California Audio Show - July 27-29th - Oakland, CA



  • halo
    halo Posts: 5,616
    Clipdat wrote: »

    This room was crazy because the sound did not seem to be coming from the speakers at all. I kept looking behind/around them because of the crazy sensation. It was just like the sound was floating/hanging in the air and originating out of nowhere. Absolutely wild.

    To me, that's the "goal" of a great audio setup. I believe what you are describing is a "boxless" sound; You can't pinpoint where the sound is coming from and that, to me, is a good thing. This is what I experienced with the Dynaudio Confidence C1 Platinum speakers at AXPONA 2016.

    Looking forward to your impressions on the show tomorrow & on Sunday! You're off to a great start!
    Audio: Polk S15 * Polk S35 * Polk S10 * SVS SB-1000 Pro
    HT: 75” Samsung QN90B Neo QLED * Marantz NR1403 * Panasonic DMP-BDT220 Blu-ray Player * Roku Ultra LT * APC H10
  • arthurs
    arthurs Posts: 9
    Come on by Destination Audio Boardroom 2. We’ll play your albums!
  • lightman1
    lightman1 Posts: 10,756
    arthurs wrote: »
    Come on by Destination Audio Boardroom 2. We’ll play your albums!
    Nice! That's how it works!

  • Tony M
    Tony M Posts: 10,977
    Holographic imaging. That's what got me hooked into audio listening. B)

    Old KLH model 8's I believe and a good old receiver before they started making junk ones.

    3D sound from 2 speakers! :)
    Most people just listen to music and watch movies. I EXPERIENCE them.
  • zeppage2
    zeppage2 Posts: 196
    Thanks for scaring me away from this show 10 minutes from where I live.
    Pointless for me to listen to gear that I could never afford. Indeed there are innumerable systems superior my mine, I get that.
    My gut reaction is these companies are shooting themselves in the foot by appealing to hard core fans instead of trying to lure in a more general audience.
    Don't boat and car shows feature both the TOTL and the average models?
  • txcoastal1
    txcoastal1 Posts: 13,029
    zeppage2 wrote: »
    Thanks for scaring me away from this show 10 minutes from where I live.
    Pointless for me to listen to gear that I could never afford. Indeed there are innumerable systems superior my mine, I get that.
    My gut reaction is these companies are shooting themselves in the foot by appealing to hard core fans instead of trying to lure in a more general audience.
    Don't boat and car shows feature both the TOTL and the average models?

    Mostly actual audiophiles go to these shows, so they are aimed at that audience. There are rooms with more affordable gear.
    2-channel: Modwright KWI-200 Integrated, Dynaudio C1-II Signatures
    Desktop rig: LSi7, Polk 110sub, Dayens Ampino amp, W4S DAC/pre, Sonos, JRiver
    Gear on standby: Melody 101 tube pre, Unison Research Simply Italy Integrated
    Gone to new homes: (Matt Polk's)Threshold Stasis SA12e monoblocks, Pass XA30.5 amp, Usher MD2 speakers, Dynaudio C4 platinum speakers, Modwright LS100 (voltz), Simaudio 780D DAC

    erat interfectorem cesar et **** dictatorem dicere a
  • lightman1
    lightman1 Posts: 10,756
    Dammit Hardy....
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,286
    I got to the show a little later than I wanted to this morning, but I still spent a little over 6 hours there today! There's still a few more rooms I need to check out tomorrow. No music for me tonight as my ears need a break!

    Thank you Art (@arthurs) at Destination Audio for being so friendly & welcoming, and for talking shop with me. Thanks again for playing the record I brought!

    Anyway, I'm going to post up some photos of some of the rooms along with some listening impressions here shortly.

  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,286
    Audio Federation with Acapella Audio Arts and Audio Note UK


    Acapella Campanile 2 speakers: $64k
    Acapella LaMusika integrated: $110k
    Audio Note UK CDT Five Transport: $52k
    Audio Note UK Fifth Element DAC with external PSU: $148k
    Cabling from Acapella and Audio Note UK: No price listed
    HRS MXR equipment stand with M3x Isolation Bases $34k (And I thought my Solidsteel rack at $1k was expensive)

    Total excluding cables: 408k. Nearly half a million dollars.

