T.H.E. Show 2019: Wilson Audio, Dan D’Agostino, Aqua and Innuos

This is a hobby where what one hears when it comes to music reproduction is absolutely relative to one’s own tastes not in only in music, but how that music is played back – what it is a particular system is able to pass along from a recording and whether that system is doing it in a manner which is acceptable to us, thrills us or turns us off completely.

I’ve been in some rooms and heard sound that left me cold, but that others in the room were deeply impressed by. To each their own – one of the great things about this hobby in my opinion. So while I heard several rooms were not sounding as good as some had hoped, I took it all with a grain of a salt because different strokes. One such room was set up by Alma Audio, who was awfully busy at T.H.E. Show this year with several setups scattered about the hotel with various gear curated at various price points.

A sweet spot for me was their system on the second floor which included the Dan D’Agostino Progression Integrated amplifier ($18,000 USD for standard unit, add $5,000 USD/digital module and $2,000 USD for phono module) that was driving a pair of Wilson Audio Sasha DAW loudspeakers ($37,900 USD/pair). Feeding them a binary diet when I was in the room was the Aqua La Voce S3 DAC ($4,750 USD – review HERE), and an Innuos Zenith SE music server ($5,000 USD). Clean go-juice was being handled by the IsoTek Mosaic Genesis power conditioner ($11,995 USD), and Kubala-Sosna Realization and Sensation cabling were snaking this and way and that to sew the whole thing up.

This was a room that had been carved out of a larger one with fake, movable walls which introduces a lot of sonic issues, and while I was aware that the room was problematic, it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the above system, as I tucked-in on the front row of seats and went for a more nearfield listening experience which in the end did not disappoint.

Cranking The Pack A.D.’s “Dollhouse” off their 2017 album of the same name brought about fantastically deep 3-D imaging ripping off the recording like planks being run through a woodchipper. Becky Black’s heavily textured guitar fret and string work had the Sasha DAWs howling with every riff and chord change and the hypnotic, pulsing percussion of Maya Miller felt as though it was flexing the Wilson’s chassis in an effort to maintain pistonic control of the bass drivers.

Despite music that treats soundsystems as a failing nuclear containment field, the big Progression integrated amp seemed to be able to not only translate the timbral and tonal signature of the cut, it brought with it every snarl and whip crack of psych-rock that the group was pumping out like a firehose. Not a track for the gentle hearted and through this curated setup it passed along every frequency of raw energy this duo is capable of channeling.

Dan D'Agostino

Ortofan's picture

... the impression has never been left on me that the various salesmen were curators nor that the systems they presented were in some manner curated.

Rafe Arnott's picture
I have nothing but respect for the people tasked with putting together a high-fidelity system for a trade show demo – it literally is curated from the power source to transducer – and that's a long signal path to have to optimize, understand and be able to implement in a holistic, musical manner. Because that's the only way it works – you can't just point at a bunch of gear and go "That should work! Done!" It takes years of working with manufacturers and distributors to be able understand the what and how of all the disparate pieces being able to work best together. But hey, if you want to diminish decades of training and hands-on system building and designing, reducing all that skill and knowledge to a few glib lines on an Internet comment section – that's your deal, not ever mine.