CAS 2014: True Audiophile presents Spatial, Audion, Human


Dyn_CAS-logo-2It’s almost mean to make Gary Alpern, the True Audiophile, wait until the very end to see his room covered. After all, we opened our coverage with pictures of him from a midnight listening session with John Stancavage.

On the other hand, Gary was showing off some very cool stuff. He can wait.

The most obviously cool things in the room were the new open baffle speakers from Clayton Shaw’s Spatial Audio. We’d heard the base model with 12″ drivers and the standard crossover at Newport, but this was the debut of the big Hologram M1, sporting 15″ drivers and the upgraded Turbo Crossover. Claiming 100db efficiency and bass extension down to 32hz, this is a very serious solution. This fully loaded model also has a serious price tag of $4000.

Less obviously cool was a prototype of the new Audion 300B Special Edition Stereo Amplifier. Audion has redesigned their circuit and transformers. This new model claims a flat line bandwidth of 17hz to 24khz before the frequency starts to roll off, and it sports a properly stompy 5687 driver. Like many 300b amps, you can expect 8 watts out of this one before clipping sets in. This prototype was dressed in what we’ll call Audion’s traditional “value conscious” casework, but the final unit, shipping in October, will sport new metalwork and slightly new styling. The cost is set at about $6700.

Way less obviously cool was the room’s source. It was small, so you had a good chance of overlooking it entirely. A Mac Mini fed Human Audio‘s Tabla USB to S/PDIF converter ($995) and Muto DAC ($1,199). These tiny boxes are both battery powered, silent, and reliably musical. Gary has been using them at shows for years. It’s a familiar sound. It’s not the last word in resolution or punchiness, but it’s always listenable.

Like most rooms at this show, Friday morning saw the room in need of a swift kick in the head. It sounded pretty decent, but Gary was not yet happy with it. He was nice enough to ask us to go away for a while while he applied the necessary boot.

The boot worked.

A return visit after show hours on Saturday offered us the chance to hang out while some of the San Francisco Audiophile Society drank wine and requested tunes. We were treated to a surprisingly immersive playing of “Morning” from Beck’s Morning Phase before enjoying the real fun of the weekend, Touch & Go’s “Tango in Harlem” from their 1999 album “I Find You Very Attractive.

Well now… Julia Lara’s voice came through the big coaxes on the Spatial M2 without any immediate sign of the common crossover harshness that gives coaxes such a bad name. The sampled instruments all did their thing quite well. Guitars had proper twang, drums had proper body, and words like “fast” and “nimble” came to mind. No obvious problems jumped out to spoil the fun to be had with these anti-audiophile tracks. I finally left without having much of anything to complain about.

Huh. That’s not bad. That’s not bad at all.