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Home Entertainment 2003 Hi-Fi and Home Theater Event

Home Entertainment 2002

Friday Live From San Francisco
By Ian White


  If the industry had any real marketing sense, it would send EveAnna Manley of Manley Labs on a worldwide public relations tour, because she seems to be one of the few professionals in the industry who has an inkling of what it takes to promote a business. Not only does she work the crowd better than anyone else, but she does it with sincerity and a level of enthusiasm that makes listening to her a lot of fun.  A prime example of how effective she is, was illustrated on Friday when one show attendee, following a demonstration by Manley Labs and Joseph Audio exited the room and exclaimed, "that was “F**king Fantastic!".  I’ve never seen anyone that animated after an audio demonstration (well, I have but the Italian government has promised not to press charges if I stay away from Milan until 2008), but it certainly increased the enthusiasm of everyone waiting in line.


Jeff Joseph demonstrated his flagship Pearl loudspeakers ($20,000 pair) in San Francisco, with the Manley Neo-Classic 250 monoblocks, Manley Steelhead phono pre-amplifier ($7,350), La Luce turntable, Cardas Heart MC cartridge, Cardas Audio Golden Reference, and Orpheus Zero CD transport ($7,000), and Orpheus One DAC ($4,800).  The Pearls were exquisite when Joseph played some Louis Armstrong and the applause was unanimous.  They certainly require some current to open up, but the amplifiers were up to the challenge.


Manley also had its Snapper monoblocks on silent display, but they looked absolutely gorgeous.


One of the most frustrating rooms on Friday was the MartinLogan/Faroudja/ Parasound room as it had some of the best video reproduction at the show (actually, some of the best video reproduction anywhere), but the audio seemed out of step with the picture.  Faroudja demonstrated its top of the line DLP projector, D-ILA projector, and digital cinema sources.  Their processor/DVD transport units were spectacular and far superior to any of the DVD players I've seen so far.  The MartinLogan Odyssey and Cinema were simply disappointing, coming across as harsh, sterile, and rather fatiguing.  As a long-term MartinLogan user, I was extremely confused by the poor quality of the audio because I have heard MartinLogan surround systems sound unbeatable in numerous set-ups.  Parasound brought its brand new surround processor to San Francisco and upon close inspection, looked rather promising.


As a committed user of single-ended amplification (hey, 5 years in this business is an eternity), I have made the extra effort (both as a reviewer and consumer) to seek out the "ideal" loudspeaker for the 7 beautiful watts that I have become emotionally attached to.  Of everything available, the product that has frustrated me the most is the AvantGarde Acoustic series of horns.  The brand new Trio/Basshorn loudspeaker system certainly makes a statement, but I am not sure as to why I cannot wrap my head around its sound.  The system, driven by Balanced Audio Technology’s statement amplifier, pre-amplifier, CD player, and phono preamplifier displayed true moments of greatness, but I found myself emotionally detached from its presentation.  As someone who values dynamics and scale, I do appreciate the Trio’s ability to reproduce not only the most demanding passages, but the softest, quietest as well.  BAT also brought its brand new VK-600 power amplifier to this year's show and it was unfortunately on static display.  At first, I thought I was looking at their multi-channel amplifier that has earned a great deal of critical acclaim, but upon further inspection, it is their brand new two-channel reference which is rated at 300 watts per channel.  The VK-600 is also available as a monoblock and in a "Special Edition" versions.


Click here to see Ian's Saturday coverage.












































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