The California Audio Show kicks off Friday in San Francisco with sunshine, live music, a literal mountain of vinyl and some much-anticipated world premiers for the gearheads.
I use the latter term in the most positive way, of course. In this hobby, everybody’s a gearhead, right? Even if you don’t think you are, one trip to a high-end event like CAS and you likely will be draining the 401(k) and re-thinking the kids’ college plans.
It’s the fifth year for the show. The 2014 edition, held through Sunday at the Westin SFO in Millbrae, California, features more than 120 brands in 30 rooms. Show organizers say that systems on display will range from $1,000 to $200,000, but I’m betting that attendees could put together a rig that would significantly exceed that top number without trying too hard.
Other attractions are a ViVa Vinyl display with 10,000 records, a headphone area, seminars and musical performances.
There are quite a few high-end shows these days, so each is trying to find its own niche. Judging from last year’s event, CAS seems to be developing an intimate, friendly vibe. While it has fewer rooms than October’s Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, crowd sizes usually are manageable enough that there’s a good opportunity to get questions answered, demo multiple tracks and return to favorite systems for follow-ups.
There also will be some world premiers this year. Gary Alpern, director of True Audiophile, for example, will introduce the new Audion 300B Special Edition amps and Spatial Hologram M1 speakers.
Alpern was kind enough to let me sneak a listen to his system at midnight before opening day (!), and it will definitely have me returning for a full demo during the show.
The Audion stereo amps feature hand-wound output transformers and provide 8.2 watts per channel. Don’t call this a flea-watt amp, though. It’s more like an elephant, with the heft to drive even panel speakers, according to Alpern. They also are built (in France) like proverbial tanks, and recently survived falling off a truck with hardly even a scratch.
The Spatial speakers are said to be a good match to get the most from the single-ended 300Bs, with 100dB sensitivity and 4 ohm nominal impedance. The open-baffle design uses two 15-inch mid/woofers and a wide-bandwidth compression driver.
We’ll have more on this set-up, including the surprising price tags, as coverage gets under way this weekend. Part-Time Audiophile will have three writers on hand – myself and the veteran team of Mal Kenney and Kirsten Brodbeck-Kenney – to provide plenty of details and photos.
We’ll be posting frequently, so check back from time to time. Now where did I put my demo copy of “Back in Black?”