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

By 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.