How this Oakland resident has lived all these years without knowing about the Profundo distributors in El Cerrito, just two cities over, is beyond me. Regardless, I'm sure glad I got to meet them, because their combination of Transfiguration, Trenner & Friedl, and Heed was making extremely mellow sound. Whether it was Norah Jones singing "Not Too Late" or Bruce Springstein's LP, Ghost of Tom Joad, the system sounded beautiful, smooth, and extremely musical.
Even if equipment is as excellent as it was in the Eficion/Stillpoints room, no system can sound better than its source material. On that score, I doubt any room save Cookie Marenco's Blue Coast Studios set-up, which was recording acoustic musicians live to DSD, could top Bruce A. Brown's hi-rez files. Bruce's Puget Sound Studios not only does all the mastering for Winston Ma's First Impressions Music (FIM), but also supplies all the 96/24 hi-res tracks for the Chesky Bros' HDTracks site.
Towering Alan Dwight Hulsebus of Raven Design Studio was proud to show off the unusual skeleton of his Raven Ebb loudspeaker ($12,000/pair). Manufactured and designed in Camarillo, CA, the speaker includes a proprietary Raven ribbon and Focal drivers (including two rear-firing drivers to optimize room interactions), and is wired with Clarity cable. (Exhibitor Orca Design and Manufacturing distributes Focal in the US.) Claiming a frequency response of 40Hz50kHz ±3dB, with a nominal impedance of 6 ohms and minimal impedance of 5 ohms, the 86dB-sensitive loudspeaker was paired with Superlative Audio's SSA-250 50Wpc amplifiers ($30,000/pair), Oppo BDP-83 SE player ($899), Benchmark DAC1 HDR DAC/preamp ($1799), and a host of Clarity cable.
I had heard much positive buzz about the fascinating-looking Salk SoundScape loudspeakers. Equipped with the excellent RAAL custom ribbon tweeter, an Accuton midrange, and a separate Acoustic Elegance woofer, the Soundscape 10 ($9999/pair base price, or $13,999/pair with a 12" woofer) is said to perform from 21Hz60kHz, ±3dB. It also offers adjustable tweeter and midrange ambience, and looks like a baby that will attract lots of positive attention in your living room.
The Simon Yorke S10 Record Player ($19,950), now imported into the US by Tim Nguyen's Tone of Audio in San Francisco, is the replacement for the former Simon Yorke S7. That's the table Michael Fremer used as his reference for 10 years until the far, far more expensive Continuum Labs Caliburn entered his life in 2006. The new S10 is completely hand-machined on a lathe by Simon and his son Spencer from solid raw blocks of aluminum and non-magnetic iron.
When I entered the Audio Note UK room, someone was in the midst of auditioning a CD of exotic Chinese instruments. The strings sounded beautiful, the highs lovely. On solo piano, the system had a very quiet, enticingly crystalline purity. Soprano Elly Ameling's voice sounded equally beautiful, the voice clear and radiant, even though her piano accompaniment was strangely bloated and over-emphasized. That was no doubt due to room problems that other exhibitors tried to tame with ASC Tube Traps.
Teresonic's pairing with Garth Leerer's Musical Surroundings was full of surprises. I confess that I have not enjoyed Mike Zivkovic's single-driver Lowther-powered speakers in the past, finding them unduly bright. Here, they sounded very warm and inviting.
The imposing Lotus Group Granada UB II loudspeaker ($125,000/pair), complete with an active crossover and Feastrex Type II field-coil driver, was sounding the best I've ever heard it. The system as a whole was a bit dark for my taste, but a track from Esperanza Spalding's new disc, Chamber Music Society, was just beautiful. Everyone in the room loved it.
Bob Walters, coordinator of the Bay Area Audiophile Society, pegged Tonian Acoustics as one of the best-sounding loudspeaker exhibits at the Show. If only I could share his enthusiasm for the Tonian Acoustic Classic 7.1 ($5500/pair), a 16 ohm loudspeaker with 95dB sensitivity is inexplicably absent from the Tonian Acoustics website.
Music Lovers Audio of Berkeley and San Francisco had the big and small of the Wadia line on display. When I entered the room, the Wadia 571 CD/digital preamp/DAC ($13,950) was on standby, and Wadia's diminutive 170 Transport iPod dock ($379) and 151 PowerDACMini ($1195) were doing the iPhone.
Constantine and Ann Soo deserve a huge thank you from the audiophile community. Responding to pleas from insistent dealers and distributors, who lamented the absence of an audiophile show from the San Francisco Bay Area, Constantine and dagogo.com took a huge risk.
Given how good Wireworld's Platinum Eclipse cabling sounded with deHavilland and Glow electronics, I was delighted to encounter Wireworld's David Salz demming another Glow/Sonist system in the adjoining room. I'm sure Wireworld's Equinox 6 interconnects ($200/pair), Equinox 6 bi-wire speaker cables ($750/pair), Stratus power cords ($100/2m), and Matrix power strip ($120) were doing just fine. So, I expect, was the source, a Cambridge 550C CD player ($595). But the Glow 832 SET 7wpc stereo amplifier ($795) was challenged driving the 93dB-sensitive Sonist Recital 3 floorstanding loudspeakers. Things sounded okay with the volume turned down low, but when you invited singers to come out from behind the closet door and stand in front of you, the sound began to distort and fall apart. It takes an extremely efficient loudspeaker to enable those amplifiers to truly glow. To its everlasting credit, Wireworld's cabling did not mask the problems associated with the mismatch.
Just as I entered Emeryville's Hilton Garden Inn on the final day of the show, YG Acoustics' Yoav Geva (fourth from left) and his extended family were making their first visit to the Hilton. Filling most of an elevator, our little passel of smiling faces made its way to the YG Acoustics room.
Given how enthused my fellow Stereophile editors were over the sound of the Legacy Audio speakers at this year's Axpona Show, I was really looking forward to hearing them. I was also looking forward to hearing the pricey, eye-catching Win Analog SET electronics, which had not fared well at a recent demo for the Bay Area Audiophile Society (BAAS).