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SFAF On The Road

Grant Stoner | Published on 6/30/2023

SFAF On The Road
by Grant Stoner

We just returned from the Pacific Audio Fest which was held June 23-25 in Seattle at the DoubleTree Hilton SeaTac.  I’d say overall it was a decent show and we would go again next year in September (they smartly moved the date).  It was well organized, smoothly run, had good musical performances Friday and Saturday nights and educational sessions.  The hotel location was convenient, and the rooms seemed to work well as a showcase for some pretty spendy systems.  There were 40 or so rooms, enough to easily cover in a few days.  The show was a bit low in attendance, great for attendees, but not so much for the exhibitors.  Nonetheless, I’m hoping that it was a successful show for the exhibitors as we want to support them and hope to see more come next year.

Overall impressions….a lot of nice sounds…few exceptional rooms.  On the fun room front, Cardas’ Audio’s Flashback Lounge was playing some Boston which sounded great on the new retro JBL’s,  Leslie played a vintage game on the pristine Apple IIe computer while I did a bit of shredding on the EVH distressed guitar while enjoying a tasty beverage😊  This is the sign of a good show.

Cardas’ Audio’s Flashback Lounge

Anyhow, I’m going to mention a few standouts in terms of sound, value, and aesthetics.  First aesthetics.  Mainly P. Hall said “Much of the crassness with which modern civilization is cursed has resulted from the divorce of beauty and utility, in which the spirit of aesthetics has been sacrificed to what we foolishly term the “practical”.  I feel audio equipment should look good.  When you sit and listen to music, frequently you’re staring at your system (at least I do).  There wasn’t much unattractive gear at this show, although I did see some electronics without even a case in a number of rooms, not sure what’s up with that trend.

Some pretty speakers included the ACA Seraphim Prime with this beautiful paint job (they sounded excellent as well).  A strange red against black kinda swirl, not unlike some of my art. 

ACA Seraphim Prime

Mark Audio Sota Viotti (below).  They were so beautiful, we bought a pair.  They sounded great and at a show special closeout price of $549 a pair with stands, just too good to pass up.

Mark Audio Sota Viotti

Not like we needed another pair of speakers, but what the hell. 

The Acora Acoustics VRC granite speakers I thought were quite attractive.  At $218,000 a pair, not really the killer deal, but they sounded excellent and make quite a heavy statement (literally at 450 lbs. each).

Acora Acoustics VRC

There were several powered speakers.  I prefer to select a separate amp, etc. but for the budding audiophile or a small room or office system, they make a lot of sense.  The Cabasse Rialto was pretty, sounded fantastic and at $3,995 is really a good deal. 

Cabasse Rialto

The Vanatoo Transparent Zero Plus sounded excellent as well with an incredibly small footprint.  A good deal larger, but still a stand mount was the Dutch & Dutch 8c.  The sound from these was totally amazing.  Incredible bass and detail, one of the best sounds of the show.

Franco Serblin Accordo Speakers ($14,500 a pair)

Some of the pricier systems that sounded good included the complete Triangle Art System.  I thought they only made turntables (which are very exquisite btw), but turns out that they have an entire system, their speakers, the “Metis” look a lot like the AvantGarde horn speakers.  They sounded nice and not too “horny”.  Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the actual AvantGarde speakers.  They sounded very bright and one dimensional.  Could have been the room, as I have heard them sound good at other shows.  The best sound of the show was the large Gamut speakers, I can’t recall the electronics, but they had absolutely amazing bass, huge soundstage and precise imaging.  Oh yeah, JMF electronics and an Ideon streamer was the most ubiquitous product at the show.

Other notables include the little Magico A1’s which sounded great despite their size.  We heard some vintage Andrew Jones era TAD’s which still sounded excellent.  The huge Genesis system sounded good sourced by a Studer reel to reel but needed a larger room to realize its potential.  The new Golden Ear T66 sounded excellent.  I’ve never heard Golden Ears.  They seem prominent in Absolute Sound.  I thought maybe because they pay for a large advertisement up front, but no, they live up to the hype.

I’m not knowledgeable nor really into streamers, DAC’s etc., but we did hear one from Eversolo, the DMP-A6 which sounded great, had an incredible amount of flexibility and is an amazing deal at the price of $900 (full retail).  Stiff competition for our favorite, the Hifi Rose.

Anyhow, that’s a brief overview of the show, there was much more.  Look for endless pics on our Instagram #audiophilefoundation, and keep going to audio shows, they’re great for everyone involved.

KLAUDIO Magnezar Turntable

And for more thoughts on the PAF, check out Jeff Kalina's forum write up HERE