    How did it sound? In a word: underwhelming. I wasn't impressed yesterday and I gave them another 15 minutes today and I still wasn't. Stereo imaging wasn't anything out of the ordinary, and the sound had a harsh and gritty edge to it that wasn't pleasant. Visually, it was impressive! However, there was nothing impressive about the sound, especially if you consider the excessive price.
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,286
    Aaudio Imports, Stage III, Ypsilon, Wilson Benesch, HB Cable Design


    Wilson Benesch Endeavor stand-mounted Isobaric monitor speakers ($49,500/pair)
    Stage III Medusa speaker cables ($18,500/pair)
    Stage III Gorgon interconnects ($8,300/pair XLR)
    Stage III Kraken power cable ($8,400/1.5m)
    Stage III Proteus power cable ($12,000/1.5m)
    Stage III Leviathan power cable ($14,500/1.5m)
    Ypsilon DAC 1000 multi-format valve D/A converter ($24,500)
    Aurender N10 ($8,800)
    Ypsilon PST-100 MkII combo valve/transformer preamp ($37,000)
    Ypsilon Aelius II push-pull hybrid monoblocks ($39,000/pair)
    Wilson Benesch R1 carbon fiber rack ($8,500 per module)
    Wilson Benesch Torus+Amp Infarsonic Generator ($12,900)
    HB Cable Design PowerSlave Marble MKII power distributor ($16,500)

    Rough total: $258,400.

    This is the room yesterday that I found intolerable and had to immediately walk out of. Today, it was actually listenable, and the gentleman running it was playing things at a lower (yet still relatively high) volume.

    I sat down and ended up staying for a half hour. I kept saying to myself "just one more song", but stayed because I was enjoying it. I think the presentation was a bit bright for my tastes and the bass was anemic, but then I found out these speakers only had about 20 or 30 hours on them and were not broken in yet. I have to wonder why you would bring speakers to a show with such few hours on them. Maybe there was a logistical reason/problem. I didn't want to ask.

    Some of the tracks that were played sounded pretty amazing. I closed my eyes during a few songs and I would not have guessed the soundstage was coming from this size speaker. They definitely had their moments, but again, I don't feel like this system is "nearly $300k good".

    I told another attendee who I was chatting with near the end of the show, that if I had to immediately choose these speakers or my current speakers (Polk LSiM 703s) to live with forever, I'd choose the Polks.

    Then again, maybe it wasn't a fair demo since they weren't broken in? But I can only judge what I heard, and I wouldn't pay $50k for them.
  • BlueFox
    BlueFox Posts: 15,251
    Looks, and sounds, like you had a good time. The Audio Imports gear looks nice, but the room is sparse. Anyway, I never heard of Stage III cables. It just amazes me how many cable vendors there are. :)

    Lumin X1 file player, Westminster Labs interconnect cable
    Sony XA-5400ES SACD; Pass XP-22 pre; X600.5 amps
    Magico S5 MKII Mcast Rose speakers; SPOD spikes

    Shunyata Triton v3/Typhon QR on source, Denali 2000 (2) on amps
    Shunyata Sigma XLR analog ICs, Sigma speaker cables
    Shunyata Sigma HC (2), Sigma Analog, Sigma Digital, Z Anaconda (3) power cables

    Mapleshade Samson V.3 four shelf solid maple rack, Micropoint brass footers
    Three 20 amp circuits.
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,286
    edited July 2018
    Zu Audio & Pass Labs


    Zu Audio Druid Mk.VI loudspeakers: $10k
    Zu Cables ($?)
    Luxman PD444 turntable ($?) with Zu/DL-103 cartridge ($500)
    Pass Laboratories XA25 stereo power amplifier ($4,900)
    Pass Labs XP17 phono stage ($4,300)
    Pass Labs XP12 line level preamplifier ($5,800)

    Total excluding cables and TT: $25,500

    It's kindof amusing to think that at $25,500+, this system might be considered "cheap" compared to some of the other rooms at the show!

    I really liked what I was hearing coming out of these Zu Audio speakers. If these are a good representation of the Zu house sound, then I'm a fan. This is the system that I keep thinking about, it's still lingering in my head. I could see myself chasing this level of performance and not being satisfied until I reach it.

