I just got back from the show and had the pleasure of meeting Jim and Mary for the first time and seeing Dennis again after I auditioned the prototype HT1-TLs at his place last year. He didn't know that I had bought them a week or so after hearing them at his house. And yes, I still love them!
This was the first audio show that I've been to, and the variability and challenges of room acoustics are horrific.
Jim told me that they priced out the installation of some drapes around the rear wall, but that was simply too expensive. The large green rug was a $100 acquisition with the help of the show organizer. Even after the treatments the room's high ceilings and plaster walls gave it a somewhat cavernous sound. The fantastic depth and width of the soundstage produced by the SongTowers and the SoundScapes was very evident and impressive: nothing that I heard at the show was comparable.
Jim was playing the SongTowers with an AVA Ultravalve amplifier, and during one of my visits to the room a fellow asked to confirm his assumption that it was the SoundScapes that were playing. He was somewhat surprised to know that it was the SongTowers. They were producing very good bass in the large room: I've seen a number of questions here about whether the SongTowers would suit a large room, and at the show that did not seem to be an issue at all.
The volume was also plenty loud. The AvaStar preamp was at 9 o'clock almost all of the time and 10 o'clock was definitely louder than I would want it for an extended period. The rest of the setup included a music server streaming by WiFi to a SqueezBox that was connected by Coax to the AVA Vision DAC. Jim was running this by iPhone Remote (or another iPhone app?). The Vision DAC also had a CD player connected to its second coax input. I think it was a Denon--likely a solid transport mechanism that served the need well. Everything was plugged into a power strip of the Radio Shack variety.
One thing I noticed was that the volume control on the AvaStar remote was a bit zippy: it tended to ramp up and down quickly and took a practiced touch to increment with any precision. I'm thinking of getting an AvaStar, so I'll have to ask AVA if they can make a remote with a lower velocity on the adjustment.
The sound with the UltraValve and the Songtowers was excellent. The room was definitely a limiting factor (as it was throughout the old mansion), but it was still evident that there was musical reproduction happening to a very high standard. Jim let me play a CD I had brought of Oscar Peterson's "We Get Requests". It sounded terrific, and Jim wanted a link to it:http://www.firstimpressionmusic.com/product_p/limk2hd032.htm
They have a number of really nicely remastered and pressed discs. Pricey, but they seem to put a lot of care into improved mastering and pressing. I've liked everything I've purchased from them. Jazz At The Pawn Shop is another excellent disc of theirs.
I heard some pretty disappointing sound in a number of the rooms at the show, and the ones that had good things going on (the Fibonacci room was pleasant) were not as balanced and complete as the sound in the Salk room in my view: they all had fairly evident flaws.
One noteworthy flawed but interesting room was home to a couple of Dr. Seuss horn speakers that swooped down at me from left and right. They were playing Ella and Louis, Again, and the midrange clarity and detail was wonderful and lifelike: except for a very pronounced, hissing sibilance. Dennis commented on the same thing, but the fellow in the room when I was there who had a Motorola Bluetooth mobile phone headset embedded in his left ear didn't seem to hear anything wrong.
Jim and Dennis were playing the SoundScapes with the AVA FetValve Double Ultra+ 550. The speaker efficiency went down and the amplifier power went up leaving the volume knob at about 9 o'clock still. As happy as a person would be with the Songtowers, she would be happier still with the SoundScapes. As I said above, however, the room was a major factor in limiting a full and fair comparison.
I hope that the show is held again next year, but perhaps at a venue that better lends itself to the exhibitors being able to treat the rooms adequately. It would also be nice if a couple of the more aggressive exhibitors weren't there, but the majority were friendly and professional.
Also, I missed the opportunity to purchase some magic power cables this time at a show discount. The cables had engineered both the words "mega" and "power" into their name and the cable manufacturer was disappointed to hear that I liked the Salk room best because he hadn't been able to loan any cables to them since the AVA equipment was magic-proofed. (Frankly, I've heard some differences between power cables, but I haven't yet heard $500 worth of difference and I've been happy with my $12 Volex for a while now).