California Audio Show 2017 – Show Report One

I’ll start my reports for the California Audio Show 2017 by covering the rooms on the first floor of Building V. These were what the Hilton called board rooms and were nice and big but not huge. The rooms were pretty reflective and produced significant slap echo. One of the things that also played into the sound was that this was the first time there had been an audio show at this venue. Well, enough of that, let’s look at the rooms.

Trenner & Friedl/Heed System

The Trenner & Friedl and Heed Audio room was the first room on the right as I turned down the first-floor hall of Building V had two systems in it. The one pictured featured Trenner & Friedl Osiris speakers. The electronics included the Heed Thesis Lambda linestage, Heed Thesis Gamma stereo amplifier, Heed Obelisk DT digital transport and the Heed Abacus DAC. The analog source was a Funk Firm turntable with a Transfiguration cartridge. When I looked at the Heed electronics and the Osiris speakers, I immediately thought of a system I had over 35 years ago. I had Naim electronics that looked a lot like the Heed and a pair of Linn Sara speakers. The system not only looked like the Linn/Naim system it reminded me of the some of the best things about it.

The system not only looked like my Linn/Naim system, it also reminded me of the some of the best things about it. The Trenner & Friedl/Heed system had wonderful pace, rhythm and timing. It did an excellent job of sounding like music. I can’t say anything about sound staging or imaging because, as you can see from the picture, this would be impossible in this setup.

Genesis Advanced Technologies

On the other end of the room, the Genesis Advanced Technologies Maestro speaker system was playing beautiful music. They were being powered by the Viva Aurora monoblocks. The volume and controls were by the Viva Linea Stereo 2-chassis linestage. They were using a Genesis Phono Preamplifier with a Transfiguration Diamond Proteus cartridge mounted on a VPI Vanquish turntable.

This system showed a lot of promise. It was full sounding with great scale. The bass seemed a bit overblown, but there were two other pairs of speakers in the room, never a good thing. This was also a problem I heard in several of the rooms on the first floor.

Margules Audio

The Margules Audio room was one of the most musical-sounding rooms at the show. It didn’t matter whether it was classical or rock, this system sounded wonderful. They set up the speakers on the long wall and way out into the room. This created more of a near-field listening experience even in this big room. It also meant that they had less problems with the room. The speakers were the Margules Orpheus and they were driven by a pair of Margules  U280sc Black tube Class A amplifiers. In the system was also the Margules SF-220 Black tube preamplifier, the Margules Magenta FZ47dB pre-phono, the Margules Magenta TT-10 turntable, and the Margules Magenta DAC-2.1.

Zu Audio / Pass Labs

The next room I went into was the Zu Audio / Pass Labs room. Now if you haven’t been to the Zu room at an audio show, you have missed an experience. They are some of the best disc jockeys around. I always leave their room having had a very good time and with new music to listen to. This time we listened to Johnny Cash, 70s rock music, and even South African 70s rock music. I was not familiar with rock music from South Africa, but now I’ll be on the lookout for some.

The system consisted of a pair of Zu’s newest Druid speakers, the MK6s. The electronics were from Pass Labs. There was an XA30.8 power amplifier, a Pass Laboratories XP-15 phono stage, and Pass Labs’ new one chassis preamplifier.

Sound Lab / Pass Labs / Lotus Group USA / Spiral Groove

One of the busier rooms on the first floor was the Sound Lab / Pass Labs / Lotus Group USA / Spiral Groove room. I liked the Sound Lab U-545s speakers better than the huge speakers they had at the show two years ago. The Sound Labs were a big contrast to that of the MartinLogans across the hall. I like the natural warmth and air of the Sound Labs. I also like that they used such a wonderful analog source; the Spiral Groove Revolution turntable, Centroid tonearm, and air tight cartridge. Overall they did a fine job of getting the most out of the room.

The system consisted of a pair of Sound Lab Ultimate U-545 electrostatic speakers driven by a Pass Labs X350.8 stereo amplifier. The preamplification consisted of an Air Tight ATC-2 preamplifier and an Air Tight ATE-2005 phono stage. The source was a Spiral Groove Revolution turntable with their Centroid tonearm and an Air Tight cartridge. All the cabling was from PranaWire.

Audio Federation

The Audio Federation room was my favorite room on the first floor. When I walked inyo the room, it was already busy on Friday afternoon. It was no surprise that I loved the system they had put together for the show as it consisted of some of my favorite components. Another hint that the Audio Federation room would be good was how simple it was compared to most of the rooms at the show. The source was an Audio Note UK CDT Five transport at $48,350. It was feeding plain Redbook CDs to an Audio Note UK DAC Five Signature that cost $87,825. The amplifier was an Acapella LaMusika integrated amplifier costing a cool $100,000. The speakers were the Acapella High Cellini speakers at $55,200. The rack and isolation bases were by HRS costing $13,880.

The sound was alive and sounded like real musicians and singers were performing. The scale went from tight and small to absolutely huge depending on the recording. It sounded equally good on all kinds of music. It also reminded me how wonderful Audio Note digital music sounds compared to most other. A very wonderful room.

PureAudioProject /  Whammerdyne Heavy Industries

The PureAudioProject / Whammerdyne Heavy Industries room was very interesting. The Whammerdyne Truth 2a3 tube amp is one of the most impressive pieces of hi-fi gear I have ever seen. On Friday they had a pair of smaller speakers playing on the system that sounded pretty nice, but they never got the big guys quite right in my opinion. It was also obvious to my ear that they were using a digital source, unlike either of the rooms with Audio Note DACs. The system consisted of a pair of PureAudioProject Quintet 15-inch open baffle speakers with their PAP-CA active analog crossovers powered by the Whammerdyne Truth 2a3 tube amp. The Exogal Comet Plus Dac and the cabling by Verastarr Cables completed this system.

MartinLogan / MIT Cables / Pass Labs / Aurender

Martin Logan / MIT Cables / Pass LabsAurender was the last room going down the hall on the first floor and will wrap up my first show report from the 2017 CAS. Show after show I’m excited to hear the MartinLogan room. I loved Quad 57s, the MartinLogan CLS, and liked the Quad 63 and the medium and smaller sized Sound Labs. As much as I try though, I can’t seem to like the modern Martin Logan stats. They were using amplification I love and they are very impressive sounding, but they just do not move me. If they do you, that’s great and I can understand why some people would love them.

The system consisted of their Nwolith speakers, Pass Labs XP30, X600.8, MIT Oracle cables, MIT Cable Z Powerbars, Aurender Caching Network Music Server/Player, and Grand Prix Audio Monaco racks and stands.

Additional Coverage on the California Audio Show: