If you're in Boulder/CO, Cornelia and Michael Davis' Audio Federation Inc. is the place of choice to visit. With bona fide HighEnd brands like Audio Note, Edge, Ensemble, Indra by Stealth Audio, Marten Design and Meitner, their room was another oasis of good sound. For a personal view on a dealer's perspective of participating at this show, click here to read Michael's report on his own website. As he tells it himself, even the very best of current digital front-ends can't keep up with something like a Stellovox tape player reproducing 2nd-gen master tapes. Despite best efforts (or not), the transition from mike-fed master to pressed SACD or CD still leaves a lot under the table. And if it ain't on the disc, you ain't gonna retrieve it no matter how dear, advanced and esoteric your playback equipment.
This flaming heterosexual got a special kick out of meeting Cornelia Davis who, as an audio retail partner, is a rare sight in this industry and -- among my acquaintances -- only duplicated by Teri Inman of Portland's excellent and cannily named Stereotypes establishment.

If we hope to see more femmy 'philes, we need more behind the counters, too. Overkill had, Audio Federation had, Green Mountain Audio had and thus set a great example. If you're a woman attendee, you might prefer to speak to a woman. Even if not, you'd automatically feel less an outsider just to see another woman deeply involved in this hobby and on the other side of the fence.

The other vital ingredient is no attitude, down-home approachability that conveys a completely non-threatening and inviting vibe. Here too these two 3-year old proprietors set a wonderful example of how audio retail should be conducted. Bravo!

Denver native Jerry Ramsey of Audio Magic shared with Roy Johnson of Green Mountain Audio and showcased his new 250w ICEPower monos which benefit from a proprietary wave/cryo treatment that's performed at an EastCoast space research center and goes far beyond ordinary deep-immersion cryo which isn't that ordinary to begin with. As our friends at PFO noted in their recent review, these amplifiers in the firm's trade-mark casings are yet another example of neither transistor/neither tube sound which the best of digital amplifier topologies pull off with rare aplomb.

Another room using the groundbreaking GMA Continuum 3s was Sean Ta's Aydn exhibit. Being KR Audio's US distributor, Sean used the giant 1610-outfitted Kronzilla monos but his big news was the recent acquisition of the Artemis Labs distributorship of tube line and phono amplifiers with Swedish Lundahl transformers and GoldPoint attenuators. At $2,850, the LA-1 uses one choke-loaded 5687 per channel and lo-gain MOSFET high voltage regulation, 5 inputs and 2 outputs. The PH-1 ($2,700) and PL-1 ($3,350, for low-output carts) recall the V-slash aesthetic of Viva turned sideways and provide 50dB and 70dB of cartridge gain respectively using 1 x 6N1P, 2 x 12AX7s and 2 x 5687.

Sean also had a sample of the new KR Audio 300B balloon tube that's claimed to be a direct replacement for the fabled Western Electric. Pricing isn't entirely fixed yet but estimated to come in at ca. $600/pr.

Bauls Audio of Mesa/AZ showed with Brian Cherry's electronics and used the German open-baffle Bastanis speakers of Robert Bastanis which are DIY-based and very affordable.

Terry Cain's Cain & Cain ground-level space turned into VSAC central, with listening sessions late into the night and various tube amps on tap which were switched in and out on the fly. This is where Fostex/SET aficionado and Audio Asylum/TAS contributor Stephaen and large groups of like-minded folks hung out around the clock. Front-end duties were handled by Terry's VRS computer server which also appeared in three other exhibits, nearly always mated with tubes to herald a different kind of convergence. A proper turntable was present as well.

New from the Cain & Cain stable were the Super Abbys which add a horn-loaded rear-firing Fostex tweeter ($500) with simple 1st-order filter above 12kHz and a user-adjustable ambience control above the binding posts to pay homage to Terry's Magneplanar bipolar roots. As shown, the Super Abby was clad in the $500 optional Maple finish and if our own John Potis is still interested, Terry's prepared to send him a pair for review. My standard Abbys just arrived to kick off my review of Nelson Pass' FirstSound F1 current-source amplifier.

TASmanian devil Harrell occupies the hot seat above while Terry smiles on from afar. His big double-horn BENs with super tweeters effortlessly energized this large room in real-life scale and boogied like a bent bat from hell.