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T.H.E. Show – Long Beach, CA 2019

By July 3, 2019 No Comments

THE HOME ENTERTAINMENT Show 2019 is a wrap and Wolf had a hell of a time. This was the first West Coast show that we attended in person, and while we had a small presence, it was pretty auspicious. Our trip out came at the invitation of Mike Kalellis of Arion Audio and Mike and Stella Chang of Chang Lightspeed. Kalellis’s system was helmed by his Apollo speaker system and the room is best summed as Marc Phillips did on Part Time Audiophile

Some of these improvements in the Arion Audio Apollo System may have been the result of the surrounding system, which included the Arion Audio LS-200 hybrid line stage ($3995) and HS-500 monoblocks ($6995/pair), the Wolf Audio Systems Alpha 3 music server ($7045), EMM Labs DA2 DAC ($25,000), a VPI HW-40 Direct Drive Turntable ($15,000), SoundSmith SG-200 Strain Gauge cartridge ($8599), with powerline filters from Chang Lightspeed, Stillpoints and cabling from JPS Labs. The real kicker was a pair of custom 2A3 vacuum tube amplifiers that put out 3.5 beautiful watts of power to the enormous Arion Audio towers, which have an efficiency of 105 dB.

This system was crazy! Enormously resolving, fast, smooth, and best of all, efficient! We love the clarity (and challenges) that come with high efficiency systems. Any errant noise in our server is going to be displayed front and center in all of its (nasty) glory. This benefits us by helping to pinpoint the noise and fix it.  This was the second show for our Alpha 3 XS Server, and a further step in our testing prior to general release. In case you weren’t aware,  the XS is a collaboration between Wolf, Stillpoints and eXemplar Audio to create a server that features the best of what each of our companies have to offer when it comes to managing vibration, noise, RF and EMI.  We use Stillpoints standoff products to support our components inside the chassis, eXemplar’s version of eLoops plus some materials and technologies we’ll be talking more about when we launch the XS.  Icing on the cake, our Flux Capacitor USB Card was also in this show system. Every couple songs, we’d alternate between highly acclaimed VPI HW40 turntable and the Wolf Alpha 3 XS. Several people remarked the Wolf displayed none of the telltale sonic attributes associated with digital audio. Some even stood up to check that the table was not the source. Digital continues to make strides and move forward in natural musicality!

The Stillpoints ESS rack is the perfect balance of performance and fantastic great looks.

Another highlight of the show came in the form of an unexpected opportunity. Ever since T+A and Paradigm came knocking looking for a DSD512 capable server at the NYAS 2016, we always make sure to have several extra servers at shows. Some people have issues with their systems, some want to try for better sound with a newer device. Whatever the reason, while growing Wolf into a digital audio powerhouse and visiting new places in the Audiophile world, it pays to have extra servers. THE Show was no exception, and when we had a chance to put a Wolf in a room run by Sunny’s HiFi of Covina, CA, we jumped at the opportunity.

The room was already a digital system, with Martin Logan’s Expression 13A speakers and the Hegel 590 Integrated being driven by a player in a similar price range. We walked in and introduced ourselves to Peter Soderberg, the Martin Logan West Coast Sales Manager and Paul Collins of the Paul Collins Group, a manufacturers rep firm out West. We chatted for a bit and listened to the existing system, and when we installed the Alpha 3 and turned on the music, both men jumped up. The Wolf was immediately more lifelike, with a wider soundstage and a massive jump in detail. There was a flurry of activity and excitement from the guys as they flipped through tracks and asked rapid-fire questions. We played with Roon and Qobuz, Media Center and our own Hi-Res collection and the Wolf was up to the task at every turn. We took some pictures, showed Paul and Peter the touchscreen interface, explained our philosophies and when we left the room, we knew we had a hit on our hands. Wolf had arrived in California and was off to a roaring start.

Peter Soderberg of Martin Logan visibly excited at the newfound performance of the Wolf

Not being in charge of either room, we were able to take in the show, visiting friends and acquaintances and listening to a lot of great gear. We spent a lot of time in the hallway as well, where we found Wolf was being talked about left and right. I (Joe) did my first podcast with Brian of Audiostream, and we met many great people along the way. Jeremy and his wife (of MBL fame) had an amazing room featuring the smaller bookshelf style MBL Corona speakers and component line. Fellow Floridians, it is always nice to see them. Kevin Hayes of VAC is another Floridian that I enjoy chatting with. Notably missing was Larry Smith of Wireworld, (Davies, FL) but Larry is ALWAYS traveling so he can be excused this absence. I missed you all the same Larry! I want to mention that a few of the guys from another digital player firm stopped in to hear the Wolf in the Martin Logan/Hegel room and had a great discussion with us. They were unfailingly polite and acknowledged that they heard what we did. Through that conversation, I gained a lot more respect for their company and though we technically compete, our customers choose Wolf  because of everything we do beyond playing music.

 

There are  customers whose listening style and activities lead them in one direction or another, and that is OK by us! Some customers just want to play music, they aren’t interested in taking the roads less traveled in digital audio, and the Wolf may seem a little too technical for them (it’s not). The reality is that these people look at the Wolf and think, “No, I want a Lamborghini,” never realizing that Wolf is the Lamborghini Urus of the audio world – all the performance of a race car that beats the hell out of an off-beaten path.

Ultimately, we had a great time out in California, and THE Show is one we plan to attend again! We like the regional shows, they are far more relaxed than the bigger shows. There is less pressure, so manufacturers, dealers, press and visitors alike are more congenial. You’ll see more of the smaller or boutique hardware makers, often local guys with amazing products who don’t have the ability to travel to the big shows or spend big money on advertising. The eagle eyed (and eared) visitor might discover a product that is every bit a giant killer in performance at half the price of mainstream components. That’s enough to make a visit to a regional show worthwhile, isn’t it?  Or what about the ability to have a conversation with a Richard Vandersteen or Andrew Jones in person, to discuss the thought process that led to the creation of a new product line? We’ve learned so much, and made some many friends at shows that I can’t imagine not going to audio shows. Go, and you’ll discover hundreds and thousands of audio enthusiasts, men and women who live nearby and share your interests. What’s not to love about that?! THE Show has the benefit of a great venue in a pretty part of California, close to the water and great restaurants and far enough away from LA that traffic isn’t an issue. The show staff was very positive and helpful and the in-house food is good. Mark your calendar for next year!

 

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