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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.