Tony West of Adirondack Audio and Video joined me on my latest audio excursion, this time to visit Devialet’s flagship store in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood. Our goal was to audition the company’s main product lines -- the Phantom Reactor and Phantom Premier series of wireless speakers, as well as the Expert Pro all-in-one amplifiers. Now one of four Devialet stores in the city, the flagship is only steps from the company’s New York office space, but a long distance from its headquarters, located in Paris, France.
Here’s the last batch of the most interesting headphones and headphone-related products I saw at CES 2019. Also check out my first and second headphone reports from CES, and watch SoundStage! Solo over the next few months for reviews of some of CES’s most promising new models. All prices in USD.
Manufacturers knew well in advance that CES 2019 wouldn’t be a big show for audio, so most seem to have saved their big product launches for other venues. However, one company, PSB Speakers, used CES for one of its most important launches in years: the first revamp of the company’s budget Alpha speaker line since 1999. In its suite at the Venetian hotel, PSB founder and chief engineer Paul Barton showed four new Alpha-series models. They retain the general look and form factor of the previous models, but according to Barton, they’re all “clean sheet” designs, with completely new cabinet designs, drivers, and crossovers. All models are available now, in either black ash or walnut woodgrain finish.
The CES 2019 show in Las Vegas was just wrapping up as I wrote this report. It wasn’t a big show for new audio products -- especially high-end audio products -- but I did find a few that are well worthy of attention. We’ve already posted the first batch of them. Here are the rest, with all prices in USD.
With high-end audio scaled back at CES 2019 to just a couple of dozen companies, headphones dominated the audio scene at the show. Here’s the second part of my headphone coverage from CES 2019. In addition to the models I’ve featured here and in my previous report, there were many other new headphones launched at CES 2019 -- including a couple that are under embargo for another month or so, but for which I’ve already received review samples for SoundStage! Solo. These are just the ones I found most interesting. All prices in USD.
If you read practically any high-end audio publication, you probably know by now that the high-end audio industry has largely abandoned the Las Vegas CES show -- or did the show abandon high-end audio? I’m not sure, but either way, there were only a couple of dozen audio companies at the Venetian hotel, a venue that only three years ago hosted a couple hundred audio companies. But between the exhibits at the Venetian and a smattering of audio companies over at the Las Vegas Convention Center, I did find a few interesting new audio products worth checking out. Here’s the first bunch, with all prices in USD.
The colossal tech tradeshow CES kicked off in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sunday, January 6, 2019, with several preliminary press events and presentations. Although I’m writing this before the show floor opens on January 8, I and the rest of the press have already been privy to some of the most interesting new product introductions, many of which debuted at Monday night’s Pepcom Digital Experience event at the Mirage hotel.
I recently wrote about a listening party that I attended at DeVore Fidelity’s “Monkeyhaus” factory and listening room, located in New York’s Brooklyn Navy Yard, for two independent, audiophile-approved jazz record labels: Newvelle Records and Greenleaf Music. When I headed back to that haus for a more in-depth investigation of DeVore and its self-described “top banana,” John DeVore, I was determined to uncover any monkey business that had gone undetected during the first go-round.
On December 7, 2018, I traveled to DeVore Fidelity’s “Monkeyhaus” factory and listening room, located in New York’s Brooklyn Navy Yard, to attend a party hosted by DeVore for two independent audiophile-approved jazz record labels: Newvelle Records and Greenleaf Music. According to the invite, the party offered “high-end pizza, wine and spirits, and a special selection of vinyl on some very beautiful speakers.” Present were John DeVore, the company’s chief designer and owner, and many of his employees, distributors, and other partners, as well as the founders of these two labels and many of their recording artists.
On December 6, 2018, audiophiles and hipsters gathered to attend a 1970s-themed audition of Gershman Acoustics’ Posh flagship speaker ($129,000 USD per pair) combined with an exhibition of the work of renowned artist Michael Arthur at Adirondack Audio & Video’s HiFi Loft, owned in part by Jason Tavares and located in the fashionable Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York. The evening featured the playback of two iconic ’70s LPs: Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and Sly & The Family Stone’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On.
From our vantage point, the 2018 Audio Video Show in Warsaw hosted more product premieres in the loudspeaker category than in all the others combined. And of those new introductions, by far most were presented at the Radisson Blu Sobieski hotel. This place was a goldmine. Here’s the third and final batch of loudspeakers Jason and I saw, with all prices in Polish zlotys (zł), euros (€), US dollars ($), or British pounds (£). All the speakers were at the Sobieski except one, the FinkTeam Borg, which was just down the street at the Golden Tulip hotel.
