Not much new that I could see in phonostages, but Zesto Audio now has the Leto linestage ($7.5k) to match its Andros phonostage ($4k). The sound here was rich and bold with extraordinary imaging, especially the reproduction of depth. A Dynvector XX2 MkII ($1.95k) pickup mounted in a Tri-Planar tonearm ($5.8k) on a Merrill Williams REAL 101 ($7.2k) turntable furnished the source, while a Gamut D200 power amp drove the acclaimed TAD CR1 speakers (cabling by Wywires).
It is fitting that in a show where so much vinyl was being played, the marketplace was a treasure trove of LPs, both old and new. A remarkable number of used record dealers came from places as far away as Grants Pass, Oregon, home of World’s Rarest Records, to such local Southern California haunts as Amoeba (Hollywood), Rockaway Records (Silverlake), and Your Music Matters (Hollywood), from whom I managed to pick up a brand new copy of the classic Meredith Davies recording of A Village Romeo and Juliet (two LP set) for the princely sum of three dollars!
As for new vinyl, the always ebullient Chad Kassem of Acoustic Sounds was proudly announcing his forthcoming Prestige titles, fifty in all, half in stereo, half in mono, the latter “pressed with a flat edge, no groove guard, just like the originals.” The company has also acquired the entire Doors catalogue, which will be part of a new series that’ll offer gate fold presentations with the center sections containing rare photographs or other documentation. The jacket for the forthcoming Time Out looks very classy (these will make wonderful gifts for the vinyl philes on your list).
Music Direct’s Bes Flores was happily promoting, among countless other delectable gems, Mobile Fidelity’s 45 rpm reissue of Bob Dylan and the Band’s Basement Tapes and Elvis Costello’s Almost Blue. And at Reference Recordings, once Jan Mancuso and I got the really important business out of the way—filling each other in on some new gins for martinis—she showed me the label’s latest LP, Yerba Buena Bounce by the Hot Club of San Francisco (bringing to four the company’s vinyl offerings from its back catalogue of prestigious Keith Johnson all analog recordings).
Finally, it was great to see that some of vinyl’s best friends, Bob Pincus and Abby Fonn, have resurrected the late, much lamented Cisco Music as Impex Records with some wonderful new titles, including a lavish limited edition three disc set of Jennifer Warnes’ The Well, Miles Davis’s Friday and Saturday Nights—In Person at the Blackhawk, and Ellington Indigos. Best of all from my perspective, Impex is one of the few stateside reissue labels that isn’t afraid of classical music. It’s currently distributing a limited edition, packaged in a regal red slipcase, of Paavo Jarvi’s acclaimed Beethoven symphony cycle with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen (TAS review forthcoming). Impex’s own latest classical release is the Beethoven fourth piano concerto from Gould and Bernstein. And there is talk of more raiding of the Columbia (now Sony) vaults, including Sibelius symphonies, again by Bernstein—fingers crossed it’s his incomparable Fifth, still in my opinion the greatest performance of that glorious symphony ever recorded. And while you’re at it, Bob and Abby, that vault also contains classic Stravinsky by Stravinsky, Copland by Copland, Bruno Walter’s Brahms and Mozart, Szell’s Beethoven, and Bernstein’s fantastic Neilson Fifth, Berlioz Symphonie fantastique, and Beethoven Missa Solemnis.
No one system did it all, so here are four that stood out (in the order in which I heard them): (1) Roger Sanders Model 10 Hybrid electrostatic ($13k/pr)—closest to absolute neutrality, coherence, and freedom from coloration; (2) The Lotus Group G2 speaker, a three way open baffle dynamic dipole ($75k, price includes DSP crossover, bass amplification, and professional calibration in the home)—one of the very rare “big sounding” speakers that was not at the same time overwhelming—it could scale up or down yet remain true to the music and was always inviting and involving (see my report); (3) Gradient Revolution Active System with SW-D towers ($19k)—as heard in SimpliFi Audio’s suite, quite the best, the truest reproduction of an orchestra I experienced at the show, with some of the most accurate bass reproduction I’ve heard anywhere; (4) Sony AR-2 ($20k/pr), slightly smaller model of the superlative AR-1—best all-around single enclosure speaker, beautifully natural, poised, refined yet dynamic and lifelike (I had to tear myself from the room).