Two Bald Guys Audio is a new home-based Portland/Oregon operation run by Kent Layden and Harry Zweben [below] which, under the very un-American banner of 'Less is More', sports such brands as Audio Note, Creek, DeVore Fidelity, Epos, Linn Classik, Music Hall, Skylan Stands, Signal Cables, Sun Audio, Tivoli and WHG Designs. Based on their choice of displayed components, how well they synergized and the music they brought to the show, I urge you to put these boys on your list if you live anywhere on the WestCoast and love stellar audio and great if rare and eclectic music.

My second-favorite sound of show (show of sound?) happened at the hands of their bigger system. It used an Audio Note CD 3.1X, Sun Audio SV-2A3 or SV-2A3 PE single-ended/3.5-watt stereo or push-pull/15-watt mono amps driven from the matching SVC-500 line stage into John DeVore's spectacular DeVore Fidelity Gibbon 8 loudspeakers -- which won our only Blue Moon Award in the speaker category last year -- or alternately, into his new Gibbon 7.1. In classic Valley talk, these speaker so disappear, ya know, it's not even funny, dude.

But let's start with the Sun Audio electronics, first made famous by Sam Tellig's gushing review of their 3.5-watt 2A3 amp in Stereophile. I'm here to tell you that Sam the man was right again, just as he was with the Triangle speakers or Cairn Fog CDP. Cosmetics are similar to Airtight, i.e. grey chassis -- with optional gold face plate and red chassis for two models -- and matte gold decals on the front panel and transformer covers which -- here's the kicker -- house Tamura trannies exclusively. With the exception of a few models only, this iron also show up as interstage couplers. Tamura and Tango, in case you weren't aware, make the best transformers in Japan, period. This doesn't at all explain the rather reasonable pricing of this electronics line. Add a choice of kit or assembled (for US customers, the latter's performed by the bald guy's own Bob Walters, an ex-Navy electronics specialist and hard-ass perfectionist) and accessibility of top-notch tube gear just opened its arms in a friendly welcome. For example, the 2A3 single-ended stereo amp is $2,200/$1,250 assembled/kit, the matching preamp as-heard $1,750/$1,150, the push-pull monos $3,700/$2,250. Of particular interest is a 6V6-based stereo amp at $1,250/$850 which our gents believe to be a bona fide giant killer. After what I heard in their room? I'm inclined to believe 'em sight unseen.

Harry & Kent have taken on distribution of Sun Audio for the West Coast. Any dealers interested in the line should contact them for details. Which brings us to the Gibbon 7.1 that, as its name indicates, has been designed with Home Theater and multi-channel music in mind. In a stroke of monkey genius, John DeVore has configured this compact 3-way such that the tweeter can be relocated above the midrange for horizontal placement, by simple swapping the logo decal cover with the depicted tweeter location. With 45Hz bass extension, 90dB sensitivity and 19" x 7.625" x 10" HxWxD dimensions, the Gibbon 7.1 is easily placed, easily driven by 15 watts and as coherent as its bigger brother, giving slightly less bass extension but a warmer sound with accelerated dynamics. This hot-rodded monkey business was compliments of Michael Garner's Cryotweaks Plug'n'Play Bybee Purifiers, attached to all loudspeaker terminals in this room's multiple but always completely convincing demos [see left].
Having read this show report before page 5 was published yet, reader/reviewer Steven Lefley fired off the following e-mail: "I find myself in agreement with most of your writings and I just found another common point. I felt that the room run by the Two Bald Guys offered the best match with my musical tastes and sound preferences. Their entire system seemed very synergistic, but I was particularly impressed with the Gibbon 8's..."

As our own Jeff Day's report will show, he too singled out this exhibit with his Bald Brotherhood Award. He did so on his own, without us listening together or comparing notes during or after the show. Hey, we're all adults. Call it as you see it, never mind what anyone else heard, saw or thought. Incidentally, that's also my Number 1 advice to all audio shoppers, now & always. Trust your own ears and stop considering the so-called experts.

Unlike Jeff, 6mooners Marja & Henk had spent their last two hours between our corporate power lunch -- yeah, right -- and their pick-up limousine in this very exhibit, with me. Having already wrapped up their show report, for the Dutch magazine they write for, and with me nothing left on the plate either, we were merely desirous of settling down in one really good-sounding room to enjoy some unknown music. Without exchanging a single word, we jointly stuck our heads into a few rooms, sat down with the shaved wonders and never got up until 5:00 o'clock arrived and with it, the Vanderloo's driver from the Seattle Sheraton hotel.

That's about the best comment any experienced showgoer can make - to identify an oasis of wonderful music and sound where you wind down from chasing the pesky audiophile mosquitoes, no longer taking notes or pictures but just chilling, lounging and enjoying them tunes. Which brings me to another recommendation, one Jacob Ofman of Witchdoctor Audio, clinical psychologist by day, raving audiomaniac by night. I met him in this very room and subsequent others, and we happened to occupy the same return shuttle to the airport. Jacob was a customer of Brian Rovinsky's St. Cecilia Sound Gallery in the Southern Bay Area. When Brian relocated his business to Florida to live closer to his ailing mom, Jacob inquired whether he could take over some of his lines. He now carries Art Audio, Diva Audio, Cain & Cain, Rethm, Xindak and other select goodies. From my conversations and shared observations at VSAC, I'm convinced beyond a faint doubt that Jacob's your man if you're into tubes and high-efficiency speakers and happen to reside in or visit the Bay Area.

This concludes our special room mentions for this show report. Alphabetical listings follow on the next pages.