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2015 California Audio Show, Part 3

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The third floor had the most interesting stuff on it, maybe not the best, but the most interesting. Like last year, the most fun room was the Burwell and Son’s room.

This year, they shared the big corner room on the third floor with Bottlehead and Tape Project. The source was The Tape Project’s Otari MTR20 transport (NFS) and a Luxman PD-171 turntable with Jelco SA-250 tonearm and Brinkman cartridge Pi.

The sound in the room was outstanding, as well as the conversation. These folks know how to enjoy music and audio. On Saturday night singer, Jacqui Naylor was there to discuss the recording process, and let people hear cuts from her new recording for The Tape Project. They also played the newest Tape Project release, Jerry Garcia and David Grisman. This album has been one of my favorite LPs, but it sounded incredible on this system playing Tape Project’s production of this recording.


The talk of the show was Andrew Jones’ soon to be released Elac B5 loudspeakers, at a mere $230 a pair. I had heard about these speakers since the show reports came out from Munich. Let me tell you, they did not disappoint. They were driven by equipment from the revived Audio Alchemy company. This was a great sounding room. I would have loved to have heard these speakers with amps in the price range of say, the amps in the Napa Acoustic room. Still, the chance to hear these speakers and visit with Andrew Jones was really great.


I have recently spent some time reviewing the same Margules Audio amp and preamp they used at the show; the Margules U280-SC 25th-Anniversary stereo tube amplifier and their SF220.15 20th Anniversary Stereo Tube Preamplifier. The rest of the system consisted of Margules’ FZ47DB RIAA phono stage, TT-10 turntable, a prototype DAC, ADE-241 Analog Enhancer, and their Orpheus loudspeakers and subwoofer. Everything was hooked up with Atlas cables.

The system looked and sounded very nice with a midrange that was just warm enough and fairly alive sounding. The setup was very musical and capable of involving the listener in an emotional experience with the music and performance.



The Syncopation/Profundo room gave me a chance to see and hear the Trenner & Friedl Pharaoh speaker for the first time. I had heard some good things about this line of speakers, and I wasn’t disappointed. I was surprised at how beautiful their woodwork was finished, but I’m not a big fan of the big black circle of the grill cloth. The sound of this system was very emotionally involving. It had a bit of a vintage sound, but I would count that as a plus. At $13,000 for a pair they do have some steep competition, but I could have listened to them for a long time. I went back to this room several times.


The rest of the system consisted of the Viva Numerico DAC & CD transport, theViva Fono Stereo 2-chassis phonostage and Viva Solista MKIII Stereo integrated amplifier. Cables were Cardas Clear.


Walking into the AUDIO SKIES/Lavish Hi-Fi room was a blast from the past. If you’re old enough to remember Sonab speakers, it would have been for you, too. The Sonab speakers have been resurrected as Larson Speakers. I couldn’t believe how good this room sounded. If you’re not familiar with the design of the Sonabs or Larsons, they are quasi omni-directional speakers designed to be place directly against the wall. You wouldn’t believe how well they imaged, the soundstage they produce and the extension at both ends. If you need a speaker that goes against the wall, that looks and sounds good, this might be it for you. The Larson Model 8 sells for $6,995; they do have smaller ones.


These were the small rooms on the third floor that really stood out to me. I will soon be posting a review of the bigger rooms on the second floor.

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