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2012 CAS Coverage, Part V: Top five rooms

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Top Five Rooms

There were many fine rooms at this year’s CAS, but five really stood out to me. I’m listing these in alphabetical order, not in order of which was best. If there had to be one “Best in Show” I would have needed more time in each room than was possible.

Acoustic Zen/Triode Japan Room

Acoustic Zen/Triode Japan Room

At almost every show, I’ve always enjoyed the Acoustic Zen room and Mr. Lee is always such a gracious host. This was the very best I’ve ever heard his room sound. They were playing the Acoustic Zen Crescendo speakers ($16,000/pair) being driven by the Triode Japan Reference Series TRX-M845SE mono-blocks ($22,500/pair). The preamp was the Triode Japan TRX-1 tube preamplifier ($3,200) and the source was the Triode Japan TRV-CD5SE tube CD player ($2,500). Of course, all the cables were Acoustic Zen.

Acoustic Zen/Triode Japan Room

The sound was simply sublime, the speakers were beautiful to look at, and the amps were simply amazing. The sound was so good that I thought Mr. Lee had come out with a $60,000 speaker, and then I realized when I looked at the written handout that they were $16,000. The soundstage was near perfection and the bass deep and well controlled. Best of all, they just made me keep coming back to hear more music. I did keep wishing I could hear this system with a really good turntable; still, even with a digital source it was truly wonderful. Congrats on a great room.

Audio Image Ltd. Room

Audio Image Ltd. Room

By Sunday, Magico’s new S-5 speakers ($28,600) in the Audio Image Ltd. room 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).

Kronos Counter-Rotating Dual Patter Turntable

The outstanding digital source was Auraliti L-1000 Music-Player ($4,000) with the Romulus High Resolution DAC/CD Player ($7,000). Cables were by MIT and power conditioning by Audience.

If I hadn’t stayed around until Sunday, this room wouldn’t have quite made my top five, but on Sunday it was a shoe in. The driver integration was as good as it gets for a multi-driver speaker. The soundstage was huge on big stuff and small and detailed on solo vocals and instruments. This was simply an amazing sounding system on Sunday.

Audio Note UK Room

Audio Note UK Room

Like the Audio Image Ltd. room, it was Sunday before the Audio Note UK room was sounding like it usually does. They had their E/SP HE speakers ($10,250 with stands) driven by the remarkable Meishu Phono Silver Signature ($20,600). This nine-watt integrated amp is really something. It’s a class A, 300B, SET with a complete line stage and moving magnet phono input.

Audio Note UK Room CD 4.1X

The two sources were the CD 4.1X ($12,000) CD player. I know people say CD players are going the way of the typewriter, but I’ve heard precious few digital sources that sound as good as this CD player. The other source was the TT Two Deluxe ($3,650) with the Arm Three V2 ($2,100), the IOI low output moving coil cartridge ($4,250) and the S4L SUT ($6,400).

Audio Note UK TT Two Deluxe

With cables, this system is going to go over $60,000. Still, this was one of the most musically and emotionally satisfying systems at the show.

Bob Hodas Acoustical Analysis Room


This is the room that showcases the wonderful “Tape Project” tapes. They play these tapes on an ATR-102 studio recored with reproduction tube electronics by Bottlehead. The speakers were the Focal Scala Utopia ($32,500) powered by VTL 450 Signature Series III amps ($18,000) and a VTL 6.5 Signature Line Stage ($11.500). They used $20,000 of Tara Labs Onyx cables and a Ground 1 Torus power conditioned ($5,000).


Bob had done a great job of turning a hotel room into a listening room with the use of RPG Harmonix K diffusors ($1,200), Bob Hodas custom isolation wall built by Wall covering designs, Ikea rugs hung and rippled on a coat rack for first order reflections. This was without a doubt one of the five best sounding rooms which is as much to do with Bob’s ability to do acoustical room setup as it did with the equipment.

Zesto Audio Room

Zesto Audio Room

I don’t know if at any show, regardless of the equipment used, have I heard the TAD speakers sound bad. Still, the Zesto room brought a new level to how good they could sound. The speakers were the TAD CR-1 Compact Reference monitor ($42k/pair) driven, believe it or not, by an old and discontinued GamuT D200 power amp. WyWires provided complete system connection.

The source Merrill-Williams Audio REAL 101 turntable ($7,200) with a Tri-Planar tonearm ($5,800), and a Dynavector XX2 MKII cartridge ($1,985).

Merrill-Williams Audio REAL 101 turntable

The preamp was George and Carolyn Counnas’ new Zesto Audio Leto Vacuum Tube Preamp ($7,500) and their already highly respected Zesto Audio Andros PS1 Vacuum Tube Phono Stage ($3,900).

Both George and Carolyn should be congratulated on their line stage and preamp,George for designing such a great sounding pair and Carolyn for designing such a beautiful pair.

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