My Impressions of the California Audio Show


  • Smashing success
  • Advanced audio awareness in Bay Area
  • Well-organized; friendly environment

My Favorite Rooms

  • TONIAN – Nothing better for small-scale music, and can stretch to bigger things
  • EFICION – “Classic” high-end formula: great drivers, inert cab, and smart design (new F250 is great)
  • MAGICO/KINGSOUND – My fav Magico (V-2) sung; Kings needed bigger room and amps
  • GRADIENT – Innovation in loudspeakers lives…rejoice!
  • SONIST/deHavilland – Tapes! Tubes! Good economics!
  • TERESONIC – BAAS member MZ has broken the code on Lowthers (Step 1 Horns, Step 2 SET,…)
  • Trenner & Friedl – Amazing sound from small things
  • BLUE COAST – Live music, neat tech, and smart (nice) people who just want to deliver fidelity in music. Whats not to love?

Disclaimer: I own Tonian and eFicion speakers.

Best Bargain

The $4000 system by GRANT FIDELITY. Yes, it’s Chinese. So what?


I had a great time. I have also lined up six new events to round out the year.

Many thanks and congratulations to Constantine Soo and Dagogo for a temendous debut!

Interested in more?

For the most complete coverage on the web, check out Jason’s Stereophile blog.

How about you?

About 120 BAAS members attended. If you were one of them, what did you think of the show?

Just comment and let us know…

by Bob Walters

Sunday, August 1st, 2010 Audiophile, Bob, Events, General

8 Comments to My Impressions of the California Audio Show

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  2. California audio show - on August 2nd, 2010
  3. Hello,

    I’d like to say Thanks to BAAS, Bob, and Dagogo. It was so great to have a show so close to San Francisco. The show was incredibly well attended, and it was great to see so much interest in having a show, and in high end audio. The rooms were incredibly well attended by potential buyers and dealers, so I’m hoping that this will be great for the future.

    But, as far as what I would call “good sound,” – the show was pretty bad. After 6 hours, and numerous rooms, I felt like I heard perhaps 1 or two rooms that reached the level of mediocre sound. The rest, well, were simply weak. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to go to the Tonian room as it was closed on Sunday afternoon.
    Room after room sounded either clinical or abrasive, or absent in the area of low bass, or way too muddy and boomy. I was shocked at how un-resolving and non detailed some of the rooms were that featured computer playback. This is clearly still in its infancy, and I can’t believe that some folks brought what they brought with the sound that they were achieving.
    Some incredibly expensive equipment shocked me with a far away sound, that was muffled and over dampened. Some rooms sounded OK with solo acoustic piano, – but when I put on some rock music with some electronic bass, they had to dive for the volume control to shut the system down for fear of destroying the planet.
    Some of the rooms with computer audio playback were amazing to me. Did they not compare their playback to even a cheap CD player? Were they comparing the sound on whatever digital converter that they were using to the analog outs on the computer and leaving it once it sounded “a little” better?
    We entered some rooms, then left immediately due to either horrible mid-range development, muffled High-end, no bass, or boomy bass. Overall, there were some OK rooms, like the Dartzeel/Playback Designs: but even that room did not have the clarity and pacing that one would expect from such an expensive system.
    Anyway, I hope that I’m one of the few people out there who feel this way, as I’d hate to see many people dissatisfied with this show. As sad I was to hear such bad sounds, I am happy that this event happened, and I only would like to see it grow.

  4. jigo on August 2nd, 2010
  5. Great show! I had planned to attend all three days, but due to some family emergency I was only able to attend for 1/2 day on Friday.

    Due to time contstraint, I didn’t stay too long in rooms where people spent tons of time discussing about technical stuff.

    Two rooms that stood out for me were the Audio Image (Magico) room and the Music Lovers (Sonus Faber) room. I had heard different models of Magico speakers in showrooms, but I thought this one sounded the best. Music Lovers room was running a pair of bookshelf Sonu Faber speakers with a Solutions amp. The source was switching between an iPod (lossless 24/96) and a Wadia.

    Something interesting: A company based in Fremont, call Innovex or something that utilizes laser to transmit signal to speakers, basically doing away with amplifiers. I’ve challenged them to set up at my house to compete against the Pass X350.5/Synergistic Research combo. And they have accepted. Stay tune, I need to check with Bob to see if we can turn this into an BAAS event.

    Frank Cheng

  6. gundam91 on August 2nd, 2010
  7. An absolutely great show. Very well organizaed.

