The California Audio Show Part 1

This year’s California Audio Show was its seventh iteration, which may surprise many who have overlooked this friendly, modest show. This year, show organizer Constantine Soo moved the show from its former location near SFO to the Hilton Oakland Airport, a lovely resort-like setting which reminded many of past CES and THE shows at the Alexis Park and the St. Tropez—only cleaner, nicer, and with far better weather (daytime temps were consistently 68-70 degrees F).

The show’s size allowed exhibitors to actually talk with attendees, which can be an iffy thing at larger shows like RMAF and Axpona.  The exhibitors were primarily small manufacturers of fairly esoteric high-end gear, and there was a higher concentration of tube amps and high-efficiency  loudspeakers than one would encounter at most shows. While the dreaded “Hotel California” and other far-too-familiar cuts could be heard, in general I encountered a wider range of classical and jazz recordings than at most shows.

Nearby Oakland airport allowed far easier arrival and departure than the larger SFO, and BART trains provided transport into Oakland, Alameda, and San Francisco. The Hilton’s restaurants was better than most show-hotel restaurants, and the staff was—wait for it—pleasant, something rarely encountered in such places. In addition, sleeping rooms were large and (here we go again) pleasant, making the show an attractive base of operations for field-trips into the city.

Downsides? I can’t think of any. Not only were the venue and show itself attractive and enjoyable, attendees were far more civil and polite than at any show in my memory (including my recent trip to the Munich show). With very little effort, one could visit the Bay and any number of spectacular restaurants and attractions.

I’m looking forward to next year’s California Audio Show—and I think you should, as well.

Outdoor seating on the patio allowed chatting in comfort over lunch or a beer. The weather was perfect: 68-70 deg F, and clear.

Registration on Saturday morning. Traffic was steady, and the vibe was more pleasant and relaxed than at many shows, which often border on mania.

The International Ballroom vendor area contained a mix of hardware, software, and art.

Local dealer Audio Vision SF offered a wide range of headphones and personal listening gear.

Industry vet turned record-seller Steve Holt presented a wide range of delectable discs from his store The Audio Nerd.

Cookie Marenco and her crew from Blue Coast Records were on hand to offer the company’s releases. Cookie was busy with seminars and performances!

Ricky Caudillo was on hand demonstrating ESS Labs’ headphones

Burwell & Sons showed their vintage-based speakers with handcrafted cabinets and horns, paired with tube gear from Rogers High Fidelity, digital from Oppo and analog from VPI.

Damon Von Schweikert discusses the massive Ultra 11s, seen behind him. As usual, the speakers were paired with a full array of VAC tube amps and the Kronos turntable.

Legendary designer Tim de Paravicini gave a wide-ranging talk on analog record production, indicating may ways in which it could all be done better.

Spiral Groove’s Allen Perkins is not just a helluva turntable designer, he’s also a fine drummer. His combo played Friday night.

We’ll conclude our visit to the California Audio Show in the next issue of Copper, with close looks at many of the exhibit rooms.