Given how impressed John Atkinson and I were by the combination of Acapella High Violoncello II speakers ($80,000/pair) and Einstein electronics demmed at Axpona 2010 and CES last January, I was eagerly anticipating another opportunity to enjoy these imposing babies. The opportunity came in the room co-sponsored by Loggie Audio of Redwood City and Aaudio Imports. (They were the same samples that until recently had resided in JA's listening room for his review in the forthcoming September issue.)
David Maeshiba, designer and partner in Acoustic Technologies LLC of Chicago, had a surprise in store. He claims that his single titanium-cone loudspeaker ($2650/pair) can be turned in any direction and you will hear exactly the same thing. Counter-intuitive as that may seem, it would be perfect for non-obsessed music lovers who don't want to spend all their listening time stacking their friends in the sweet spot.
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.
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.
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.
Given the size and promise of this system, I was eager to audition it with Mahler's Symphony No.2. Through the Tigris 8" tower speakers ($9500/pair), Cinénova Grande 7 seven-channel power amplifier in two front-channel mode ($5999/piece), older B&K Reference 50 processor, Cambridge Audio Azur 840C CD player ($1700), Ethereal interconnects, and Nordost Valhalla speaker cable, the low bass was disconcertingly disconnected from the other instruments in Mahler's Symphony No.2. Given that the subwoofer was not being used, I have no explanation, either for that, or for a gray and muted palette that lacked all sense of air. I prefer to think that this system was particularly hard-hit by the power fluctuations and room challenges that I describe in my show summation.
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.
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.
One of the reasons for Acoustic Zen's Robert Lee journey north was to visit his extended family, part of which lives in Millbrae. When I encountered them on the final day of the show, I could not get over how beautiful his grandchildren look. No wonder Robert's tweeter sings so sweetly.
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.