John Atkinson was one busy camper at RMAF. In addition to blogging the show and moderating Saturday afternoon's information-packed, standing room only Computer Audio Panel, John presented four hour-long seminars entitled PC AudioSqueezing the Music Till the Bits Squeak, playing all his music examples from his MacBook laptop via a Metric Halo FireWire interface. The setting was Evergreen E, the large, excellent-sounding exhibit (Sony and JBL speakers, Mark Levinson amplification, EMM Labs preamp and digital source components, Kimber kables) assembled by Ray Kimber of Kimber Kable.
Bless Ray Kimber's heart. For at least the last three years, Kimber Kable has transported live musicians to RMAF so that we could always have a fresh, live reference in our heads as we traipsed room-to-room listening to canned performances.
Both Art Dudley and Michael Fremer have praised Gingko Audio's isolation platforms in Stereophile's pages, and at RMAF, the company was showing the benefit of its Cloud 10 platform on an Atmasphere tube power amplifier. Projected on the wall above Gingko's Vinh Vu (and onto his forehead!), real-time analysis showed the outputs of B&K accelerometers fastened to the stand the amp was sitting on and to the amplifier chassis, which was supoorted by a Cloud 10. There was indeed a dramatic reduction in the excitation of the amplifier compared with the standespecially at low frequencies.
When I walked into the room of Chicago-based Acoustic Technology LLC, I thought I was listening to speakers that only had tweeters, because the only visible drive-unity was a single 3" unit. Yet the sound, a recording of Rimsky-Korsakov's Schererazade, was definitely full-range,and the soundstaging, as you might expect from such a small radiating diameter and a narrow cabinet baffle, was well-delineated.
Having just heard a Bay Area Audiophile Society (BAAS) demo of the PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport ($2999), Perfect Wave DAC ($2999), and Power Plant Premier ($2199), all hosted by the ever-engaging Paul McGowan, I was very eager to hear PS Audio's front end powered by an early prototype of PS Audio's forthcoming class-D Perfect Wave amplifier. Using Focus Audio Master 2.5 speakers ($20,000/pair), two MartinLogan Descent subs, and a complement of Perfect Wave AC12 power cables ($699/meter) and older PS Audio speaker cables not currently on the market, the system delivered the kind of clean, impressively full range sound that has made PS Audio a legend in the industry.
After several years without distribution in the US, Peder Beckman of Norway's Electrocompaniet (kneeling on the left, next to company head Mikal Dreggevik) has quickly established a revitalized US dealer network that should number a good 10 by CES 2010. Without a long-standing reputation for affordable excellence, this would have been next to impossible to achieve in the current climate.
I first discovered the Eficion F300 loudspeaker ($14,800/pair) at RMAF 2008, where its full-range sound deeply impressed for the price. Since then, the speaker has undergone numerous refinements. Split into two separate compartments, separated by Stillpoints, this is a 3-way 4-driver vented box with a frequency response of 25Hz40kHz, 89dB sensitivity, and 8 ohms impedance, with a minimum of 6.4 ohms. The front tweeter is an Air Motion Transformer, its rear-firing super tweeter a Heil ESS aluminum ribbon, and its 7" midrange and 12" woofer both from Aurum Cantus. All this has produced a more controlled and detailed sound. Other refinements are identified on the Eficion website.
At least two people I know came up to me in the hallways of the Marriott to urge me to check out Intuitive Audio's new Gamma Summit speakers ($10,000/pair). As soon as I walked into the room, the fabulous bass on Patricia Barber's rendition of "Keep on Using Me Until You Use Me Up"I'm guessing at the titletold me why. The system's riveting presentation also featured the kind of musical highlights for days that audiophiles love. Next I heard the same Mahler Symphony 2 recording I've been playing a lot at RMAF 2009. The speakers did an extremely fine job of controlling and highlighting the bass line, and also sounded very vibrant on top. Congratulations to designer Dale Pitcher for a job well done.
One of the first rooms I visited at RMAF was the one shared by Luxman and Vivid distributor On a A Higher Note and cable manufacturer Synergistic Research. Auditioning the South African Vivid Giya speakers ($58,000/pair) had been a highlight of the 2009 CES and I wanted to repeat the experience before the speakers wended their way to Wes Phillips' place for a forthcoming Stereophile review.
Cable manufacturers Nordost and Vertex AQ had good reason to present their joint seminar, "New Approach to Audio Measurement: Why Cables Really Matter," no less than five times during the show. As Art Dudley will report at length in his December "Listening" column, their groundbreaking new approach to measurement, developed by Nordost and Vertex AQ in collaboration with military electronic-engineering consultant Gareth Humphrey Jones, has produced an entirely new method for measuring the audible effects of components on sound. We're talking not only cables, support platforms, and the like, all of which can now be unequivocally shown to affect a system's sound quality, but also CD players, amplifiers, and speakers.
Until I encountered the world premiere of the imposing Wharfedale Airedale Neo loudspeaker ($20,000/pair), I hadn't run into speakers from the 70-year old company in many a year. The wait was worth it. This wonderful-sounding speaker, which weighs over 125 lbs and can handle up to 400W power, boasts point-to-point wiring, frequency response of 25Hz45kHz, and 88dB senstivity.
Genesis Advanced Technologies was demming two new products: the latest iteration of owner/designer Gary Leonard Koh's new Absolute Fidelity Music Server, whose white paper is available on the Genesis website, and a new preamp. The preamp, a joint effort between Genesis and Steve McCormack's SMC Audio, boasts all-analog switching and controls. (Fully balanced, the solid-state preamp boasts all-analog switching and controls. The basic model will be priced somewhere between $4000 and $5000, with the first model scheduled for release priced around $8000. Pictured is Bruno De Lorimier, Canadian sales rep for Genesis, who is kneeling next to the rack with the new preamp.