Here’s how crazy our pace became: As we were leaving the PGE Narodowy stadium on the first day of the show, we saw the shuttle bus about to depart. At Doug Schneider’s urging, I ran to flag it down. Unfortunately, there were four floodlights placed around the exit, pointing up at the building. One wasn’t working, and the other three faced in my direction, essentially blinding me. At full speed, I ran directly into the one that was switched off, and it took me out at the knees. I thought I’d fallen into a hole, as I flew forward and landed stunningly hard on the cement. The result was a nasty gash on my leg and bruises on both knees. Although Doug thought I’d broken both legs, I was merely hurt, not injured. I take the risks for you, readers. It’s dangerous out here. Don’t try this at home.
I stated yesterday that the Radisson Blu Sobieski -- one of the venues for Warsaw’s Audio Video Show 2018 -- held about as many exhibits as the entire Montreal Audio Fest. That was when I assumed the show occupied only a couple of floors. Well, this monster of a venue encompasses seven floors of exhibits, plus more in the substantial lobby. There are still more exhibits at the Golden Tulip hotel just down the street, and at the PGE Narodowy stadium 5 kilometers away. This, folks, is a big event. So big in fact that it has turned my head around and made me re-evaluate my North American-centric view of audio. If you have a chance to visit this show, you owe it to yourself to do so.
On Saturday, the second day of Audio Video Show 2018, we went up and down the floors and back and forth through the halls of Warsaw’s Radisson Blu Sobieski, which is where we stayed and where most of the exhibits from smaller manufacturers were positioned. Here we found numerous electronic components, which Jason Thorpe focused on that day, and many more loudspeakers -- my main beat. Below is the second part of my loudspeaker coverage; you can read “Part 1” here. Prices are in Polish zlotys (zł), euros (€), US dollars ($), or British pounds (£).
This is the third straight year I’ve covered the Audio Video Show. One reason is that I thoroughly enjoy visiting Warsaw, Poland, where it’s held. I always arrive at least two days prior to acclimatize so I can hit the show running and keep my stamina all the way through, as well as take in the numerous attractions and restaurants around the city. Warsaw is a great place to have an audio show, as well as a great place to visit.
The first thing I did on November 16 was sit through an Audio Video Show 2018 press conference conducted in Polish. I didn’t get the jokes and the banter. As a Canadian, I’m used to getting the gist of languages I understand only a little, but I’m completely out of the loop here in Warsaw.
I’m not a pushy guy, so sliding past a bunch of angry Poles to get to my reserved seat to listen to the premiere of Jean-Michel Jarre’s new album, Equinoxe Infinity -- actually introduced and presented by JMJ himself bang-on 40 years after the original Equinoxe album (it was originally released on November 16, 1978) -- made me slightly uncomfortable. Doug Schneider was also somewhat apprehensive, but for another reason. “John Michael who?” he asked me. We persevered regardless.
On a beautiful, blue-sky November morning, SoundStage! Global descended on Windsor, England, for the Hi-Fi Show Live 2018, held November 10 to 11. As is often the case in England, the weather turned into a wet weekend within minutes of taking the photo of the grand De Vere Beaumont Estate. The venue sits in the shadows of a large castle just up the road. That being, of course, the residence of the Queen, built in the 11th century after the invasion of William the Conqueror.
On October 21, 2018, I travelled to Matawan, New Jersey, to attend the grand opening of VPI House, a showroom built by VPI Industries, which manufactures turntables and related analog products. According to Mat Weisfeld, VPI’s president and the son of its founder and owner, Harry Weisfeld, the showroom was built for customers, dealers, and (luckily) reviewers to listen to music in a comfortable, home-like setting. The event also marked the introduction of VPI’s HW-40 direct-drive turntable ($15,000 USD), the “HW” and “40” portions of which celebrate Harry Weisfeld and his 40 years in the audio business.
Not that many years ago, it was fairly easy to overlook turntables at any given audio show, since digital was where it was at. And although most audiophiles still play back their music digitally, whether through streaming or on disc, vinyl has gotten so big and relevant again you’d be a fool not to see what’s new. Below are some of the turntables and related products I saw at RMAF 2018 that I thought worth highlighting. All prices in USD.
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