I had not planned to attend, let alone cover another show so soon after the Montreal Sound & Image Festival last month. But then the opportunity to meet so many of my 6moons colleagues proved too good to pass up. Furthermore, fellow moonie Jules Coleman significantly eased my financial burden by graciously offering the use of his home in Connecticut plus arranging comp lodging at NYU in Greenwich Village. Thank you, Jules!

It was terrific getting to know my partners in crime and my only regret was not being able to chat longer. Jules held a little party at his New York apartment that saw not just reviewers but also folks from retail and industry that made for interesting conversations. It was doubly terrific meeting readers in the halls of the Hilton who had many positive comments to make about the moons. I overheard similar comments from many exhibitors and even reviewers from other sites/magazines. I guess we must be doing something right despite our wacky but fearless leader.

As for the HE2004 show itself? I thought it was overall slightly disappointing as many well-known manufacturers stayed away this year. I suspect the current economic climate prevents many from attending both Primedia shows as well as CES. If able to participate in only one show, my guess is most will choose CES since that has far greater exposure than either HE event. Another disappointing aspect was sound quality. I can understand how difficult it is to get decent sound in tiny hotel rooms but can't for the life of me fathom why some exhibitors would chose to use giant floor-standing loudspeakers in such an environment. Talk about exciting room nodes - yikes! Having said that, many show veterans used common sense and chose smaller, more room-friendly loudspeakers. Music Hall's Roy Hall and Divergent's Tash Goka offered two fine examples of proper matching of speakers to room. Tash displayed his superb sounding $1,695/pr Reference 3A Dulcet I have in for review [below] while Roy showed off his Epos line of domestically benign transducers with Creek and Music Hall electronics

Home Theatre was everywhere at HE2004 and like any bespoke audiophool, I stayed far far away. I also avoided any rooms that conducted controlled demos where showgoers had to line up and wait for the next turn. I was there to have fun, not stand in line. It may present benefits for exhibitors but it certainly doesn't for showgoers. Overall, it was difficult to find the luv but there were a few rooms that managed to deliver. The Siemens Klangfilm/LAMM room on the concourse [below] was a favorite of many moonies as were the Reimyo and Audiopax/Zanden exhibits. I returned frequently to all three rooms to mellow out and decompress when seeking refuge from the boom and sizzle of other venues.

As my interest is predominantly in affordable gear i.e. the <$5000 range, I prowled the halls looking for affordable luv. Incidentally, the two curvaceous women standing out front of the Cinepro exhibit looked like they could have helped me in the luv department but I doubt I could have afforded them. Sure, they were nicer to look at than the crowds of balding, middle-aged men but I fail to see what any of this has to do with a home entertainment show. Having women, albeit very attractive ones, luring men into a demo hits an all-new low in crassness and banality. And while I'm on the subject, what possessed Goertz to produce that truly wretched cable ad in this month's Stereophile? Who is this ad aimed at? What target market are they after? My guess is thirteen-year old boys and dirty old men in long raincoats who frequent porn theaters - truly tasteless, sexist and boorish, ranking up there with the Gilmore and "Perfect Pair" stunts.

My overall favorite affordable room was Robyatt Audio which also featured Audio Zone, Omega Speaker Systems, The Horn Shoppe and Gingko Audio. Robin Wyatt terrified not a few visitors when he swapped out various output tubes on the $1,779 Tektron 2A3/50SI integrated while the amp was under signal! Don't try this at home kids - I am a trained professional. Robin's system included several pieces from the Tektron line as well as $999/pr Omega Grande 8 Standard speakers mounted on Mapleshade Gibraltar stands ($635), Mapleshade Clearview and Magnet Wire cabling and a $150 Pioneer DV563A disc spinner all mounted on $299 Ginkgo Cloud 10 vibration control platforms. Incidentally, the $775 Horn Shoppe Model 1 [right] with its tiny driver sounded awesome with Robin's system. Hard to believe all that sound came out of such a tiny driver.