    Specifically what struck me the most was the extraordinarily palpable and cohesive stereo imaging that they presented. Quite possibly the most pleasurable stereo imaging effect out of the entire show.

    As well as the "live" quality that the sound had to it. Obviously we were only listening to recordings on vinyl, but the sound had a quick and fast "live performance" type of characteristic to it. This attribute made the sound exciting, and kept your interest locked on what that next note was going to sound like. I did not experience this "live sound" sensation in any of the other rooms I heard. I really liked it!

    Also, special recognition to Sean Casey from Zu Audio who was running the room. He was doing a great job of engaging the attendees, striking up conversations, and in general keeping things light and fun. He seemed like less of an audiophile and more of just a plain old music lover. He also was happy to play the record I brought and honestly I was blown away with how amazing it sounded on this system. Definitely the best I've ever heard this song sound!
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,286
    Sierra Nevada Audiophile Society / Quicksilver Audio / Bernhagen-Porter / Syncopation



    Bernhagen Porter Model 10/12 speakers ($50,000/pair)
    Funk Firm Turntable Vector V with FX3-9″ captive ($4,895)
    Transfiguration Phoenix Cartridge ($6,000)
    Quicksilver Moving Coil Stage ($695)
    Quicksilver Phono Stage Preamplifier ($1,595)
    Quicksilver Line Preamp ($995)
    Quicksilver V4 monoblocks ($6,495/pair)
    Quicksilver Interconnects ($150/ft)
    Heed Abacus 5 Input DAC ($1,395)
    Heed Thesis Delta Transport/Player ($4,200)
    Quadraspire Modular Equipment Rack Q4 Evo Veneer ($876)
    Genesis Component Interface 1.5 meter single-ended RCA interconnect ($3,500/pair)
    Genesis Loudspeaker Interface 3 meter Loudspeaker Cable ($7,200/pair)
    Genesis Power Interface 1.5 meter Component Power Cord ($3,300)
    Genesis Power Interface 1.5 meter Amplifier Power Cord ($3,300)

    Rough total: $94,596

    This is the room that wowed me the most yesterday, but today it was just OK. Perhaps the room is way too small for these speakers.

    I did like how these $50k speakers sounded with female vocals. There was a certain realism to them that I enjoyed. The voices had a great texture coming through, and this is something unique to these speakers that I did not notice on other speakers that I heard.

    I think there was a little disagreement at times in regards to controlling the volume. The main rep would go start a track at a certain volume, and then the other one sitting in the back row would say something like "down slightly" and he'd then he'd turn it down. I thought it would've been more thoughtful if they instead asked the room how the volume levels were and we could've asked for increases/decreases as necessary. This was one of the most quiet rooms I heard, and I don't think playing these speakers at lower volumes was doing them any favors.

    Yesterday I had asked one of the reps if they'd be willing to play a record I brought and they said yes. So I went to their room today around 5:30pm as the show was winding down and asked again and the same rep said that unfortunately they were having "issues" with the turntable. I noticed earlier in the day that it hadn't been used. So I said "Oh ok, well maybe tomorrow then?", and he gave me an uneasy look that was something like a cross between "What the hell is wrong with you?" and "Will you please go away?" and then replied "Well the issue seems to be with the speed controller..." So I took the hint and just said "Ah, ok, well that's too bad" and then left. Maybe they were actually having technical difficulties, or maybe he didn't want to play something that could potentially demonstrate the system in an "unfavorable way". I'm not sure. All I know is my record won't be getting played in this room!
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,286


    Muraudio SP1 Electrostatic Loudspeaker ($14,700/pair)
    Simaudio Moon 340iDPSX Integrated Amplifier with DAC and Phono stage ($5,800)
    Nordost Leif Interconnects – Blue Heaven Power Cord (1M – $209.99)
    Nordost Blue Heaven Speaker cables (pair, 1M – $524.99 USD)
    Nordost Blue Heaven USB cable ($249 USD)

    Total: $21,484

    Check out these unconventional but very cool looking speakers! I think they look great and I loved the red! I would definitely leave the grills off!

