Many years ago, in a conversation I was having with Peter Walker of Quad, I asked him if there was a speaker he'd wished he'd designed. "PJ" thought for a moment, then said he admired the Beveridge electrostatic, where a flat panel fires into a waveguide, thus allowing the panel to overcome its Achilles' Heel: the very limited horizontal dispersion resulting from its width.
After a hard day's morning presenting my hi-rez digital audio dems, I wandered into the Marriott's Atrium to sip on a Starbucks Grande Cafe Mocha. There I enjoyed some fine singing and guitar picking from Dan Weldon on the Zu Audio stand. The Utah cable'n'speaker company, whose modification of the classic Denon DL103D cartridge will be reviewed in the December issue of Stereophile, was presenting live music throughout the Show, with their high-sensitivity speakers used as the PA. Nice one, guys.
The delightful Gilbert Yeung of Blue Circle, minus the Mickey Mouse ears and Snake Oil display I encountered at the last Show, has a thing for circles. I'm not complaining. After seeing boxes upon boxes upon boxes, encountering a surfeit of circles is super. (I have a feeling someone is going to rake me over the coals in the comments section for that one.)
A definite eye-catcher, the $25,999/pair spherical Proclaim Audioworks DMT-100 speaker system features an external crossover that facilitates the ability to balance stereo output in difficult listening environments. (The crossover includes an L-pad bypass option to ensure "the cleanest possible signal path...for audio purists.") Each driver is independently mounted in a spherical enclosure cast from a proprietary high-density laminate. Fine-tunable for one's room, each driver can be adjusted up to 45° off-axis; they also afford up to 12" vertical and horizontal positioning flexibility for the tweeter and midrange modules. Daniel Herrington's babies, designed by ear, are so new that their sensitivity has yet to be measured.
The sweet solidity of the violin beckoned me from down the hallway (which is far more than I can say about some of the rooms I visited). I was hardly surprised to discover that I had been lured by Edge Electronics. Paired with the Tyler Acoustics Woodmere II speakers ($8800 base price, 185 lbs each), the Edge System handled silences wonderfully. That may sound like a backhanded compliment, but I mean anything but. Playing the exquisite Elly Ameling singing Schubert to piano accompaniment, there was a stillness, poise, and grace amidst the living flow of her voice that I rarely experience from sound systems. (I experienced something similar one year in the Joule/Elrod room at CES). On display were the new Edge CD player, whose RAM circuitry is said to perform advance error correction, the G8 amp, and G2 preamp (available with optional battery supply). Actually, passive display was not what was intended. Shipping mishaps from the company's new base in Florida had actually destroyed some of the intended components, which were replaced by older versions of Edge's current models, which Steve Norber lifted from his home system a few miles away.
Toward the end of Day One, I encountered my Bay Area Audiophile Society buddy Jeff Wilson in the hallway. Jeff, a true music lover and long-time audiophile whose ears I trust, is about to open a showroom with Bob Kehn in Oakland, CA that will feature Magico, VAC, Silversmith, and other top-quality brands.
In a room tuned with the amazing Acoustic System Acoustic Resonators to sound good with the glass window exposed, Darren and Bonnie Censullo of Avatar Acoustics displayed a system distinguished by the kind of openness and air that some people would kill for. Products included the Abbington Music Research AMR CD-77 and AMR AM-77 ($8500 each, both outfitted with NOS tubes), Acoustic System Tango Speaker ($13,500/pair), Current Cable Powercord and interconnects, and a host of Acoustic Resonators. If you look closely, you may see one of the diminutive resonators ($200–$2200) on the rear window. This is one system I hope to revisit if time allows. I’d love to hear some of these products in my own listening room, which is far bigger than the hotel suites into which most systems were shoeboxed.
Having hosted an AudioKinesis speaker demo at my home for the Bay Area Audiophile Society (BAAS), I feel confident saying that Duke LeJeune is one of the dearest men in the business. Here he demonstrates his new 92dB-sensitivity, 16 ohm impedance, 170 lb Dream Maker ($9000/pair), whose "controlled-pattern, offset bipole configuration" is designed to control the relative level of reverberant energy density in the room. If that sounds like gobbledegook, the vivid presentation of the AudioKinesis/AtmaSphere combo, which was admirably clear in the higher frequencies, whet my appetite for more extended listening in the future.
