"Bring the concert home!" declared the Jones Audio brochure. The 18-month old company, whose products are "handcrafted" in Seattle, took advantage of RMAF to debut the Jones Audio PA-M300 monoblock amplifier ($24,000/pair). This 300W into 8 ohms, 560W into 4 ohms baby, which uses a 35 lb toroidal transformer, kept company with the Jones Pre-S2 preamplifier (approx. $11,000), the Revel Ultima Salon2 loudspeakers I've lusted after on multiple occasions ($22,000/pair), a Benchmark DAC1 Pre, and Kimber cabling with WBT connectors (approx. $1000 worth).
Departure Audio seems to take their name seriously. In a system fine-tuned by Shakti Hallographs (the candelabra-like devices at the edges of the photograph) and the infamous you know whats from Synergistic, the Fort Collins dealership was showing Canton Reference 7.2 loudspeakers ($7000, presumably for the pair), Herron Audio's VTSP-3A preamplifier ($6550) and M1 power amps ($6850, presumably for the pair), Arcam CD 37 ($2295), Blue Circle Audio BC 507 DAC ($2095, with options available), Audio Magic cabling and Oracle power conditioning ($7500). The sound was clean and incisive, which means somewhat tipped up. I would have stayed to explore more, but constant conversation in the room led me to take Departure Audio's name literally.
You can always count on EAR's Dan Meinwald to be spinning some great platters. When I walked in, whatever jazz recording was playing sounded very alive and incisive. (EAR's electronics and Marten's speakers are not shy and recalcitrant). When Dan switched to an old classic LP, Meeting at the River, the Vishwa Mohan Bhatt's unique guitar sounded uncommonly beautiful and clear. Had I not had 18 rooms left to visit on Saturday, with a lot more screaming for attention, I would have stayed longer.
The sound in this room blew me away. When I walked in, Dr. John's "In a Sentimental Mood" was sounding as lovely and mellow as can be. Switching gears 180°, Reference Recordings' LP issue of Stravinsky's Firebird had absolutely amazing bass. "Amazing," I wrote twice in my notes.
We audiophiles can't resist pushing the boundaries of intimacy. Step on those cables, jostle them ampswe just gotta take a look at what's going on from all angles. Trying not to do permanent damage, here's what I spied on the back of Lowther America's Field-Coil EXR Open-Baffle loudspeaker (estimated price of $15,000/pair).
Having greatly enjoyed YG Acoustics' two-way Carmel loudspeaker ($18,000/pair) at the California Audio Show this past summer, I was eager to hear it in a different setting. This was the opportunity, paired with Veloce Audio's battery-powered set-up. The system also featured Kubala-Sosna Emotion cabling (price not supplied), the LS-1 Pure Tube linestage ($15,000)are there any impure tubes?and LP-1 Pure Tube phono module ($3000), and V-6 monoblock amplifiers ($14,000, presumably for the pair). Also doing the honors were the Amazon One turntable (price not available), and the PS Audio Perfect Wave transport/DAC combo (approx. $6000).
Judging by my complete lack of notes on the room occupied by Silver Circle Audio, Sutherland Engineering, and Tyler Acousticsa VPI Scoutmaster turntable was spinning tunes, with amplification from Plinius driving the speakersI would have to say that I didn’t do much listening in here. I mean, I heard music, but I was too busy enjoying my conversation with Silver Circle’s David Stanard, and I was too impressed by the appearance of the gear. From the cabinetry of the Tyler Acoustics Decade D1 loudspeakers to the hefty AC cords coming from the Silver Circle Pure Power One 5.0’s rear panel to the exposed circuitry of the Sutherland Engineering 20/20 phono preamp (review to come from Brian Damkroger), to the equipment rackhandmade by Stanard in one afternooneverything was handsome and personal and showed obvious fine craftsmanship.
Check out the throng of thick Silver Circle AC cables, each with heavy-duty connectors from Furutech. Also note the lovely side panels of the Silver Circle Pure Power One 5.0. Who knew a power conditioner could be so pretty? The Pure Power One 5.0 ($5000; reviewed by Michael Fremer in our August 2010 issue) includes a 65-lb, 5kVA, custom-built isolation transformer, a proprietary EMI/RF filter, four double-ganged, gold-plated Furutech AC jacks, and a Vesuvius power cord.
Peak Consult is a new brand for Jay Rein’s Bluebird Music, and the company’s attractive InCognito XII loudspeaker ($22,000/pair) sounded just perfectly at home with Chord Electronics’ Red Reference MkII CD player ($25,900), CPA 5000 preamp ($21, 900), and 500Wpc SPM 1400 monoblocks ($32,900/pair). Cables were Van den Hul’s Nova speaker wire ($3295) and MC Silver interconnects ($7268).
Audio Plus Services' John Bevier was sporting a snazzy bow tie at RMAF, echoing the sartorial sang-froid of another well-known audio distributor. More than one visitor to his room was puzzled by the apparent lack of any source component, yet the Focal 1038Be speakers ($12,000/pair) were playing the Gary Karr transcription for double bass and organ of the Albinoni Adagio and sounding sweet. John pointed to his MacBook, which was running iTunes with the Amarra front-end and sending the data via WiFi to the Micromega Airstream integrated amplifier ($4995), which has a WiFi front-end based on an Apple Airport Express router. This limits playback resolution to 16 bits and 48kHz, but for someone who wants to rip his CDs and play them with minimal fuss'n'muss, the Micromega is a contender. The system was wired with speaker cable from Crystal Cable, for which Audio Plus is now the North American distributor.
I was mightily impressed by the sound of the bus-powered, $399 DACport USB-input headphone amplifier when I reviewed it in June. So when I was looking round the CanJam exhibit, I checked out the Centrance booth. There sat Michael Goodman, the Chicago company's managing director, with a new product with a very familiar form factor. The $795 DacMini headphone amplifier/preamplifier is the size and shape of the Mac mini computer, and offers two line-level inputs as well as USB, Toslink, and S/PDIF electrical digital inputs. Versions are planned with a power amplifier section and an iPod dock.