The first Pacific Audio Fest is over. To paraphrase Tom Waits, ain’t nothing wrong with it a $100 couldn’t fix. The problems are easy to overcome–make better signage, choose rooms that aren’t spread out all over the place, and maybe choose a venue that understands the value of good, reliable A/C in late July, even if it is the Pacific Northwest. If we’re going to talk about the Best of Pacific Audio Fest 2022, however, it should center on something we audiophiles deem very important–the sound quality achieved in the rooms.
Here’s how it went for me. The first rooms were tough. Friday, of course, is when exhibitors are still working out the bugs and making emergency swaps. Gear isn’t fully warmed up, in some cases. Around the fourth of fifth room, I heard an amazing system that seemed to wake up my brain. (It’s the winner, below.) After that, almost all of the rooms sounded way above average for a high-end audio show. When it comes to choosing the Best of Pacific Audio Fest, I want to cop out and say “all of it!” Even those first few unimpressive rooms sounded much better on Saturday and Sunday.
The Best Sound of the first PAF was relatively easy to pick–it’s someone who does this high-end show thing better than just about everyone else. That should be an obvious hint. But here are some of the stellar rooms I truly remember from PAF 2022:
I usually pick two favorite systems when I cover a show. The first is the ultimate, state-of-the-art system that comes the closest to the real thing, and the other is the one I want to take home with me. The new LTA amps are magnificent, and the Spatial Audio X4s do way too much for their modest price. If there was a runner-up for Best of Pacific Audio Fest 2022, it would be this system–which costs only $20K for everything.
You’re probably not surprised I included this room on my Best of Pacific Audio Fest, but I’m surprised at the reason why. In that enormous room, both the Joseph Audio Pearl Graphenes and the small two-way Pulsar Graphene monitors gripped those room borders and made everyone pay attention. Third time I’ve heard this system this year, and it sounded best here in Seattle.
Skip from Audio Thesis, the importer/distributor of Rosso Fiorentino and Norma Audio from Italy, crossed into the Best of Pacific Audio Fest Land by bringing along the Rosso Fiorentino Fiesoles, a three-way stand-mount that pulled me into the music and kept me there for quite a while. There are still exquisite loudspeakers out there for less than $10K, and this is one. The AudioQuest Mythical Creatures cabling certainly helped.
I know, I’m heading out the door in a few days to Denmark to visit with AGP. But this is the first time I listened to the Borresen M1 two-way stand-mounted monitors while knowing they cost $100,000/pr USD. For those of you who’ve said that six-figure monitors are ridiculous, close your eyes and listen to music. I’ve never heard a two-way design sound anywhere this amazing.
I introduced some of these Aussies to everyone back in 2016 at the Newport Beach show, and it’s taken forever for them to come back! Brad Serhan and Morris Swift’s new loudspeaker, the Serhan Swift mu2 Mk. 2 two-way monitor, deserves to be considered among the great small speakers of this industry, and I’m thrilled that Les Davis continues his work into constrained layer damping with his latest generation of isolation devices.
Before I pick the Best Sound at PAF, I wanted to shine a spotlight on two specific companies with products that made their way into more than one room and represented the Best of the Pacific Audio Fest 2022:
LampizatOr, who had many, many DACs placed in some of the finest rooms.
KEF, who put different versions of the Blade speaker in a few rooms–they’ve never sounded better to me.
Finally, my choice for the Best of Pacific Audio Fest 2022 is Von Schweikert Audio, VAC and The Audio Company. The Million-Dollar System may have sounded better at PAF 2022 than it has anywhere else, which says a lot considering they used a smaller speaker, the new Ultra 7s ($180,000/pr USD), in the largest exhibit room they’ve tackled.
Hosted as usual by Atlanta dealer The Audio Company and a huge supporting staff, the system–aside from the Ultra 7s–included the usual suspects: VAC amplifiers, Esoteric digital sources, a Kronos turntable with a Hana Umami Red cartridge, Critical Mass racks and MasterBuilt cabling. There was one difference–another beautiful LampizatOr DAC. As Lukasz Fikus explains: “It is no secret, that the new ingredient that is game changing for VSA sound is the Lampizator Horizon DAC.”
He might be right.
Here’s to a successful Pacific Audio Fest, and I’ll be there in 2023!