NY Audio Show 2019 - impressions of what I heard (nearly everything).

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Benzion, Nov 10, 2019.

  1. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Came back a couple of hours ago. This year,the show was way smaller than the one in 2016 - last time I attended. But, interestingly, I liked it a bit more than the last time. Probably because this time I already knew what to listen for, having been somewhat seasoned as an audiophile over the last few years in the hobby. Going room by room, here are my brief impressions:

    Martin Logan big electrostatic speakers (two models heard in two different rooms): as my first time around, I absolutely loathed them - harsh and clinical mid/top, mushy and irresolute at the bottom. Couldn't get out of the room fast enough. The huge red ones were the worst - in salon A, driven by all Mark Levinson gear, the smaller black ones (models escape me) were only slightly more listenable, but still nothing to write home about. Again, the "room" argument may be invoked by some people, but let me assure you of this - there we no acoustically good rooms in that hotel - none. Some rooms did sound great though, others didn't, so I'm inclined to think gear/speakers mean more than the room.

    ESD Acoustics - an unknown Chinese brand that occupied two full salons , C and D. The humongous horn speakers the size of water buffalo sounded like a nothing burger - pretty lifeless in salon C. Their smallest speakers, 2-way monitors (judging by appearance), sounded better, actually, and could probably sound pretty good with some better gear/room/placement. Both salons were geared with their own electronics - multiple impressive-looking black boxes of unknown quality (probably decent enough). Overall - not impressed.

    Orinda Acoustics - can't even remember, so nothing to report, I guess.

    Pure Audio Project - a pair of big interesting-looking open baffle speakers driven by huge Pass Labs x-160 (exact model escapes me) amps. Full range driver in the middle and two big (at least 12", maybe 15) woofers top and bottom. Given the purportedly wonderful amps (I've never heard Pass gear before), I feel the speakers were the bottleneck of that system, as it was overall very average sounding. Not bad for sure, but certainly not as good as the looks of that system alone could make you hope for. I will not even count that experience as "having heard" Pass amps - I believe those speakers did not do the amps justice.

    Ohm Acoustics - WOW! I'd say the best sounding room for the money. Wonderful, full-bodied, 3-D sound with "meat on the bones" for really reasonable affordable prices. The pair playing was the Walsh 2000, driven by 30-year-old Carver SS gear - something that was still sold at local P.C. Richard stores in Brooklyn along the usual Onkyos and Denons back in the early 1990's. Decent hi-fi gear that didn't pretend to be high end even back then, but doing a commendable job driving those Walsh speakers. Quite a few people in that room, aside from myself, were making the same comment as I did - the speakers sounded way better than many other rooms, and at a small fraction of the others' prices. I cannot recommend them highly enough to anyone looking for an affordable pair of speakers with truly great sound.

    Polk Audio / Marantz room - another WOW! Polk were showcasing those new top of the line speakers with cross-talk cancelling technology array on top, driven by a full Marantz stack. Amazing power, detail, and clarity, with no audible distortion even at loud SPL. Color me impressed. Polk people advice pretty close placement: 6 to 8 feet apart, depending on the room, and no toe-in - they need to face the room straight, the array is angled to mimic toe-in, so any additional toe-in done by you will actually ruin the main effect of the speakers, i.e. cross-talk elimination.

    Laufer Teknik / Absolare: uber-expensive stuff that failed to impress. Laufer showcased a pair of stick-thin speakers, consisting of line array of 48 tweeters each that went to 85 Hz, from there being crossed over to an SVS powered sub. Driving them were Absolare hybrid tube/SS amps. There were better sounding rooms at the show for much less money.

    Value Electronics were showcasing mostly mid-level Technics gear, including speakers, and, of course, a couple of TT's. The mid-level gear, integrated amps, power amps, speakers, and all sounded very nice, considering they are practically bargains compared to most of the other gear present at the show. I will not spend much time describing the TT's, as plenty has been said about them on this forum. Suffice it to say that I liked the sound of 1200GR with 2M Black and din't like the sound of 1500C with the 2M Red - it was decidedly mid-fi.

