SoCalDIY 2003 - 14 June
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I had not planned on attending any kind of audio events this year but when Steve Schenkel announced the SoCalDIY show slap dab in the middle of my LA vacation I did not have a reason to not go, well except for a conflict with a excursion to Catalina and SWMBOs nephew having a birthday party. The island could wait a day but not the nephew. I was hoping to dump her off at the party and hit the show all day but sadly timing is everything and I was able to enjoy the shrill screams tweeters and toddlers.

The show was held at the Granite Creek Community Church, in Claremont California. The show had 3 rooms in use: the lower level "tube room", the upstairs "big room" and next to it the "dipole room". I do wonder if the big space to the side of the tube room would have been a better space for everything.
The tube room featured, well tubes. Steve Schenkel hung out here showing off both B&C coax boxed speakers and front loaded fostex horns. Also on display was a SACD player, Transformer volume control/pre-amp and 300B mesh plate tube amp. A Apex JR sub provided the bottom end duties. Since this is not a settup i'm familar with my listening impressions are quite subjective but tended to track with others. The horns were still young and needed much more breaking in. Apparently as the fostex drivers loosen up their phase changes. For best sound we actually had to wire them out of phase. There was still a serious hole in the middle of the sound stage so some tweaking of placement was tried. With the sub in the middle and the horns well out from the walls the sound started to come together but the biggest improvement came with just play time. Towards the end of my time there they sounded much improved, on par with anything else at the show. I still feel like the horns tended to sound like audio flashlights, beaming the sound in round spotlights towards the listening area. The room probably does not help here and i'm curious if the screws in the horn are causing some sonic degradation. Given the drivers are still so new age might eliminate all these issues. Hopefully Steve can give me an update in a few months.
Also in the tube room were a pair of ported box speakers utilizing B&C coaxial drivers. These units are a killer combination. Switching to then from the horns took away a certain bit of detail, dynamics and brightness that the horns had but wow they just boogied. After a bit of listening I didnt really miss the horns and after tweaking the Apex JR sub this settup became a real lease breaker. If you live in a apartment and want serious sound on the cheap you would be hard pressed to do better for cash outlay. I would love to hear these drivers in a smaller home theater setup, given their small size and large soundstage they should do well. Steve is thinking of trying B&C's larger units (10" and 12") to see how they do. I'm tempted to try the 8" in a flat baffle or maybe a multi-driver array.
Finally these speakers were driven by a SACD player through a transformer volume control and into a homemade 300b tube amp. The amp used TJ's mesh plate tubes. I've no 300B amps at home so I cant comment on how well it sounded but it sounded pretty nice. My 1626 Sakuma Darling has richer mids (heresy you say!) but the 300B has around 6 more watts to play with. Either way the bottom end is where it all came together with the Apex Jr sub. This sub never sounded boomy or turned into a air pump. Bass was always just there, behind the scenes and not making itself obvious, that is until we unplugged it and we realized just how much it did contribute. Sign of a good sub? I think so and you never could localize where it was. While Steve was off doing host duties I did get a chance to pop in a Muddy Waters SACD he had brought. I love good delta blues and Muddy is one of the masters. Good sound here. I dont think you can go wrong either way here, box or horn. Myself, i'm going to pick up a pair of fostex 206e's and build some big round horns to try.
I decided to check out some other sounds at the show and went up to the big room. Most of the show attendees were here setting up and chatting away. One side of the room, behind the speakers, was all glass windows so I worried about how this would effect the sound. I'm undecided.
Tony Gomez showed off his beautiful Usher two-way speakers. I did not get a chance to hear these unfortunatly but if they sound half as good as they looked.
Alesis showed a pre-production sample of their digital studio monitors. The Alesis monitors sounded nice, given they are pre-production I can look beyond their problems. The monitors tended to clip on the input a good deal and never sounded very dynamic but then again they are studio monitors and in a large room.
The natural finish mdf two ways sounded more dynamic but the highs seemed a bit veiled. Then again I heard this speaker right after the alesis's which tended to be a bit brighter than the floorstanders they followed. Those are not dimples in front but filled in vents. RECYCLE!
The floor standing two ways with passive radiators by Charles Sprinkle sounded very nice, a bit boomy at first then they seemed to settle down. I'm not certain if they made changed to the setup or if it was just the source material. While the upper end wasnt the last word in extension, so it seemed the mid/bass had a very nice balance. One can only wonder what this speaker might do with a powerful push-pull tube amp.
Later on in the event I managed to listen to the pink G/R floorstanders for just a few moments. Very nice bass and the highs were clean and clear. Unfortunatly I didnt listen long and the music wasnt something I was familiar with so it might have been better or worse than I heard.
Finally I ended up in the dipole room. Don Maurer designed a PC based digital crossover system for the Phoenix dipoles (foreground). There are more details here but in a nutshell 15-20 minutes of room testing and his system builds a room specific digital crossover. The signals are then sent down seperate wires to the amps/speakers. The system can be tweaked in realtime. One symphony piece sounded stunning, some of the jazz was okay. I would really love to hear something more agressive and dynamic. This system holds much promise and as it progresses it will be nice to see how it improves.
Next up in the dipole room was Ira Pazandeh's Wave Radiation Speakers. Uglier than your neighbors bulldog but quite lovable. I would not make these my primary speakers, at least not yet, but they do hold promise as an excellent ambiance system. I did not get any details on design, and I hear the patent is pending so wait for more details.
Yet another speaker I really wanted to hear I didnt get the chance to.
Steve Houlihans Big Baffle's. Simply beautiful!
I wished I could have listened more to speakers but I was pressed for time. By the time I was walking out the door the horns in the tube room were sounding quite nice. I suggested to Steve that he drag the B&C's upstairs to go head-to-head against the bigger monitors. If I had thought ahead I would have brought some cd's of my favorite tunes so I could compare better but thats what I get for planning.