California Audio Show 2012 (CAS) By
Moving over to another large suite where Legacy Audio could be found I had the pleasure to meet with their Southern California representative James Thompson (you can see him standing next to the Legacy Whisper XD loudspeaker). Having previously owned a pair of Legacy Focus 20/20's the temptation to visit this room to see what was knew was just too great.
The new Focus SE ($9200 a pair) and Whisper XD speakers ($20,500 a pair) are not only sonically exciting but look quite attractive as well. Each Focus SE weighs 200 lbs. and is equipped with six drivers in a four way configuration. The Whisper XD weighs 210 lbs. apiece and sports ten drivers again in a four way configuration. The Whisper's not only come with a factory supplied room correction device but Legacy will provide you with someone to drop by your house and properly set them up for you. In California it would most likely be James but if you live someplace like Illinois do not be surprised if Bill Dudleston himself comes by. Give Legacy a call for further details.
Audio Image from Oakland California was another fun room to visit. Here owner Bob Kehn was spinning discs via a Kronos turntable ($28,000), Graham Phantom II Supreme 12" arm ($6,000) a Clearaudio MC Goldfinger Statement stereo cartridge ($15,000) and an Audio Research REF Phono 2SE ($12,995). I am in the market for a new turntable/arm/cartridge setup and folks this one certainly caught my attention. The Kronos is the world's first counter-rotating dual platter suspended turntable. It was designed in an effort to prevent blurring or distortion of the musical signal coming from vibrations emanating from mechanical components or the environment which might find its way back to the turntable platter and tonearm. Loudspeakers were the new Magico S-5's ($28,600 a pair). All cabling was by MIT including their Oracle Matrix MA-X SHD speaker interfaces, MA-X-2 interconnects and ZCord III power conditioning ($54,000 in total).
The VAC Statement 450 monoblock amplifiers ($78,000) supplied the power connected to the VAC Signature MK2a with phono option preamplifier ($19,500). There was also an Audio Research REF CD-8 player ($9,995), Accuphase DP-700 SACD player ($27,000), Aestetix Romulus high resolution DAC/CD player ($7000) and Auraliti L-1000 music file player ($4000). No wonder the room was alive with audiophiles clamoring to listen to the wonderful sound coming from within. This combination of gear made for an excellent presentation. Big Kudos here goes to Rob Kehn.
Next up was a room occupied by Audio High out of Mountain View California (locations also in Los Angeles California and Gig Harbor Washington). Here they displayed the new KEF Blade loudspeakers ($30,000 a pair) running from a Chord Red Reference MK III CD player ($25,000), to the new Chord CPA 8000 preamplifier ($45,000) powered by the Chord SPM 14000 MK II ($86,000 a pair) monoblock amplifiers. These amplifiers claim a factory rated 480-watts RMS into an 8 Ohm load. The Blades weighing 126 pounds each were a beautiful modern looking loudspeaker that would certainly look exceptional good in some of the high tech homes out here in Silicon Valley. All I can say is it sounded quite dynamic. Coupled to those Chord products they were as inspiring to hear as they were to see.
Moving over now to rooms that was smaller by comparison to these larger suites I visited Peder Beckman the chief operating officer for Electrocompaniet. Peder works out of Oakland California but the factory and main office are in Stavanger Norway. Electrocompaniet had its own dedicated room plus another adjacent room shared by Brodmann Acoustics. The Electrocompaniet room had their Nordic Tone Model 1 Reference loudspeaker ($29,500) driven by their AW250-R stereo amplifier ($9999). MIT Cables include Oracle Matrix 60 HD speaker interfaces, 50 Pro interconnects and Z-Strip power conditioner ($18,000 in total). Normally a room this size would tend to kill the magic of larger loudspeakers (165 pounds apiece) yet this Electrocompaniet system was magical in sound as well as appealing in looks as it displayed bass that was both large and tight. The music from that room in fact sounded much larger than I would have expected and was a place I found myself not wanting to leave anytime soon. This would be a great loudspeaker to get into my reference review room with its ceiling sloping upwards from eight feet front and rear to peak at thirteen feet in the middle. Given some extra room I am tempted to think they would breathe even more life into the music than it did that day. As for their second room Electrocompaniet took on the role of being the supporting electronics for the Brodmann Acoustics loudspeakers.
