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.
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.
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.
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.
Electrocompaniet's display had something for everyone. In their entry room, Electrocompaniet's US distributor, Peder Beckman of Oakland, was demming a small system and a medium system. With prayers that I am not assailed in the comments section for going for Electrocompaniet's high-end system, I headed through a terribly squeaky door for the second room, where Peder's partner, Adam Piotrowski, was showing the Nordic Tone loudspeakers ($29,500/pair), EMC-1UP CD player ($7290), EMP-1 SACD/DVD player ($9990), EC4.8 preamp ($4990), and AW600 Nemo monoblocks ($8950 each). I was especially interested in hearing the Nordic Tones, which created a fair amount of buzz at CES 2010.
One of the high points of my time blogging the first Stereophile-sponsored Axpona Show in Jacksonville was hearing the Audience ClairAudient 16+16 loudspeakers and meeting John McDonald. This time, John went from extremely large to relatively small. Instead of the 16+16 or 8+8, he brought his smallest loudspeakers, the Audience ClairAudient 2+2 ($5000/pair), augmented by a prototype ClairAudient subwoofer ($5000).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.