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[Midwest Audiofest]

Feeling Hornie ???

[Italian version]

Part Deux

Show Report by Scott Faller - TNT USA
Published: May, 2003

[Sound Bug]

Trivial Bits

As you could see in Part One of my show coverage, the Wingate Hotel and Convention Center was lousy with tubes, high efficiency and horn speakers. Well, Part Deux won't be any different. There was a manufacturer or two that were displaying solid state gear just for good measure :-)

Both Friday and Saturday evenings, Mike Baker treated all who attended to some great local talent. Friday night after I had dinner at the Bistro with a few Inmates who escaped from the Asylum. When we got back to the hotel, we were treated to an acoustic blues duo called Biersdorf and Kolbe that rocked the lobby of the Wingate. Blues, brews, and harmonicas ruled the evening. Somehow, after catching only a few minutes of the show (I really wish I had been able to hear it all because these guys were really good), I got hooked up with Brian of Venus HiFi and David Cope of Triode and Company. We spent the evening doing even more listening. Brian is the Final Labs importer for the States. We started playing with his really inexpensive DARUMA-3ii isolation bearings (look for full review soon). We started making everything we could find really, really wobbly. It didn't matter if it was his gear or somebody else's :-) It was all great fun, even if sometimes it didn't quite work. Heck, that's what this hobby is all about, experimenting with stuff.

After we ran out of stuff to cram the iso-bearings under in his room, we made a B line for Triode and Company's room. Ooou, really expensive gear that we could try it under. About six or eight of us ended up in Dave's demo room doing A/B's and listening (or should I say salivating) to the Audio Note gear.

Saturday evening I got hooked up with a big crew of guys that hang out over at AudioCircle.com. Klaus from Odyssey Audio, Chris from Teres and Wayne of Bolder Cable just to mention a few. We all went down to the Bistro (again) for dinner and hung out all evening listening to music. Yep, I missed the live act again. This evening it was a jazz trio called Tesa James and the Jazz Lite Trio. I did get to catch them about 30 seconds at a time as I wandered through the lobby following the rest of the guys. They were pretty good too, from what little I heard. You also had the choice of going to the Symphony that evening. There is a concert hall right next door to the Wingate called Crouse Theatre. They were playing Debussy's La Mer. It was excellent, as I understand (yet another live performance I missed :-) Anyway, the crew I hooked up with played around all evening doing more A/B's in the Bolder room. We did some serious listening to all of the gear Wayne, Chris, Jason and Mike had brought. There were some seriously good tunes coming out of Room 604 that evening :-)

Earlier in the day, we had taken Chris's Teres Turntable and started swapping platters to see (hear) the difference in them. I had brought along some vinyl from home, Classic Records - Count Basie's Chairman of the Board and the ultra cool blue vinyl of Pure Audiophiles latest limited edition release - Ray Brown's Soular Energy (look for a full review soon) plus a few more. As it ended up, you could really here a distinct difference in the platters using either one of those albums. Since I didn't want to carry my vinyl around, I let the guys use it for the day.

Anyway, The days and nights were filled with tons of listening and making new friends. So enough of the trivial things I did, on with the rest of the show !! Again, I've continued listing all of the guys that attended in alphabetical order. Here we go again.

Martinelli Sound, Woodhorn

[the woodhorn room]

[some of bills raw horns]

Bill Martinelli gave everybody a display of some of his great sounding horns. Bill offers these 800Hz horns for the DIYer's out there. They can be custom fitted for the compression driver of your choice. He also offers the bass cabinet also. The woodwork, finishing and machining are impeccable not to mention they sound pretty darned good too. Here Bill was driving his Woodhorns with an Audio Note 300B. The front end was also an Audio Note pre-amp and CD player. Good stuff.


[the norh room]

Michael Barnes and a bunch of his staff from Tiawan flew in for the event. Michael was debuting his latest version of LeAmp called appropriately enough, LeAmp 2. Again, the amps are mono-blocks but this time they are sporting 180 watts of bi-polar power. Quality parts abound inside these little giants. They are being introduced at $195 each but will raise to $300 each after the introductory period.

Another debut of nOrh was his ACA 2B tubed pre-amp. This little gem will sell for a lofty $395. It's a gorgeous little unit that sounds pretty nice too. Best part, just like all of nOrh's other products, it won't break the bank. He brings good sounding, affordable gear to the masses. As you might expect, Michael also showed up with a trailer load of his signature Drum Speakers. Along with them he was delivering a solid marble pair of speakers to someone nearby.

