The LA&OCAS 25th Anniversary Gala
We Came, We Saw, We Were Impressed
How The Other Half Lives.
By David Hicks
It’s a bit inaccurate to reference the Los Angeles & Orange County Audio Society as the other half. A more accurate reference would be to call them the other 10/11ths. With more than 2400 members they have over ten times as many members as are counted in our own SFAS. Their ever-expanding membership total has Robert H. Levi, their President, and CEO, proudly proclaiming their audiophile society as the World’s largest. And, while we are happy to get around forty members to attend some of our events, they have 40 members on their Board of Directors. Many of those directors are audio industry manufacturers or journalists. Their Societies monthly meetings routinely draw over one hundred members. They have over a thousand members who ponied up the cash to become lifetime members, with three hundred of those lifetime members and friends showing up on a Saturday evening for the Societies catered steak & lobster dinner at King’s Fish House in Orange, CA the night before the awards Gala in Buena Park on Sunday, December 2nd.
At the Sunday afternoon Gala, you could purchase raffle tickets to support the LA&OCAS while putting yourself in position to win some of the $66,000 in prizes that were donated by the industry manufacturers and were being given away with all ticket proceeds going back into supporting the LA&OCAS. You can be sure there were lots of tickets sold. Red (tickets) was a color prominently featured in front of nearly every attendee at every table as members and guests gathered to celebrate Michael Fremer who was receiving the Society’s 2018 Silver Anniversary Founders Award.
Michael also received a framed certificate from Albert Lord on behalf of the Los Angeles City Council in recognition of his receiving the Award. Mr. Lord also presented awards to Bob Levi in recognition of the LA&OCAS status as the World’s largest Audiophile Society; and to Yarlung Records for their outstanding accomplishments as a Los Angeles area recording company.
While we all sat and enjoyed our catered lunch, watched the awards presentations, and listened to the Yuko Mabuchi Trio perform live, many of us took the opportunity to purchase the Trio’s audiophile 45rpm vinyl releases (volumes 1 and 2) issued by Yarlung Records. Getting your copy autographed was easily done after the Trio finished their set.
Jay Selwitz & Yuko Mabuchi:
Speaking of autographed records, Chad Kassem pressed some LA&OCAS 25th Anniversary special silver vinyl copies of Acoustic Sounds recent release of The Wonderful Sounds of Female Vocalists. Each copy was personally signed by Chad Kassem and Michael Fremer, (Michael wrote the liner notes for this LP).
And, while I’ve not yet directly compared my silver vinyl copy to my black vinyl copy (previously purchased), Bob Levi touted the silver vinyl as having better dynamics, although a slightly higher noise floor.
And everyone, members and guests who paid the forty dollars to attend the event received, not only the catered lunch and live entertainment, but a free copy of the Dialoghi CD by Elinor Frey and David Fung. Bob Levi said that this is one of his favorite CD’s and he wanted everyone to have it.
So, why am I regaling you with tales of what’s going on in Southern California? Well, this isn’t a Giants vs Dodgers situation. It so happens that many of the members of the SFAS, including myself, are also members of the LA&OCAS. And, Alon Sagee, President & Chief Trouble Maker of our SFAS is also one of the 40 members of the Board of Directors and a lifetime member of the LA&OCAS and he was on the dais with the other illuminati at their Gala.
Some of the LA&OCAS Board Members
Some of those dais sitters were- in no particular order: Bob Levi; Alon Sagee; Ray Kimber (Kimber Cables); B. Jan Montana (President of the San Diego Audio Society); Albert Lord; Chuck Bruce (Atlanta Audio Society); Paul Seydor (The Absolute Sound); John Atkinson and Michael Fremer (Stereophile); Michael Fremer’s wife, Sharon and Michael’s two sisters; Bob Attiyeh (Yarlung Records); and, more I’m sure I missed.
Also, in general attendance were: EveAnna Manley; Bob Carver; Holger Stein; Chad Kassem; Richard Schramm, John Curl & Phil Jackson (Parasound); Marjorie Baumert (director of the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest); George & Carolyn Counnas (Zesto Audio); Tim De Paravichini (President of E.A.R.) & Dan Meinwald (E.A.R. USA); Dr. Charles Kirmuss (who also presented Michael Fremer with a special Kirmuss award); and Richard Vandersteen, among others.
