, a century after
Lee de Forest.

At Red Rose I join Roger Michel, a friend from Boston,
a talented photographer, state's attorney, witty intellectual
and longtime audio hobbyist, and his brother Keith, witnessing
Victor Tiscareno arguing his case. And a winning one it is:
Ladies and Gentlemen, here you see a fully functioning audio
system, and tube-based, for $13,000, less than the cost of many
single components in other rooms. How do you think it sounds?
OK, we're using SACD, so that's unfair? ...

Audience comments are entirely favorable, but secretly
I must demur. Yes it's very clean and enjoyable, but wouldn't
one be prouder if it cost rather less than the most elaborate
wide-screen rear-projection HDTV surround-sound system available
at Circuit City? I mean, look at those little speakers on
stands. What's up with that? Plus the room is bass-overloaded!
So I approach Victor, a trained engineer and ever a good sport,
and say, Hey, know how you can remove that very noticeable
"hotel-room bass" you're inducing? No? Well, I recommend these
horizontally-slippery isolation thingies called Aurios for under
your speakers. Victor looks at me sideways, quizzically, then
witheringly, but humorously, as though I've made an adolescent
poop joke. Indeed, how could he know? Hardly anyone does!
But I retaliate: Hey Mr. Green Pen Man, look at you! In denial,
about the tweakiest real improvement to come down the loudspeaker
pike in years. You just wait, guy!

Someone has recommended the Legend room, so the Michel
brothers and I adjourn there. And all sounds well. The unusual
amplifiers however shield their tubes behind thick, curved bars.
Roger feels compelled to observe, wittily, When good amps go


Seventy-six trombones

Somewhere along the way I take a break, with Bill Gaw,
to see a Broadway show, The Music Man, now in revival. It proves
to be fabulous fun, professional in the best sense of the word,
well sung and the orchestra plays very tastily. The sound ain't
bad either, and the voices actually travel with the actors as
they move! I can't imagine the theatre technology that achieves
this feat.

Already we may be on the third day... I'm not sure... But
anyway it's Mothers Day and I no longer have mine, so I say
a little prayer. Additionally everyone expects attendance to
thin out, although yesterday the place was so crowded, the evil
elevators developed a mind of their own, capturing several
citizens (notably Jonathan Scull, and myself) and holding them
hostage. No doubt everyone's heard about that crisis.

One fellow I should have introduced before is Jeff Smith,
who fashions himself as Silversmith. While there's no telling,
under the circumstances, how his cables sound, they come with
a raft of good reviews and Jeff, as an ex-Navy man still
stationed in San Diego, presents himself engagingly. And he
believes in many of the same things I do: Thin silver foil,
air dielectric ... just as with my favored Lewis Labs cables.
Plus he has these really sexy, extremely lightweight, quite
unusual Australian RCAS. Staring at the pair I try to guess
their cost. $1,400? Nope, $1,800.

I am reminded of this incident after running across my
pal Chris Sommovigo, originator of the famed Illuminati series.
Chris once entertained me grandly in Miami, and now has a new
company called Stereovox -- amazingly no one had taken that
great name -- and is venturing forth with a topline interconnect
very elegantly packaged. And the RCAS, designed by Chris himself
and called XHADOWS, are really, really sexy! Nothing else like
fem! I venture a guess as to cost, recalling my Silversmith
experience. $1,800? Nope, $2,100.


Poor Harry

Hard to believe my attention had not been drawn to this
location earlier; amiable roomie Matt Tulini told me only last
night. In the Harlem Suite we may audition "the edge of a
breakthrough to a new kind of realism in the reproduction of
music in the home," according to Harry Pearson, whose enticing
if slightly pretentious phrases are quoted in the brochure.

Poor Harry. Who can know whether ol' HP approved of the
dreadful outcome? We must assume not, for here is truly, truly
stinky sound. (You have to work really hard to get such terrible
results, Kwame observes.) Think, by way of analogy, skunk in
your trunk. Also think big money too, about a quarter-million.
Some of the most expensive multi-star components on The Absolute Sound's Recommended list are all strung together, or should
I say, sounding all strung-out? Here be a prime example of
one of those paradigm things you read about. This one, however,
concerns a fallacy perpetrated by the press, that black or silver
(or even gold) units delivered to your doorstep in brown boxes,
then plugged into each other, can achieve good sound.


Click here for the next page of this report.


Click here to see a
complete listing of show exhibitors.

Click here to see our 1999 show coverage.


Copyright 2001 Clark Johnsen













































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