Undoubtedly contributing to the excellent sound I heard from the Vivid speakers in the previous story was this neat 30Wpc class-A integrated amplifier, the L-590A II ($9000) from legendary Japanese brand Luxman, shown here sitting on the top of the stack of Weiss gear. On A Higher Note is now distributing Luxman in the US.
We first encountered the South African Vivid speaker, designed by B&W alum Laurence Dickie, at a CES a couple of years ago and was impressed with their clarity, dynamic range capability, and freedom from coloration and distortion. For whatever reason, the brand failed to get a foothold in the US, but it was announced at RMAF that Vivid was now being distributed by On a Higher Note. I sat down in the sweet spot and after listening to a rather nice recording of Aaron Neville singing "Save the Last Dance for Me," Philip O'Hanlon put on a DVD-A he had burned on his PC using the $49 Cirlinca program and was playing back on a Weiss Jason transport and Medea DAC, which On A Higher Note is also now distributing. Now there was a familiar sound—it was the 24/88.2 master of my recording of the slow movement from the Mozart Clarinet Quintet, which I had completely forgotten sending Philip a few years back.
I always make a point of seeking out a Wilson dem at Shows, and in the RMAF room run by Denver dealer Audio Unlimited, I encountered not one but two systems featuring Wilson speakers. The smaller system offered WATT/Puppy 8s driven by Balanced Audio Technology's VK53 CD player and $6000 VK55SE integrated amplifier—compared to its predecessor, this now uses 6BH30 input and driver tubes, sitting on tubed current sources—and sounded sweet indeed. But the real reason to visit this room was to hear the mighty MAXX2s driven by BAT's new Rex three-chassis ultimate preamp, VK600SE solid-state monoblocks and the new Paganini three-box SACD player—transport, clock, DAC—from English company dCS. BAT's Geoff Poor put on Frank Sinatra's Nelson Riddle-arranged "What's New," which Geoff feels is the singer's finest performance. Wow! Mr. Sinatra was there in the room with us.
Walking to the Kimber dem, I heard the familiar sounds of the Beatles' "Come Together" coming from the open door of the Usher room. I had to go in. A pair of the Taiwanese manufacturer's Dancer Be-718 two-ways ($2795/pair) was playing the song, fed by the LP release of Love on an Oracle tonearm/turntable fitted with a Zyx Atmos cartridge, which in turn was feeding the Oracle Temple phono stage, Oracle DAC 1000 preamp, and Usher's R.15 amplifiers. Cabling was all JPS Aluminata. Considering the large room, the relatively small Dancers appeared to have no problem filling it with sound. This is a speaker that deserves review coverage in Stereophile, I feel.
I couldn't resist the wonderful sounds of Louis Prima coming from the Green Mountain Audio room. Paired with Jaton Corporation’s Operetta AP2140A 2-channel Distributor amplifier ($1000, 140Wpc into 4 ohms, 70Wpc into 8 ohms), whose "processing filter circle eliminates 99.99% of noise at maximum volume," the intriguing-looking Green Mountain Calypso loudspeaker ($10,000/pair for the next month or so before the price increases 10–15%) was producing the kind of extremely smooth sound that draws you into the music. The speaker measures 88–89dB sensitivity, and utilizes a simple, first-order crossover to achieve "perfect" time-coherence. The midrange and tweeter are also adjustable forward and back for optimal sound in the listening position. The entire system, including the speaker, was wired with Marigo wire. I constantly find that Green Mountain's innovative designs produce lovely sound. Expect a whole new line of smaller, less-expensive speakers to appear on the Green Mountain website in another month or so.
One aspect of audio Shows that I love is the software pavilion, where audiophiles can browse new, old, are rare vinyl to their hearts' content. Acoustic Sounds’ Chad Kassem wanted to show me some of his new Analog Productions releases, but ended up telling me about his recent purchase of 30,000 sealed LPs—one and a half 53' trailer's worth—that had been in storage since 1981, the stash assembled by an eccentric collector long since passed away.
"How often do you hear no limiting, no compression, no mixing, and no equalization? Recorded in DSD and played back the same way today" announced the blurb for Ray Kimber's IsoMike dem at RMAF. Inrigued, I entered the ginormous Ballroom F to be confronted by a system costing no less than $507,288! The six pairs of humongous Sound Lab ProStat 922 electrostats were joined by two pairs of a prototype speaker from Sony in Japan, all driven by no fewer than 8 Pass Labs X350.5 monoblocks. Source was Ray's latest four-channel DSD master files stored on a Genex hard-disk recorder and decoded by EMM Labs DACs. Kable was all-Kimber, of course.