These last few rooms also stood out to me as being some of the better rooms at CAS.
Bob Hodas Acoustical Analysis/Focal
This was one of the best sounding rooms at CAS and certainly the quietest room there, due to Bob’s acoustic treatments. Piper Payne brought her masterising system to the show and was there deomstrating the “Tape Project” tapes. More information can be found at this website http://www.tapeproject.com/
I have not been a big fan of the Focal speakers until this show. Piper placed the Focal Scala Utopia ($32,500/pair) loudspeakers on ten-inch stands, raising the tweeters slightly above ear level. This seemed to transform the speaker’s clarity and allowed them not to get bogged down by midrange smear. Perhaps it gives up some bass but the benefit to the midrange and treble more than compensated. The superior tape recordings made me go home and look through some second hand shops for a machine. For $200 including a cleaning, you can probably find yourself a first-rate tape player. Getting the tapes may be more of a challenge.
Electrocompaniet had two rooms side by side. Each room had different loudspeakers and I enjoyed both. The first room had Nordic Tone loudspeakers ($31,500) and was another room demonstrating the superiority of tape. This room had a softer, more romantic sonic perspective which I must say was quite pleasing without being mushy. Alternatively, the Brodmann room had a more cut throat, exacting nature without sounding clinical. Indeed, almost two sides of the same coin. Brodmann, from my understanding, is a greatly improved line over the short lived Bosendorfer loudspeakers. The cabinets are gorgeous, the sound was powerful and despite being in terribly tiny little room, managed to sound big and gutsy with uncoloured bass. These guys know what they’re doing and I would love to hear them in a nicer room – and with the tape machine.
Zesto Audio/Merrill-Williams/WyWires/TAD Labs
This was one of those rooms that sometimes go unnoticed at audio shows I suspect because they don’t present a big ra-ra sound. Indeed, it’s not a sound that necessarily grabs you by the neck. Some rooms try to bowl you over with pyrotechnics, and if successful on a short audition, a room like the TAD could almost sound dull in comparison. However, giving the room a little longer audition I found it to be quite enchanting in that it offers a mostly full scale sound without glare or really anything to pick at. Less dazzle and more substance is what I wrote in my notes and that is a very good thing indeed.
• TAD CR-1 Compact Reference monitor ($42k/pair)
• Merrill-Williams Audio REAL 101 turntable ($7,200)
• Tri-Planar tonearm ($5,800)
• Dynavector XX2 MKII cartridge ($1,985)
• Zesto Audio Leto Vacuum Tube Preamp ($7,500)
• Zesto Audio Andros PS1 Vacuum Tube Phono Stage ($3,900)
Loggie Audio/YG Acoustics/Esoteric/Ypsilon/Stage III
This system, like the MBL room, impressed me quite a lot with its versatility to play very loud, hard hitting music and managing to retain much of the nuance and warmth required when called upon. Not as emotionally captivating as the Von Gaylord or Acoustic Zen rooms but offering an accurate big stage and space and plenty of impact when needed. I had the chance to listen to this fine sounding room for quite a while and enjoyed the speaker’s robust nature and the live scale thwack on drums that very few speakers can muster. Interestingly, they seemed to sound quite nice here in a smaller room. The bigger rooms seem to suffer from too many people yaking in the background.
Speakers: YG Acoustics Anat III Studio Signature ($82,000 a pair)
I believe most readers like to know what rooms were the reviewer’s favorites. I had the opportunity to listen to virtually every room at CAS and you’d think I would have some sort of definitive room. Choosing a best room was impossible largely because it is largely dependent on the room, the source material being played, external noise etc. Still, if absolutely had to choose I would probably say that my favorite 4 rooms were as follows (in alphabetical order):
* Acoustic Zen/Triode
* Von Gaylord
* YG Acoustics/Ypsilon
For high impact live scale and an exacting quality, the MBL and Loggie Audio (YG Acoustics) rooms were a cut above. For emotional delivery and high goose bump factor to draw a tear to the eye, Acoustic Zen and Von Gaylord were breathtaking.
I had a wonderful time in San Francisco auditioning many fine systems and having the chance to meet many passionate audiophiles, manufacturers, dealers, forum posters, as well as fellow Dagogo reviewers, Jack Roberts, Ray Seda, Adam Labarge and of course the gracious host of the event, Constanine Soo.
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