California may be suffering mightily from unemployment and budget deficits, but it remains something of an audio mecca. The number of manufacturers and audio enthusiasts living in the Golden state never ceases to amaze me. On a recent trip to Los Angeles, I managed to visit several.
Since I have reviewed several VTL products, I thought it might be interesting to visit the factory and check out Luke Manley and Bea Lam’s new listening space and equipment. Interestingly, Luke was somewhat flummoxed when he saw that I had brought along some CDs. He and Bea mainly use LPs for the voicing of their products, both at home and at the factory. Luke pulled out a dusty Rotel CD player from the recesses of a storeroom, but for the most part, we stuck to spinning vinyl on the VPI Scout. I was quite taken with the Avalon Indras, which seemed to sound even more extended in the highs and more open overall sans their grills. Exercising reviewer’s prerogative, I also repositioned the loudspeakers, pulling them somewhat forward and spreading them further apart. Transparent Cable’s Brad O’Toole who also happened to visiting that day gave the thumbs up on their new location. Thanks, Brad!
Someone has to sell audio products, and one of the veterans in the industry is Elliot Midwood of Acoustic Image. I’ve known Elliot for several years and he’s one of the good guys in audio, a genial, friendly musical enthusiast (he’s an expert bass player) who has an impressive knowledge about audio equipment. Elliot played me a high efficiency loudspeaker whose name I simply have forgotten. Talk about vivid! The sound via the Messenger preamp was immediate, detailed, fantastically delineated. Elliot has a goodly amount of equipment in his custom designed listening room, which features, among other things, nonparallel walls. Once again, LPs reigned supreme: the sound via the Brinkmann Balanced turntable was some of the best I’ve heard. Yes, that’s the Forsell ‘table lurking next to the Brinkmann. Elliot still gives the nod to the Forsell for sheer musicality.
My last stop was at the Audio Salon located in Beverly Hills, which is owned and run by the gregarious Maier Shadi. Some of the products that the Audio Salon carries include Nagra, MBL, Verity, and Berkeley Audio Design. The formidable Scaena loudspeaker has just been added to the list. I got to hear the Verity Lohengrin’s and was taken aback by its speed, agility, and dynamism. I imagine the Scaenas will pressurize the Audio Salon’s enormous space even more effectively. This was hands down one of the finest store demos that I’ve experienced.
Much ink has been spilled over the saga of dealers, a sagging economy, and the internet. But at least in Los Angeles, visiting Acoustic Image and the Audio Salon provided a refreshing reminder of the benefits that experiencing high end equipment that’s been carefully assembled can provide for anyone interested in top flight reproduction of music. Next time I hope to swing over to Neil Gader’s place and offer a lengthy critique of his system. But one thing was clear to me from this visit: There’s some serious rumbling going on in Los Angeles and it isn’t coming from earthquakes.