    Luxman / Triangle room, a pair of Triangle Magellan speakers driven by a pair of Luxman something-88 model stereo amps bridged into mono. The Magellan speakers are lauded as legendary, but the bass on them sounded somewhat mushy to my ears. Overall sound was nice, but not too memorable, so I didn't linger in that room for too long.

    Sound by Singer (a veteran NYC audio dealer) had a Dr. Feickert turntable playing through a Swiss CH Precision amp driving Swiss Stenheim Alumina (number escapes me) speakers. Another WOW room - very refined, in a rather Nordic kind of way. The sound isn't lush or warm, as I usually prefer, yet very detailed and precise, without sounding harsh and clinical. Hard to explain, but it sounded as high-end as a fine Swiss watch. I'm in love with the Dr. Feickert turntable, by the way, and now I've got the upgrade itch again.

    Fidelis AV had a very fine Acoustic Signature TT spinning, and a pair of impressive-looking Einstein amps driving the Harbeth 40.2 speakers. Now, I heard the 40.2's for the first time back at the 2016 show. Back then they were in a much larger room (actually in one of the Salons occupied today by the unimpressive ESD Acoustics), and I was underwhelmed by the sound. This time, the room was much smaller, and I actually liked the sound of the 40.2's a lot more than I did last time. However, for the life of me, I do not like them as much as their formidable reputation would entail. I honestly liked the overall sound of the Ohm Walsh speakers a lot more than I liked the 40.2's. The Harbeths are more neutral, and are more detailed and nuanced, but not overall as musical or enjoyable as the Walsh. Either that, or I am simply a plebeian and can't appreciate truly patrician sound.

    Blink High End showcased some expensive gear, huge Aavik amps/preamps (anywhere from $30k to $96k), some Linn gear, a Technics SL-1000 TT (a new SP-10 with plinth and tonearm), and Spanish Kroma speakers. The sound was "good", but my feeling is the speakers were the bottleneck of the system, and it could have/should have sounded way better, given the level of the rest of the gear.

    Triode Wire Labs is a cable manufacturer, but in their room they showcased a Vinni Rossi integrated amp driving unknown to me QLN speakers from Sweden that looked spectacular and sounded surprisingly good for an obscure brand. I liked the overall combo a lot, even if it wasn't my favorite at the show.

    Alexus Audio / Bache Acoustics room. Two Russian-owned companies from Brooklyn. Alexus is owned by a college classmate of the legendary Vladimir Lamm (some of you may know Lamm amps). He was showcasing a pair of SET pure class A monoblock amps, with a single 300B tube for a driver and a pair of 845 tubes run in parallel for output, producing an astounding 70 WPC. They were driving mid-sized 3-way towers by Bache Acoustics, and the overall sound of the combo was great. Could easily be end game for me, if I were in the market, and I'm not just saying it because I'm also Russian - they really deserve high marks.

    Audio Note UK. After many battles and broken lances with @Richard Austen regarding AN UK, I could say the need to hear their room was one of the main reasons for me to attend the show this year. I spent some of the longest time in that room, fully intent to hear the "magic" so vividly promised by Richard. First off, I need to say that their music selection was sadly and appallingly limited to mostly boring stuff everyone else uses to present "audiophile" sound: some small scale Classical, some female vocals, mind-numbingly boring Irish pseudo-folk ambient music, and the like. Finally, one of the visitors begged them to swap in his CD with lively drums and bells, which at least allowed me to hear some of the capabilities of the speakers, which were AN-E "Lexus" (or Luxus) edition. The speakers definitely were not bad. They are obviously capable of good sound, too bad we couldn't really get much of it in that room. The liveliest music played was some Elvis 7" 45's from way before I was born - and that's after a request to play something that has acoustic bass. They didn't even have any Jazz records in their very small vinyl stash. Overall, I doubt if they had more than a dozen LP's there, as if they really didn't care to play various music styles that people might like. A technical detail - the integrated amp they were using, a bright fire-engine red monster, had two different driver tubes installed, one noticeable taller than the other, and the right channel was also noticeably louder than the left channel. One I asked the rep about it, he told me I was seeing things. Judge for yourselves:

