What follows is a seriously incomplete impressions' cover-age. This sorry state of affairs is due to my priority to hang with my team while figuring that if 6moons were to host an audio show, Primedia likely wouldn't dispatch 10 writers to cover the event in exhaustive detail - so why should I? With exhibits in the basement and floors 2, 4, 6 & 7, the show was smaller than expected. What manufacturer wasn't there was as telling as who was. Plenty of rooms were heavy on resolution and extremely light on the luv. The greatest love happens when resolution and ease conjoin. But love can blossom big-time with affordable systems such as the no-brainer stack of Eastern Electric MiniMax components I currently have in-house (and whose tubed CD player I'm jacked into with my new Audio-Technica W-1000 head-phones as I write this, tapping directly into the dual 6922-driven output stage while listening to Bratsch's latest fire-breathing Live recording, remastered with Exact Audio Copy software by Marja & Henk). One word about this German
share-ware. Most commercially pressed CDs are ripped at hyper speeds in duplicator stacks. As a result, the walls of many burned pits aren't perfectly parallel to the laser beam of your player, causing you to listen to error correction algorithms rather than encoded signal. Using a Scuzzy-drive calibrated Plextor CD burner, this software can take up to 30 minutes to read a single 4-minute track. It scans the data as often as it takes until it determines conclusively what's actually on the disc. A CD burned from this remastered memory bank can sound significantly better than the original because the pits burned to your recordable CD media are the results of clean rather than guesstimated 'dirty' data that have suffered generational losses during the mass manufacturing process.

Affordable systems at HE2004 which had the love came from Almarro, Audio Zone and Odyssey Audio, with a few more that Paul Candy will cover in his show report. The $1,500 Odyssey system ($595 for the speakers, $295 for the pre, $795 for the amp, with proprietor Klaus Bunge throwing in Gronenberg interconnect and speaker cable and you providing the source) was the Best Ultra-Affordable Sound of the Show.

"How can you make any money on this stuff?", I asked Klaus with pray-tell confusion over the shocking pricing. "My build cost is about 2/3s of the sell price", he countered. At $295 for the preamp, that doesn't leave a whole lotta of profit for the man but the customer will smile all the way to the bank and back to the sound room. Klaus is also working on a digital amplifier shown above next to his mug. While Germans on a whole subscribe to pricey notions of superiority, Aryan and motorcar and otherwise, Herr Bunge angles in different waters. If someone asked me for a reco in the sane realms, I'd pull this Odyssey Audio system out of my hat and feel assured that nothing could ever come back to haunt me. Helloluja, Klaus!

With less power on tap but their own speakers to make for an optimized match, the Almarro EL84-based baby integrated which moon man Jeff Day raved about and subsequently purchased sang with Almarro's new monitors. While Yoshi-San couldn't attend, he had dispatched his son who did a great job of setting up this modest system to best effect. Being the 6th speaker model in Almarro's lineup, the new M0A claims a frequency response of 45Hz-20kHz, a sensitivity of 90dB and sells for $1,500/pr in Oak, $1,350 in Pine and $1,200 in MDF. The larger M40A [$2,900/pr in Oak] extends bass reach to 31Hz while the flagship M50A [$4,500/pr] uses a Dayton PT2 planar tweeter, dual 4" mids and an Eminence Delta Lite 2510 woofer for 27Hz LF extension. Even the A50125A paralleled push/pull power amp with eight 6550s for 125/250w stereo/mono only costs $2,450. Clearly Almarro doesn't believe in Highway robbery but wants to find a home with budget-conscious music lovers. Mission accomplished. Jeff Day will report on an Almarro speaker in a formal review shortly.

Audio Zone's George Todai was invited to share the room with Gingko Audio and Omega Loudspeakers while another very interesting Robyatt Audio tube-based system took the main credits upon which our own Candyman will elucidate in his report. The big news for Audio Zone was their new $795 non-up/oversampling DAC while the AMP-1's circuit has been further tweaked with a resistor change, is now non-inverting and sports new in-house fabricated volume knobs. Gingko's Vu showed a custom Cloud 10 platform underneath the turntable on display and, like in Montreal, helped showgoers appreciate the real benefits of resonance control on a monitor which showed hard-coupled and suspended component signal in parallel and real time. This system had mucho mojo and guts and the low horizontal speaker placement on Pierre Sprey's solid maple Samson Buttress stands from his Mapleshade catalog did wonders for bass reach and heft from the single-driver Fostex designs. Forget string quartets - this setup played raunchy music without apologies.

Resonance control is vital to truly hear the components you purchased. My kind of luxo spa treatment at the hands of Grand Prix Audio's Alvin Lloyd (and Jules' parallel discovery of the Harmonic Resolution Systems stand) are expensive - but the Gingko Audio platforms are not and sighting the round base for the turntable to the left signalled that smiling Vu above is perfectly prepared to customize his supports for whatever components you'd like to isolate. Hey, it's great fun to riff about cost-no-object solutions but the reality is, most music-loving folks don't sink more greenbacks into bad-vibe ghost busting than they do into their used but reliable cars. If you want to benefit from resonance control but don't have the heavy bread, consider Gingko. Ken Micallef tried it and swears by the results.

