THE Show Newport Beach 2016 • TABlog

by Marc Mickelson | June 17, 2016

overing an audio show is work: trudging into and out of rooms, listening to demo cuts over and over again, taking many pictures (more than you'll use) in hope that a couple will look good online, asking questions and often not getting answers, taking notes, tramping up and down flights of stairs. Attending an audio show, which is sometimes a byproduct of covering it, can be fun -- catching up with people you know and discovering some interesting new music.

Occasionally, covering and attending an audio show converge, and I'm able to satisfy both work and pleasure with a single demo. While it seems like the Wilson Audio Alexx ($109,000/pair) has been on the audio horizon for longer than six months, that's a matter of anticipation of hearing this new speaker from one of high-end audio's most prominent makers. Roy Gregory heard them in Munich last month, and my turn came during THE Show Newport Beach, for the speaker's rollout in the western US, in the company of products from VTL, dCS, Grand Prix Audio and Transparent Audio.

The amplifiers were the stalwart VTL Siegfried II Reference monoblocks ($65,000/pair), which were used with . . .

. . . VTL's TL-7.5 III Reference preamp ($25,000) and TP-6.5 Signature phono stage with step-up transformer ($12,000). The sources were the dCS Vivaldi 2.0 transport and DAC, and Grand Prix Audio's Monaco 2.0 turntable ($37,500) with Tri-Planar Mk VII U2 SE tonearm ($7500) and Lyra Etna cartridge ($6995). Grand Prix Audio provided the equipment racks and stands, and Transparent Audio the cables and power products.

The Alexx looks like a smaller Alexandria XLF, but there was nothing small about its sound. It was part of easily the most dynamically and musically complete system I heard during THE Show. It communicated even the slightest microdynamic gradations, while large-scale music, like a Terry Evans cut that Peter McGrath of Wilson Audio absolutely blasted, sounded raucous and passed for as close to live as I've heard from recorded music. Luke Manley and Bea Lam of VTL played an LP that caused scrambling to find it: Voodoo from the Sonny Clark Memorial Quartet on the Black Saint label. The music was at once familiar, respectful of Clark's Blue Note sessions, then strange and challenging, as expected from altoist John Zorn and pianist Wayne Horvitz, two of the quartet's members. The sound of the LP was immediate and vivid to the extreme.

As they always seem to do, the VTL electronics sounded substantial and natural while providing whip-crack transients, helping all of the music I heard come alive and my work dissolve into a memorable, and extended, listening session. As I listened, I glanced over at the equipment racks and it occurred to me that this was an aspirational audio system -- one I'd like to have in my own listening room, right down to the phono cartridge.

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