    These had a very nice effortless sound quality to them, and I could tell that they would probably do well with almost any genre of music. They had that typical "electrostatic sound" to them, but think less Martin Login and more AMT tweeter-ish.

    Not too much to say about this room other than it was a very clean and nice sound. I could live with it for sure! The guys running the room were also friendly!
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,286
    edited July 2018
    Bricasti Design


    Tidal Piano Diacera G2 speakers ($40k)
    Bricasti Design M21 Platinum DAC ($19k)
    Bricasti Design M5 ($2,400)
    Bricasti Design M28 monoblocks ($30,000/pair)
    Bricasti Design M15 stereo amplifier ($18,000)
    Bricasti Design Cables ($?)

    Total excluding cables: $109,400k

    The guy running this room did a great job of projecting a healthy dose of elitist audiophile snobbery, and immediately made me feel unwelcome.

    I walked in, said hello, and then motioned to the tablet he was using and asked if he was streaming the music using Tidal. I wish I could have recorded the look that he gave me. He retorted "No. I don't use Tidal." and looked away. I said "Oh ok, I was just curious. They do have a lossless streaming service". Without looking at me, he just said "I don't see a point to using Tidal when I have all of my music stored locally".

    I should've taken his bad attitude as a hint, but I kept the conversation going and asked "What do you think about MQA?". Response? "I don't. There's no reason to think about it". I thought to myself "Yikes, this guy is awkward as hell..." and took a seat to see what the system could do.

    He did honor my request of a Steely Dan song, so that was nice of him, and it sounded pretty good, but not great or special. After that he played an intense classical piece that featured aggressive crescendos of high pitched wind instruments. The diamond tweeters were literally painful at the volume he was playing at. This wasn't just a little "bright" or "forward", but literally uncomfortable. My right ear almost immediately got fatigued. I tried to stick it out for another few minutes, but after a few more of those explosive bursts, I got up and walked out.

    I'm not sure who they are designing these speakers for that use these diamond tweeters. Perhaps someone that has lost or is starting to lose their upper frequency hearing range?
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,286
    edited July 2018
    Destination Audio / Triangle Art




    Destination Audio Horn speakers ($95,000/pair)
    Destination Audio 417A tube phono stage ($24,000)
    Destination Audio 76 tube preamplifier ($15,000)
    Destination Audio 45 tube monoblock amplifiers ($24,000/pair)
    Destination Audio 50 tube monoblock amplifiers ($29,500/pair)
    TriangleArt Master Reference turntable system ($39,999)

    Total dollar value of the equipment in the room: $227,499

    I'm not sure which model of the Destination Audio amplifiers I heard driving the speakers, but I was told it was outputting less than a watt. Crazy!

    What I am sure of is that Art Smuck (@arthurs ) and Sam Wisniewski of Destination Audio know how to run a great room! They somehow manage to strike a nice balance of no nonsense professionalism combined with having fun and not taking things too seriously. Greeting and saying goodbye to each guest, carefully monitoring the volume levels while asking for our feedback, and accepting requests for what music and amplification that we wanted to hear went a long way toward making this a great room to just hang out in for extended periods.

    This was my first experience with horn based speakers aside from Klipsch. For the record, I generally like Klipsch speakers and I have nothing against them. However these Destination Audio horn speakers were probably about the furthest thing you could get from Klipsch. If you had blindfolded me and lead me into the room, I never would have guessed that they were horns being driven by less than a watt.

    Each of these massive cabinets feature dual 16" woofers inside, with no separate amplification needed to drive them! Incredibly impressive to say the least.

    While their specs are impressive, their sound is even more so. It's hard for me to describe the spacious, effortless, and natural sound these were kicking out. They seemed to particularly excel at drums and percussion sounds. Great sense of rhythm, along with an airy yet forceful sound.

    After Art generously played my record on their system, I started to get a better idea of what these were capable of. This very well might be the largest horizontal, vertical, and front to back soundstage I've ever experienced. I literally felt like I could swim through the sound, like it was so deep and three dimensional that I could move forward and back inside of it. This might sound cheesy or cliche, but it's the best way I can think to describe the aural sensation I got while listening to source material that I was very familiar with.

