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2019 CAS Report by Richard Austen, Part 1

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I was pleased again to cover the California Audio Show for 2019. The last time I covered the show was 2017 and due to scheduling issues I missed the first day of the show and thus was unable to spend much time in each room. This year I had the opportunity to cover each room.

My issues in 2017 have largely remained the same in that some rooms had no real ability to play my recordings. I brought CDs and a USB drive containing FLAC files but many rooms could not support either.

As other Dagogo reviewers have noted, as did I back in 2017, the quality of the rooms are generally superior at the Oakland Hilton which is likely due to being an airport hotel and perhaps constructed better for reducing external sound. Further aiding the experience for show goers was the fact that most every room was separated with a sleeping room in between so there was no bleed through from room to room.

On with the coverage starting with the large room systems: I have decided to separate the rooms with speakers designed for big rooms from those designed for small rooms. I think readers know that is not a fair comparison to compare speakers designed for a large mansion living room with 25 foot ceilings to those who are buying for a New York apartment.


Boardroom 5: Audio Federation brought Acapella Audio Arts/ Audio Note UK and Harmonic Resolution Systems and Emm Labs

Audio Federation was my show winner back in 2017 and once again was a top tier room for me. This time around they brought larger, more sensitive speakers from Acapella Audio Arts in the Campanile 2 Loudspeakers at around 450lbs and 93 inches tall. Once again, Acapella shows off their industry leading treble response which is as good as treble gets.  Integration wasn’t quite there the first day but by the last day this again was my favorite big room, big speaker system at CAS. From smaller scale music to large, the speakers had just sublime midrange to top end clarity.  Piano on Jackson Browne’s ‘Pretender’ from his Live Acoustic Vol 1 album was full rich and deep. The artist was [virtually] in the room.  Credit must also be given to arguably the front end electronics from emmLabs and Audio Note UK. Like 2017, the CD sources sounded better than the server sources to my ear.

This was the best big room system at CAS.


Boardroom 4: Margules Audio/ Magenta/ Atlas Cables & Lyn Stanley

I quite enjoyed this room with an assortment of interesting tube amplifiers at reasonable costs.  This system was in a big room but I am not sure that would be needed for the average consumer. The smaller floorstanders at $4,000 were a particular highlight as they offered high value for the dollar. I quite enjoyed Lyn Stanley’s demonstrations of direct to disc LP versus SACD and different masterings.  What sounded the best? LP by a rather wide margin. The SACD was handled by the OPPO UDP-205 and vinyl was spun by Margules’ own player. Margules makes relatively affordable products and they should be a strong consideration if you are looking to get into tube based audio but still require some healthy power. This was also one of my favorite rooms at CAS.


Boardroom 1: Audio Imports/Aurender/HB Cable Design/Wilson Benesch/Ypsilon

I am fairly familiar with Wilson Benesch as I have auditioned one of their top models as well as standmounts from then in Hong Kong.  For whatever reason several show goers including myself felt that these more affordable speakers actually sounded better.  I was far more impressed this time around than I have been in the past.  There was a lot of bass foundation and control here.


Boardroom 3: MartinLogan/Doshi Audio/Berkeley Audio Design/ The Tape Project

The Tape Project always seems to offer superb recordings that demonstrate well.  The MartinLogan CLS ART speakers offer arguably the best purity of sound offered by MartinLogan.  The bass received bass support from their large subwoofers.

End of Part 1

NEXT: 2019 CAS Report by Richard Austen, Part 2

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One Response to 2019 CAS Report by Richard Austen, Part 1

  1. You make some broad generalised statements which are meaningless. Of course the vinyl will beat the Oppo but as we have both heard the Grandiose stack from Esoteric will slaughter the vinyl. No contest.

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