So, yeah, Larry Deniston, Jay Selwitz, Kevin Olson (our newest SFAS Director) and I bought our tickets and made the journey down South with Alon to see how things are done in La La Land. And, while Alon and I had lunch with Bob Levi and Chuck Bruce, Bob graciously shared with us his prodigious expertise in marketing. After all, it seems only natural that we would want to have such a large, inclusive, and robust audiophile society.
But, before anyone up here starts having dreams of going after and eventually winning the title of the World’s Largest Audiophile Society, let me point out some significant differences between the Bay Area and the Los Angeles area that I think are impediments to our ever achieving that goal. We could start with the Bay. Though the Bay Area is roughly comparable in overall size to the greater Los Angeles Area, there is this large body of water- The San Francisco Bay- that is essentially unoccupied- sitting right in the middle of our hood. So, right there we find ourselves drawing from a population pool of around seven million fewer people than does the LA&OCAS.
And, if you live across the Bay from where we are holding an event, our uninhabited obstacle requires that you’ll have to cross over by a bridge, ferry, or BART. Bart is fine if you happen to live near a BART station or you can park at a BART station and at the other end our event is close to a BART station, but the SFAS doesn’t currently have access to a location we can use that fits that description.
Contrast our lot with the fact that in Los Angeles & Orange County, events are held at audiophile dealerships that have room for 100 plus attendees and have enough parking space to accommodate those members. In the San Francisco Bay Area, I know of no dealers that have more than a handful of parking spaces, and you could count those dealers on half of one hand. So, that leaves us with having events in someone’s home (= limited space) or in Leslie’s conference space in Richmond (= enormous parking capacity). The problem with the Richmond location, besides not being more centrally located, is that it is not at a dealership and we must provide the stereo gear for listening, but we only use that space 11 or 12 times a year when we have meetings and locking up the gear is cumbersome. (See the related article on the SFAS’s newest Conference space audio system donation thanks to Don Naples and Pass Labs!!!)
Despite the obstacles I’ve listed, I believe we still have the potential to grow our society. And, as I’ve said before, societies live and die based upon the energy put into them by their members. The more members, the more energy we’ll have to work with. I think about how a robust audio show is a fantastic way to attract new members. I first heard about an audiophile club at the Stereophile Show in San Francisco many years ago. I know too, that the LA&OCAS gains many new members each year through their promotion of and cooperation with the Los Angeles Audio Show (LAAS). As a group of audiophiles, the SFAS would also love to be able to partner with a promoter willing to host a large show in the Bay Area.
We are also looking at expanding our social media presence as a way of reaching new members. Bob Levi told us 70% of his members receive their information about events through Facebook. As a group, our members generally don’t use Facebook (per our survey results). But, as a way to reach new members, Facebooks targeted advertising may be just the ticket for audiophiles in our area to be alerted that the SFAS exists. More to come on this topic.
And lastly, yes! There were a few raffle tickets purchased by our little group of SFAS Directors. And, also yes, we won some prizes. Kevin Olson, SFAS’s most recent winner of a Parasound hat and a Parasound Zphono XRM phono stage as our raffle prize during the Richard Schram/John Curl event in November, was the first from our table in L.A. to stand up with his winning ticket and claim his $8500 Bob Carver “Society 25th Anniversary Edition” 50 wpc stereo amplifier. Larry Deniston was the next one from our table to stand up and claim his Kirmuss Audio KA-RC-1 Ultrasonic Vinyl Record Restoration System. Yes, he already has one, but don’t worry, these things are easy to find homes for among your vinyl loving friends. And next, was- Larry Deniston again. This time he claimed his prize of a pair of AMT 6 speakers from ESS Loudspeakers. And then, when the drawing of tickets for listed prizes was complete, one additional ticket was drawn and announced as the winner of a pair of entry-level speakers from Vandersteen Audio, or the equivalent credit for the purchase of any model speaker Vandersteen makes. I won! But, by the time I looked through my tickets, which I’d moments earlier decided were not-winners, and made my way to the stage to collect my prize, Richard Vandersteen was gone. I didn’t get to thank him! So, thank you, Richard Vandersteen, and all the other manufacturers who donated their time and products to make the 25th Anniversary LA&OCAS event such a rousing success. And thanks to Bob Levi for inviting us down. We were indeed fortunate to be able to share time with you.