Publisher Profile

2019 CAS Report by Byron Baba

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Room 5205

Audio Vision SF/Focal

I Really Enjoyed the Focal Speakers

The next room to which I was assigned featured a number of products, including the Focal Sopra N2 loudspeaker system and Rega P8 turntable with the Alpetta2 cartridge.  The sound in this room gave a totally different presentation from the MartinLogan room and it was also outstanding.  I chatted a bit with one of the co-owners of Audio Vision SF and he was telling me a major problem with the high end brick and mortar stores such as his, customers would come in and audition equipment, especially headphones, than buy from the internet.  I have always felt that a store’s customer support and even the price were generally better than online stores when you buy from your local high end audio establishment.  You are usually spending a lot of money and part of that goes towards advice on system matching and set up.  After you purchase the product you always have a place to get help.  I notice customers buying on the internet are on a never ending quest for better equipment and are never satisfied.  The components in my home system are anywhere from 10 to 36 years old and I have never had remorse over their purchase or felt the need to constantly upgrade.  I purchased a turntable and the tonearm recommended from a local brick and mortar high end audio store 36 years ago.  This still runs today with no problems.


Room 5231


Nice and Compact

My next room assignment room presented a different approach to purchasing a stereo.  This was a total plug-and-play streaming system with custom DSP for $7,900, all from Berlin, Germany.  You get a D.A.S. Absolute integrated amplifier with a  built-in DAC.  You also get a pair of Voxativ Hagen 5” single driver speakers.  This would be the perfect setup for someone like me who is tech challenged and is more comfortable listening to records and is not as comfortable streaming.  The system could also be matched with other Voxativ speakers.  This was my pick for the most innovative new product at the show.


Room 5203

Zesto Audio/Merrill-Williams/Joseph Audio/Cardas

This was my final room assignment.  I did not get to listen to this room as much as I would have liked.  The room was small and always crowded which is an indication that a lot of people were taking the time to enjoy listening to a great sounding system.  I did manage to listen for a couple of minutes and heard some incredible sounds being played on the gorgeous Merrill Williams Audio REAL 101.2 turntable ($8,900) with two Tri-Planar tonearms ($6,900 each).  The phono cartridges alternated between the Benz Micro Gullwing ($3,600) and the Ortofon Cadenza Mono ($1,280).  Using Zesto Audio tubed electronics through a pair of Joseph Audio Perspective Graphene speakers ($15,000 per pair) it was no wonder the room was always packed.  The Zesto Audio electronics included the Andros Deluxe phono stage ($6,900), Allasso step up transformer ($2,995), Leto 1.5 Preamp ($7,500) and Eros 300 monoblocks ($19,900 per pair).  When talking to George Counnas, owner and designer of Zesto, he said the power amplifiers run 150 watts of class A power using KT88 tubes and have auto bias, which makes tube amplifier ownership easy.

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