California Audio Show 2017 – Show Report Two

In this report, I will cover most of the rooms on the second floor of Building V. This was the largest group of rooms at the show. These rooms were normal-sized hotel rooms. They were not quite as reflective as those on the first floor, but they didn’t support deep bass quite as well.

Volti Audio

The Volti Audio room was one of my two favorite rooms on the second floor. It was a big step forward in sound from the Volti room at the LA Audio Show. Greg Roberts (no relation), the owner and designer for Volti, agreed with me that there is a remarkable synergy between his speakers and BorderPatrol amplifiers. The other thing I liked better than their room in LA was the looks of the speaker. It was in a light walnut finish with tan grills that took me back to the look of KLH Fives. I could not hear a difference with or without the grills. Greg says he leaves them on, but audiophiles at the show would make him take them off.


Even in the small hotel room, the sound enabled me to hear beautiful tonal images of every instrument I listened to. The sound was completely free of the enclosures; they disappeared and were more transparent than either of the other electrostatic speakers at the show. Volti Audio Rival horn speakers retail for $7,900/pr – $11,900/pr. The system included the Volti Audio Rival horn speakers at $7,900 driven by the BorderPatrol P21EXD power amplifier at $13,150. There was also a BorderPatrol DAC SE that cost $1,350 and all the cabling was by Triode Wire Labs.

Audio Note UK

The Audio Note UK room was hosted by Nick Gowan of True Sound in Campbell, Ca. By the way, if you have never met Nick, he is one of the most knowledgeable and nicest guys in all of auido. Even though this is far from a level five Audio Note system, it was still one of the very best sounding systems at the show. The sound was everything I have come to expect from a great Audio Note system and this one had speakers that were way under $10,000.

Pass Labs

To say one room at this show was a Pass Labs room is a little bit of an understatement. There were at least four rooms using Pass Labs electronics. This room was a statement of simplicity There was an HPA-1 headphone XA25 power amp serving as a preamp. It was connected to their new XA25 power amp which was driving a pair of Vienna Acoustic speakers. I’m sorry I can’t find anywhere in my notes or on the web what model the speakers were, but I do remember that they said the whole system was under $8,000. The source was simply an OPPO 105D. This makes this system in the running for the best system under $10,000. When I asked my 35-year-old son what he heard at the show that he liked, this room was on his list of three. I agree the system was amazing for the money, and I can’t wait to review the XA25 on my Teresonics!

Zesto/Marten Room

Sorry that I don’t have a better picture of the system in the Zesto / Marten room, but the picture of George Counnas isn’t bad. I took this picture on setup day when the system was being tuned to the room. The reason it’s the best picture I got is that the room was too packed every time I went back. I did get some listening in on Saturday, and the sound was excellent. George and Carolyn are no longer a rising stars in the audio world, they are genuine stars with products to prove it. The system sounded incredible. It consisted of the Marten Django L speakers at $9,000 being driven by a pair of Zesto Audio Eros monoblocks at $19,900. The linestage was the  Zesto Leto 1.5 at  $7,500 used with the Zesto Tessera Phonostage at $12,000. The source was a Merrill-Williams turntable at $7,200 with two Tri-Planar Tonearms at $7,200 each. One tonearm had a Benz Micro Gullwing SLR MC $3,600 USD and the other had an  Ortofon Cadenza cartridge for $1,289. All the cabling was by Fono Acustica Cables and the system was sitting on a Stillpoints Rack.

Eficion Room

The Eficion room sounded better than I had expected. The reason for my doubts was all of the different brands of components. Still, it sounded cohesive and musical. This was the best I have heard the AMT driver sound mated with dynamic drivers. I also think part of what made it sound so musical was the Line Magnetic DAC.

The system was a pair of Eficion F250s driven by a Plinius SA103 power amplifier and an Exemplar Audio eXception SE Linestage. The source was an OPPO Digital UDP 205 Blu-ray player into a Line Magnetic LM-502CA DAC.

Fritz Speakers Room

There is one thing you can count on at any audio show; that the Fritz Speakers room will sound great. Fritz was using the Carrera BE speakers that I reviewed; they are incredible for $3,500. I have listened to them in one of my systems at home for nearly a year, and I love them. They were being driven by a Parasound Halo Integrated amp that sells for $2,500. The source was a Channel D SEta with a Lino phono preamp and Channel D Pure Vinyl and Pure Music computer audio software.

Burwell & Sons Speakers Room

The Burwells had a big room for their larger speakers on the first floor of Building Four, but on the second floor of Building Five they had their newest product, a smaller speaker that is bi-amped by built in DSP Minis. They hope to have a permanent name soon and a price. They are shooting for a price near $25,000. They were playing them from an OPPO Sonica. I was really encourage about the sound of these speakers; nice job guys.

Additional Coverage on the California Audio Show: