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CAS

2018 CAS Report by David Blumenstein

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The California Audio Show 2018, affectionately known as CAS8 has come and gone, but not without a fair share of sadness and nostalgia. Regional Hi-Fi shows are the lifeblood of the industry. We are talking about an industry which has the number of brick and mortar foot trafficked dealers dwindle precipitously the regional shows fill that void.

This was my first and won’t be my last CAS. For the sake of being transparent, the show runner is the publisher of Dagogo, and it is in this very publication where from time to time I commit my thoughts and perspectives to screens of various sizes and dimensions.

HiFi shows are not just about the gear or the music, but about the people as well. One thing that brings out the critic in all of us, is the choice of music played in exhibitor rooms. What we forget sometimes, is that is indeed a business and however much we might like to hear new, different, exotic music, for a good number of the show attendees and exhibitors there are tried and true recordings which keep making the rounds:  Eagles – “Hotel California,” Dave Brubeck – “Take 5,” Nils Lofgren – “Keith Don’t Go” and just about anything by Diana Krall, Steely Dan and now Eva Cassidy’s rendition of “Fields of Gold” makes the list. It kills me because Steely Dan is my favorite band of all time, and now I can just about utter their name and that’s it, much like that old game show Name That Tune, I can identify any of their tracks in just about 3 seconds and like a shot I’m out the door.

It is because of this sort of thing of which I took notice late last year at an east coast HiFi show that I started a Facebook Group entitled New Album Releases: https://www.facebook.com/groups/newalbumreleases

Here’s where I highlight not just new albums, but re-issues and re-masters released in this calendar year 2018. A good number of members, there are 600+, are industry people who I hope will include some of what I’ve put out there in the demonstration rooms moving forward. For everyone else make use of it as you like. For this year, I am the only admin, the only one who can post and there is no commenting. Communication is one-way. The idea is to get the information out there with the least amount of fuss. Next year I just might take one or two people on for 2019 but all the rules stay the same. No commenting!

Fortunately, I got to meet Grover Neville of Schiit Audio. Grover is 23 and thus less than half my age and it made no difference as he and I spent the better part of an hour talking solely about music. We clued each other into artists/bands neither of us had heard of before, and gear never entered the discussion. More of this inter-generational discussion is needed. It instilled in me the belief that music and inherently HiFi can transcend the age gap in the hobby and the industry and that it can be bridged for today’s and future generations. Grover Neville in the Quiet Room for headphones and portable audio, Grover’s the one motioning with his hands against the back wall. (photo below courtesy of David C. Snyder)

 

And then there’s Dave Clark and I, a couple of barflies, learning more about each other’s path to music appreciation and even though we are separated by a decade, and grew up on opposite sides of the country, our exploration, interest and growth in music is very much the same and continues to this day. I won’t be able to read another one of Dave’s columns the same way ever again, as this newfound contextual knowledge is so insightful. These encounters would not have been possible at a much larger HiFi trade show, but here in Oakland in the shadow of the airport, I got to know Dave as more than a fellow writer, a fellow audiophile but as a person. The accompanying picture shows Dave at the appropriate angle. (photo below courtesy of Bill Leebens)

 

It’s all Happening at the Zu, the Zu Audio & Pass Laboratories room. The two companies partnered to remind us that when you put out quality product and you have the utmost confidence in the same, then you can let the music do the talking. With Zu’s Sean Casey manning the decks, bringing his own brand of music on vinyl, only vinyl, visitors to the room, those with hair, could let it all down and get down with their bad selves. Now if that wasn’t enough, the room was host to one of Cookie Marenco’s Blue Coast label recording artist’s Meghan Andrews, who with her guitar in hand favored attendees with a live acoustic set of music from her new album. Meghan’s request that the audience sing along with her reinforced the obvious, while audiophiles are more than capable of carrying tote bags of records and product literature, carrying a tune is simply not in the cards. The concert’s saving grace was yet another Blue Coast recording artist Jenny Maybee, whose attendance in the audience and ability to harmonize reminded us that sometimes it can be just about the music. (photo below courtesy of David C. Snyder)

 

CAS8 opened my eyes to Mexico, more specifically Mexico City as an audiophile mecca. The Sociedad de Audiófilos Mexicanos (Audiophile Society of Mexico) numbers approximately 15,000 members and if its representatives at the show are any indication, this is indeed a lively group. It was heartening to see and hear, if not always comprehend, what they were saying about the gear and the rooms they visited. If that wasn’t enough I go meet Julian Margules of the Margules Group, a Mexico City-based designer and manufacturer of end-to-end HiFi systems. A totally vertical operation, Margules offers up every component in the rack including speakers. It was also nice to see them reaching across the pond to Scotland, making use of Kevin Kelly’s ATLAS cables for their speakers and interconnects. (photo below courtesy of David C. Snyder)

 

I thought I knew what there was to know about Canada and its HiFi companies and products, but hey, there’s always room for one more. And, in this instance it is Muraudio with their hybrid electrostatic speaker. Muraudio is located in Ottawa, a city best known for its politics and ice-hockey, and to be honest their first day at the show was about as inauspicious as one could … but troopers as they are, with but one speaker having arrived, they opened the doors to attendees. I liked what I heard enough from one of their speakers that I made it a point of returning the next morning before the show officially opened to hear the speakers as intended, in stereo. Each day at 10 AM I was part of a panel of select members of HiFI’s fourth estate charged with sharing explorations and discoveries. Sorely wanting to speak about the hybrid electrostatics, I wanted to make sure I heard them both so I could address the audience as honestly as possible. (photo below courtesy of David C. Snyder)

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