Fritz Heiler of southern California has been building custom loudspeaker systems for 37 years. Called into action at CAS 2010 were his Carbon 7s ($1750/pair shipped, or $1650/pair for show attendees who acted in time). Equipped with ScanSpeak drivers, these babies have a frequency response of 39Hz20kHz, ±3dB, and a sensitivity of 88dB. Their special crossover is free of caps and resistors, having only one small inductor on the mid/bass driver.
Gary Leonard Koh's Genesis 7.1 loudspeaker ($7999/pair) has never sounded as good, clear, and invitingly transparent as it does right now in Marc Silver's Soundscape Audio & Video Room (Santa Rosa, CA). I was mesmerized by an LP of Les Brown and His Band of Renown, and again in love with the FIM/Puget Sound Studios remastering of Oscar Peterson's We Get Requests.
Tim G. Ryan of SimpliFi Audio was making sure no one entered his room without awareness that the Gradient Helsinki 1.5 loudspeaker ($6500/pair) is on the cover of this month's Stereophile. Sounding far better than it did at T.H.E. Show last January, this little baby was throwing a mesmerizingly large, spacious soundstage that I found quite exciting. Irresistible, in fact.
Grant Fidelity of Calgary, Canada specializes in low-cost, high-value equipment from China. To get an idea of the huge number of components on display by the company whose motto is "Hi-End, Not High Priced," please check out the list on their website. There you'll find a complete list of components on display, descriptions, and pricing. You'll even discover a host of photos taken at the show.
An experience in the impressive room assembled by highend-electronics of Apple Valley, CA emphasized the importance of carefully choosing your demonstration discs. As I settled into my seat, a very assertive visitor asked if he could audition two CDs that he brings along to check out deficiencies in equipment. Once obliged, he began to assault us with two tracks of raucous, ear-burning music. I watched the folks next to me wiggle with discomfort as I put my fingers to my ears on the second track.
Judging from the sound, Inex Innovation is onto something really good. Begun in 2004 "by a gang of audio enthusiasts. . . with strong engineering backgrounds in the field of fiber optics and telecommunication," the company specializes in manufacturing cables and equipment that incorporate high-end telecommunication fiber-optic technologies.
At the other end of the room from the JBL Everest DD-66000 I wrote about on the first day, Design Interaction was switching between the JBL 1400 Array ($11,000/pair) and Revel Ultima2 Salon loudspeakers ($22,000/pair), both speakers very well-reviewed in Stereophile. Heard through a dark-charactered Mark Levinson No.532 amp ($20,000), No.512 SACD player ($15,000), and No.526A preamp ($10,000), hooked up by MIT Oracle cables ($3500, with allocation not specified), the much fêted Revels smoked the less expensive JBLs, I thought.
On ground level in the Design Interaction room, a pair of JBL DD-66000 Everest loudspeakers ($60,000/pair) were especially imposing in the bass department. Driven by the Mark Levinson No.326 preamp ($10,000), Levinson No.512 SACD player ($15,000), a discontinued Levinson No.433 ($11,000) on the bass, a Pass Labs XVR01 for the crossover, and a Pass Labs XA30.5 30Wpc class-A amplifier on the horns, all connected by MIT cabling, the system had great authority. The presentation had the characteristically dark Levinson sound, with some curious extra bass resonance on the voice of mezzo Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. Branford Marsalis's music, on the other hand, sounded just fabulous.
The California Audio Show welcomed the debut showing of the eye-catching JIB line of cables. I say eye-catching because the diminutive sound system at one end of the room was intended solely to provide soft background music for a static display.
Back in the Audio Image room, one day later, Bob Kehn was showing the King Audio The King electrostats ($8500/pair). Before I arrived, these lovely panels were paired with VAC amplification. Unfortunately, those babies didn't have enough juice for the Kings. Upon the urging of Bob Walters, coordinator of the Bay Area Audiophile Society, the VACs that sounded so good on the Magico V-2 were traded for Aesthetix's Atlas Hybrid amp ($8000) and Janus Signature preamp/phono ($10,000).
Bob Kehn of Oakland retailer Audio Image Ltd. had a lot to be happy about. Not only were the 10 chairs in his midsize room totally full, but at least 10 other people were also standing in the back and on the sides. Even more gratifying, 20% of those people were women. And this was on a Friday, when I thought the traffic would be light.
I wish I could say more about the prototype MartinLogan Ethos loudspeakers ($6499/pair). But in a 5.1 home theater set-up that made extended listening to the Genesis 7.1 loudspeaker next door an impossibility, some extremely compressed, overly loud rock DVD that wasn't functioning properly truncated the listening experience. Other speakers from MartinLogan and Velodyne, electronics from Sherwood, and cabling from Nordost and Tara Labs completed a system that held promise of good sound from better source material. The subs sure did an excellent job of slaying Oscar Peterson next door.
In his second, equally well-appointed room at the CA Audio Show, Elite Audio's Michael Woods was telling a visitor "People think that Meridian equipment is only for showing movies. But it's excellent for audio as well."
How can you not love these adorable little components with the lovely little sound? With tube holders that glow in the dark, these cuties are manufactured and designed for Fremont, CA-based Napa Acoustic by Mistral in China.