Publisher Profile

CAS7 Dave Radlauer Reports

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Von Schweikert Audio/Valve Amplification Company – California Room, Bldg IV.

Best sound of the show in my opinion was the Von Schweikert Audio statement loudspeaker in a large ballroom shared with VAC. The massive Ultra 11 ($300,000/pair) cast a huge and convincing image all the way to the rear wall nearly twenty feet back.

It was a worthy platform for singer Lyn Stanley to demonstrate her exquisite vinyl that utilized a “one-step” manufacturing process. She played luscious selections of her forthcoming all analog production, The Moonlight Sessions.

The Oakland Airport Hilton location was appealing and spacious. More importantly, it was free from the rumble of airport and freeway that invaded the previous SFO venue. Unfortunately, this spot is still not easily accessibly by public transit but Lyft or Uber work great from nearby BART or Oakland Airport.


Margules Group

I’d been unaware of the Margules Group – Tangible Musical Experience — based in central Mexico. The Orpheus floor-stander, driven by their U-280sc Black tube monoblocks, offers a lot of boutique bang for the buck. The delicate details of a Mozart piano concerto were enchanting, coherent and enveloping.


Pass Laboratories/Vienna Acoustics

Speaking of prodigies, the diminutive but dynamic Mozart floor standing loudspeaker from Vienna Acoustics was punching well above its weight and size in an untreated room backed by the Pass Laboratories XA25 class-A solid-state MOSFET 25-watt power amp. This suite did more with less than just about anyone else.


Zesto Audio/Marten

Zesto Audio and Marten loudspeaker, Django-L version, displayed lively dynamics, good depth and a balance of virtues in a tiny hotel room with nominal treatment.

The purveyors of Zesto Audio, George and Carolyn Counnas were warm and concise, like their gorgeous tube electronics. I think Carolyn is rightly proud of her striking industrial design that makes their components objects of desire on first sight.


Volti Audio/BorderPatrol/Triode Wire Labs

The three-way Rival from Volti Audio successfully offered “big horn speaker performance in a smaller footprint.” The unorthodox demonstration setup firing across the short distance of the room worked just fine. Rival is an appealing flexible horn with a 15-inch woofer and 100 dB sensitivity for $8,000 the pair.

The Volti suite shared with Border Patrol amplification was fun, interactive and casual. We were invited to offer our own tracks for audition from the only CD player in sight, which kept things interesting. (So bring your tracks on USB drive if you want them played.) Several demos were streaming audio files via Oppo digital servers.



The ongoing proliferation of Air Motion Transformer technology is welcome. For instance, the Eficion F250 3-way floor standing vented box with AMT was notable for its controlled dispersion and lack of interaction with the completely untreated room. It offered a sound so spacious I had to check for a rear-firing driver.



I note welcome trends among speaker offerings in the continued introduction of horn hybrids, woofers up to 15-inches and Air Motion Transformer (AMT) technology. Loudspeakers using AMT or horns integrated with dynamic drivers continue expanding the possibilities of well-integrated and balanced sound at attractive power demand and price points.

Even better news is re-launch of the original ESS Heil marque affiliated with the late great Oskar Heil, inventor of AMT.  I suspect the revivified ESS – Sound Clear as Light – will find stronger than anticipated demand for their Limited Edition update/reissue of the legendary ESS Heil AMT-1 ($4,400).

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