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CAS

2010 California Audio Show Coverage: Part 1

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Ask nearly anyone who attended the Dagogo California Audio Show and you’ll likely hear that it was as good as gold! It exceeded expectations, most visibly in terms of attendance. As we Dagogoan’s were shuttled to the airport on the Monday morning following, Constantine proudly shared that the total visitors had topped 2,000! That’s sensational for a first show, and it shows how much latent demand there has been the West Coast for a show.

I talked to quite a number of exhibitors and to a person they were nearly gleeful, very happy with the foot traffic. More than one said that by Saturday the show had already been a success for them. I also heard nearly universal positive comments from attendees. The feel was casual, as is the RMAF (Rocky Mountain Audio Fest). The temperature outside was cool so little AC had to be used in the exhibitor’s rooms, and even though one elevator was out of commission and the parking lot was squeezed (the planned 800-car adjacent parking was withdrawn by the hotel after the show was scheduled), logistics were smooth enough to not be irritating. Rooms of the finest displays could get crowded, but not to the point of despair of hearing them. Blue Coast Music set up recording sessions /performances of some of its artists, and they were well attended and well appreciated. ASC provided tube traps in several rooms, in some cases saving the systems from bass overloading as several had difficulty finding perfect results in their cubed demo space. In short, the event was well thought out and executed. It bodes very well for continuing success and has the potential to expand exhibitor rooms by 25% or more next year. I was delighted to be a part of it.

For those in the Bay Area who missed the show, you don’t have to wait until next year to appreciate some of the fine equipment displayed. There were a large number of local dealers; perhaps the California coastline holds the highest density of audio dealers in the country, unless eclipsed by the New York area. You should be able to hear a wide variety of gear without trekking across the country if you are interested in assembling a rig – a convenience which most audiophiles even in urban environments do not have.

As this was a smaller show I had the opportunity to circle back to rooms I was curious about, which afforded particular insights into the systems and setups used throughout the weekend. Here I share some of those observations among kudos to some particularly fine sounding show rigs. (Pic: Ann at Registration)

A word of appreciation is to be spoken for Ann, Constantine Soo’s wife (in red). Many know Constantine; not so many know his capable and supportive wife, who was the consummate hostess for the event. Here she is tending to the need of an individual registering. The support staff was at times overrun due to the unexpectedly high turnout, yet was composed and capable. A “thank you” to them!

Golden-Toned Rooms

Sonist

Ampex 351 and KE deHavilland 222 Magnetic Tape Preamp

The following rooms had a strong flavor of tube sound, a flavorful mellow richness with nary a hint of treble overbite. These systems would have enthralled those who want a nostalgic, long listening sound that never grates on the nerves.

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KE Engineering deHavilland 50A Mono

Sonist speakers, made from solid Poplar wood, had a lovely, distinct tonality which was very appealing to my ear. Kara Chaffee of deHavilland had a vintage Ampex 351 7½ IPS” open reel deck (labeled on the system listing as “priceless”) along with her 222 Magnetic Tape Preamp ($1,995) and 50A monoblocks ($9,995/pair). Cabling was Wireworld Platinum Eclipse Interconnects (.5M pair $1,700), Platinum Eclipse Speaker Cable (2M bi-wired pair $13,300) and Silver Electra Power Cords (2M, $700). It was smooth and utterly fatigue-free with the Sonist Concerto 3 hybrid speaker ($3,495 standard; $4,195 all-wood version).

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Tone of Music Audio (Pic: Tim at Tone of Music Audio)

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CAT JL2 MkII Amp & Quad 2805 speaker

Tim Nguyen of Tone of Music Audio, a local San Francisco dealer, was quite enthusiastic about his Simon Yorke S9 ($9,500) and S10 ($19,950) turntables, C.A.T. SL1 Renaissance Preamplifier ($9,950), JL2 Signature MkII Amplifier ($19,950) and Quad 2805 speakers ($9,900). It was drawn together with Synergistic Research cabling ranging from T2S Power cords at $800 to the Galileo Universal Speaker Cells/Cables at $4,450. I have heard Quads with more treble detail but not with more bass presence for the model. It was open and unencumbered sound, with a warmth not often heard in electrostatic speakers. The reactions I heard varied from poor to great, the biggest reason being the mellowness in favor of detail. I felt the C.A.T. pre/amp contributed to the mellow sound; with that in mind, the system sounded very good. It was interesting how the deHavilland room was every bit as rolled off and mellow, but since the source was a deck it was typically given a pass, while some criticized the Quad rig as being not detailed enough. The lesson is in what goals you are trying to achieve with the system. This one was a good example of a smooth, mellow panel sound.

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