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2019 CAS Report by Doug Schroeder

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It had been several years since I attended the California Audio Show, as a particular Midwest show has grown quite large and I can attend without having to fly and stay in a hotel. However, Constantine Soo, Publisher of and the producer of the CAS, was keen on having many of his reviewers present this year, so I obliged. I’m happy that I did!

After years of “pounding the pavement” by trying to hit perhaps 10-12 rooms per day at AXPONA, it was refreshing to take a more leisurely approach to reporting on a show. I could actually find a seat in nearly any room I wished, and could remain practically as long as I wished without a niggling sense of taking up someone else’s time for an experience. It’s not that the rooms were not busy; they just weren’t superheated to sauna level and shoulder-to-shoulder, which does not make for a lovely experience.

Traffic flowed as if plotted on a bell curve, with thin activity at the very beginning, bulging in the middle and petering out again at the last hour or so. One manufacturer who shall remain nameless indicated that manufacturers in general want more foot traffic and opined that they wish Constantine would grow the show. It’s like kids at a high school dance sitting on the sidelines, and then deciding to dance if everyone else will. Were the manufacturers and dealers I spoke to just being polite in saying they very much enjoyed the show and felt it was better traffic than last year, and worth it? I don’t think so. One manufacturer said on day two he had 20 leads on sales. He seemed elated about the ratio of interest to attendance.

As my Dagogo colleagues and I debriefed at the end of each day an observation emerged: at this show, the sound quality across the spectrum of rooms was higher than usual. Fellow Dagogoan David Blumenstein put his finger on it, as he said the presence of ASC (Acoustic Sciences Corporation) TubeTraps in nearly every room moderated much of the undesirable effects normally encountered in show conditions. I felt invigorated by the experience, refreshed by hearing decent sound and not just ok sound “for show conditions”. I’m not saying it was like your custom room in a residence, but on the whole not bad. The show may be small, but the rooms destroyed not much of what went on.

The vendors seemed relaxed and engaging, not fighting through a hoard of people asking questions that they could get answers for at the manufacturers’ websites. Demo music was welcomed in most rooms, though a lack of Net access in some rooms narrowed the experience. Digital was running rampant, and vinyl in the background, which is perfectly fine with me. There is much about Analogue that is unappealing to me, including the snobbery, the nebulously applied principles to assess sound quality, and the fact that my monthly Tidal “streaming collection” numbers in the millions for the price of one LP. As I have noticed for many years, the rooms playing Analogue were not terribly superior to the better ones playing digital.

It surely will not help the industry, or the hobby that in four mornings of wake-up fitness regimen I saw one other person fighting to maintain semblance of being in shape – Holger Adler of Voxativ. Kudos, Holger, long may you live! We may be the last of our breed as audiophile couch potatoes kick off. Audiophiles may protect their ears, but they seem intent on letting their hearts go to mush.

I take that back; Lyle Porter of Bernhagen – Porter, which I will discuss momentarily, looked like he could still run ten miles, and the way he maneuvered the namesake speaker looked like he could kick everyone’s ass. But, as with audio gear, looks can be deceptive; Lyle is as affable as they come.

Thank you to the dedicated CAS staff, which worked tirelessly in the background to make everything run smoothly. Thank you to Constantine, who continues to keep the flame of audio shows alive in Northern California. Thank you to my colleagues; you are a group of genuinely nice men. Thank you to the industry participants, and please do not send all your gear at once for me to review!

If you wish to see all the products represented in each room and their MSRP, use this link

We now will take a stroll through CAS 2019, stopping at several rooms representative of similar systems in terms of the technologies employed. Speakers set the tone, so to speak, so I will use them to group the rooms. Let’s start off big.

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