    [​IMG]

    It's the only picture I took at the show, just to check with other members here if I'm really "seeing things".
    In the end, the AN room, while certainly sounding capable and good, was not, to my hearing, "head and shoulders" above any competition, as per Richard, and nowhere near the best of the show. Now I can sleep soundly knowing that my opinion is based on something I'd heard (again) with my own ears, and not hearsay.

    Voxativ room had a pair of Hagen monitors driven by their own integrated amp with built-in DAC, DSP, all Qobuz wireless centered. The little Hagen speakers, with 5.5 inch single driver and horn opening at front bottom, sounded pretty impressive playing acoustic music. And, according to the rep in the room, with the help of DSP, they can go down to 45 Hz, which isn't bad, given how small they are. However, when playing some more dynamic music, the lack of bass becomes immediately apparent, like, I suspect, with my single-driver speakers of many makes. Also, the whole concept of streaming, wireless, control from smartphone, does not appeal to my old-school tastes for audio equipment. But, the little Hagens gave me an initial taste of what Voxativ speakers may be capable of, and, suffice it to say - I want to hear more of them.

    And now, for the best sound of the show according to me and my ears. The biggest WOW sound of that show was the Tweak Audio room, which had a Sota TT playing through T+A solid state electronics (with a 1,000 Watt stereo power amp), driving a pair of T+A transmission line speakers (bottom ported, again - model escapes me). Now, T+A isn't known as a speaker manufacturer per se, but these speakers sounded simply fantastic driven by their gear. Last time I heard T+A gear was in 2016, when they were driving Paradigm Person 9 speakers, and the sound was amazing back then. Having for the second time been really impresses by T+A room, I realize a lot of it is due to the quality of the gear. I now have solid as cement respect and admiration for T+A SS gear.

    So, in the end, if money was no object, my #1 would be the T+A gear/speakers, and #2 would be the CH Precision/Stenheim.

    For the money spent, the biggest bang for the buck were without a doubt the Ohm Walsh speakers, and for a complete system - the Alexus/Bache combination.

    And last, but not least, there was a room with a system unlike anything else at the show. It was by a Japanese firm called Haniwa (Kubotek), whom I've never heard of before. Everything in that room was made by them, from the cartridge to the speakers, and everything in between, including turntable, phono, pre, and amp. And everything there is one of a kind, if I may be so bold. The cartridge has the worlds lowest impedance - at only 0.4 Ohm, the phono is of the transimpedance current mode type, then it goes to a separate box current to voltage transformer, from which it goes to the pre/amp combo (fairly small boxes), and finally to the speakers. Now, the speakers deserve a special mention. Full range single driver, enclosed in a round outer shell the size no bigger than a volleyball, sitting atop a single-post metal stand. Impedance of the speakers is below 3.5 Ohm, so the amp driving them is 400 WPC! And boy, do those little puppies fill the room with tremendous sound! They were playing some large-scale symphonic music, and I simply couldn't believe those little things produced the magnitude of the sound I was hearing. All in all, I was floored. Now, the drawback of it is that the whole system needs to operate as one - it's pretty much pointless buying some components without the others, which makes it pretty esoteric and uncommon. I certainly wouldn't do it at my stage in this hobby. But, to someone looking to build a full system from scratch, who has the money to spend on it, and is not afraid of thinking outside the box - I would wholeheartedly suggest to give it a listen - you may be as floored as I was.

