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2015 California Audio Show, Part 5

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Finally, after two very frustrating years of poor planning and an airport stranding courtesy of Jet Blue Airlines, I actually made it back to the California Audio Show.

 

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First and foremost, I would like to begin my report by saying that many rooms sounded really fantastic. One really good reason for this high level of sonic goodness was due to the presence of ASC tube traps seemingly everywhere! As it turns out, the folks at ASC brought a truckload of their wares and made them available to any exhibitor that needed help with their room acoustics. This resulted in consistently great sounding rooms throughout the show. Kudos to ASC for greatly improving the audio show experience!

In a year that has been replete with shifts in trends, technology, market choices, and high end miniaturized offerings, this latest installment of the California Audio Show did not disappoint. I first will focus on those that did their best to deliver on a vision of engaging the new and future generations of audiophiles. To that end, we begin with…

 

PONO

The folks representing Neil Young’s vision of delivering us from the evils of lossy MP3 in the form of a handheld player called Pono were present and quite active. Their display had the who’s who of mid and high-end headphones for visitors to experience the sound of the diminutive high definition player.

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As an early adopter, I couldn’t resist getting a shot of the Pono Team with my Patti Smith Limited Edition model of the Pono Player from the Kickstarter crowd-funding effort that helped launch Pono to reality.

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MIT Vero

The folks from MIT were showing their support to portable hifi by introducing the Vero line of headphone cabling and accessories. They had plenty of high definition players on in order to showcase A/B listening experience of the Vero line. The line includes replacement headphone cables, interconnects suitable for the portable players, and cable adapters to facilitate balanced and single-ended connection to a component system. and accessories.

I was able to sample a couple of their cables on a very fine pair of cans and a top flight FiIO portable high definition player and I must say, that it appears that once again, the kings of interface have a winner on their hands.

I look forward to having a closer look at both the FiIO high end player as well as the Vero interfaces and balanced headphone cables for a future review.

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Elac by Andrew Jones

Andrew Jones of Pioneer inexpensive home theatre and $80,000+ TAD speaker fame was on hand to launch his latest endeavor in low priced diminutive high performance speakers under the German brand name Elac (of Miracord turntable fame).

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As VP of Engineering at Elac, Mr. Jones has big plans for his new Elac line as it readies for debut in the US.

 

Elac / Audio Alchemy

Peter Madnick of Audio Alchemy fame has returned and under no uncertain terms has “gotten the band back together”.  Those of you who are familiar with Audio Alchemy would already know the enormous impact they made in the 80’s and 90’s. Their level of innovation and advancements exposed the evils of jitter inherent in digital interfaces and brought forth the supremely effective I2S bus to the burgeoning digital component separates landscape. I drank deep in that kool aid and by the time they had closed up shop in the 90’s, I had the entire line, DAC, DTI Pro32, Phono, and upgraded power supplies, minus the transport. It is great to see that after their individual successes in the industry they all love, they are once again reunited and making us all take notice that high performance audio is not about glamour and bling, but about superlative design and engineering. On display in all-silver casework in lieu of the very familiar black, perhaps as a sign of age and maturity, were an integrated stereo amplifier (DPA1- $1,995), DAC/Preamp/Headphone Amp that is capable of decoding DSD64 (DDP-1- $1,995),  and bespoke upgraded power supply (PS-5 – $595).

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This system was synergistically matched up with Andrew Jones’ Elac B5 speakers. At $229, they are astonishingly good. The room was tight, standing room was not really an option and it was therefore impossible to get a clean shot of the entire system during one of my repeated visits. To say that the system achieved a sound that bordered on miraculous, would be understating the results. I believe that both Audio Alchemy and the new Elac will redefine what everyone should come to expect from high performance low and medium priced audio; the bar is set high, very high.

 

Pass Labs / YG Acoustics / AudioVision SF

You normally would not ever think Pass Labs when thinking about entry level high performance audio. However, the engineers at Pass have indeed given it some thought. The new lineup of Pass Labs integrated amplifiers is meant to fill that void. On display in a rather huge room I might add, was their new INT60. A 60-watt-per-channel integrated amplifier, designed by Wayne Coburn (Pass’ in-house preamp wizard). The amp was paired up with a pair of YG Acoustics Carmel 2.

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In the front-end was a gorgeous vintage Technics SP10 fitted with a MySonics cartridge. The room was so large that it was not possible to achieve the kind of scale you can usually count on from a Pass Labs monoblocks-powered system. However, the sound was absolutely wonderful on smaller recordings. The Pass Labs ‘INT’ line is definitely one to watch out for.

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