I was one of the many hi-fi nerds to attend the inaugural Los Angeles Audio Show near LAX earlier this month. It was an audiophile gathering of both old-fashioned types as well as people looking for the latest music reproduction equipment, ranging from classic tube amps and preamps from Audio Research and Air Tight, to streaming DACs players (Digital Audio Computers) that provide much higher resolution sound than standard CDs. Attendees could sample beautiful turntables at all performance levels and prices. Over 100 sound rooms were available to listen to systems offered by the dealers and manufacturers on hand. It was truly a feast for the ears.
Highlights for me included the Optimal Enchantment room, featuring Audio Research amps and preamps coupled with Vandersteen 7 Speakers. I enjoyed the offerings of The Audiophile Zone, a local dealership that paired a beautiful Jadis integrated amp with Spendor speakers. Another local company, Venice Audio, presented great sound with Harbeth speakers and Naim electronics. I also liked Sanders electrostatics with their dedicated amps as well as Paradigm speakers. I ventured into a big headphone room, demonstrating how great headphones can provide respite for late-night listening when the kids are asleep.
But perhaps what I liked the most—because my hi-fi system is fully upgraded at this point—was the huge LP room, with both new audiophile LP’s in 200 gram and 180 gram versions and a treasure trove of used records. I had the pleasure of meeting Kevin Gray, a mastering engineer of truly artisanal vinyl. Gray runs Cohearent Audio, which masters vinyl for the Analogue Productions company as well as many others. I recently purchased and wrote about his superb work on Gil Evans’ 1957 LP Gil Evans & Ten. At the show, I picked up a copy of the 200 gram reissue of Duke Ellington’s Masterpieces by Ellington, recorded in the early 1950’s on a Columbia “Six Eyes” edition. Kevin Gray remastered both of these records from the original mono master tapes and the sound is just phenomenal.
It’s my (perhaps naive) belief that people who make high-end equipment aren’t in the business for the money as much as they’re in it for us audiophiles who love listening to music—not just in the background but rather in focused listening sessions while ensconced in the sweet spot of our sofas or favorite chair. It’s all about great sound. And it’s artisanal, not unlike beautiful wines or olive oils. I had a great time and look forward to the 2018 Los Angeles Audio Show.
Banner image above (from left to right): Tom with Abey Fonn of Impex Records and Kevin Gray of Cohearent Audio. They both produce beautiful reissues and I esteem their work. Photo by Arturo Manzano