In that room was the Electrocompaniet ECI-6DS ($6495) integrated amplifier and their EMP 2 multi disc player ($3995) which is capable of doing Blu-ray in 2D or 3D, CD, SACD, DVD and DVD Audio. The three Brodmann Acoustics loudspeakers present that day were the Model VC 7 ($26,000 a pair) the Model VC 2 ($19,000 a pair) and sitting in the back of the room was the JB 155 ($65,000 a pair). Unfortunately for me the JB 155 was not playing at this show but if it sounded better than either of the VC 7 or VC 2 loudspeakers I would love to hear them. Most of my time was spend listening to the VC 7 with a sound that was very inviting, highly accurate and expressive. I would definitely like a little more time alone with these.
Audio Space produced another fine sound at the
show, again occupying a small space but filling it with some very satisfying
music coming from some interesting gear. Here I spend some time admiring their
Reference 3.1 triode Class A twenty-one watt integrated amplifier ($4290).
This unit sported four 300B, two 6N8P and four 12AX7 tubes. There was also a
KT88 tube version ($3690) on hand but that unfortunately was not in use. By
the way that small orange lit dial in the front is a bias meter. Pretty cool
looking. The Reference 3.1 could possibly fill that hole in my system left
when during one of my weaker moments I sold my 300B tube monoblocks. Of
course it not only looked gorgeous but produced appropriate sound to match. At
the show they were paired with the Audio Space LS-3/5A monitors ($1790 a pair)
sitting atop their SW-1A sub-woofer ($1190 a pair). Not that I need any more
amplifiers or loudspeakers but this was indeed a tempting setup to own. I like having tube amplifiers around somewhere and since selling mine most recently well, the hunt is on for something new and exciting.
Speaking of interesting gear I was glad to have stepped into the Dared Audio room. Being no stranger to Dared products since reviewing their DV-6C 6-channel hybrid tube amplifier for Enjoy the Music.com for the August 2009 publication, I was eager to see what they brought to the show. What first caught my eye was their thirty-watt I-30 integrated tube amplifier using four 6L6G, two 12AX7 and two 12AU7 tubes. Priced at $1499 it was hard not to think this will be a big seller here in the United States. What a great conversation piece for my son to have in his room while away at college. There it is bound to catch the eye of all who enter. Played in combination with the Sonist Concerto 3 loudspeakers ($3495 a pair/$4195 in all wood) or even the Concerto 2 Loudspeaker ($2495 a pair/$2995 in all wood) it was very impressive indeed. The Sonist was really an open sounding loudspeakers and perhaps something to look at for a future review. Check out the space saving trio sitting next to the I-30.
They consisted of an Dared Audio PA-99 50-watt tube stereo power amplifier ($649) with one E2, 12AX7 and 6N1 tubes. Next to that are the DT-99 FM DAB Stereo Tuner/Pre-amplifier ($599) and then the EF-99 1-watt Class A tube headphone amplifier/pre-amplifier ($699). The EF-99 uses one 12AX7, 6N2 and 6N1 tube. The real surprise though was the Dared RD-1 vacuum tube digital radio (seen below). This retro looking art deco styled piece was being feed Elvis Presley songs and let me tell you, it sounded good enough to buy on the spot. If you get a chance you have got to listen to this unusual piece. They kept it in wraps to protect the wood outer covering with a do not touch sign placed atop it but boy it was tempting to reach out and play with. Three tubes were in use here being a 6N1, 12AX7 and a 6E.
Connect your CD player or iPod to it and viola, quality music from a beautiful looking piece that can be placed in your bedroom, kitchen or wherever. You get all this for an introductory price of only $499. They are taking orders now but will not be available until September 2012. I really loved that Dared RD-1 and went back to the room twice just to check it out.