Not only was the sound in the Larkspur Suite familiar, so were the speakers. The $80,000/pair Acapella High Violoncello IIs being demmed were the exact same pair that I had very favorably reviewed in the September issue of Stereophile. Amplification was all-Einstein, including The Tube preamp that Michael Fremer reviewed in October.
Also distributed in the US by Aaudio Imports, the German Lansche speakers feature a horn-loaded ionic "singing flame" tweeter similar to that used by Acapella, also from Germany. In an off-site demonstration Friday night, I listened to the company's impressive-sounding flagship, the $80,000/pair, 243-lb Cubus, which combines the ion tweeter with a horn-loaded midrange unit and an 18", reflex-loaded woofer. The Lansche display at RMAF featured the somewhat more affordable three-way No.5 speakers ($40,000/pair), driven by the Ypsilon Aelius monoblocks ($34,000/pair) and PST-100 tube preamplifier ($37,000). Cabling was by Stage III, power distribution by Weizhi, and the front-end was either a Bergmann Sleipner Reference turntable and tonearm ($54,000) or the Ypsilon CDT-100 CD transport and DAC-100 D/A processor. As with many of the rooms in the Tower, the room acoustics cramped what this expensive system was undoubtedly capable of producing. But I was sufficiently impressed by the presentation that I have asked for a sample of the Ypsilon preamp for Michael Fremer to review.
Despite the recession, which hit the world of high-end audio hard in 2009, every Show features many new brands. One such was Emillé from South Korea, named after a 10'-high, 18.9-ton bronze bell cast in that country in 771AD, using the "lost-wax" process. Shown in my photo is the Emillé Rapture tube monoblock power amplifier, a zero negative-feedback design that uses four 6550 output tubes to produce 110W into 8 ohms at 2% THD. Emillé products are being distributed in the US by Solos of Cerritos, CA.
Driving Von Schweikert VR-3S speakers ($7995/pair) in Room 8032 was the awesome-looking Kronzilla SXI Mk.II monoblock, featuring the largest tubes I have seen in an audio amplifier. Source was the French EEra CD player, and there my handwritten notes become illegible. Apologies :-(
I walked into Naim’s Uniti display to hear the Killers doing an alright impersonation of the Beatles. Who knew? The sound was very expressivenot a big sound, but an entirely friendly and welcoming soundin touch with the emotion of the music.
After walking me through the Naim Uniti display, Naim’s David Dever then ushered me over to a second Naim room where the company was showing off its new NDX network player ($4750, shipping this November).
Music Hall’s inexpensive USB turntable, the two-speed, belt-driven USB-1 ($249), uses an aluminum die-cast platter, has a groovy S-shaped tonearm equipped with an Audio-Technica AT3600L moving-magnet phono cartridge, and comes in a high-gloss black finish. Overall, it resembles something Run DMC might’ve brought to a gig.
As with other Shows, RMAF gave audiophiles the opportunity to stock up on LPsthe original hi-rez mediumboth old and new. This is the bazaar on the Marriott's ground floor, which was crowded throughout the Show.
As in previous years, the 2010 RMAF featured a full program of seminars. I moderated two of them, the first of which on Saturday morning featured Channel D's Rob Robinson demonstrating how to rip LPs to your PC. Rob flew by the seat of his pants, doing everything in full view of the packed houseincluding booting-up his Mac mini, hooking up a Music Hall turntable to a preamplifier/ADC and connecting the preamp to the computer with a FireWire linkto make the point that there was nothing intimidating about the process. (His and my thanks to AudioEngine for providing powered speakers to allow the audience to hear what was happening.) The only departure from orthodoxy was that as Robinson was using Channel D's Pure Vinyl program (reviewed by Michael Fremer last August) to capture the data, he was using the program's digital-domain RIAA correction so used a flat-response preamp rather than a true phono preamplifier.
...was the title of the seminar presented Sunday afternoon by Audio Precision's Jonathan Novick. Audio Precision manufactures high-performance test gear (including the systems used by Stereophile for its reviews) and Novick's presentation concerned, among other things, how graphs, as published by Stereophile, are more meaningful than single figures of merit and how conventional measurements can miss problems with amplifiers that are undoubtedly audible. I came away from this presentation with some ideas on how to improve the magazine's test regime, but most telling was Novick's final slide which paraphrased Albert Einstein: "Not all that matters can be measured. Not all that can be measured, matters!."
It's always a joy to encounter Todd Garfinkle of MA Recordings. Here he shows his latest audiophile quality CD, Nama. Also available as a 24-bit/176.4kHz hi-rez DVD-ROM format in a plain package that belies the beauty of its contents, the recording is the rightful successor to MA's Sera una Noche and La Segunda, and features some of the same superb Argentinean artists. I can't wait to take a listen, once I dig it out of my luggage.