California Audio Show 2017 – Powerful Sound in the Ballrooms

Well, in my previous show reports I’ve covered most of the show except for the two rooms in Building Five. These two rooms were designated as ballrooms.They would be small for a very big dance, but they were bigger rooms than home audio systems are often called upon to fill with sound. The systems in these two big rooms were up to the task though. Both the Burwell and Sons room and the VAC/Von Schweikert rooms were filled with powerful sound.

For several reasons, these were my two favorite rooms to visit at the show. First, any room hosted by Gordan Burwell is going to be fun and have great music playing. This was no exception and at this show, and he was sharing the room Roger Gibboni of Rogers High Fidelity. The sound, the atmosphere, and the music in this room were just plain fun. Thank you, both for a room that I kept coming back to.

Then there is Kevin Hayes of VAC, he knows so much about music and how it is recorded that I always learn something from him, and in his own way, he’s as much fun as Gordan.

As you can see in the picture, Lyn Stanley was at the CAS 2017. I was lucky enough to visit with her in both Kevin’s and Gordan’s rooms. She was there with the lacquer of her soon to be released album. A LP lacquer is an acetate-coated aluminum disc measuring 14 inches in diameter that contains all of the grooves of the final master of the recording. It has the exact same grooves that will end up on each and every record press. The one she had with her had been cut down to the size of a LP, but other than that, it was the same lacquer that the LPs of the upcoming album was cut from. Not only did I privilege of seeing Lyn again, and not only did I get to hear the lacquer on two great systems, but I also got to hold and examine the lacquer. It reminded me of days when I used to go home and tell my mother about what a great day I had at work, and she told me it sounded like I was having too much fun. Well, I was surely having fun in the Burwell and Sons and the VAC/Von Schweikert rooms.

Burwell and Sons

Becky and I first ran into Lyn in the Burwell and Sons room. Lyn is such a gracious lady. Lyn and Eric Bibb are the only artists to ever send me a thank you note for reviewing their albums.

For the CAS Gordan brought his “Plain Jane” version of his big speakers. The name refers to the cabinet, and for now both the “Plain Jane” and the “Mother of Burl” are three-ways. He also brought his subs. This was the first time I had the privilege of hearing them with the Rogers High Fidelity electronics, and let me tell you it was a match made in heaven. The drive and pace of the music is very exciting. No, they won’t produce the lifelike soundstage of the $850,000 system in the room next door, and neither are they nearly as refined. I can tell you what they are though; they are FUN and ENVOLVING!

VAC/Von Schweikert Audio

Speaking of the room next door, this was the third straight show for this system, Munich, LA Audio, and now the CAS. This combo of VAC (Valve Amplification Company), Von Schweikert Audio, Aurender, Lampizator, and Kronos is admittedly  $844,400. When Lyn Stanley was listening to the LP lacquer of her upcoming album, she kept saying,”That’s just how it sounded in the studio and that’s just how I sound.”

This system does some things I have never heard before starting with the soundstage. I have often said that soundstage was that important to me, but if there was a way at a price I could afford get this kind of life-size staging, I would. One of the things that makes the soundstage so outstanding is that it doesn’t sound the least bit fake. It sounds very much like real people in real space. It also had this incredible sense of space on mono recordings. Another reason I can talk about the soundstage is that it doesn’t come at the expense of pace, rhythm, or timing. It has big musical tone, and it doesn’t make instruments or vocal sound bigger than life, like many really big speakers do. I would really like to hear this system in a real listening room one day, I can’t imagine how wonderful it might sound. It sounded plenty wonderful at the two hotels I’ve heard it in.

The system consisted of Von Schweikert Ultra 11 Loudspeakers driven by a pair of VAC Statement 450 IQ Monoblocks. The Line Stage was the VAC Statement and likewise their Statement Phono Stage. The turntable was the Kronos Pro with their SCPS-1 Power Supply. The tonearm was the Andre Theriault Black Beauty with a ZYX Audio Ultimate 4D Cartridge. The racks and amp stands were from Artesania Audio. Add the J-Corder’s rebuilt Technics 1520 Reel-to-Reel, the Aurender N10 Music Server and the Lampizator Golden Gate DAC and the price for the system sans cables comes to $844,400.

Additional Coverage on the California Audio Show: