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The Beatnik’s 2014 California Audio Show Reports, The Two Best Vintage Sounding Rooms

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Let start with the Burwell & Sons room; it was right there when you got off the elevator on the third floor and it sure seemed to be the best attended room at the show. From a few minutes before the doors officially opened on Friday until after the show was over on Sunday the room seemed to always be full of happy listeners.

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One of the high points of the show for me was peeking in the busy room as I walked by and hearing cuts from Lyn Stanley’s upcoming album bursting out into the hall. She was in the room talking about how much she loved this sound and how important it was to her to get everything down in pure analogue. She then had them play a few cuts from her previous LP and talked about some of the songs. It was a really special moment.

The Burwells, Gordon Sr. and Gordon Jr., need to be recognized for how far they have come since I first heard their speakers in 2012. At the 2012 show they had some of the most beautiful horn speakers I had ever seen, and they were fun to listen to but they were a long way from being what I would call high-end audio speakers. At last year’s show I was shocked at how much better they sounded so I agreed to review a pair. You can read the review here on Dagogo. They were without a doubt the most fun pair of speakers I had ever reviewed.

Now they have addressed even more issues and have changed the speaker from a two way using all Altec drivers to a three way. The pair at the show used an Altec woofer and JBL midrange and tweeters. This three way sounded absolutely beautiful. I can’t wait to get a pair over to my house for another listen.

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Another thing that speaks to how far they have come is the companies who are showing with them. They had tubes, by both Audio Research and Raven Audio. Tape Project chose to show in their room and their turntable was from Wilson-Benesch.

Yes these speakers cost $80,000 but I don’t know of a single speaker at the show that sounded more beautiful, was more fun to listen to, and certainly no other speaker looked as good. Well done to Gordon Sr. and Gordon Jr.  By the way they are still two really great guys to just hang out with too!

The other room with great vintage sound was also on the third floor. It was the Pass Labs room. They were playing a pair of Tannoy Golds mounted in a Jensen Imperial Cabinets turned upside down so that the empty horn part of the cabinet acted as a stand to raise the Tannoy Gold drivers to the right height. They were driving these with a pair of Pass Labs XA60.8 mono-blocks along with their Xs Preamplifier XP-25 Phono-stage. The turntable was a modified Technics SP-10 Mk II.

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I don’t know why they chose to play this system at the show. They don’t sell the speakers or the turntable. In fact they described both as tools they use. I just know I’m glad they did for I kept sneaking in there for a listen and some time to just relax and listen to real music. By no measure are these what modern audiophiles are looking for, but if you just want music the sound was incredible. Thanks to Pass Labs for a chance to hear this system. It puts a lot into prospective.

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One Response to The Beatnik’s 2014 California Audio Show Reports, The Two Best Vintage Sounding Rooms


  1. Dave Thomson says:

    To all of the Great Guys at Dagago~!
    Thank you so very much for mentioning our Raven products together with Burwell & Sons “Son of Burl” Loudspeakers, Jack.

    I so thoroughly enjoyed this show, and though I had almost no time to squeeze out of that incredibly packed room all three days, and it was chock full of ears of all kinds all day all weekend….

    When I did manage to travel down the hall, at a mid gallop down to the Pass Labs room to attempt to meet one of my two SS heroes, Mr. Kent English, I also got to listen to a nice bit of audio history while I was there as well. I was truly a bit honored and maybe a little star struck. Though I missed Nelson Pass, Kent’s handshake was enough to make my day! Probably my year actually!

    I really enjoyed this show more than almost any other I have attended, either showing or just listening and tasting. It was just plain old fun all the way around.

    And to be asked at the last minute to spend the weekend providing all of the tube amplification for all of those fabulous horns…. Well I did it with our 26wpc Raven Audio Spirit 300B Reference Stereo Amplifier (yes, the exact same one that was beat around by Stereophile, and now that it has all the components acting nicely together, it was very easily up to the task, and in addition to that fact we even pulled all of the numerous sources together so completely using the Raven Audio Shadow Reference Preamplifier all weekend in that showroom with the Burwell family what a complete and thorough hoot! Hoot! Hoot!

    I will remember it always as one of my top ten. We were just a bunch of rather tubishly horny guys with big grins on our faces for three days straight (thankfully!). And in San Francisco I guess you can easily get away with that sort of thing without a single eyebrow raised huh…… right?

    Thank you Jack and Constantine for the wonderful mention and Gordon Jr/Sr. for a nice little audio filled night out on the town Saturday!

    And so in the end…. “Yeehaw” I shall exclaim – as I ride off into the Southern California sunset heading home to the tiny town of Chita, Texas………. to “LaRanchita” de Raven Audio c):-p

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