CAS 2011

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Stephen Mejias  |  Jul 16, 2011  |  1 comments
At a hi-fi show, the halls, stairwells, and elevators talk. If you listen closely, they’ll tell you where the show’s best sound can be found. On the show’s first day, I kept hearing whispers about Jonathan Tinn’s Blue Light Audio room.
Stephen Mejias  |  Jul 15, 2011  |  First Published: Jul 16, 2011  |  1 comments
From down the hall, I heard The Doors. Inside the Wells Audio room, a VPI Scout turntable (still just $1800 after all these years) was spinning “Riders on the Storm.”

The system:

Stephen Mejias  |  Jul 16, 2011  |  2 comments
When the hell did Wilson Audio’s Peter McGrath become so hip? Has the old dude been subscribing to The Wire, hanging out in Greenpoint, going to noise-rock shows in abandoned warehouses?

McGrath used a system comprising Wilson Audio Sasha loudspeakers, gorgeous D’Agostino Momentum monoblock amplifiers, Sooloos Control 15, dCS Debussy DAC, Transparent Audio cables, and ASC Tube Traps to demo music from Pan Sonic to James Blake to Nicolas Jaar.

Nicolas Jaar? Peter McGrath? What the hell? Where am I?

Stephen Mejias  |  Jul 16, 2011  |  0 comments
Typically, the mere thought of digitizing my vinyl is enough to give me the heebie-jeebies—the process can be so tedious and time-consuming—but after watching Channel D’s Rob Robinson quickly and easily set track markers on a virtual LP using his clever Pure Vinyl software ($229), I imagined that even I could have fun with it.
Stephen Mejias  |  Jul 15, 2011  |  First Published: Jul 16, 2011  |  0 comments
In the Amarra room, we listened to the great Cat Stevens singing “Wild World” through Focal floorstanders, Parasound amplification, Amarra’s Model 4 digital-to-analog converter ($4000), and Amarra Mini playback software ($295), which supports up to 192kHz sample rates.

The system’s overall sound was clean, detailed, and transparent, while Cat Stevens’s voice was lovely, full of wonder and pain—just as it should be.

Stephen Mejias  |  Jul 16, 2011  |  0 comments
The fellows in the VooDoo Cable room were playing Joni Mitchell’s Travelogue, arranged and conducted by Vince Mendoza.
Stephen Mejias  |  Jul 16, 2011  |  0 comments
In one of several rooms set up by local dealer Audio Vision, an attractive and deceptively simple little system was making some outstanding music: Simaudio 650 D CD/DAC transport ($7999), Simaudio 600 I integrated amplifier ($7999), Dynaudio C1 Signature loudspeakers ($8950, with stands), and cables and accessories from Shunyata: Black Mamba power cables ($595 each), Anaconda power cables ($1999), Anaconda speaker cables ($3499/2m pair), Anaconda interconnects ($2499/1m pair), Dark Field cable-lifters ($295/pack of 12). The components sat on a Quadraspire Sunoko rack ($395/level).

Dyanudio’s Mike Manousselis always—always—plays good music and on this day it was Radiohead, Cold Cave, Low:

Stephen Mejias  |  Jul 16, 2011  |  0 comments
Napa Acoustic seemed to have a million and one pretty little things on display.

We listened to the Mistral 35Wpc MT-34 tubed integrated amplifier ($1199) and Mistral BOW-A3 loudspeakers ($1699/pair). Delivering a violin piece, the system created a thrilling sound, full of speed and sibilance.

Moving to the larger, 4-way BOW-A2 loudspeakers ($2299/pair) and 150Wpc MM6 hybrid integrated amplifier resulted in a darker tonal balance, with just as much speed and better image focus.

Stephen Mejias  |  Jul 15, 2011  |  First Published: Jul 16, 2011  |  0 comments
I had no idea that the very first room I’d enter would offer such exquisite sound and music. I was in Bob Hodas’s Acoustic Analysis room and The Tape Project was spinning the Bill Evans Trio, the Sonny Rollins Quartet, Kenny Burrell & John Coltrane, and so much soul.

It was a packed room of bobbing heads and tapping toes, unable to resist the smooth, smooth flow. Here was a lively sound, a vibrant sound, a sweet, flowing, blooming, effortless sound, marked by so much body and heart and an absolutely wonderful sense of timing.

The system:

Stephen Mejias  |  Jul 15, 2011  |  3 comments
San Francisco is just as I remember it: Misty and gray, but smiling nonetheless.

The 2011 California Audio Show, sponsored by Dagogo, is being held Friday through Sunday, July 15 through 17, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, in Burlingame, CA, just minutes away from the San Francisco International Airport.

I arrived moments ago and have settled into my clean, quiet room. Actually, I should say I’ve settled into my fairly quiet room—I’m directly across from the Amarra suite and someone’s playing large-scale orchestral music in there. (It sounds pretty good, too!)

I’ll be blogging as fast as I can, so please check back often.

Stephen Mejias  |  Jul 15, 2011  |  6 comments
Confession: I judge albums by their covers. I do it all the time. And when I saw the cover for Amon Tobin’s ISAM, I decided it would be beautiful, I decided it would be mine.

Because it’s been haunting me lately, satisfying me lately, because it’s found its way into my column and into my mind, because it’s beautiful, because it’s strange, and even at the risk of it becoming inextricably tied to thoughts of uncomfortable seats and smelly hotel rooms, I’ll be using Amon Tobin’s ISAM as a “reference disc” during the 2011 California Audio Show.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jul 11, 2011  |  0 comments
The pendulum has swung back to the West Coast. Just one week after the Capital AudioFest, three weeks after AXPONA NYC, and six weeks after T.H.E. Show Newport Beach, the second California Audio Show is set to begin. Scheduled for July 15–17 in the Crowne Plaza SFO in Burlingame, the show is located just minutes from San Francisco Airport, a few giant steps from a major freeway, a free shuttle ride away from the airport's BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) stop, and an eight-minute walk from CalTrain's Broadway Station.

Show organizer Constantine Soo, founder and editor of, reports that the show currently promises 42 rooms of various sizes, all with active exhibits playing music. The list of exhibitors and brands, complete with a generous helping of California retailers, service providers, and distributors, includes a host of companies whose equipment resides in the homes and dreams of Stereophile readers.