     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2019
  2. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    Hi - hey I made no guarantees it would be head and shoulders above anything else. I have covered Audio Shows where the AN room didn't make my top 20! Here was my 2012 coverage and best of show report. AN didn't make the cut 2012 CAS Coverage, Part X

    From the photo the amplifier could be the Jinro/Tomei or Ongaku - - the tube sizes are different because they're not the same tubes
    1 x CV4068
    1 x 6463

    The BIG output tubes are 211s and those should be the same size, though that is not always the case depending on the way the tube glass was made. I have a 2a3 that is a bit lager than the other - regardless the glass shape has no impact on sound.

    Unfortunately you are correct - the music played is generally audiophile approved and simpler affairs. I am not sure why people who attend shows don't bring a CD case with them. Bring your own music and play what you know.

    I mean I get why they play simpler music because the hotels tend to suck the acoustics are bad and the more lively and loud and bassier the music the more the room problems get excited by the room. Further, the people who run the rooms are trying to sell to people with money - those people "tend to be" older people who "probably" listen more to classical music than anything else. And they're not buying boom cars so playing at 110dB is not really the selling point.

    Next time you go to a show - bring your music - and make sure YOU control the volume knob.

    When I go to Audio shows I bring a variety of music that I enjoy as well as very average recordings to see if those will sound "enjoyable" in spite of their deficiencies. I also bring female vocals because I like female vocals but I bring the ones I like not the ones they always play.

    Lastly, it also helps you because then if you play the same 3-5 tracks in every room you go into then you get a sense for how each system handles the exact same piece of music. One room can play a noisy poor recording while another plays a truly great recording - then the lesser system may sound better than a better system solely because of the quality of recording.

    I personally think the PASS Labs would be the bottleneck for Pure Audio Project - not the other way around.

    I am glad though that you found a system that moved you - that at least doesn't make the trip a waste - Haniwa may be worth further exploring and you can get various individual pieces. Most system approaches have individual components that can stand very well on their own.

    As an aside
    Ultimately, I never understand comments about music though. Music is an art form - some people like Irish folk music - do you expect people to be mind readers and know your 10 favorite albums before you walk into the room? Diana Krall probably sells more female jazz albums than any female jazz artist on the planet - and those albums are often $60US for the LP - so sure a shyte a lot of people seem to like Diana Krall's kind of jazz - thus the majority of audiophiles like her and that's why she is continuously played at shows. Along with Nils Lofgren's Keith Don't Go, and the Eagles' Hotel California etc etc.

    When I was in the MBL room at a show I put on Guns and Roses at loud levels and half the room walked out. Granted a bunch of other people came storming in as well. But the show room organizers are simply better off playing "bland" when in doubt. Everyone can stomach Girl at Piano. Not everyone can stomach "noise metal" or underground thrash metal.

    So when people say - good music - it would be nice to know what that constitutes. And what is good to one person won't be good to me. Granted I have a very wide pallet of music that I like - I like pop because pop has its time and place. When I am down at a pub dancing - Mozart and Wes Montgomery don't really fit. Lady Gaga fits - so in that context Lady Gaga is queen.

    If I am ready to commit suicide I might put on some Wagner. Music has a time and place :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2019
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  3. tumpux

    tumpux Active Member

    Location:
    doha
    Wait.. isn’t No Surprises fits the occasion better?
     
  4. Otlset

    Otlset the tree demon awaits

    Location:
    Temecula, CA
    Thanks for the detailed write-up of your impressions Benzion. Great effort and insights, I appreciate it!
     
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  5. JackG

    JackG Forum Resident

    Location:
    NJ
    Nice write-up, Benz. I’m sorry I missed this show, nothing gets me into a room faster than some T+A.
     
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  6. gumsrave

    gumsrave Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Tokyo
    Do you know which full range driver was in the Pure Audio Project speakers? It would be interesting if it was one of the Voxativ models given that you didn’t like them but you did like the Voxativ Hagens.

    I’m hoping to hear some Voxativ speakers at the Tokyo show in a couple of weeks but don’t know if the company that distributes them will be playing anything through them. Last year I just saw them on display.
     
