Neil Gader on the California Audio Show: Part Four

Show report
Solid-state power amplifiers
Neil Gader on the California Audio Show: Part Four

As I begin to wrap up my online coverage of the 2013 CAS I would be remiss in not mentioning my  first listen to the Legacy Aeris with DSP room correction controller ($18,850), TAS’ current cover subject in the AAudio Imports room. A gorgeous speaker in the flesh and very aggressively priced, the Aeris was aided with all Ypsilon electronics  (Aelius monoblocks, PST-100 preamp, CDT-100 CD transport/player and DAC-100), Thales interconnects and Stage III Concepts Mantikor speaker cables and Stage III power cords. The sound was robust, warm with good transient snap and bloom on acoustic bass. The treble open and smooth. There was an over-arching ease to the presentation. This was full range comfort food for my audio sensibilities.  As an aside, every room that ran with with Ypsilon electronics seemed to have some variation of this easy, approachable, warmth factor going on. Coincidence? No, something remarkable seems to be going on inside this gear.

My head still in the clouds, I moved on to hear the YG Sonja 1.2 system ($72k), a speaker that has rather quickly become my favorite YG since their release. And once more, they performed equally well in the Laurel room. Presented by Loggie Audio they were driven–you guessed it–by Ypsilon power and pre (I told you!!! This stuff is special.) with Esoteric P-02/D-02 transport DAC and G-10 master clock handling all things digital. Harmonic Resolution platforms supported the gear and richly jacketed A.R.T. cabling from Italy linked the system up. YG is still a relatively young company by high end standards and as I hear their latest offerings like the Sonja, it seems to me the house sound has relaxed, loosened up in a naturally musical fashion. They still have all the thrust and energy of earlier YG but there’s a smoothness and refinement that has overtaken some of the earlier constriction and bluster. This was a terrific system.

One of my last stops before I bid CAS adieu was a banquet room on the first floor where AudioVision of SF was featuring a KEF Blade system driven by Simaudio Moon electronics, Clearaudio Master Innovation Wood LP playback and anchored with a REL G1 subwoofer, Nordost cabling. I’ve heard the KEFs in all kinds of venues but I struggled to hear the magic, the disappearing act that was a common thread in other demos. There was obviously bafflement in my expression and I was then directed to have a seat one row further back. The sound was utterly transformed from a discontinuous, thin, lean presentation into a rich fully integrated musical event. The soundstage took on a dimensionality that was easily the best of the show. A true cautionary tale when attending audio shows. The rooms are often large and/or unwieldy, They sometimes only come together late in the show or in very specific positions. This is why I’m always careful to refrain from snap judgements in these circumstances. Had I not changed seats I would have left disappointed.

As I reluctantly descended back down to earth­­, I found some terrific demos more in tune with my own budget. In side by side rooms AudioVision of SF put on some great demonstrations of the new Audio Physic  Classic 20, an approachably priced $4500 and a direct replacement for the venerable Yara that I recall reviewing some years ago. Bolstered by digital gear from Naim and Rega analog playback and wired up with Nordost cabling the slender three-way, 89dB sensitive Classic 20 quite handily filled the large space with solid bass response, terrific output and driver integration. When I came in I thought the room would overwhelm this modest tower. Totally wrong. I’d love to get these babies home for review soon! Next door were the equally impressive Dynaudio C2 & C1 Signatures ($15k & $8.5k) driven by BMC electronics, a Clearaudio Ovation ‘table, Magnify tonearm with Lyra Kleos cart and Nordost Frey wire.  Also challenged in a large room with a very high ceiling, the system was positively alive with dynamic energy and transient excitement. Resolution was excellent as was it’s wide and deep soundstage presentation.

Finally I would be remiss in failing to  mention  the terrific musciality Salk Sound was getting from its new SoundScape 8­–which uses a more traditional form factor than the exotic-enclosures of the SS10 & SS12 models. The SS8 opts for smaller dual 8-inch woofers,  but uses the same RAAL ribbon tweeter and Accuton midrange. Source and power honors go to Aurilac DAC and Audio by Van Alstine respectively Although it was still early in the weekend, when Jennifer Warnes began singing  “Bird on a Wire” I immediately knew I was hearing a level of transparency, speed and resolution that was going to rival some of the best of the show.  And when the weekend ended it still did.

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