In the Audioengine room, I heard a familiar sound: Fun, exciting, clean, and physical, with tight, lovely bass. The company was using their A5 loudspeakers, which I enjoyed a few months back, to play music via a MacBook Pro running plain old iTunes through an HRT Music Streamer II.
In another large, difficult ballroom, beautifully finished LumenWhite Artisan loudspeakers ($45,000/pair) were mated to the 250W, class-A Ayon Orthos 2 monoblock power amplifiers. The source was Ayon’s CD5S ($11,380), which combines a tube preamp with a tube DAC and transport. Cables were the Swiss-made Vovox. The system created a large sound to match the large room, with big-hearted bass.
I almost missed the High Value Audio roomit was sort of tucked away, down a long corridor and hidden by the hotel’s West Bay Café (great breakfasts!)but I’m glad I found it because the sound in here was sweet and inviting, playing an acoustic guitar and vocals piece that just soothed my soul.
Rushing around at the end of Saturday, I spent too little time in the room hosted by Redwood City’s Loggie Audio, but, having heard similar setups at recent shows, the sound was what I remembered from Aaudio Imports’ Acapella Violoncello loudspeakers, Ypsilon amplification, and Bergmann turntable: awesome scale, well-extended highs, and a clarity that puts you there with the musicians.
Also on display in this room were updated versions of Einstein’s The Final Cut OTL monoblock amplifier and The Tube preamp. More on these come October at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest.
The Finite Elemente Soundboard ($995) is available in six lacquer finishes and a lovely walnut, and comes with wall brackets for easy mounting. You can hang it anywhere, just as you would a shelf. In fact, the Soundboard is a shelfa shelf that sings. There are four down-firing speakers, two front-firing speakers, a top-panel iPod charging dock, and line and USB inputs for use with televisions and computers.
We ported an iPhone and listened for a moment to a track off of Norah Jones’ Come Away with Me. The sound was surprisingly good and detailed. I think the Soundboard would look great in guest rooms or offices.
Walking down the short, narrow corridor which led to the block of rooms hosted by Audio Vision was sort of like walking down the short, narrow length of Lucky 7 Tavern on a Saturday night: It was loud, crowded, and people kept asking me if I wanted a beer.
There sure is a lot of drinking going on at this show, I thought to myself.
1. I had never seen speakers spread so far apart. 2. I had never seen a room that could make the Wilson Audio MAXX Series 3 loudspeakers look small. 3. By 4pm on Saturday afternoon, which is when I made it to this room, just about everyone at the California Audio Show was in a very loose mood (and getting looser).
Too often I’m more impressed by a system’s high price than by its high performance. But, in the case of this MBL system, the $260,000 price tag seemed completely understandable. I’m also fascinated by how a system’s sound can be transported from room to room, show to show, across oceans and states. The MBL system I heard at the California Audio Show sounded a lot like the MBL system I heard at the Munich High End Showa good thing, indeed.
From left: Barbara Lamb Hall, Melanie Berzon, and Sybil Bolivar of San Mateo’s listener-supported KCSM, 91.1FM. Not only is KCSM one of Sam Tellig’s favorite spots on the FM dial, it’s one of the last all-jazz stations in the world.
Though they were also seen at the Munich Show, Magico’s Q1 monitors ($24,950/pair) are making their US debut here at the California Audio Show. The speaker incorporates much of the technology and design philosophy used in Magico’s Q5, reviewed by Mikey Fremer, but puts it in a smaller package. Like the Q5 and Q3, the Q1 is a sealed-box design with extensive internal bracing.
There are other examples: Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago, Iron & Wine’s Our Endless Numbered Days, Feist’s Let it Die, Fleet Foxes’ self-titled debut, and the XX’s XX come to mind. All of these albums were darlings of the indie pop scene and embraced by audiophiles. (What the?)
I’d never heard of Chapman Loudspeakers, but they’ve been around for 40 years, designing and manufacturing a range of compression-line floorstanders, right here in the USA, on Vashon Island, Washington. The company’s T-8 ($8995/pair) uses a new Scan-Speak tweeter, revised Scan-Speak side-firing woofer, and has a sand-dampened internal chamber.
Chapman’s Jesse Jones explained that they wanted the tweeter to be smoother and more forgiving to more types of music while retaining the music’s essential energy.