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CAS

2011 CAS Coverage, Part X

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Every show I come upon a small number of rooms which just about knock me silly with surprise at the sound. Margules Audio was one such room; it vastly exceeded my expectations. The system with the U280sc 40wpc stereo amplifier and the Grand Oprhpeo full-range ceramic driver floor standing speakers was sensational! This speaker and system would convince the most ardent skeptic that ceramic drivers can play with richness. The crowded room was sauna-like with heat, but worth the sweat. I was impressed by how well the system had been integrated with the room; the side firing woofers were only about 20” from the side walls, yet there was no severe bass overhang. Simply put, one of the best sounds at the show; in my top five.

Margules Audio U280sc Stereo Tube Amplifier; Margules Grand Orpheo Loudspeaker

Margules Audio U280sc Stereo Tube Amplifier; Margules Grand Orpheo Loudspeaker

Much more formidable than the Sony Music Machine was this particular music making machine, the Sony SS-AR1 Loudspeaker. Sony selected venerated components to associate itself with, including the EMM Labs XDS1 SACD Player and the Pass Labs XP-20 preamplifier and a pair of X600.5 amplifiers. As expected, the system did nothing poorly, however it failed to overwhelm. While the clarity was excellent it seemed on the polite side. Sony is stepping into a field of some very serious speaker makers at the under-$30K price point. The SS-AR1 is not to be written off, as it is evidently competent. I sensed shyness in the low end – at least in the show system compared to other speakers in the range – which I believe is tied to the speakers, not the electronics. I will reserve final judgment on this matter until I’ve heard these speakers with other components.

Sony SS-AR1 Loudspeaker and Pass Laboratories X600.5 amplifiers, with Kimber Kable cabling

Sony SS-AR1 Loudspeaker and Pass Laboratories X600.5 amplifiers, with Kimber Kable cabling

Frank Van Alstine at the Salk Sound/Audio by Van Alstine exhibit greeted me heartily with a smirk and led me back behind his stack of gear running Jim Salk’s Soundscape 10 Speakers. Indicating I should pay attention to the amp, he revealed it had a detachable 15A IEC socket! Well, well, well… times they be a changin’! When I reviewed the Audio by Van Alstine Ultra DAC I mildly chastised Frank for not building in a detachable power cord. Now it seems my plead did not fall on deaf ears. Frank opined at the show that it was necessary to satisfy popular demand. Good move, Frank!

The other half of this duo was Jim Salk, whose speaker designs I have seen blossom over the past several years. They have been compelling, such that I will be starting on a review of the Soundscape 10 at about the time you read this show report. Manufacturers try to find extraordinarily complementary equipment to showcase their own wares. Frank and Jim have a very good thing going sonically. I was not as surprised as I was by the Margules Audio exhibit, but was impressed nearly to the same degree. This system was about $20k but held its ground with dozens of more costly rigs; there was even an exotic wood finish on the speakers! Salk Sound and Audio by Van Alstine are American built products which give excellent return on investment.

Signature Sound Soundscape 10 Speaker; what at first glance might appear to be a driver under a square opening in the cabinet is a plate with an image of a point source; a tweeter attenuation switch is in the middle of the plate;SalkStream StreamPlayer and Audio by Van Alstine AvaStar Hybrid Tube Preamplifier, Vision EC Hybrid DAC and Fet Valve 600R Hybrid Tube Amplifier – with detachable 15A IEC!

Signature Sound Soundscape 10 Speaker; what at first glance might appear to be a driver under a square opening in the cabinet is a plate with an image of a point source; a tweeter attenuation switch is in the middle of the plate;SalkStream StreamPlayer and Audio by Van Alstine AvaStar Hybrid Tube Preamplifier, Vision EC Hybrid DAC and Fet Valve 600R Hybrid Tube Amplifier – with detachable 15A IEC!

Another surprise came in the form of a fairly stripped down system from Widea Lab of South Korea which had used speakers from Vaughn and an amp from Margules Audio; it worked and worked quite well! Though it felt sweltering in the room I stayed long enough to appreciate the delicacy of the Vaughn Zinfandel speaker and the extreme definition of the Aurender server. These are companies which if they keep making components like this should do well in the long run.

Widea Lab Aurender Reference Class Digital Music Server/Player with a Margules Audio integrated amplifier and Vaughn Zinfandel Speaker

Widea Lab Aurender Reference Class Digital Music Server/Player with a Margules Audio integrated amplifier and Vaughn Zinfandel Speaker

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