Publisher Profile

2015 California Audio Show, Part 4

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System 2 includes the upgraded NA-208Ae Tube-Hybrid Integrated amp, with improved power supply, low noise source input treatment and upgraded cosmetics. NA-208MP Digital Music Player, and their BOW III satellite speakers and matching small subwoofer. The system still has the same basic specs, with overall improved performance and of course the addition of the Digital Music player, larger satellites and the small sub. This system is significantly higher at $1,998.

After listening to both systems, I would opt for System 1 and then add a small Velodyne or Earthquake sub in the $400 range to fill out the system and come in at the $1,000 price point. But if the addition of a larger satellite speakers and a digital front end is important to you, then System 2 may be the right choice.

Eficion and First Impression Music showcased the F250 speakers with Plinius electronics. First thoughts were big speaker, with even bigger bass. To say the bass was impressive would be an understatement. Articulate, but I noticed a little splash to the sound in the midband while the top was open and had good air. I think the midband issues may be room associated. I did enjoy the rendition of “Shenandoah” from Harry Belefonte at Carnigie Hall. Sounded much better, so the previous issues I heard could also be do to the recording. By the way, the F250s sell for $10,000 per pair. They are a 10” carbon fiber woofer with a 5” mid and a 2.33” air motion folded ribbon tweeter. Weighing in at a mere 104 lbs a piece, for old world audiophiles, they are great fun, Big and Bold. Needless to say Plinius looked and sounded very good.

One of the coolest tables at the show was the new Bergman Air bearing linear drive table ($20k) in the North American distributor Audiopathways’ Exhibit, shown with the Avantgarde Zero One digital horn speakers ($21k). The standard finish is black for this table, but they did it in white to match the speakers. And the look was absolutely beautiful.

I have found Avantgarde speakers sometimes sound great and sometimes sound dreadful, depending upon the room and the electronics attached. Today, I am happy to say, the sound was the former not the latter. A beautiful speaker, not overly large, with a nice esthetic. Some people love horn designs and some don’t. Something you need to decide for yourself. Additionally, in the room was Sutherland electronics and their 20/20 phono stage.

Not many of us think of Mexico when it comes to high end audio, but the fine people at Margules Audio would have something to say about that. They had a KT88-based integrated amp model U280SC which boasted 80W/Ch ($5,399). Active Servo Bias also makes it possible to use a variety of output tubes. This means you can substitute your choice of 6550, KT88, KT99, KT100, KT 120 or KT150 output tubes without modification. A tube rollers dream! The amp was driving a pair of their Orpheus aluminum ceramic 2.5 way towers with a first order cross-over networks ($9k).

But being an analog junkie, I was most impressed with their TT-10 turntable. This belt drive table has a machined platter high mass platter sitting in a boll bearing bushing. The motor is a synchronous low RPM low noise and torque in a suspended springs mounting to avoid noise induction to the turntable, the motor pivot is also ball bearing. The tonearm is damped uni-pivot design that can easily be adjusted for the Vertical Tracking and the Azimuth. All things considered this is a pretty good deal at $2,999.

The last room I spent time at was Canadian importer/retailer Grant Fidelity’s large, 3rd floor San Bruno Exhibit. They had an unusually designed speaker on display. The Pureaudioproject Trio15 TB is a very flexible, open baffle design utilizing dual 12” cast frame woofers with a Tang Bang (Lowther like) 8” full range in the middle. Each driver is on it’s own baffle. They do offer a horn loaded Heil folded ribbon replacement option with matching cross-over. I didn’t get to hear the Heil option which I would have preferred over the Tang Bang, which had a decidedly soft top end.

Also on display was the Psvane Audio Reference TS845 Tube integrated amp. It has two inputs and a volume control, and is at an affordable $3,500. I was impressed with the fit and finish of this little jewel. It had body and authority I normally find on well designed 845 Single Ended Amps. This is a real pretty integrated amp. It utilizes separate transformers for both high and low voltage. Rated at 25W/ch in pure class A.

Grant Fidelity were also showing the Consonance Reference 535 SET running twin 300B tubes in parallel. Again, a good example of what China is best known for. Affordable high quality electronics. OK, I know what you’re going to say, and I can agree China does produce a lot of junk, but they also have the ability to produce some world class audio. So many high end American and European companies like Klipsch, Luxman, Quad and KEF are manufacturing in China.

Again, a good example of what can be produced. Regrettably I didn’t get the opportunity to listen to the Consonance Integrated, but I do hope to in the future. Especially on a speaker I am more familiar with.


About the author:

For those of you who don’t know me or my history, here is a little information about my background. I started in the audio industry in 1968 while in college majoring in Radio TV and Film, when I was hanging out at Stereo Mart in Tarzana, California.

I was fortunate to work for a man that started in the industry after leaving the army radio corp where he served in Korea along side many of the men that founded the HiFi industry. Because of his associations I had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know many audio giants like Sol Marantz, Joe Grado, Rudy Bozak, Stu Hegeman and many others. These are what I call the first geners. These are the men who started the HIFI industry. Those first hobbyists that we owe so much to. I am among the second generation of HiFi hobbies and entrepreneurs, what I call a second-geners. Myself and my contemporaries that grew the industry.

Over the following 46 years I lived through the boom and bust of Audio and Video.

I have seen the introduction of 4 and 8 track tape decks. The invention of the cassette deck, El-cassette, Laser Disc, CD, DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-ray, and the soon to be released 4K Blu-ray. Plus all the various iterations to TV.

Throughout the years I have dedicated my career in Audio to 2 channel stereo, tube electronics, turntables and cartridges. Not to say I haven’t spent more time than I would like to admit in everything from home automation, video and multi-channel surround.

One Response to 2015 California Audio Show, Part 4

  1. Doug White says:

    The TIDAL Piano DiaCera speakers have been replaced by the new Piano G2 speakers. See our site for details.

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