Publisher Profile

CAS 4 – Old Friends and Some New Friends

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Robert Lee of Acoustic Zen

Acoustic Zen and Triode Corporation Room Robert Lee of Acoustic Zen makes wonderful speakers in San Diego, California. I should probably also mention that Mr. Lee is one of the nicest hosts around, and a true gentleman.He was showing his Crescendo loudspeakers ($16,000/pair), which use a slightly horn-loaded ribbon tweeter, two 5″ midrange drivers, and two 8″ bass drivers in a transmission-line enclosure.

The Crescendos were being driven by the incredible Triode TRX-M845 tubed monoblock amps($22,500 as reviewed in Dagogo back last October by Fred Crow). The preamp was TRX-1 preamplifier ($3200), and the digital source was also from Triode; the TRV-CD5SE tubed CD player ($3200) as well as their TRV-DAC 1.0 remote controlled 24Bit/192kHz Asynchronous Tube Digital Analog Converter with 2 High Speed USB inputs($2500). All the cabling was by Acoustic Zen.

These are the same speakers that I thought were $60,000 and still thought they were simply sublime. Upon discovering they were $16,000 I was shocked. The soundstage was near perfection and the bass deep and well controlled. Best of all, they just made me keep coming back to hear more music. A year later this room sounded even better than I remembered.

Audio Note’s Level 5 System

Audio Note’s Level 5 System

What a treat, to get to hear an Audio Note Level 5 System at an audio show. David Cope of Audio Note UK posted on Facebook about the opportunity there would be to hear “the highest level system heard in one of our rooms in quite some time.” The gear was graciously on loan from Nick Gowan of True Sound located in Campbell, California. For this reason there will probably not be an opportunity to hear a Level 5 system at any other North American show in the foreseeable future.

This Level 5 system consisted of the Audio Note UK CDT Three top-loading CD transport ($12,000), the 24/96 DAC5 Signature ($98,000), the M9 phono preamp ($146,000), a fully balanced ONGAKU Kensei amplifier ($127,000), and the E/SEC Signature loudspeakers ($73,000/pair). The turntable was damaged in shipping and not working. By the time you add the cost of the Audio Note Level 5 cables this system was almost half a million dollars.

There was plenty of interest at the show in this system. I had to go by four or five times before I could get a good seat and hear the system with my music. The sound was very good, but in a hotel room with only a digital source it still did not sound as good as I have heard it at Nick’s place with a reference level vinyl source. This is no surprise of course and the sound was very good, but I want everyone who heard the system at the show to know it can sound even better than what you heard, in fact considerably better.

Raven Audio at CAS4

Raven Audio

($140,000/pair). Dave also furnished a much less expensive twin 300B class A push pull amp for the Burwell & Sons custom cabinets vintage Altec speakers. In both rooms I thought the amps were doing a superb job.

Raven Audio’s designer Mr. S.E. Han is from Korea. He has more than forty years engineering tube gear while also working for Texas Instruments as an engineer and supervisor. With Raven Audio he attempts to combines the best of classic tube design with contemporary technology, materials and composites to achieve a wideband, engaging, fulfilling and extremely musical sound.

Dave Thomson manufactures SE’s designs in Groveton Texas. Dave is a professional musician, singer and songwriter with a background in structural design. Most Raven Audio components are machined out of solid aluminum in a gem of an automated machine shop. And most Raven Audio components are point-to-point hand-wired with highest-quality components but there are printed circuit boards in their more cost-effective designs. While Raven is a new friend to me they are not to Dagogo. In April of 2013 Philip Holmes reviewed their entry level 50 watt integrated amp. I would love to listen to their 300B mono blocks in my system one day.

Texan Dave Thomson had the most beautiful wall of “Glass Bottles” I have ever seen. He was set up with Von Schweikert and was debuting Raven Audio’s Silhouette monoblock amplifiers ($12,995/ pair) and Reference Silhouette preamplifier ($12,995). They were providing amplification for the Von Schweikert VR-100 XS 4-piece loudspeaker system

MSR Acoustics

MSR Acoustics

whose looks would fit into most any room. Best of all they really seemed to know acoustics!
Voxativ and KR Audio
Speaking of new friends I really liked and was equally impressed with the knowledge of MSR Acoustics’ Anthony Grimani. MSR is located in Novato, California is another new friend. They had a wide assortment of acoustical treatment products. Some were works of art, some looked like studio acoustical treatments, and some some still looked like acoustical treatments.

After reviewing the Voxativ Ampeggio I was not quite ready for how incredible the new smaller Voxativ Pi speakers sounded. They cost $13,500 and were being driven by KR Audio’s Konzilla SX power amp($23,000) and their P130 preamp ($5500). The cabling was from High Fidelity Cables. The sound was absolutely wonderful.
Linn Audio (formerly of New Hampshire, now of Oakland, CA)

Another new friend I made was David Linn. He’s a life long lover of music and audio, an Electrical Engineer, and was a sales rep for JBL in the 60s. Mr. Linn desired to make the speaker he would want to listen to knowing he liked the early JBL designs. I’ll be honest I was shocked by how good they sounded with transistor amps, a digital source, and no power conditioning or room treatment.

Linn Audio

Linn Audio was formerly know as Linn Audio of New Hampshire, but he has now moved the company to Oakland, California. Although he looks rather smug in his advertisements David Linn is a very nice, humble gentleman who I really enjoyed getting to know. By the way I will have a pair of these at my house to review by time you read this report.

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