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Beautiful, Expensive Stereo Gear That Hits the High End of Hi-Fi

•, By Michael Calore
 High-end audio shows like this one -- the California Audio Show, a yearly event set up by the staff of the website -- pop up all over the country at different times on the calendar. They're hubs for audiophiles, meeting places for the manufacturers, dealers, and consumers of high-end audio gear.

The California Audio Show lacks the pomp of the big industry meets like CES. There's no bustling expo floor, no booth babes. Rather, the whole affair is spread out through a few dozen rooms in a decidedly un-fancy hotel down the road from San Francisco's airport. In each room, you'll find an equipment dealer or a speaker manufacturer showing off their latest goodies. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own music for demos, and the bearded, ponytailed and bespectacled throngs hoof from room to room with their stacks of 180-gram Deutsche Grammophon LPs, Bob Dylan tape reels, and Yo-Yo Ma SACDs in hand.

But an audiophile's dream is also a bargain hunter's nightmare. A pair of speakers being shown here could set you back twenty or thirty thousand dollars. That glowing tube amp could run another five grand (and you'll need two, one for each stereo channel). Oh, you like that crazy-looking turntable? How does $28,000 grab you? Welcome to the rabbit hole of cultured insanity that is high-end audio geekdom.

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