California Audio Show Next Weekend

After a gap of far too many years, Northern California again has a high-end audio show. Sponsored by Constantine Soo's, the fledgling California Audio Show will take place July 30 –August 1 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Emeryville. That location —next to Interstate 80, just across the bridge from San Francisco, midway between Oakland and Berkeley, and a free (albeit time-sensitive) shuttle ride from the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) MacArthur line—is expected to draw a good cross-section of audiophiles from throughout the Bay Area.

Soo began contemplating organizing the show in 2009, when several importers attending that year's Rocky Mountain Audio Fest kept telling him that California needed its own audio event. When the request was repeated at Axpona 2010 in the first week of March, he felt impelled to heed the call, and thus was born the California Audio Show.

As of July 16, Soo had almost maxed out on exhibit space. He currently expects to have at least 31 exhibit rooms, including six large rooms and two midsize suites, displaying products from about 90 companies. Among the major exhibitors are AAImports, Audio Image of Oakland, Blue Coast World High Rez Music Distribution, Electrocompaniet, JBL, Legacy Audio, Loggie Audio of Redwood City, the Lotus Group, Mark Levinson, Soundscape AV of Santa Rosa, and Win Analog.

The admission fee is almost as good a deal as a subscription to Stereophile. Until July 18, tickets to the California Audio Show were specially priced at $10 for a three-day pass, but the regular admission fee of $15 for a three-day pass is hardly expected to break the bank. Soo has also offered free admission to members of the ever-expanding Bay Area Audiophile Society.

Everyone is encouraged to bring their favorite music, whether on CD, LP, iPod, or iPhone. Soo promises to give away five Wadia iTransports in a free drawing at CAS. In addition, Napa Acoustics promises a drawing for five pairs of their nifty little speakers.

"It's so exciting that we finally have a show in the Bay Area," Soo explained. "I'm also trying to encourage the iPod generation to realize the deficiency and fallacy of MP3 and the thrill of high-end audio. Many exhibits will intentionally feature the Wadia iTransport, so that people can plug in their iPhones and iPods and hear the difference that audiophile equipment makes. Hopefully, people will be encouraged to demand uncompressed music, and that Apple will not thank me for."

Ads publicizing the show have appeared on the sites of several publications with Web presences, including Stereophile. Most prominent is a large billboard in San Francisco that overlooks the freeway leading to the Bay Bridge. The Bay Area's one surviving jazz station, KCSM-FM, has also begun airing promos for CAS. For better or worse, the ubiquitous Facebook has been enlisted as the magic but hardly private portal to the young (and young of heart).

"It's hard to gauge how many people will come," Soo acknowledged. "Audiophiles tend to purchase tickets at the last minute." Nonetheless, with at least 400 tickets already distributed, he expects perhaps 800 individual attendees, many visiting for multiple days. Buoyed by the response, he's already making plans for the next California Audio Show.

Stereophile will blog live from CAS. Stay tuned.