CAS 2014: AudioVision SF brings Nordost, produces 3D sound from flat cable

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Dyn_CAS-logo-2The first time I ever saw Nordost cable was 20 years at a now-defunct high-end store in Dallas. I looked behind a KEF 107/2 speaker and saw it was connected with this ultra-cool looking wire made of close-spaced copper strands encased in a clear, flat ribbon. It reminded me of something — more “computer” than “stereo system”, though. I was familiar with the KEFs, but I asked to hear them with this radically different cable. The 107/2, a pleasant floorstander that usually sounded a little dark, suddenly opened up. Percussion sparkled, the space between instruments grew, and the bass now emerged free of any thickness. It was as if the proverbial blanket had been removed from around the speakers.

“Amazing,” I said to the patient salesman, who motioned for me to follow him.

“We’ve had the Nordost line for six months,” the salesman said with a grin.

So, I bought a pair of Nordost Flatline Gold speaker cables. Two decades later, that cable – now dinged, bent and scuffed up — still gets inserted into my system from time to time, and never seems to fare too badly against the likes of my now-reference Transparent XL and MIT Oracle.

Nordost, though, has come a long way since its original Flatline. Its latest state-of-the-art design, the Valhalla 2, was used to good effect in two large AudioVision SF rooms at the California Audio Show. Continue reading

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CAS 2014: Burwell & Sons and the best fun you could be having

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Dyn_CAS-logo-2There’s something about stepping off an elevator to a blare of funk music that makes you suddenly feel a bit like you’re in a Quentin Tarantino movie. Or maybe like you’re Pam Grier. Either way, this might have some bearing on why there were so many smiles on the third floor of the show, and why the Burwell & Sons room was so crowded. Or maybe it’s just that it sounded awesome. Continue reading

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CAS 2014: Piraeus speakers blend beauty, brains

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Dyn_CAS-logo-2Do you ever notice that when makers of sleek, well-finished speakers photograph them, it’s usually in a spotless, contemporary room in a house straight out of the old “Miami Vice” series?

You can’t fault manufacturers for wanting to play to our fantasies about conspicuous consumption. Beyond the Robb Report setting, though, there’s usually another aspect of these shots that is beyond reality. Continue reading

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CAS 2014: Angel City Audio presents Trinity, Melody, Onix, and Skogrand Cables

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Dyn_CAS-logo-2Angel City Audio bent their talents to offering up another super slick and utterly enjoyable room at this year’s CAS. Angel City’s own Trinity LCR speakers ($2,999/pair, $3,499 with stands) took pride of place. These guys are visually rather understated, but pack a really nice punch when paired with Melody Hi-Fi‘s Pure Black 101 preamp ($4,999) and massive MN845 monoblocks ($13,599/pair), which are sort of the opposite of understated.

The Melody stuff’s not blingy, exactly, but it’s got this incredibly slick, almost wet-look black finish that is at least as good-looking as it is ridiculously difficult to photograph. The An Onix 103 Media Player ($13,000) rounded out the black-and-shiny portion of the equipment rack.

Skogrand Cables, which sported distractingly cool artwork on their promotional materials (how neat is that antlered lady artwork?), held everything together as beautifully as one could hope with their Purist Ignis speaker cables ($22,000/two-meter pair), Purist Ignis interconnects ($20,500/pair), and power cables (apparently a bargain at $2,500 each). Continue reading

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CAS 2014: AudioVision SF and Aaudio Imports present BMC

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In the interest of journalistic integrity, I feel I should make something clear: If I walk into a room at a show, nay, if I walk past a room at a show and Tom Waits is on offer, I will sit down and stay. There are very few artists I know as intimately or revisit as often, and I will grab any chance I can for serendipitous Waits-ing. I used to bring more Tom Waits with me to shows, but really if there’s anything better than hearing your favorite artist on a state of the art system, it’s unexpectedly hearing said artist on a state of the art system, and getting to offer fistbumps of brotherhood to a stranger.

Now you know. I hope my friends in the industry will use this information wisely. This is a power to be used for good, not evil. Continue reading

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CAS 2014: Lone Mountain Audio presents ATC Electronics

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Dyn_CAS-logo-2Britsh company ATC Loudspearks was providing some excellent sound over the weekend in the Lone Mountain Audio room. ATC got its start in studio monitors, providing professional recording gear and PA rigs to the likes of Supertramp and Pink Floyd. They’ve been in the audiophile market for nearly twenty years now, however, and the speakers on offer over the weekend were definitely not studio pulls, although they retained the clarity and detail of an excellent studio monitor. Continue reading

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CAS 2014: VK Music sings a siren’s song

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Dyn_CAS-logo-2Enough of these highfalutin stunt systems. Let’s get honest for a few minutes.

Hi-Fi is more fun after you’ve electrocuted yourself a few times. Hi-Fi is a lot more fun when you’ve left little blood inside your gear. Hi-Fi just sounds better when you’re the proud papa. Frankly, if you’re not hurting yourself, destroying the finish on your kitchen table, and frying something valuable, you’re just missing out on some of the best parts of this hobby.

With that in mind …. Continue reading

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CAS 2014: Pass Labs is looking for a quip that involves a Balrog

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Dyn_CAS-logo-2Reviewers and editors seem to have some sort of horrible disease. We don’t like to talk about it, but you can see its primary symptom manifest whenever someone puts a headline on an article. It’s tragic, it’s painful, and we desperately need your help to find a cure.

You know I’m talking the really bad puns. They’re just so bad. Have you seen these things? I’m sure Nelson Pass has, because Pass Labs has probably had more punster headlines inflicted on it than any other audio company I can name. This is what happens to you when your name is a verb. People just can’t resist the temptation.

I mention this in the sincere hope that my dear editor won’t slap a “None Shall Pass” headline on this, or some “Pass the musical whatsis” gag. At some point in your adult life, you just have to just accept that the joke stopped being funny before you got to it.

Anyway…

[ed. note: killjoy] Continue reading

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CAS 2014: Zu Audio with First Watt, K&K Audio, Rupert Neve and Rega

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Dyn_CAS-logo-2Over the last year, I seem to have become the designated hitter for the Zu Audio room. This is some kind of cruel joke on our readers, because I usually say the same thing. It’s probably going to be some variation on the theme of Zu trading a bunch of sound quality for a bunch of fun. This may be because Sean Casey has omnivorous tastes, serious knowledge, and no use at all for HiFi orthodoxy. In short, I get to cover the weird guys.

Yeah. Please don’t throw me in that briar patch. That would be awful. Just awful. Continue reading

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CAS 2014: Steven Lester Company puts the performance first

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Dyn_CAS-logo-2Why is there a large, blurry picture of Shakira performing in Dubai at the top of this article? Let me explain.

Steven Lester of the eponymous Steven Lester Company was again on hand to… well… Let’s call it “screw with people.” He wasn’t listed in the show program, he didn’t show up on the map, he was stuck in a room at the far, far corner of the almost unpopulated second floor, his gear selection was almost haphazard, his room was pitch dark, and he was using a projector that cost more than my mortgage to play Youtube videos (among other things) on a giant screen. Continue reading

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