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From an Editor’s Notebook:  The 2021 LAOC Audio Society Gala

12-25-2021 | By David W. Robinson | Issue 118

Dr. David W. Robinson, in contemplation with cigar. Happy Valley, Summer, 2021. (Photograph by John Robinson; image processing by Robinson)

One of the high-end audio events that I attend every year is the Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society's Gala. Held for years now at the Holiday Inn at Buena Park, CA, the LAOCAS's annual Gala is normally very well attended (300+) with audiophiles from all over the USA, and even some folks from overseas.

Of course, we know what happened to the Gala in 2020. COVID led to the cancellation of the gathering, as it has with so many other aspects of life. These are very strange days that we are living in, with nearly two years' worth of rescheduled/cancelled audiophile shows and events all over the world. The world is on its side…the stylus of our audio lives is skipping wildly in the grooves.

Nevertheless, having missed in 2020, the LAOCAS made the decision to go ahead with the Gala in December of 2021. As an Executive VP of the LAOCAS Board, the Chair of the Audiophile Recording of the Year Award (ARYA) committee, and a co-emcee of the annual Gala Raffle with my good audiobud Michael Fremer, I attended to fulfill the various duties entailed.

(I should mention the members of the ARYA committee for 2021, since they rendered such fine service this year…as always. You should know them. The committee that I chair included, in no particular order, Dan Meinwald of E.A.R. USA; Michael Fremer of Stereophile and Analogplanet.com; Paul Seydor of TAS; Greg Weaver of the audio analyst and Positive Feedback; Dean Seislove of Positive Feedback; and Gaurav Vij of the LAOCAS.)

More importantly, it was an opportunity to reestablish face-to-face contacts with many friends and acquaintances in high-end audio. It had been too long.

I should note that there were two people who were honored at this event. George Cardas, the founder of Cardas Audio, received the LAOCAS Founders Award for 2021, a recognition long overdue as far as I'm concerned.

The 2021 Innovation Award went to Dr. Dragoslav Colich of Audeze. I acted as a co-emcee of the annual Gala Raffle with my good audiobud Michael Fremer, a very well-respected brand in high-end headphone design and manufacture.

A portrait of David W. Robinson at work during the Great Pacific Northwest Fires of 2012. Leavenworth, WA, 2012. (Photograph by Lila Ritsema; image processing by Robinson.)

Naturally, as a fine art photographer, there were some fine opportunities to add new portraits to my portfolio. I didn't pass these up! The artistic result of this trip will be found below in the selected photographs that I am sharing with you in this photo-essay…

Before I hit the LAOCAS events, I had an opportunity to spend some time with my dear friends and unindicted co-conspirators here at Positive Feedback, Dave and Carol Clark. This is always great fun, and usually leads to new photographic work…

Dave Clark, artist:  a portrait in his studio. Long Beach, CA, 2021.

Dave's newly remodeled studio/workshop is a feast for those who truly dig art (HERE). That would include me. His work speaks for itself…just ask the person to whom it speaks. I own several of Dave's images and a sculpture, and would own more if we could just figure out a way to ship some of his larger works up here to me in Oregon safely. So far, no clue.

Carol Clark with Wine. Long Beach, CA, 2021.

Carol and I have a long tradition of making portraits of her drinking wine at various audio events. Those have been interrupted, and so I wasn't going to miss a chance to extend our string of photographs.

In fact, I think that this study is the best of them all…thus far.

Dave Clark:  Surprise! Long Beach, CA, 2021.

Yes, that's our Dave! Give him a cigar and the man goes crazy.

Good times, really good times, though. Music, art, ‘gars, drinks, and a fine fire pit in Long Beach winter weather. Of such are lasting memories made.

Dan Meinwald:  a portrait in his listening room, Long Beach, CA, 2021.

Any time that I make it down to Long Beach, I always try to carve out an afternoon to meet with my good audio friend, Dan Meinwald. We usually go straight to his listening space, chat for a moment, and then Dan starts spinning LPs. A couple of hours of "Dan's Picks" is enough to relax me for well down the road.

It also always costs me money, since I end up finding LPs from Dan's sessions that I simply must add to my collection ASAP. Spendy, that.

Dan Meinwald. Long Beach, CA, 2021.

The fact that Dan and I also share a deep love for photography, both historical and modern, is another foundation for kindredness between Dan and I. Like Dave and Carol Clark, who are deeply founded in a love of all art forms, Dan has some very fine works of art at his place. Just wandering around and getting a chance to contemplate these works is a balm for the soul.

George Cardas tipping me the toast. Orange, CA, 2021.

George was the LAOC Audio Society Founders Award winner for 2021. My first opportunity to see and congratulate him was during the LAOC Board dinner on Saturday night before the Gala.

George Cardas, Les Edelberg, and Mary Cardas, digging the moment....

I've known George since 1992, and he has been a great audiobud from that time to this. Through him I got to meet Mary in the later 90s…and through the both of them to meet Les, who was the CEO of Audio Power Industries at that time. Les and I are both hearty fans of great cigars and excellent drinks…George and Mary also connoisseurs of fine drink. It's always congenial to spend time with them, anytime, anywhere.

Mary Cardas:  a portrait. Orange, CA, 2021

Ars ipsa loquitur.