This was a room I returned to often. All sorts of interesting music was being played, including a curious rendition of "That's Amore" by a Belgian Blues singer whose name I can't recall. The atmosphere was completely laid-back, fun and reminiscent of the Eastern Electric/Hudson/Omega room in Montreal. I had several pleasant chats with Robin, Audio Zone's George Tordai, Omega's Louis Chochos and Gingko's Vinh Vu & Norm Ginsburg. You'd be hard pressed to find more approachable, friendly ambassadors of audio than these gentlemen. Audio Zone was premiering their new $795 DAC hooked up to a $79 Philips DVD player (far left on lower shelf below) that aesthetically blended quite nicely with the AZ gear. Not unlike the Scott Nixon TubeDac+ I reviewed last year, this DAC
stands out from the digital crowd by avoiding oversampling, upsampling and digital filters altogether. Via the Omega 8s, George's gear sounded rather spectacular and while I couldn't get a complete sense of his new converter, it certainly sounded promising. Stay tuned for a review of this intriguing and affordable piece.

April Music [below] was a name unknown to me but rendered me pleasantly surprised over the build and sound quality of their very affordable Stello line. On active display were the $1,995 DP200 DAC/preamp with selectable 24/192 upsampling; a pair of $2,995/pr M200 monos; and the $1,195 CDT200 CD transport. This was another room I returned to frequently. I could not get over the sonic performance offered here. I hope to provide an in-depth report on this intriguing line in the near future. This was a fine example of affordable and very easy-to-use equipment that delivered far more than the price would suggest.

Audio renegade Klaus Bunge of Odyssey Audio was spinning heads with a deal too good to be true; a system featuring the $595/pr Epiphony stand-mounted loudspeaker [right], $295 Etesian passive preamp, $750 Khartago 110wpc power amp replete with full-system Groneberg cabling for the paltry sum of $1500. Based on what I heard, I don't think I have ever encountered such awesome sound for so little cost. With this kind of cost/performance ratio, there's no reason to suffer Best Buy/Circuit City mass market junk. Even the larger $4000 system featuring the $2,700/pr Lorelei loudspeakers which Srajan reviewed last year was a stunning sonic value. Suffice to say, I expect you'll see a review of this amazing $1500 system on 6moons soon. [You bet - Klaus committed to a complete system at his earliest convenience and you'll be the man to do it - Ed.]

Bluebird Music had two rooms displaying their arsenal of fine-sounding equipment including Living Voice, Chord and Exposure [Bluebird also distributes Croft - Ed.]. Living Voice's svelte, room-friendly tower speakers majored in musicality and dynamics and were so completely engaging that I had difficulty leaving either room. I had a pleasant chat with designer Kevin Scott whose enthusiasm and wry sense of humor were refreshing. His choice
of demo music was far more interesting and invigorating than the standard DianaKrall/Norah Jones fluff. I just picked up that Fila Brazillia disc - thanks for the tip, Kevin! I also had a brief talk, as did our editor/publisher, with Bluebird president Jay A. Rein about the possibility of reviewing some of Bluebird's wares. In the near future, I hope to report on the entry- level Living Voice Auditorium loudspeaker. Of all the affordable loudspeakers at the show, the Living Voice models impressed me the most [below].

Last but not least, the Almarro room had a very affordable yet fine-sounding minimalist system consisting of the $800 A205A integrated amp which Jeff Day raved about, the new M0A loudspeaker ($1350/pine, $1500/oak) and an Arcam CD73T CD player. On static display was the $1,500 A318A 6C33C-B based SET amplifier. It just goes to show that one doesn't need to spend boatloads of money while littering the living-room floor with lots of boxes to get decent sound.

I made several passes through the downstairs software stalls and spent far too much money. After I blew my allowance, I proceeded to assist Jules Coleman in emptying his pocket on some fine vinyl. It was nice to see Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs back in business again. They have been one of my favorite audiophile labels ever since I bought that incredible half-speed-mastered slice of black vinyl of Sticky Fingers many moons ago. At the Acoustic Sounds and Music Direct bins, I lost all sanity and bought far too many recordings including a 4Men With Beards 180g pressing of that classic Punk era document, Singles Going Steady by the Buzzcocks. Ever since my original vinyl copy disappeared during a move long ago, I've been forced to listen to the CD version. Talk about flat and lifeless. While this recording was hardly audiophile quality, this vinyl repressing definitely delivers in the testicular
fortitude department. Two other essential reissues you should consider are Television's Marquee Moon and the Saints' I'm Stranded, also on the 4Men With Beards label.

If I had to pick an absolute best sound during my trip, it would have to be Jules Coleman's home system in Connecticut. His Horning/Shindo/Reimyo/Well-Tempered/BPT/HRS/Stealth rig delivered the luv in a very big way and gave this writer a valuable insight into what 's possible when one has the room, funds, good taste and most of all, the ears to do it right.