Once again, Acoustic Zen's Robert Lee had me lusting after his Crescendo loudspeakers ($16,000/pair). This time, they were ensconced in the elegantly appointed Elite Audio Systems room put together by proprietor Michael Woods of San Francisco.
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.
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 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.)
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.
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.
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.
Grant Fidelity of Calgary, Canada specializes in low-cost, high-value equipment from China. To get an idea of the huge number of components on display by the company whose motto is "Hi-End, Not High Priced," please check out the list on their website. There you'll find a complete list of components on display, descriptions, and pricing. You'll even discover a host of photos taken at the show.
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.
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.