The Two Georges in an ink outline photograph:  a moment of discourse.

That would be George Counnas of Zesto Audio on the left, and George Cardas on the right. An LAOC Innovation Award winner and an LAOC Founders Award winner, tête-à-tête. 

A portrait of Les Edelberg. Orange, CA, 2021.

A portion of the crowd at the LAOCAS Gala on Sunday.

The turnout for the Gala on Sunday was noticeably less than in past years (2020 being the year that the event was entirely cancelled). Normal attendance in 2019 and before was in the neighborhood of a touch over 300. I'd guess that we were down 40% or a bit more in 2021. It was still a very pleasant event, with a very good mood in the room.

LAOC Audio Society President Mike Wechsberg addressing the Gala attendees.

As the successor to Bob Levi, Mike Wechsberg did a very solid job of bringing the gathering to order, and shepherding things along.

Bob Levi, Chairman of the LAOCAS Board and former longtime President of the Society, with the recipient of the LAOCAS Innovation Award for 2021, Dr. Dragoslav Colich.

Dr. Colich is the Chief Technology Officer for Audeze, a very highly regarded audiophile headphone manufacturer. Having owned the LCD-3 and LCD-4 in the past, and now owning the LCD-4 Revision 2, I can say that Audeze deserves the accolades that it has been given over the years. Meeting Dr. Colich, and being seated next to him and his wife on the dais, allowed me to chat with him a bit. He's certainly a focused person.

Bill Low of AudioQuest and George Cardas of Cardas Audio:  a friendly rivalry.

It was good to see Bill and George conversing with each other, and carrying on a pleasant chat. I know them both, and have great regard for their accomplishments.

One does not always have to agree with another person's view of things to get along well with them, you see.

This is a truth that needs rediscovery nowadays.

Joe Harley:  a portrait

One very pleasant moment was when I saw another longtime audio friend in attendance…none other than Joe Harley, head honcho of Blue Note's "Tone Poet" series, a number of titles of which I own and treasure. He was also associated with the Music Matters analog reissues to LP so highly regarded by Blue Note's Prez, Don Was. In fact Joe and Don were here in 2018 for our first LAOC Audiophile Recording of the Year Award (ARYA), since one of the "Tone Poet" series had won an award from us.

Wonderful fellows both.

Michael Fremer:  a portrait

A very good moment with my audio friend Michael Fremer.

Again, ars ipsa loquitur….

Sarah Tremblay and Michele Plante, organizers of the new AudioConLA 2022 Show, launching in mid-January, and Bob Levi, Chairman of the Board of the LAOCAS.

While COVID continues to muck about with audio shows and attendance at same, Michele and Sarah are doing everything possible to launch year one of the AudioConLA audiophile show. A beautiful venue, an excellent time of year, plus wonderful weather…there are many reasons to think that this show may bring the LA area back into play as a site for a world-class fine audio event. Positive Feedback will be attending, and hosting a Hospitality Suite at the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach. If you are there, be sure to visit our room in the Catalina Building, Suite 337.

A portrait of Paul Seydor.

He of TAS, and a member of the LAOCAS ARYA Committee. A hale fellow, well met, and an excellent colleague on our ARYA group.

Angela Cardas:  a moment.

Angela is currently a key person in the operation of Cardas Audio in Bandon, Oregon. As always, it was a delight to see her again.

Dean Seislove…a portrait.

Dean is a longtime contributor to Positive Feedback, and a very good audio friend. He also is a member of the LAOCAS ARYA committee, and has faithfully participated in that sometimes acrimonious process from year to year. Good man!

Colleen Cardas and Marc Phillips.

Colleen is another member of the Cardas Clan, who has in times past been involved in the operations there. These days she is on to other things. With her is audiobud and fellow cigar lover, Marc Phillips, a past contributor for Positive Feedback, and now involved as an editor with part time audiophile. The good news is that these two now live just down the road from me. The bad news is that we haven't got around to connecting face to face yet…one of life's miserable ironies.

We really must get together for cigars and drinks, once the weather warms up a bit.

Dr. Dragoslav Colich ("Dr. C."), CTO of Audeze, with his wife, Nela Colich, up on the LAOCAS dais.

EveAnna Manley, a moment in time… .


Need I say more?!

Abey Fonn of Impex Records, a portrait.

It was very good to see Abey once again. Her Impex Records SACDs of Patricia Barber's Higher and Clique!—recorded by Jim Anderson, whose work has been really impressing me for years—had received "Honorable Mention" recognition from the ARYA committee, itself quite an accomplishment. If you don't have these SACDs yet, then you simply must add them to your collection.

Hajime Sato, Executive VP and Secretary of the LAOCAS, hosting his Eastwind space with its usual collection of exceptional recordings.

Another hale fellow, well met! I've known Hajime for years now, and have purchased quite a lot of music from him. He has been faithfully serving the Society for as long as I can remember….

Bill Low and George Cardas:  All's well, and down the road we go!

Likewise, I turn the page on the LAOCAS Gala for 2021. I've been attending for many years, save only the plague year of 2020. Even attenuated, being there was a very good time for me, and for all. I am hopeful that 2022's gathering will rebound to larger numbers as COVID recedes from pandemic to endemic.

May it be so….

All photographs by David W. Robinson, except as noted. Drawing by Bruce Walker.