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California Audio Show 2011 (CAS) By dagogo
Report By Clarke Robinson
California Audio Show 2011 (CAS) By dagogo

Vivid / Luxman
When I saw Vivid on the exhibitor list, I was hoping to get a listen to their Dairy Queen-styled top-of-the-line model, the G1 Giya. It was not to be, but for good reason: Vivid makes their different models primarily for different sized rooms, and the B1 was simply the best tool for the size room they were showing in... smart thinking that I bet some other exhibitors wish they had followed.

It must be said that the person running this (regrettably brief, for me) listening session was Philip O'Hanlon, president of On a Higher Note, importer and distributor for Vivid and Luxman. O'Hanlon is the consummate host: sporting a bow tie, giving introductions to each record that he played with a lively Irish lilt. The guy definitely knows how to throw a party!


Margules Audio



The reference system consisted of Margules' flagship speakers, the Grand Orpheus ($29,999/pair) which feature Accuton drivers and an onboard active subwoofer. These were powered by the 20th Anniversary Edition of the U280SC amplifier ($3800) and SF220R Ultra-High Resolution preamplifier ($2899). This system was very musical, and did justice to a wide of variety of music, able to play delicately on intimate recordings or lay down serious grooves on more bombastic material.

While the Magenta system didn't receive nearly as much attention (either in playing time or set-up time, it was to the side in a much less acoustically ideal part of the room), it was no less impressive for what it was able to do for a lot less money. The SA2.3 speakers ($1690 / pair) demonstrated phenomenal midrange, nice imaging and taut bass despite their non-ideal placement...this is a speaker I'd like to spend more time with.

The Magenta electronics included the Aleph amplifier ($1890), Daleth analog preamplifier ($1920), and iEnd iPod dock and audio processor ($999). The TT-10 turntable on display was a prototype, and not running at the time I was in the room.


Budget Beaters
Napa Acoustics
The most jaw-dropping value of the show had to be Napa Acoustics' Mini Stereo System: $598 includes the NA-208A Hybrid Vacuum Tube Amplifier and NA-208S Compact monitor speakers (shown here with the NA-208CD CD player, an additional $399). The sound coming out of this diminutive system was sprightly and involving, if a bit bass shy. In a smaller room where closer positioning to the walls could ripen the low-end a bit, this is the sub-kilobuck system to beat.

This system was being shown with the Mistral MT-34 Tube Amplifier ($1199) and BOW-A3 Speaker ($1699 per pair) combo (front/center and far right in this photo). More money but quite a bit more fleshed out sonically, this system is another amazing value.


Grant Fidelity
Ian Grant of Grant Fidelity was proudly playing a $3600 audio system at CAS, consisting of some absolutely stunning looking Shengya V218 Wood Horn Monitors ($1600) and his own W-30GT Integrated Amplifer ($1995), which also includes a phono preamp and on-board USB DAC: plug this in to your laptop and you have a complete system from soup to nuts. Not bad.


And the sound? Also not bad! Response from the Shengya monitors was a tad uneven in this room, but that's not much of a concern as long as it's uneven in all the right places. Overall presentation was musical as all get out, with female vocals in particular coming across with warmth and liquidity.


DLS / DSPeaker
Two very different systems here, but each brings great sound to the "lifestyle" space. First up is a terrific set of wall-mounted speakers, made in Sweden by DLS. The Flatbox series includes 3 sizes of main speakers, ranging in price from $249 to $499 each, and an accompanying subwoofer, the Flatbox 8 ($799). All the models sounded good…shockingly good considering their size. None of the main speakers are more than 4 inches deep, looking a bit like empty picture frames, and the Flatbox 8 is just 6 inches deep.


DSPeaker is a Finnish company that created a product called the AntiMode 8033, a room-correction device originally designed as a DIY project by the company's founders.

Listening to the 300FLs caused a cognitive disconnect...it was hard to believe how much sound was coming from these minimalist floorstanders. Bass was prodigious, although not so much as to overpower the (rather easily overpowered) room.


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