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2011 CAS Coverage, Part V

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The exhibit of Audio Image Ltd. of Emeryville, CA. Now this was a room that was well attended and sounded better every day. It was a good debut for the new Audio Research mono blocks, and the Magico Q3 were sounding as good as I have ever heard them. Cables were all MIT: Oracle MA Speaker Interfaces, Oracle MA-X Interconnects, Oracle ZIII Power Cords.

The Magico Q5s were shown in the Tim Marutani Consulting room. This room gave them fits the first day, but by the second day they had it sounding much better. The Q5s were driven by Constellation electronics. Cabling were via MIT Cables: Oracle Matrix 120 HD Speaker Interfaces, Oracle Matrix 50 Interconnects, Oracle ZIII Power Cords and MIT Z Powerbar Power Conditioner.

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In the Margules Audio room they were playing their Grand Orpheus loudspeakers that sell for $30,000 a pair. They were being played by Margules’ 40-watt U280 power amplifier, the F220 preamplifier, their M6 CD player, as well as a prototype of their upcoming turntable. All the cables were by Cardas. It was impressive that speakers this big disappeared as well as they did. Over all a very nice-sounding room.

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The Sony room was showing their new high-end SS-AR1 speakers with Pass Labs mono amps and preamps. The sources was an EMM Labs SACD player and a Clearaudio turntable.

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Audioengine’s room always amazes me. No, it’s not high-end, but their little powered speaker systems are simply better than they have any right to be. I personally own a pair of the little Audioengine 2 that I carry with me anytime I go out of town.

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GINI Systems and Audio Space were playing their little LS3/5As that I have reviewed. The review is first published in the CAS Official Directory, and will be out on Dagogo real soon. They also had some beautiful tube gear.

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The Light Harmonic room featured what I considered the most amazing product at the show: the Da Vinci 384k DAC. The Da Vinci DAC costs $15,000. It is a zero-feedback, fully-balanced DAC that has USB and S/PDIF inputs. It was the source for a system that consisted of Pass Labs stereo amp and Pass preamp playing a pair of Wilson Sophia 3 speakers. Simply put, this was the best digital sound I have ever heard at a show and the best I’ve ever heard a pair of Wilson speakers sound at a show.

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Jonathan Tinn’s Blue Light Audio room sounded really good. Jonathan and Rob Robinson, founder of Pure Music, were both there. The Pure Music/Pure Vinyl-equipped Mac was providing high-resolution music files to the Playback Designs MPS-3 CD player. The speakers were from Evolution Acoustics. Their smallest model, the MMMicroOne sounded very good being driven by the beautiful integrated amplifier from darTZeel’s. All the cables came from Evolution Acoustics. The sound was one of the best at the show. I heard a few people complaining about showing a pair of $2,500 speakers in such an expensive system, but I disagree. These little speakers were surely up to the challenge.

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The Eficion room was another big surprise. It was a very nic- sounding room, but what surprised me was how good the sound of the Air Motion Transformer driver could be. I had tried out a new pair of AMT Ones when they were new many years ago and they were so bright they could have cut your head off. The Eficions were not that way at all, in fact the midrange and treble was very nice indeed.

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I spent a good bit of time in the room hosted by Redwood City’s Loggie Audio. Most of the equipment I was already familiar with from Aaudio Imports’ rooms at other shows. Equipment from Acapella speakers, Ypsilon amplification, and a new entry-level Bergmann turntable. On display but not playing were updated versions of Einstein’s electronics and the new line from B.M.C. Audio.

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