    I'm looking forward to logging some more time with these tomorrow, as I feel like the 30-40 minutes I spent listening to them was just barely beginning to scratch the surface of what they are capable of.
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,286
    Margules Group



    Margules Orpheus 1.3 Ceramic Driver Tower Speakers: $18k
    Margules U280-sc Black 1.3 Tube Class A Stereo/Mono Amplifiers: $10,800
    Margules SF220 Black 1.2 Tube Class A Preamplifier: $4,599
    Magenta TT-10 Turntable: $2,900 (unknown cartridge)
    Magenta FZ47db Phono Stage: $799

    Total setup for vinyl playback, excluding cables and cartridge: $37,098

    Hands down, this room/setup wins the award for least "directional" sound and most cohesive imaging. The way these speakers were working with each other to project a seamless wall of sound was nothing short of spectacular.

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, when you listen to this room, you are immediately struck with an unmistakable sensation unlike anything heard in the other rooms. It's a thick, exciting, and seamless wall of sound that seems to be originating somewhere in front of you, but in no way localized to the two speakers you see before you.

    I couldn't believe the throw and coverage that these inverted dome tweeters had. I could walk up to the very edge of the speaker so that I was looking at it from the side, and still fully hear the high frequency information being thrown out. When seated in the sweet spot, the sound seemed to completely envelop you. It was not a subtle sensation, it was obvious and honestly quite amazing.

    I was talking with one of the reps from Margules and I told him I kept looking around/behind the speakers because I couldn't believe that all this highly excited sound was coming from the two speakers in the room. I said "What is this magical witchcraft and wizardry that you have going on in this room? How is this sensation happening?" and he said something nonchalant like "This is just how good audio sounds."

    When I listened to my record in this room, I was impressed by how much bass the speakers kicked out! You definitely would not need a subwoofer, that's for sure!

    Anyway, this was a very special and unique room, and an experience with sound that I won't soon forget.
  • halo
    halo Posts: 5,616
    Great photos & lists of the equipment Drew. Love the commentary!! Glad you are enjoying the show. That's what it's all about.
    Audio: Polk S15 * Polk S35 * Polk S10 * SVS SB-1000 Pro
    HT: 75” Samsung QN90B Neo QLED * Marantz NR1403 * Panasonic DMP-BDT220 Blu-ray Player * Roku Ultra LT * APC H10
  • marvda1
    marvda1 Posts: 4,709
    @Clipdat, tell Art Marvin said hello.
    Amplifiers: Norma IPA 140, MasterSound Compact 845, Ayre v6xe, Consonance Cyber 800
    Preamp: deHavilland Ultraverve 3
    Dac: Sonnet Morpheus 2, Musical Paradise mp-d2 mkIII
    Transport: Jay's Audio CDT2 mk2, Lumin U1 mini
    Speakers: Rosso Fiorentino Volterra II
    Speaker Cables: Organic Audio Organic Reference 2
    Interconnects: Argento Organic Reference 2, Argento Organic 2
    Power Cables: Argento Organic Reference, Synergistic Research Foundation 10 and 12 ga.
    Puritan PSM156
  • msg
    msg Posts: 8,851
    Nice coverage Drew!!! I like all the info you provided, and then your notes on the space, gear, sound, and funny anecdotes.

    That's a lot of work pulling this info together, and then writing the overviews. You've got good writing skills. I heard @John Megadeth is hiring

    Once you've had some time to get settled, I'll be interested to hear the highlights of what you've learned and whether any of this experience has influenced your own system goals. I have to wonder whether it would me, or whether it would be more an exercise in humility and lead me to the realization that I've reached "good enough" with my systems.

    Still though, the exposure, research, and acquisition here and there makes this hobby fun. Took me a while to come to the realization that it was no longer just about listening to music, which is kind of weird.
    I disabled signatures.
  • joecoulson
    joecoulson Posts: 4,943
    Did you get to hear the Zu’s in action? Thought if so?
  • mhardy6647
    mhardy6647 Posts: 32,368
    edited July 2018
    Hermitism wrote: »
    Did you bring along a tape measure and measure the room size? What was the ambient temperature of each room? Come on man!

