Publisher Noel Keywood visits the California Audio Show, 2014.
A picture of the Golden Gate Bridge arrived at my in-box, part of a flier for the California Audio Show (CAS). I looked at it, pondered – and packed. Here's a quick look at what turned out to be a fascinating show.
GENESIS ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES G2.2Jr
My first stop of the show was the Aspen room, where Genesis Advanced Technologies were demo'ing a pair of massive line arrays, the G2.2Jr ($85,000) that, they say, are "for the smaller space" and are "family friendly"! They stand 75in (1.9m) high and have a 48in long mid-range ribbon, plus twelve 1in ring radiator ribbon tweeters. A bass bin carries two 12in aluminium cone woofers. If you want to read more about the G2.2Jr and even larger Genesis loudspeakers, built in Seattle, USA, go to www.genesisloudspeakers.com. They had pin sharp imaging and sounded fabulous.
HEADAMP BLUE HAWAII SE
This rather attractive blue-anodised electrostatic headphone amplifier, the Blue Hawaii SE, with EL34 output tubes was being shown by Headamp electronics of Charlottesville, USA. For more, see www.headamp.com.
SOUNDLAB MAJESTIC 945
People were talking in the corridors about this exhibit – the largest electrostatic loudspeakers I've ever seen. SoundLab of Utah, USA, had on display their Majestic 945s, standing 106in tall (8ft 10in / 2.7m). Needless to say they set up a massive sound stage, instruments playing down at bemused listeners. Price is $40,570 a pair. See www.soundlab-speakers.com
LINN AUDIO LYCEUM LOUDSPEAKERS
These are the Lyceum loudspeakers from Linn Audio Loudspeakers, Oakland, California, USA. Believe it or not, at 4ft 8in (1.4m) high they are "smaller" models in the Linn Audio range; some make it to 7ft 8in high, no less – and are purposed for surround-sound (for giants?). To see more, go to http:// linnaudionh.com. The company was founded by David Linn, by the way, and has no connection with Linn of the UK.
Burwell&Sons craft cabinets using local hardwoods, that typically house a 15in JBL bass driver coupled to an Altec horn. Their attractive demo speakers were driven by tube amps, like so many at the show, and you can see an open-reel tape recorder acting as a source, another popular choice with exhibitors in what appears to be a move away from CD, and even high-res digital in show demos. For more, see www.burwellspeakers.com. Burwell is their family name and the name of the village in Cambridgeshire from which they originate.
Cookie Marenco (Belmont, California, USA), founder of Blue Coast Records, talked about the difficulties of recording artists live, in a group and straight to tape in one unedited session. Sound leakage and inter-microphone phase problems, the absence of headphones and much else all come into it, Cookie explained. The analogue recording is then converted to Direct Stream Digital (DSD), a proprietary Sony format, for best sound quality. The demo was held in conjunction with Sony and featured Sony hi-fi components, including their SS-AR1 loudspeakers ($27,000) seen in the picture. Go to http://.downloadsnow.net or http://bluecoastrecords.com.
Performing live throughout the show's duration was Ida Riegels, a classical and baroque soloist from Denmark. In a "triathlon" she sequentially played cello, recorder and piano live to small audiences, to acquaint them with the sound of instruments close up and unprocessed, even un-amplified in the case of cello and recorder. I visited this room as soon as possible for their 1pm Saturday session and was delighted by a lovely performance.
The Spatial (Utah, USA) loudspeaker comprises two 15in drive units on a small open baffle – it's as simple as that. They sounded lovely and did not lack bass. I asked whether bass equalisation (i.e. boost) was being used to counteract baffle cancellation and was told it was unnecessary, because the twin fifteens produced so much low end in any case. As someone who views box speakers with scepticism, the slogan "box speakers are obsolete" struck a chord with me. Definitely interesting! And priced at $3500 a pair. For more, see www.spatialaudio.us.
MARTIN LOGAN 60Xt
Demo'd by Soundscape A/V was this system in which Martin Logan floorstanding 60XTs – a new model – were producing snappy sound, driven by McIntosh amplifiers. They use folded ribbon tweeters (Heil air motion transformer principle) to good effect, for clean, lightning fast treble, and clear mid-band. Marc Silver of Soundscape, Santa Rosa, California, was waxing lyrical about them – and they did sound good. For more see www.soundscapeav.com – or Martin Logan of course.
STEVEN LESTER Co
OK, the room doesn't look so attractive in our pic, but the music was. Steven Lester (www.stevenlester.net, California) played a great selection of live music clips on a giant (8ft) screen, illuminated by a Sim2 projector and flanked by Tannoy Kensington Gold Reference loudspeakers, driven by VTL tube amps. The picture was fabulous – and so was the sound (even if it was mp4!). I was hooked by gripping live performances delivered in larger-than-life form. This was an excellent demo – immediately exciting and the best of the show.
My thanks to Constantine Soo for organising a fascinating show. Contact
or see www.caaudioshow.com.