  7. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    Bravo and well reported Benzion! I appreciate your "tell it like you hear it" point of view- we won't read show reports like this in your pro publications, that's for sure.
    I'll be interested to check the Ohm room at AXPONA this year- a speaker that I haven't heard in a long time but was one of my first "high end" listening experiences.
    Not surprised you liked the T+A system- they make some serious products. I was looking at their entry level floorstanders (sold at the Cable Co.) but listener impressions are rare to non-existent.
    Did you happen to catch the Marantz amplifier model in the Polk setup?
    Funny you found the Harbeth 40's "neutral". Last time I heard them they were overly warm and highly rolled off- but to great effect (Vinnie Rossie amps). I'm thinking they are highly source / amp dependent for the best sound.
    Like yourself, my first experience with an Audio Note system was underwhelming and the program material was horrid at best, but I'm willing to try again because they are so regarded.
    The Voxtiv speakers can be impressive with vocals and I was blown away at the sound last Axpona- mainly operatic music- and was concerned that the material was hand picked to exploit their strengths / hide their flaws and your report confirmed this.
    Interesting about the unique Haniwa system- I believe the soundsmith strain gauge, the badass looking cartridge with LED lighting ($$$$$$) is similar in approach? I bet it sounded awesome.
    Was Benchmark there this year? I am thinking about their power amp- it sounded incredible with Martin Logan speakers at AXPONA last year.
    Thanks again for posting, you have me psyched to get to AXPONA this April!
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2019
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  8. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Come to think of it - they actually looked like Voxativ drivers, so it might have been them. Who knows, the speakers are open baffle, so they really are room dependent more than other designs. Perhaps they are capable of sounding great in a different environment, but in that hotel room I was underwhelmed.
     
  9. Ezd

    Ezd Forum Resident

    Nice report Benzion... It takes a lot of time and effort to attend a show and write a detailed report of your impressions like you did.
     
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  10. JackG

    JackG Forum Resident

    Location:
    NJ
    It is always thus in hotel rooms, but it's fun to see stuff up and close regardless.
     
  11. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Sorry, I didn't, the rep was standing in the middle of the room most of the time, giving a verbal presentation of the speaker technology, it would have been awkward to crawl around him to look at the amp. But, if it's any help, it was a big/tall black thing :D
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2019
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  12. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Oh, BTW, I meant to mention this: apparently, SOTA has bought out the venerable Phoenix Engineering, either the company, or the patents - because there was a brand new Roadrunner there available for sale, with the Sota name on the booklet. I'm sure some TT enthusiasts here will be pleased to know, as I remember many people here lamenting the demise of the owner and product.
     
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  13. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Wagner's music is officially banned in Israel, no philharmonic will play him, and I'm with them on that.
     
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  14. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    Hey guys - seeing as how I see the same things on a bunch of forums over and over and over about music.

    Please give me a list of 5 or 10 CDs that you want played at an Audio Show that you consider good music, somewhat well recorded that will benefit all the people who run shows - it would also help me as a reviewer when I cover shows to hit upon and describe music that people actually know and like. I am generally tired of playing the same things that always get played - Miles Davis Kind of Blue, Alison Kraus and Union Station, Dave Brubeck Take 5, Norah Jones, Classical music that was elevator music 30 years ago, Mark Knopfler and or Dire Straits, all Pink Floyd (FFS I am tired of being reminded about walls) or Led Zeppelin (The old geezers don't need to be reminded that they're on the stairway to heaven)

    I mean if everyone is going to rely on the showrunner or the reviewer for the music, then they/we need to know what is considered good by the listeners and readers. I know Peter Bruninger of AVShowroom plays music in his videos that folks complain about but in his case there is copyright issues so he has to get permission from the artists which limits what he can play.

    In my case, I like most kinds of music so I don't care all that much what I use under a show condition.
     