On the expensive shore of the fiscal river, two rooms epitomized the luv this listener craves: Audiopax and Reimyo by Combak/Harmonix. While not quite as magical as in Las Vegas (different cables, different room?), the Audiopax epitomized my personal kind of sound while the Reimyo system was a little warmer and a bit less resolved but such an oasis in the jungle of sensory onslaught that, late every afternoon when ears had been abused and clipped, this room was always filled with folks who didn't want to leave. And that's really the decisive factor when you think about it.

New for Audiopax by being in production and further tweaked since its CES debut was the Model 5 preamp which, though solid-state but transformer-coupled, uses a variant on Eduardo's unique TimbreLock to adjust the THD behavior to whatever amp the Model 5 is partnered with. Ken Micallef will do the honors while I reserve seconds to report on its interface with the Model 88s. Meanwhile, Jim Smith of Avantgarde-USA premiered the new Zanden Audio Model 2000p/Model 5000 Signature transport/DAC combo with outboard power supplies now for each component and a revolutionary I²S-driven ultra-low jitter reclocker interface. A new chrome/Acrylic remote control and a front-panel phase switch on the Signature DAC complete this $39,790 SOTA digital front-end that had Jim Smith abandon his personal dCS triple sandwich and pass on the Meitner DCC2 (a product that is supported in the US by the Halcro importer). Asked for a sneak peek until my own Zanden review duo arrives, Jim Smith retorted with a grin that this combination in reclock-mode and his personal rig sounds exactly like a live mike feed. Having recorded hundreds of sessions, he'd know.

Feeding his four-piece Reimyo system into the little Bravo speaker with its new dual-six side-firing woofer/stand array and tuning post, Kiuchi-San of the Combak Corporation changed the sound from one day to the next by casually adding a set of Harmonix footers to the preamp. What was perhaps overly warm and romantic morphed into a more resolved yet still extremely musical system the following day. While the Reimyo 300B SET with its 7wpc was clearly underpowered when things got loud and dense, the concomitant minor compression and very soft clipping didn't bother anyone in attendance and most folks were smart enough to not expect organ pedals from 6-inch woofers. Like the DeVore Gibbon 8, this new Harmonix speaker is the perfect apartment solution where it will then operate in true full-range fashion.

Another system that came close to greatness but, for my taste, was let down by a room too small for the speakers, with the resultant nearfield listening position not conforming to my personal preferences, was the Horning/Kondo setup. Despite being too close to the front wall to breathe with its dual 12-inch rear-firing woofers, the horn-typical immediacy coupled to more of the same by the Audionote/Japan electronics proved that high-efficiency speakers are a prerequisite to this type of sound. During my next bite from the Big Apple, I will visit with Jeff Catalano of High Water Sound to hear his personal ne-plus-ultra Horning/Kondo loft setup. I will also report on a complete Shindo system, a complete MBL rig and Robert Lighton's Level-5 all-Audio Note/UK system, all of these in their owner's homes. Before the remainder of this report follows in the next few days, a brief anecdote. After Jules and Paul and I recovered from the few eargasms and dominant violent ear pokings in the Hilton, we crossed a few tees on an upscale country club's exclusive green fronted by the beach [below] before hitting Yale on Sunday afternoon. There we crashed a pre-graduation festivity in the university's courtyard and stuffed ourselves with Shumai, Sushi and crab cakes. Introduced to two of Jules' star pupils and their parents, one of them turned to me asking whether there was any money to be made in audio publishing (clearly, Yale alumni in general look forward to rather prosperous careers befitting $35K/yr tuitions).

I managed to conveniently choke on a marinated mushroom while contemplating the appropriate answer to this poignant query. I was saved when Jules' student Hershowitz inquired unceremoniously whether Jules really knew his audio review stuff or simply was full of shit - apparently certain Yalebirds do read 6moons. To this question, I had the answer...

Concluding the first two pages as my personal highlight of the show? Meeting fellow moonies Jim Bosha, Paul Candy, Les Turoczi and Ken Micallef in the flesh for the first time ever while renewing vows of unending brotherhood over deadlines and perplexing grammar with Jules, Chip, Jim Saxon, Marja & Henk. Steve Marsh and Juan Morena couldn't make it due to last-minute scheduling conflicts. But here's the thang. A publication's only as good as its writers. Well, I already knew my gang was good with their pens. SoundStager Tim Shea and StereoTimer Marshal Nack even expressed compliments to that effect in the hallways - thanks, guys! But what if, in person, some of my dudes I hadn't yet met would turn out to be the kind of audio geeks Jules introduced Paul and me as to his posh Yale friends? Fat chance. You can only write the way you think. And how you think and view the world will determine how much or little fun you are to hang out with. It is thus with a bit of bragging but far more pride that I now chose to believe to having assembled, by hook, crook and mostly good luck, one of the finest teams presently working in audio penmanship. We ain't the biggest, oldest, most established or even most heavily credentialed (far from it in fact). However, if any of our readers were to meet any of us in real life? You'd have to agree with me that you would have plenty of interesting discussions well and far outside of audio. Far out indeed. And that, my friends, is the true measure of balance in all things audiophiliac. It hopefully prevents us all from turning into propeller heads and dried-up dweebs with sad audio widows telling their girlfriends how we suck as husbands, lovers and friends. Now why the heck did my soundstage just slightly shift to the left? Sorry, I gotta go and attend to this pressing emergency before I pull out a few more of my white hairs...