CAF 2014: Salk Signature Sound goes exotic, crowd poleaxed

Salk Signature

Jim Salk of Salk Signature Sound was showing some very fancy new loudspeakers at CAF this weekend, a prototype he’s calling Exotica 3. The name derives from the main driver in use, the X2-08 Exotic W8 from the SEAS “Exotic” line. The cabinets were very fancy, and a bit of a deviation for Salk, featuring a blend of automotive paint and veneer — the result was very pleasing, but the final versions (which should retail for about $11,995) will likely cleave a bit more closely to the older Soundscape models.

This room was jammed pretty every time I stopped by, unusual for this show and a good indicator of how special this brand is and how interesting this model is within that lineup. Hint hint, nudge nudge, wink wink.

A Van Alstine amplifier/pre drove the rig, fronted by a Vega DAC from Auralic and a digital streamer from Salk. A pair of Philharmonic 3 loudspeakers sat off to the side. Jim’s custom-finished pair of Soundscape 8 were also on display.

The sound in this room was very engaging; air and texture rated high on the geek-o-meter, and bass performance was excellent. It’s hard to judge the particulars from this kind of setup, but based on my fly-by, I can say it’s very much in keeping with the brand — that is to say, wildly over-achieving for the price point. I’m going to need more exposure — and need to kick those barnacles out of that front row. Ahem.

Salk, and Van Alstine, are cult leaders for a reason. No, this is most definitely not entry-level either in price or sound, but again, these are brands that the lucky cognoscenti happen to fall into after a happy accident. Once there, incredulity follows. Audiophiles routinely make fun of high-price audio components, happily debating the merits of various business models and go-to-market strategies like we have any idea what we’re talking about. But the point at the bottom of that barrel is that we love us a bargain. And these guys are routinely offering them.