    Barometric pressure is also key. Don't forget that the speed of sound depends upon air density (thus barometric pressure, as well as temperature) -- since a change in the speed of sound will change the wavelength of every frequency, any system tuned for optimal performance at STP (standard temperature and pressure, defined as zero degrees Celsius at a pressure of 760 mm Hg) will sound like complete and total cr@p at other temperatures and pressures. Every audiophile knows this*


    * and if anyone reading this hasn't heard it for him or herself, well, it goes without saying that your system isn't sufficiently revealing.

    PS This is satire :)
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,286
    Check page 2, I posted bout the Zu Audio speakers.
    joecoulson wrote: »
    Did you get to hear the Zu’s in action? Thought if so?

  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,286


    Unisinger UIA-2 Platinum Speaker ($28,880/pair)

    Check out these funky looking speakers! I got to listen to the "Platinum" version at just under 30k/pair. I always wonder how they come up with these prices.

    I didn't spend a ton of time in this room, but I will say that the bass response was great, and the high frequency information seemed to be originating out of thin air. It did not sound like it was coming from the speaker. It was a cool sensation. Must have something to do with the tweeter being suspended like that.

    I didn't really find anything remarkable about the "tone" of the speakers, but even with my limited audition I could hear that they would be great for electronic music.

    I meant to get back to this room on Sunday but unfortunately ran out of time since the show only ran until 4pm on Sunday vs. 6pm like the other two days.

    Still, it was cool to see some unconventional speaker designs at the show!
  • joecoulson
    joecoulson Posts: 4,943
    Clipdat wrote: »
    Check page 2, I posted bout the Zu Audio speakers.
    joecoulson wrote: »
    Did you get to hear the Zu’s in action? Thought if so?
    I’m sorry. The pics of the KEF’s threw me.
    Thank You very much. Always loved their style. Good to hear they sound as good as they look.

  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,286
    TriangleArt / Angel City Audio



    Angel City Audio Seraphim Prime speakers ($25,000/pair)
    TriangleArt Apollo moving-coil cartridge ($8,000)
    TriangleArt Maestro turntable ($7,500)
    TriangleArt Master Reference turntable system ($39,999)
    TriangleArt Osiris II tonearm ($6,800)
    TriangleArt Reference Tube Phono stage ($12,999)
    TriangleArt Reference Tube preamp ($18,999)
    TriangleArt Rhea Reference cable system ($?)
    TriangleArt Ultimate TA-350M tube monobloks (160wpc!) ($59,900/pair)
    TriangleArt TA-200M solid-state monoblocks ($73,000/pair)

    Total cost of gear in the room excluding cables: $252,197

    I really wanted to like this room. The gear was stunningly beautiful. The speakers had a gorgeous deep finish. The fit and finish of everything was above and beyond.

    However, I just didn't care for the sound. Part of it may have been due to the louder volumes that everything was being played it. This was easily the loudest room at the show. There were certain times on Saturday where I was going to walk in for a listen, but as I entered the doorway I could tell it was way too loud for me, and had to immediately just turn around and leave.

    Perhaps these particular speakers weren't the best choice for the room, maybe a larger tower would've been better. When these were cranked up, the tweeters sounded shouty and painful, and the woofers seemed like they were struggling to output the bass frequencies that were being asked of them.

    I will say that I enjoyed chatting with Tom Vu, president of TurntableArt. He was super relaxed and approachable, and patiently answered all of the questions I asked about his turntables. He also graciously played the record I brought with which I sincerely appreciate. I'm a big fan of the design of his turntables. I like how it's so striking and gorgeous that it becomes the centerpiece of a room. Like a high end art piece. Very cool.
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,286
    edited July 2018
    Hey Joe. The Zu speakers were some of my favorite speakers at the show! They're FAST! Music sounds quite quick and zippy, and they sound great with vocals. I also think they had great stereo imaging!

    I will say that I strongly believe you would need to audition them first before buying, they might not be for everyone. I liked them, and my wife hated them! She literally couldn't stand them and left after one track. So I just mean that they may not appeal to everyone's tastes.
    joecoulson wrote: »
    I’m sorry. The pics of the KEF’s threw me.
    Thank You very much. Always loved their style. Good to hear they sound as good as they look.