  15. james

    james Forum Resident

    Location:
    Annapolis
    Shellac - Excellent Italian Greyhound
    Masada - Live In Seville
    Antony and The Johnsons - I Am A Bird Now
    Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks - Pig Lib
    Om - Advatic Songs
    Jack Rose - Kensington Blues
    Pissed Jeans - King of Jeans
    Sir Richard Bishop/Alan Bishop split
    Six Organs of Admittance - For Octavio Paz
    Andy Stott - We Stay Together

    (I’ve never been to an audio show)
     
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  16. enginedr

    enginedr Well-Known Member

    Location:
    New York
    As a owner of a pair of Ohm 2000s I was disappointed in the sound of that room . The speakers could sound much better .
     
  17. JMAC

    JMAC Forum Resident

    Location:
    PDX, OR, USA
    Find a new thread for this Richard.
     
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  18. JMAC

    JMAC Forum Resident

    Location:
    PDX, OR, USA
    What a great write up! I don’t think you and I always hear things the same way but from reading your posts in other threads I have a sense of what you like and it’s really helpful to get your perceptions on a wide range of gear like this. Thanks for taking the time.

    I’ve heard a pair of these speakers (with the Voxativs) driven by Whammerdyne 2a3 amps, and I’ve heard a DIY pair with vintage Altec 15” drivers powered by vintage push pull McIntosh tube amps. Both times I’ve thought that they exhibit the false tipped up high end (above 10k) ”air” that some people seem to like from hifi.

    I’m surprised when sensitive speakers are paired with high powered solid state amps, but I guess that’s just my bias—if a speaker has an easy impedance curve and high sensitivity, why not pair it with just a few choice tube watts?
     
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  19. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Even better, if what I heard was disappointing - I can only imagine how good they have the potential to sound.
     
  20. gumsrave

    gumsrave Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Tokyo
    Very true. Thanks very much for your detailed write up!
     
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  21. kt66brooklyn

    kt66brooklyn Forum Resident

    Location:
    brooklyn, ny
    I caught the last couple of hours of the show. I was lucky to catch these speakers when someone brought in Clifford Jordan's Blowin' in From Chicago, the Classic Records version. The bass was lost to history, but Clifford was fast, articulate and real. These speakers might have a sweet spot with more challenging music.
     
  22. kt66brooklyn

    kt66brooklyn Forum Resident

    Location:
    brooklyn, ny
    Benzion, thanks for your impressions. I mostly agree with yoir findings, particularly the Ohm-Walsh room. Audio Note had a lovely French record playing when I walked in, apparently a customer's, that I should have taken a picture of. They let the whole side play through. It won me over and I thought their room sounded great.

    Edit: the record was Barbara chante, on the French Phillips label, from 1964.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2019
  23. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    I'm literally about ready to be offer my services to local dealers for the upcoming AXPONA. So many are not using the best music for their rooms.
    Here's one- play it on your system and tell me how I did-

     
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  24. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    That's up my ally cheers.
     
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  25. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Alan Parsons said the following: "Music lover uses his equipment to play your music, audiophile uses your music to play his equipment". While he didn't say it as a compliment to audiophiles, this I think should be the philosophy used by dealers to present their audio wares - choose music carefully that will showcase the capabilities of your gear in the best way possible, especially when you are dealing with a demanding jaded group of people who know what to listen for. Then, when we have bought the chosen equipment based on its merits - we will use it to play our music.

    Some of them did a great job at the show - the T+A room had a great selection of vinyl there, others, like AN, didn't care enough knowing they have a formidable reputation, others still, I think they actually chose music not so much as to present their strongest side, but as to hide their flaws.

    This song of yours, while not in my favorite style of music, would do great as a show piece: it has a good bass, hi-hats, a good male vocal (for a change), good instrumental section, strong peaks, pretty much the whole spectrum of frequencies and everything one needs to hear when trying to hear if audio gear is good or not.
     
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