[leamp 2 and the aca 2b]

Michael and I talked (off and on over the weekend) quite a bit. This guy is into everything. After leaving the show, he was off to talk to the Department of Defense about some micro-sized computer he had developed and perfected while in Tiawan. The next thing he has gotten into is a purported audiophile quality sound card for your computer. This guy is into so much stuff, it could make your head spin. In fact, Michael's entire music source for the event was his computer. He was using a loss-less compression program that fed CD quality audio into his amplifiers that were on display. Unfortunately, the nOrh room was cavernous, so I couldn't get a good feel for the presentation of the music.

Odyssey Audio

[these sounded great]

This was another treat for me. I love finding great gear at an affordable price range. Klaus Bunge of Odyssey Audio was there showing off his line of amps, pre's and speakers. The Odyssey amplifiers are designed by the same engineers as the well respected (and extremely expensive) Symphonic Line except the Odyssey's are built right here in the States, Indiana to be precise.

Saturday morning before Klaus made it to his room, I had the opportunity sit a while and listen to the Stratos amplifier and the Lorelei speakers with out any interruptions. The combination sounded really good, even considering the typical "audio show" room he was in. Later Saturday, I came back to find Klaus's room jammed with people and pumping out tunes at really high SPL's (Finally, somebody that listens to music the same way I do :-). Klaus invited me in to check out some music. We talked for a while and I finally asked what the line was selling for. I was shocked to find out that it's really affordable.

Klaus was showing his latest introduction to the Odyssey line, the Khartago. This amp provides 110 wpc of clean and clear bipolar power for the tiny sum of $750. The next amp up the ladder is his Stratos. It sports the same topology as the Khartago except a far beefier power supply section. The bigger power supply and a few minor mods bring this little jewel to 150 wpc. Best part, it sells for $1070. In the reality of our current audio world, this is one heck of a price performer.

While I was there we listened to his small speakers, the Epiphany's (look for a full review in my Speaker Shootout soon). I was damned impressed with the sound of these bookshelves. Deep bass, imaging like you wouldn't believe, good detail and presentation, and all this for $595 a pair. Needless to say, I had to bring home his demo set for inclusion in the Speaker Shootout.

Klaus is also getting ready to introduce his own version of a passive pre-amp. It will be available with manual or a remote control. It seems like a really nice value at $295 (add for the remote) based upon what I listened to and saw at the show.

Omega Speakers

[the omega room]

Next up was the Omega Speakers room. If you remember, Richard did a review of the Omega Speakers which utilize Fostex drivers in a small(ish) bass reflex enclosure sometime back. Omega Speakers were on hand showing off all of their designs. Here we have the Omega Grande 8's ($1399) being driven by a pair of Opera M500 300B monoblocks. The pre-amp was a Consonance Reference 2.2. The source was the super cool EuroLab Premier turntable with the Morch DP6 arm and a Benz cartridge. The phono pre was the PhonoMax, a 6DJ8 tubed design.

Pi Speakers

[waynes pi corner horns]

Here you see Wayne Parham's corner horns with a pair of Bill Martinelli's WoodHorns sitting on top. The Woodhorns were using the PSD2002 compression driver and Waynes Pi Corner Horns utilized a 15" Eminence Omega driver. The Pi horns were being driven by a pro-sound Crown 2400 amp and a NAD C-160 pre-amp.

Triode and Company, Audio Note

[the audionote room]

Here we had another really good sounding room. David Cope of Triode and Company, came loaded for bear when he showed up. As you walked around the event, you began to see loads of Audio Note gear everywhere. See, David went around and (wisely) distributed Audio Note tube amps and CD players to the guys who could use them to improve their sound.

Needless to say, his room was like stepping into Audio Note Nirvana. Dave's sources were a Voyd turntable with an AN 1s arm, the Io Two cartridge at the whopping output of .05mv (no typo) and the S3 mc step-up transformer. Next was the digital side of things and the CDT Two transport with the (soon to be replaced) DAC 3.1x converter. This was all being fed into M5 Phono with the Meishu Quest Silver Signature 300B monoblocks. And finally, we listened to all of this through the Audio Note E/SEC Silver's and the SPe's.

