Right from the moment I pulled into the parking lot of the Embassy Suites on Friday evening and was able to park within easy walking distance of the expo's entrance, I knew this was going to be a much more relaxing affair than the Stereophile Home Entertainment or Consumer Electronics Shows.

Walk in the door and there were VTV president Charlie Kittleson and his wife at the registration table. Wow, this was going smoothly. A quick cell phone call to my buddies Rich Brown and Charlie King and we were off to the hotel's courtyard bar for a happy-hour cocktail. Saturday morning brought a slow start to the activities, with showgoers trickling in gradually. By noon, the twenty-four exhibitor rooms were all packed. Another pleasant surprise was that I really didn't hear any awful sound at this show. Showgoers I talked to seemed pleased with the sound in many rooms.

Having just completed my review of the Bastanis Prometheus Mk. II speakers, I first visited the Bauls Audio room. The U.S. distributor is Bill Allen and the acronym stands for Bill Allen Ultimate Loudspeakers and Systems. While I may be biased -- I have since purchased a pair -- I felt this room had some of the best sound at the show. I get more detail at my house but the sound here was very open, dynamic and smooth.

I had a brief visit in Jeff Catalano's High Water Sound room where he was getting splendid results from the Hørning Agathon speakers with gorgeous Tron and Silvertone Audio electronics from the UK and Singapore.

In addition to the vintage audio equipment for sale in the first floor ballroom, Sam Kim of Sam's Audio Lab was showing a number of classic pieces, which he had thoroughly updated with new capacitors, resistors and some circuit modifications. While their setup needed improvement (this was their first show), their enthusiasm was commendable. Shown is the underside of a Harman Kardon Citation II with Mr. Kim's handiwork.

Jolida Inc.'s impressive-looking 200wpc push-pull 211 tube monoblock amps were powering the Analysis Audio planar speakers in Michael Kalellis's room. The amps have nice metal work and are quite a step up in appearance from Jolida's early offerings.

Gingko Audio was stimulating minds with a scientific demonstration of the benefits of their Cloud vibration control platforms. While the computer graph showed the vibration control benefits, one showgoer questioned whether the differences were audible. The Gingko guys accommodated this rational question by setting up a demo later in the day - sorry I didn't make it. Gingko's new Tresolution loudspeakers (reminiscent in appearance of the late 1980's GNP Lead Cylinder speakers) were producing excellent imaging as Srajan has attested to in his review of the predecessors called Tubulous speakers.

Vinnie Rossi of Red Wine Audio shared a room with Louis Chochos of Omega Speaker Systems. Vinnie's new Signature 30 amplifier with the Super Hemp speaker produced fabulous vocals. I wish I 'd had time to go back and try some more complex music on them.

One of my favorites from CES 2001 was Robert Lamarre's Lamhorn back-hornloaded speaker using either Lowther, AER or REPS full-range drivers. Robert was here this time pairing his speakers with Tektron SET amps, enthusiastically demonstrated by Robin Wyatt of Robyatt Audio. Robin's hot-swapping of output tubes between vintage type 50 triodes (perhaps my favorite) and Sophia power triodes (300B, 2A3 and the Princess 206, a cross between WE 205D and 300B designs) turned out to be the magic show of VTV. My friend Charlie King hauled his restored Stellavox reel to reel down to this room and proclaimed it thereafter his favorite sound of the show. While the Lamhorns have impressed me in the past with their abilities on simpler music, this time we got very respectable sound with large-scale classical music played from Charlie's overhauled Tandberg TD-20A reel to reel. The key to making this work was Robin switching the output tubes to the vintage type 50s.

In the back room of Opera importer Steve Monte's exhibit hid another gem, the SQ-84 integrated tube amp/headphone amp. This little 6V6 tube amp has an industrial design flair that I find irresistible. It sounded great, too, played through a pair of Consonance Eric 3 loudspeakers. Zu Cable demonstrated their Druid Mk. IV speaker, with and without their great-looking powered subwoofer. Sean Casey took music request but first uploaded your CD file into his server before playback. The sub blended beautifully with the Druids.

Acoustic Horn Company is a fascinating endeavor by Bill Woods of Yorkville Sound in Canada. Bill is machining high quality horns to match vintage RCA and Western Electric theatre drivers for use in the home. More power to him! Peter Quortrop's mega-dollar Audio Note setup was, as usual, one of the highlights. The top-of-the-line Audio Note speakers were singing gloriously, flanked by external crossovers the size of a mighty Krell amp. Peter's knowledge and appreciation of music is an inspiration to anyone who enters his showroom. He graced me with a demonstration of music from the grunge band that inspired Kurt Cobain prior to forming Nirvana. I had never heard high-powered grunge music played back with such accessibility.

Acoustic Zen Technology showed their freshly reviewed Adagio loudspeakers with a Modwright preamp and, ahem, solid-state amplification via Red Dragon's ICEpower'd Leviathan monoblocks. Playing the Classic Records reissue of Scheherazade on a VPI Scout with Dynavector DV-20 cartridge, I'd have to agree with Sallie Reynolds' praise of the speakers' clarity, lack of distortion and thunderous dynamics. Only the round ribbon tweeter seemed a little hot to me but it is unfair to make such judgments under show circumstances.

Besides Peter Quortrop's musical offerings, some of the best music played at the show was provided by my friends Charlie King and Rich Brown. They set up a partly tongue-in-cheek unlisted demo in their room, playing wonderful vintage tapes on either a Stellavox or Tandberg reel-to-reel deck through Charlie's 6B4G-modified Dynaco ST-70 and LS 3/5A clone speakers. Charlie and Rich had a blast carting the Stellavox around to various rooms and watching people's reactions as they played 1950's Benny Goodman, Sweets Edison, Duke Ellington, Art Pepper and more.

Last but not least, a newcomer on the scene, David Wang of American Electronic Project, Inc., was showing the Cheer line of vacuum tube integrated amplifiers using 300B, EL34 and 6550 output tubes as well as a tube CD player at unheard of low prices. For example, the dual tube-rectified, EL34 stereo amp was listed at $499! It sounded very good, too, powering a pair of prototype two-way monitor speakers.

All in all, this show was a blast. If you hesitated and didn't come this year, make time for it next year or catch 2006's second showing on the West Coast next month.