CAS 2013: Audio Vision SF presents KEF, Simaudio, REL, Clearaudio, Nordost

CAS4By rights, this should have been the first room I mentioned. San Francisco dealer Audio Vision San Francisco took the opportunity offered by a room directly behind the registration desk to set visitors’ expectations for the entire show.

Anchored by the spectacular KEF Blade ($30k), and grounded by the REL Gibraltar G2 subwoofer ($3,250), this system moved easily between “intimate listening experience” and “wild stunt.” What makes for a wild stunt? How about leaving nickels balanced on their edge atop both speakers for the entirety of the weekend just to show off how dead the cabinets are?

Electronics here were by Simaudio. The 850P preamp ($28k) and 880M monoblocks ($42k per pair) managed the generalized *iron-fist* duties for the weekend. The *velvet-glove*, on the other hand, came from Clearaudio. A Master Innovation Wood turntable and 12″ Universal tonearm ($30,500) carried a Goldfinger Statement cartridge ($15k). This was spun with Clearaudio’s “Accu Drive” battery supply ($2500) and fed into a Simaudio 810LP phono stage ($12k) for an exceptionally detailed presentation. Digital duties while we were listening were handled by Simaudio’s 750D digital front end ($13k). Nordost provided all the cables, and Stillpoints provided the racks.

Gillian Welch’s “Scarlet Town” was rendered more powerfully than tenderly, but with all the spatial cues that seem to be the calling card of Blade systems. The one exception came from the surprise knock toward the end of the track, a startling feature of the recording. This system placed it more than a bit oddly in one of its only obvious concessions to “show condition” sound.

As an aside: a $13k digital front end playing Red Book wasn’t going to keep up with $60k of analog front end. The system evinced a slight metallic harshness with almost every digital track on offer. Switching to an LP of Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez put a quick end to almost any hint of that.


  1. The Blade really is intense, If you live in the East Coast/New England area Blink High End has it in their showroom (in white gloss). David Kroll did the same coin trick at their Blade listening event, which was very stunning since the Man of Steel soundtrack was playing.

  2. I saw that coin-on-edge trick by another dealer at CAF. I think they also had a glass of water too. Maybe next time they might have a trained seal spinning a ball on its nose on top of the speaker. I remember “back in the day” there were some car commercials that used the same type of trick (glasses of water on car roof) to show how smooth their cars rode; can’t recall the model(s) now. BTW, that $30G KEF Blade has yet to impress me. The KEF LS50 is impressive– and for about $29G less.

    • The coin on edge trick was definitely an old school touch. But, man, I’m listening to a mono Monk’s dream record through tubes and Altec duplexes right now. Retro isn’t exactly a deal breaker for me. You’ll have to forgive me if I enjoy ridiculous sales tricks. I used to dig the dolphin show at Six Flags, too.

      I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the Blade impresses me. Sure, the best I’ve heard it sound was when driven with an 805 SET amp, but it still impresses me. I think that it’s a speaker that delivers on the promise of the Quad ESL. The driver integration is fairly miraculously seamless, there’s a near total absence of box noise, it functions better in reasonably sized rooms than in ballrooms, and it sounds like a tin can on recycling day when it’s over-driven.

      For what it is, though, I’ll actually stand up for it. It’s flawed, but I think its flaws are very well balanced. I can’t say that about every speaker I’ve heard.

    • The Blade somewhat relies on the equipment used and proper placement, as with any speaker no matter how good. I agree with the LS50’s, since they just take the same technology of the blade and size it down to monitor size, and even further to the X300a’s.

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