    I do not expect “audiophile” sound at shows like this given the room size and layout and the shortened set-up time. In spite of these limitations, I was greatly impressed by the overll high sound quality. My personal test is the ability to close my eyes and imagine the performer standing in front of me; I was not disappointed. Listening to classic performances on vintage vinyl and vinyl reissue, analog reel tape played on an Ampex 351(!), and digital reveals again the recording quality achieved years ago on what we consider now to be relatively limited equipment and today be people who care about sound quality.

    A standout – the first room that I attended, in fact – was the Lagacy Whispers playing a live Lindsey Buckingham song that met this “you are there” test. A room down the hall from the Whispers with electrostatics was constrained by the severe bass loading of the speaker placement; I would still like to hear this speaker in a larger room.

    Generally, what impressed me is the sound quality from relatively small speakers. Speaker technology has come a long way from the days when size really did matter. It also appears that speaker designers have considered effectively the needs of audiophiles with small listening spaces and have acheived performance from otherwise very small systems.

    Also impressive was the amount of relatively affordable equipment by both domestic and overseas manufacturers. I could spend the proverbial fortune in one room and then go next door and spend considerable less on Van Alstine, Grant Fidelity, and comparable equipment and still make my mortgage payment.

    I found exhibitors and manufacturers helpful and willing to answer questions in spite of approaching the end of what had to be a fatiguing second day; at least by my impresssion, there was a general absence of attitude. I also enjoyed meeting fellow audiophiles sharing insights and what appears to be the on-going waf and soaf issues that a lot of us experience.

    Will I do this again? Absolutely! However, I will not leave my iPod home when I do attend.

    Marion Pavan

  8. mapa on August 2nd, 2010
  9. Yes, the sound was weak in many rooms, but that is expected by now at all audio events. It was great to see the gear and the people and most of all, not to have to get on the plane and stay in a hotel! Bravo to Mr. Soo to put this party on for us – and for free!

    One thing I hope changes next year: more local dealers. i know my local dealer here in San Rafael, Access to Music is no more but hopefully the local dealers will put on more of a presence – after all we are their potential and actual customers. Great to see Marc of SoundscapeAV – Music Lovers and Tone of Music (new to me) had small setups. Audio Image of Oakland certainly stepped up with the Magicos. But it would be great if the rest of the remaining dealers also supported the show such as the Analog Room of San Jose, Stereo Unlimited of Walnut Creek, Performance Audio of San francisco, etc. Presumably their costs could be shared by the manufacturers they represent.

    The Lotus Group showed how to deal with crummy hotel rooms – just correct the system to the room. On my visit on Friday they really had it going. Very good sound.


  10. ptruce on August 2nd, 2010
  11. From DaveF:

    Hi. I agree! A very good, warm and friendly show. We need
    to have a Audio Show in the Bay every 2 yrs.

    Best Rooms/Systems;

    Tone of Music Audio – Love those Quads!
    Highend-Electronics – Nice, but a little expensive!
    Audio Image – Really nice stuff, like the VAC tube amp!
    Electrocompaniet – I just enoyed talking to Peder about music!

  12. Bob on August 2nd, 2010
  13. ??? ? ????? ??? ???? » ??????? ????? » ???????? Dagogo California Audio Show 2010 on August 4th, 2010
  14. From AdamN:

    I attended the CAS on Saturday for about 4hrs. These were my favorites:

    o Tonian Labs. Playing from his admittedly low-end and aged source equipment, the sound coming from these was incredibly visceral and realistic. A surprise rim shot in one of his demo tracks caused me to jump in my seat.

    o Legacy Whisper. Wow! I’m saving my money, and I’ve got the large room that these need.

    o Teresonic. Very nice sounding (and looking!), but I would probably opt for the Tonians after hearing both.

    o Trenner & Friedl. Fantastic-sounding small monitors that had us asking if the subwoofer was on (it wasn’t).

    o Consensus Audio Engineering Conspiracy Loudspeakers. Incredible dynamics and imaging, but at $41,700 (more than twice the price of the Legacy Whispers) I’d buy the Legacy’s in a heartbeat. They were running on Kronzilla tube amps that also sounded wonderful and looked very impressive with their huge T1610 tubes.

    o Electrocompaniet’s high-end room. Reallly nice sound; not one flaw that I could hear. If I was seeking a single-vendor system and had this kind of budget, Electrocompaniet would probably be it. Kudos for their widespread use of balanced interconnect.

    Back home and back to reality, I quickly flipped on my home system (Acoustat 2+2′s driven with a PS Audio HCA-2) and was pleasantly surprised that it seemed to hold its own with all but the best-sounding rooms.

  15. Bob on August 9th, 2010