This was the third California Audio Show and I think to say the best. It was well attended and all the dealers I talked with seemed to be pleased. This is a local dealer based show and in the Bay Area that means you get to hear lots of great equipment.
If you entered the hotel from the parking lot the first door on the left was Music Lovers Audio’s Room and what a room it was. If my math is right the system cost approximately $550,000.00, yes you read that right. It featured the Wilson Alexandria XLF speakers with the Hammer of Thor subwoofer. Amplification was from VTL with the Siegfried Series II Reference tube monoblock amplifiers, the VTL TL7.5 Series III Reference Line Preamplifier, and the VTL TP6.5 Signature Phono Preamplifier.
Sources were from the AMG V12 turntable with a Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement cartridge. The digital source was the dCS Scarlatti Digital Playback System. All this equipment was hooked up with Transparent Opus cables and set on HRS SXR Audio Racks.
Across the hall was the MBL room with their striking white and gold gear. They had two systems set up.
The big system consisted of Reference MBL 101 E MK II Radialstrahler ($70,500/pair), driven by the MBL 9011 Power Amplifier ($53,000) and the MBL 6010 D Preamplifier ($26,500). The source was the MBL 1621 A CD Transport ($28,000) and the MBL 1611 F D/A Converter ($28,700).
The smaller system was playing the MBL 120 Radialstrahler ($11,300/pair) driven by the MBL C21 Stereo Power Amplifier ($9,200) and the MBL C11 Preamplifier ($8,800). The source was the MBL C31 CD Player ($9,200).
Also on the 1st floor just around the corner was the Audio Image Ltd. room. They were playing the Magico’s new S-5 speakers ($28,600) which by Sunday were sounding wonderful. They were driven by the beautiful and equally wonderful sounding VAC Statement 450 mono-block amps ($78,000), and the VAC Mk2a preamp with phono section ($19,500).
The analog source was the Kronos Counter-Rotating Dual Patter Turntable ($28,000) with the Graham Phantom Supreme 12” tonearm ($6,000), and the Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement Cartridge ($15,000).
Blue Moon Audio had a very nice room where they had made the effort to bring the Tannoy Westminister SE loudspeakers ($35,000 a pair) that weigh 304 lbs each. They cabinets are quite beautiful in a retro way. They use Tannoy’s famous 15″ Dual Concentric drive unit which uses Alnico magnets. They were driven by two Cary Audio SA-500.1 monoblock solid-state amplifiers ($4995 each) and Cary’s SLP-05 two chassis preamplifier ($7995). They also had a Carry 303TSACD Professional Version CD player ($6495), but they were mostly playing music with though a Linn Klimax DS Music Streamer ($20,700). If you have never heard any of the big Tannoys you owe it to yourself to hear them. They may not be your choice in speakers but I bet you’ll enjoy the music just the same.
Audio High was playing the new KEF Blade speakers ($30,000 a pair) powered by Chord SPM 14000 MK II monoblock amplifiers rated 480-watts ($86,000 a pair) and a new Chord CPA 8000 preamplifier ($45,000).
The sources were the Chord Red Reference MK III CD player ($25,000), and a Clear Audio Master Innovation Wood turntable with their Everest stand. The phono section was from Aesthetix. With vinyl I found this system very captivating and I thought the Blades were an exceptionally beautiful modern speaker.
The Loggie Audio Room was playing the YG Acoustics Anat III Studio Signature loudspeakers ($82, 000 a pair) powered by the Ypsilon Aleius hybrid mono amplifiers ($36,000) and the Ypsilon PST-100 MkII preamp. The source was an Esoteric P-02 and D-02 digital system.
The room sounded very musical and seemed to be one of the most popular; there was often a line to get in to hear it.
The Dared Audio Room was great sounding for the money and sported the most fun product at the show. They were playing their I-30 integrated tube amplifier ($1499) using four 6L6G, two 12AX7 and two 12AU7 tubes. They were using the Sonist Concerto 3 loudspeakers ($3495 a pair/$4195 in all wood).
They had lots of other great looking gear at very good prices, but the one that caught my whimsey most was the Dared RD-1 vacuum tube USB radio . It’s very neat; a retro looking art deco styled piece. This had to be the most fun product at the show.
Stay tuned for part 2
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