CAS’s crazy big, crazy awesome loudspeaker roundup is here at last. The overall turnout at the California Audio Show from loudspeaker vendors was good for a local show, however other predominate exhibits from Los Angeles and Colorado may leave you with more of a feeling that you could get lost in the sea of wood, paper and wire a bit more. Nonetheless, good times were had.
The last two shows marked a few more occasions than normal where I had a bit of a tussle getting a test track on a system to play, but perhaps it is just the result of a few isolated incidences of conservative vendor persistence. In any case, all the rooms featured here were very accommodating to my requests and sometimes unique taste in music.
The Westin at SFO was indeed close to the airport. So close in fact that airplanes land with full visibility directly across the street. The good news is that none of that egregious noise pollution penetrated the sanctity of the show rooms. Yay for triple-paned glass I suppose.
This LRE Audio loudspeaker ($4k) was actually quite transparent. Utilizing the Oppo BDP-105 as a source, this setup runs 56″ high and weighs 100 lbs. a piece. LRE in this case stands for Low Residual Energy. From the LRE website: “The speaker back-wave, which is directed toward the ceiling and thence to the walls, cancels the front-wave as it approaches. This prevents reflections and excitation of room acoustic resonances. All that’s left is what’s contained in the source material, including the original acoustics. The result is like multi-channel, but without conflict with the listening room acoustics. Also, by minimizing the amount of sound energy which reaches the room surfaces, the amount of sound transmitted out of the room is minimized. This is very important for people with close neighbors and those with people in adjacent rooms. Minimizes delayed acoustic energy for excellent transient response and very low distortion. Note that other systems add energy at the end of transients and musical notes (while subtracting at the beginning) which may seem to “fluff up” the sound, but this is distortion, not high fidelity.”
The “big” award for the show goes hands down to the Majestic 945 ($40.5k/pair) by Sound Lab. At 106″ these loudspeakers are not messin ’round. Tom Bourret and the rest of the crew from Ultimate Audio were very accommodating with song requests. The rig on display weighed a full 216 lbs. per speaker but has a decently large, big sound that accompanies it. A quick listen to the acoustic version of Layla felt sizable, filling the room but maintaining a subtle precision to the tracks big voices and jangly guitar parts. The source of said voices felt large, and hovered well in between the loudspeakers central meeting point. It is noteworthy that the 945 is not the top of the heap for SoundLab. The Ultimate 1PX sits in the flagship position at $45k, and is “only” 84 inches tall.
The more the merrier they say, at least that the rule Genisis Advanced Technologies applies to their 2.2 Junior Loudspeakers ($85k). The junior tower at the show included a built in subwoofer to accompany the fifteen 1″ circular ribbon (12 front, 3 rear) high frequency tweeters and one 48″ mid range ribbon. Genisis also provided end to end components for the show including its Reference 1440 Amplifier ($22k) and Muse music server ($12k).
The room that Genisis was using was fairly enormous, even by premium show room standards. They even employed some plush stadium seating in the far rear of the display in case exhausted attendees wanted to rest their weary legs in comfort.
The Zu room was spinning vinyl in a DJ-style booth, but also had some digital sources available this time around to mix it up. In addition to making both tube and solid state amplification available for the decked out Omen DEF loudspeakers ($5k) on display, owner/DJ Sean Casey brought along a pair of this bank-for-the-buck dirty weekend Omens ($1k) for attendees to sample (facing the other direction). I’m absolutely in love with the selection of available finishes the Zu guys have on tap. The Electric Blue featured on the Omen DEF here is one of their standard colors. As with the Capital AudioFest, Sean utilized a Rega RP6 turntable ($1,600), First Watt SIT1 mono blocks ($10k), 845 Yaman Kalyan tube monos and Rupert Neve Designs console ($8k) acting as a pre amp.