2017 California Audio Show in Oakland, CA - Partial Review

Hi Everyone!

Got to go to the show in Oakland. My first stop was to talk to the ASC guys. I like their uber-pricey products and thought they'd give me some good pointers. Unfortunately I really did not like the rooms which were heavily treated. This kind of surprised me. The best sounding rooms had only a pair or two of bass traps.

Also, Pass Labs was very much present in these rooms, so I can't tell completely whether what I heard was ASC/Pass or my own sinus issues. You are free to call me tin eared, but I'd rather you answered with rooms you really liked instead. :)

The universal characteristics of these over-treated rooms was single-note bass and a broad mid-range suck-out. Unlike the best treated rooms, where the bass really opens up and appears to have infinite reserves and speed, these just seemed to hit one note powerfully. And the same note in various rooms.

The best sounding rooms (and I did not go to all of them) were the Vienna acoustics, Soundlabs and Fritz room, and one more room that was selling speakers based on the Linkwitz designs.

Fritz also got some off-the-record praise from a pair of beautiful and accomplished recording artists I ran into at the Blue Coast table. They thought they were pretty nice given the prices. I concur.

The best headphone sound I ever heard at a show came from the Woo Audio display by Audio Visions SF. They had a 2-piece headphone amp for around $4k. FAR too much for me, but wow, what sound. Now they have the new, $8k model. I did not listen to it. I mean, I want to, but in the end I almost never listen to headphones anymore.

Also, Napa Audio / Visual Art speakers was there. I heard the art panel speakers gimmicky, but honestly I though they were not bad considering the restrictions they were under. Perfectly find for installations when you have zero floor space to give. Also, they should have safes hidden behind them.

If you went, let me know your thoughts.
Erik, I was at CAS17 last Sunday.

I really enjoyed these systems:

1- Margules Room, the sound was open, dynamic, detailed and each instrument could be distinguished even with complex orchestras.

2- LXSpeakerFactory, for such a low price including Woofers, those speakers were fantastic, they filled the room with details, dynamic, balanced with strong bass having resolution and not being muddy ...
I would certainly consider these speakers for small listening room in future.

3- Martin Logan Neolith room was just fabulous. High resolution, Dynamic and balanced with strong bass and huge soundstage having layers of depth defining each instrument placement and singer voice being well integrated.

4- Zesto audio room was excellent. Music was detailed, balanced , well integrated with different genre of music. It was also so nice to talk with George being truly a gentleman, an expert/designer of audio devices as well as tones of sound engineering knowledge/experience.


Visiting rooms with DISAPPOINTMENT especially with high tag prices of several hundreds of dollars, that proves expending more money does not mean to get a better system and even though some could get worse results:

1- Von Schweikert Ultra11 ($300K) with VAC preamp/amp. The sound was not balanced, some how not really detailed, listening fatigue after a few minutes. Listening to some tracks, drums were placed right in front and other instruments and singer voices were placed in the back of stage which should be the reverse, based on any live or recorded music. Doing as such you loose most of details of music coming from divers instruments. Some excellent reviewers use this notion to distinguish a good speaker from a bad one.
Even 2 years ago at CAS15, another expensive Von Schweikert speaker ($150K) had the same issue, just wondered whom would buy these speakers...

2- Acapella Audio Arts room, having very expensive speaker and gears >$200K. The sound was somehow compressed, not as much detail that some would anticipate even from a system priced at 1/4 of this high tag price . Soundstage was very narrow and whole system sounded like hifi, the sound was present only around each speaker with narrow range. No depth in music presentation neither ...

Hope that would be helpful ...

Hi Michel!


I didn't even bother to try to get between the speakers at the VS room. I thought it was them, but I heard kind of the same thing repeated. I think the ASC tube traps were sucking the mid range out of the most treated rooms.

I sat in the back for the ML demo and did not get a chance to hear anything with a lot of soundstage. :(


Erik you said:"I sat in the back for the ML demo and did not get a chance to hear anything with a lot of soundstage. :( "

There were two room having ML demos: 1. small version of ML speakers in a small room,  2. a very big room with ML Neolith speakers ($80K) and sophisticated MIT cables!, this is the one that I found very interesting.

Regarding ASC tubes, I totally agree with you ...


The big room is the one I heard.

I have to say I don't care at all about MIT cables. I spend too much on crossover components to have a cable maker put in some cheap parts in a box and charge me for it.


Hi, Eric.  Interested if you've got any other observations about the Napa/Visual Arts speakers.  I recognize them as being DML type drivers, which are just becoming 'interesting' as people begin to fool around with them...
There's some other variations 'out there'...not being in a place that 'audio shows' will ever happen, I'm stuck with '2nd hand observations'.  And I think the tin in your ears is a reasonably decent alloy. ;)
BTW, I used to live and work in Oaktown...commuted via BART to The City for awhile too, until the spouse decided we needed an SF zip code. *L*  Ended up living 2 blocks from the Mission, working south of The Slot.
Ex-pat CA native, Californicating here in WNC...*L*

Re: Napa/Visual Arts

I thought that they were decent.

I mean, not the best speakers I’ve ever heard, but for the application, and tonal balance, really quite good. I wouldn’t run screaming from a room playing music on them. Also didn’t get any imaging or detail. I did note a couple of recording types listening for a while. Both African Americans, one in a Baseball kind of hip hop outfit. Saw them later but they were busy talking to Cookie at Blue Coast so didn’t get their input. They seemed really nice, but they were deep in recording stuff.  They seemed to be enjoying themselves sitting in the sweet spot. Maybe WAF was important to them??

I ran into the only 2 female audiophiles and musicians at the entire show. :) They thought the center-all-in one was pretty poor sounding.

I have to say, the rooms all pretty much sounded awful. I could not wait to get home and clean my ears with my own system. Tonally, however, the Napa/Visual arts and Vienna rooms were the best I heard.


hi @passet02 ,

Vienna and Fritz Audio. My two female audiophiles also praised Fritz.


I live in Sacramento and completely forgot about the show!  Where are you located?  I'd like to meet up with you sometime.  Mark
Hi Mark!

I only learned about it from Fritz's posting. :) I thought the show was dead.

I'm in Tiburon.