Needless to say, there were some great sounds coming out of this room.

Venus HiFi

[the venus room]

Brain Bowdle of Venus HiFi was at the event showing off all kinds of cool gear. First and foremost, Brian is the North American importer of Final Laboratory gear. Final are the (well publicized) guys that make battery operated gear, the Music 6 amp and the Music 5 pre-amp. The real eye catchers were the Fostex S drivers in the Cain and Cain Voight pipe enclosures called The Abby ($1499). Not only were these eye candy, they sounded pretty sweet also. The bass was was surprisingly good and they are fairly efficient at 95dB. The source was an Audiomeca Obsession II CD. Brian also had a second system hooked up. It was a Jolida 301 integrated being driven by an AudioNote CD 2.1 ($1499) which we fed into a pair of Audio Note AX Two speakers ($499). There was some pretty decent sound coming out of this ultra affordable system (well, the AN CD player isn't exactly cheap now that I think about what I typed, but it did sound good anyway :-).

Welborne Labs and Redpoint Audio Design

[really good stuff here]

And the final room I'll be writing about is Ron Welborne of Wellborne Labs and and Tom Mackris's of Redpoint Audio Design room. Ron had on display his infamous Oris 150 Horns that tip the High E scale at 107dB. This particular pair used the AER BD3 full range drivers. If you decide to go for these, you can use a Lowther driver too. The horns are sitting on top of an Onken Bass Cabinet which utilizes a 10" Vifa woofer. These speakers are available in kit form for those adventurous enough to build them ($6321). They aren't exactly what I'd call inexpensive, but they sure made some nice music.

[check out that record clamp]

Since Ron manufactures and markets all of his own amps, pre-amps and phono stages, you can guess what was driving the Oris Horns. Starting at the top of the rack we had the ultra cool Redpoint Quattro SE turntable ($2095) with the upgraded platter ($1000). The arm was a Micro Seiki MA505 MkIII and a Denon 103 cartridge. The Quattro was fed into Ron's Reveille Phonostage ($950). Behind the Reveille was Ron's battery powered Ultrapath bp Line Stage. This comes in kit form for $695. And all of this fed into Ron's Direct Reactance Drive (DRD) 300B SET Monoblock Amps ($900 to $1810 per pair depending on the options). For any horn, vinyl and SET lover, this room was to die for.


[steve talking about horns and spl's]

And if the demo rooms weren't enough, that or your feet got tired, Saturday (all day) Mike Baker had loads of mind altering seminars you could attend. At 9 am there was a session on cabinet making for the aspiring speaker builder. At 10am Larry Moore hosted a seminar on amplifier topology and design (he makes one smooth sounding tube amp). 11am brought Steve Shell on the development and history of theatre loudspeakers (pictured above). After lunch, Don Ritchie treated everybody to the sights and conversations of his recent JBL Heritage tour. At 2pm John Haskin covered midrange horn design and driver selection. At 3pm, Wayne Parham talked about the finer points of crossover designs. 4pm introduced James Griffin and his work on line array speakers. Then last but not least, The Doc, Bruce Edgar talked about the latest developments in horn speaker designs.

[this event was an absolute gas!!!]

Part Deux - Closing Thoughts

This brings us to the end of TNT-Audio's event coverage for Midwest Audiofest in Lima, Ohio.

It should be more than obvious that this event was loads of fun. There was something there for everybody. The event (Mike likes to call it an event rather than a show) was the perfect size. It wasn't too crowded making listening in the vendor rooms difficult. There weren't so many vendors that prevented you from spending some quality time in each room.

One of the best things about the event was it was made up (top to bottom) with music lovers. These guys were all real people. There wasn't a TechTV camera crew in sight. No big print magazine coverage. No ridiculously large auditorium or indoor arena that all the vendors have to share. This was a small, intimate venue where a bunch of audio freaks converged for a long weekend. We all hung out, listened to some great tunes and had fun with people that share the same passion.

When (if?) the event happens again next year, you can bet the house that I'll be back. That one's for sure. In the meanwhile, I'll see if I can't make the HE show at Indy this coming September. Finally, the Midwest is starting to getting paid some attention when it comes to audio shows. I was starting to think there wasn't anything but a barren wasteland between the two coasts (yep, that was a slam against the coastal mentality that prevails).


© Copyright 2003 Scott Faller - http://www.tnt-audio.com

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