The Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society (LAOCAS) is one of the largest audio clubs in the country. Its membership spans the greater Los Angeles and Orange County areas, the San Fernando Valley and the beaches of Orange County, with a wide and varied membership.
One of the hallmarks of the LAOCAS is paying visits to manufacturers and retailers. In fact, they take pride in having their events open to anyone, regardless of membership status. This plays into their educational outreach mission. One aspect that they conducted especially well during the pandemic was a series of Zoom sessions, once again open to the public.
This year I’ve been to three of their events. The first was a visit to AudioQuest in Irvine, California; the second was a trip to The Source Audio Video Design Group in Torrance, to audition MonAcoustic loudspeakers, and the third was a return visit to Sunny Components in Covina during the summer. All three events were great fun, and educational to boot.
The January AudioQuest visit included a tour of the factory, warehouse, and facilities. AudioQuest’s Garth Powell explained the goals and the discoveries they made in their attempts to improve AC power delivery via their line of line conditioners. Bryan Long showed the group the step-by-step process of building the company’s Niagara line of conditioners. As is often the case in LAOCAS events, the society held a raffle and the author purchased tickets, but only to come up short. William Low, AudioQuest’s founder and CEO, graciously offered some old stripped insulation as a consolation prize.
AudioQuest founder Bill Low.
Power cables on a high-current testing rig.
The guts of a Niagara power conditioner.
The May visit to Source Audio was a blast, with room after room filled with amazing equipment. You name the brand, it was there, it seemed, from large home theater suites, to a room full of high-end personal audio, headphones, earphones, amplifiers, DACs, and more. One size didn’t fit all, and they had a multiplicity of rooms to demonstrate various systems and gear. We were gathered to hear speakers from MonAcoustic, which stands for More Natural Acoustics. Hailing from South Korea, their range of speakers was an interesting departure from the expected. Once again, the author didn’t score a winning ticket at the raffle. He was given a CD as an “I feel so sorry for the poor Copper journalist” consolation prize. It was the deluxe edition soundtrack to the movie Whiplash, ironically perfect for the stop and go traffic on the 405 for the drive home to Anaheim.
Young Bun of audio/video retailer Novawear with the MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini and PlatiMon Virtual Coaxial One speakers.
Audio and food go together at these events. Here are audiophiles Thomas "Hi-Fi Tom" Roy, Maritte Green, and Larry Green at Source Audio Video.
Clint Hales and his daughter Kristine McDougle check out some gear at Source Audio Video. Kristine noted, “It was a special day for me to be with him as he walked through the memory lane of his business of 40 years with Stereo Hi-Fi Center. He started it in 1960 and was the last man standing when he closed to retire. At 89, we are grateful to have him!”
I was pretty beat as I headed to my third LAOCAS outing to Sunny Components, to be honest, having just returned the day before from a trip to Arcata for a celebration of life ceremony for my friend Helmut Remiorz, who passed away a year ago June from ALS. But seeing Sunil “Sunny” and Theresa Merchant of Sunny Components, and enjoying some fresh tacos, seemed the perfect way to recover from the previous week. There was a bit of a mix-up: the invitation said 2:00 p.m., but that’s when the presentations begin, not when the tacos were served, which was from 1 to 2 p.m. A group of us who arrived at 2:00 weighed a crucial decision. Skip lunch and attend all the presentations, or have a mind-altering and delicious lunch of fresh tacos with a libation of choice? We reckoned that we wouldn’t be able to pay attention to the presentations if we were hungry and dreaming about carne asada. Sorry, but stomachs first, speakers and power conditioners later. We made a pact to arrive by noon the next time.
Sunil and Theresa Merchant are wonderful hosts. They paid out of their own pocket for some of the raffle prizes (which included a Technics turntable), covered the delicious food and drink, and made everyone feel at home. Why do they do this? Goodwill. They actually don’t count many of the LAOCAS members as their customers, so it’s not about the sales, it’s about building community.
Sunil Merchant holding a beautifully restored mint condition piece of audio history from Audio Research: the legendary SP-3 preamplifer.
Jason McDermott, Walter Schofield of Nexus Audio Technologies, and executive VP of hospitality Chris Ishida were all smiles.
It was a treat to see members of the AudioQuest team, as well as Stenheim loudspeakers, demonstrating gear, answering questions, and enjoying themselves. And yes, once again the author’s investment (OK, now an ongoing donation, according to his wife) in raffle tickets came up short. Feeling sorry for myself, I scored a couple of fine consolation Japanese jazz CD reissues, as Zesto Audio’s Carolyn Counas spotted me crying into my Corona Coronita and felt sorry for me.
It was a blast, but to be honest, listening tests in environments like those are difficult for me. I’m not sure about you, but I can barely make sense of what I’m hearing in those situations. And in order to properly audition headphones, I need a night where I know I need sleep, have projects due, and decide the best way to get to sleep is to audition some Audeze MM-500 headphones with the superb EarMen Angel headphone amp/DAC, way past my bedtime. I’ve listened to every version of “Mr. Bojangles” available on Qobuz, while on other occasions it’s been John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery,” and on one particularly torturous night, listening to Frank Doris singing the entire Sesame Street playlist. Oh, the things we do for love.
I always have a wonderful time with the LAOCAS and want to thank them for letting a hard-bitten audio journalist into their midst. Even if I had to pretend the tacos were delicious and have a cold drink on a 100-degree day. I think the best part of events like this, and I encourage readers to find audio clubs in their area, isn’t to listen to yacht rock again and again, but to learn about new music and new gear, and hell, meet fellow obsessives enjoying themselves. It’s worth the effort.
If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that we shouldn’t take the ability to spend time with people we like for granted, and I for one was grateful to AudioQuest, Source Audio Video Design Group, and Sunny Components for hosting these society visits. Don’t sit at home; join an audio club near you today!
Here are more photos from the LAOCAS events.
Carolyn Counnas and Alex Chavez were the smiling team that talked the innocent author into buying yet another doomed attempt at winning a raffle.
Cable assemblies in progress.
A listening room at AudioQuest.
A parts storage area.
Kristen Haughley of AudioQuest showing off the raffle items at the event.
Bryan Long holds up what he claims is the wire to rule them all.
Raw cable awaits the assembly process.
A plethora of mini-jack connectors!
Capacitors being burned in on a test rig.
Source Audio Video Design Group
George Counas of Zesto Audio, and audio enthusiast Dr. Larry Plon.
Larry Stimach of LAOCAS addresses the crowd.
Maritte Green and Thomas Fogel tempt the speaker grill gods.
William Strickland of Source Audio Video with a Sony ES-DMP-Z1 digital music player, and Sony SA-Z1 desktop powered speaker system.
Everyone is all smiles after delicious tacos, including Bob Levi (LAOCAS), Carolyn Counas, Sunil Merchant, and Mike Wechsberg (LAOCAS past president).
Kristen Haughley, Theresa Merchant, and Maritte Green. They represented 3/5ths of the women in attendance. Not enough!
Garth Powell, senior director of engineering at AudioQuest, gives a presentation about the company's lineup.
A panoramic view of Garth addressing the faithful. I call this photo "Sermon from the Conditioned and Filtered Power Supply Mount.”
Ying Kit Lee of review website The Audiophile World makes a point of showing off his Audeze T-shirt.
Kristen Haughley and Harris, photo by Ying Kit Lee. Note the always-cool T-shirt provided by Cardas.
Header image: the Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society visit AudioQuest. All photos by Harris Fogel except where noted.