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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.