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THE Show 2024 - A Quick Impression

06-16-2024 | By Francisco Duran | Issue 134

To quote an old colloquialism, "I haven't been to an audio show in a minute." I have stayed away from them for various reasons the main one being Covid-19. But time marches on, and the lure of high-end audio is well… very alluring. I finally stuck my toe back in the water for the THE Show SoCal 2024. But wouldn't you know I could only make it for one day. So Saturday it was. I managed to drag my poor unsuspecting son with me for company. But as luck would have it, he was very keen on visiting the headphone part of the show. Luckily for us, I was expecting a much bigger crowd than what we encountered. Even though the rooms and elevators were well stocked. I guess this hotel is bigger than the one used in the past.

For this show report I'll not give a blow-by-blow comprehensive report of what gear we heard in each room, mainly because we didn't go into every room at THE Show. I will leave that for the younger reporters. Think of this as a sort of gouache or simple watercolor of what I thought were the standout performers at this year's Show that I heard with my short time there.

First up, the Tonian Labs room. With a mix of Tonian Labs speakers and top of the line Denon amplification, Tony Minasian's system was cranking out clean, detailed but musical sound no matter what kind of music he played. That system was throwing out a deep, wide, and tall soundstage with musicians realistically placed on stage. Compared to some of the ultra-expensive and large systems invading the landscape, the Tonian system was modest in price and size. But it more than compensated for size with high quality clean and detailed sound that rivaled the more costly rigs. Before I left I picked up several of Tony's recordings on CD. When I got home I immediately went through all of these disks on my CD player. All I can say about these recordings is wow! More to come on this subject and definitely well done. Stay tuned.

With a combination of Esoteric Audio Research and Prana Fidelity gear, The EAR-USA, Prana Fidelity room was sounding sweet, natural, and very musical. In fact, as many years as I have been attending shows and visiting the EAR-USA room, Proprietor Dan Meinwald has consistently had great sound in his demo rooms. The sound we heard was slightly warm, naturally detailed, with a realistic musicality that made you want to just sit and listen all day. Yes this system easily checked off the sound points on an audiophile checklist like a wide and deep soundscape, realistic timbre and detailed. But it was the overall musicality that easily won us over and by the comments in the room, the crowd in general seemed to agree. Dan has a great set of ears as well as a big heart. He graciously granted our request to have a listen to his EAR modified Technics reel to reel tape deck before we left. God bless you Dan!  

Last but not least on this Goldilocks of a checklist we have the Margules Audio room. Consisting of an all-Margules system from the speakers to the server, this room pumped out some serious musical charm. The detail and precision, spaciousness and pinpoint imagining were spot on. But I felt the real strength of this system was its realistic tone and timbre. It was as if they kept the tube harmonics, warmth and dimensionality of his older gear, slightly toned down the warmth a smidge, raised up the neutrality a bit, but kept just enough tube signature for that magic that could only come from a tube. I happen to own a U280SC 20th Anniversary amplifier, so I speak from experience. Mr. Julian Margules has definitely upped the game with his 30th anniversary upgrades to his gear. He not only surpassed his own past designs, but I bet he has tube amp designers everywhere worried. On the website you will see that their A.N.A. circuitry is employed in their electronics. Please see their website for more insight into this very interesting technology. (margules.com) In fact Mr. Margules didn't shy away from any recording while playing demos in his room. In that server there were some excellent recordings along with some that were so-so. But the Margules system handled them all with aplomb. That system seemed to bring out the best of whatever recording was being played. Bravo Margules Audio.

Well there you have it. My one-day coverage. Short and sweet for best of show. I really enjoyed catching up with old friends and finding out about new technology that has been applied to new designs and listening to music on those systems. I understand the trials and tribulations of setting up and attending an audio show. Given all that, all participants should be given praise. It is icing on the cake when several systems or manufacturers stands out. Well done to all the all the participants and THE Show SoCal for a great show. See you next year hopefully for all three days!