Oh my, did Muddy Waters' Folk Singer sound good. I hadn't heard this audiophile classic in many a year, and my time in Mike Garner of TweekGeek.com's room convinced me that it was time for an extended revisit. Garner achieved gorgeous clarity and marvelous quiet on this recording. As I wrote in my notes, "A very special moment."
Tweak Studio, the Genesis dealer in Washington state, paired the new Genesis G7.1f loudspeaker ($8000/pair) with the Balanced Audio Technology (BAT) Vk-3ix preamp and VK 55SE amp. The match was fortuitous, with the BAT's tubey midrange bringing out the loudspeaker's considerable best. Completing the partnership were the SOTA Sapphire Series 5 turntable ($2700) with SME 4 arm and Denon 103 cartridge; Kosmic server w/500GB hybrid storage ($2295) and a bunch of options; Absolute Fidelity Component Interface cable ($1800/pair), Loudspeaker Interface cables ($3000/pair); and Power Interface cables ($1800); and a host of Kosmic Equipment stands (the stand base shelf is $1600).
The Audio Alternative had a number of rooms on the 9th floor of the Denver Marriott Tech Center Tower, the largest of which boasted an impressive set-up. Audio Research Corporation's Anniversary Edition Reference Preamplifier ($24,995), Reference 210 amplifiers ($19,900/pair), Reference Phono 2 ($11,995), Reference CD8 ($9995) and DAC 8 ($4995) were dancing with Vandersteen 7 speakers ($45,000/pair); Linn LP12 turntable, Ekos SE tone arm and Lyra Titan cartridge ($24,000 total); AudioQuest Wild Blue Yonder XLR interconnects ($16,800 for 26'). Wildwood speaker cables ($11,600 for 8'), NRG WBY AC power cords ($4400 for 12'), and WBY XLR interconnects ($4200 for 3'); and Harmonic Resonance Systems SXR 1921 isolation stand ($4995), M3X 2123 isolation base ($2895), and R1-1921 ($1095). (Whew!) The room was full of people making too much noise; the sound loud (there was no choice), impressively big and solid. Short of blowing a whistle, there was nothing I could do except collect literature and promise myself that at the next show, I'll finally get a chance to hear the Vandersteen 7s that received raves at the 2010 CES.
Doshi Audio of Virginia was proudly displaying their handcrafted Jhor monoblock amplifiers ($18,995/pair) and Alaap V2.1 full-function preamplifier ($14,995). Partnered with the oft-encountered Wilson Audio Sasha, and Transparent XL series cabling, the system excelled in midrange strength as it threw an exciting soundstage. Although lacking ultimate bass control, the system rendered take-no-prisoners rock in accurately brash and brazen fashion.
In his Avatar Acoustics room, Darren Censullo put together a system featuring a Feickert Analogue Blackbird turntable ($7495) with Feickert’s DFA 10.5 tonearm ($1000) and Lyra Kleos cartridge (review to come from Michael Fremer), Abbingdon Music Research (AMR) CD-77.1 CD player ($10,995), AMR PH-77 phono preamp ($11,995, recently reviewed by Michael Fremer and John Atkinson), and AMR AM-77.1 integrated amplifier ($9995). Speaker cables, interconnects, and power cords were Acoustic System International’s LiveLine ($995/1m interconnect; $2100/2.4m cable; $1195/1.8m power cord). The gear was supported by an Acoustic System 3-shelf rack ($3500) and Acoustic System International Top Line feet ($750). Power distribution came from an Avatar Acoustics Mach 4 ($1995) and Avatar Acoustics Afterburner 8 wall outlet ($80). Acoustic System International Resonators were carefully placed around the perimeter of the room, near where the walls met the ceiling.
The Rosso Fiorentino Volterra, represented in the US by Avatar Acoustics, uses a crossover circuit placed in an isolated and damped box within the center of the speaker's cabinet. Here's a look inside.
Sjofn HiFi made a big splash at our Home Entertainment 2007 show with the Guru loudspeaker, and the company hopes to attract greater attention with their new monitor, “the clue.” I walked into the room just as a thunderous bass note was struck. “Whoa,” I thought to myself as I took the last remaining seat in the packed demo. The little Sjofn speakers ($999/pair) were partnered with electronics from Norway’s impressive Hegel: CDP4A CD player ($4500) and the 200Wpc H200 integrated amplifier ($5000). The system was small, but it produced nothing but big, room-filling sound. There was that well-controlled, thunderous bass and startlingly quick transients.
Jason Victor Serinus got the scoop on Mistral, represented in the US by California’s Napa Acoustic, at the AXPONA show earlier this year. I was just as impressed by the looks of the little 40Wpc Mistral MM-4 SE integrated amplifier ($699). It reminded me a lot of the Shanling MC-30 Music Center.
Here we see the Vitus Audio SIA-025 integrated amplifier ($20,000; 100Wpc running class-A/B) and SCD-010 CD player ($20,000) and Amphion’s Krypton 3 loudspeakers ($20,900/pair). Amphion is now distributed in North America by VMAX Services. This system was very easy to listen to. Even at low volumes, there was no lack of drama, scale, or drive. It was a pleasure catching up with VMAX’s Richard Kohlruss and meeting Vitus’ Hans-Ole Vitus, who tells me he’s got a new phono preamp that Michael Fremer will love.
DSPeakers are active designs with built-in Anti-Mode room correction. We listened to the smaller Servo 300 speaker ($3500) with a Resolution Audio CD player, and, just as in Montreal, I was surprised by the small system’s big sound and bold bass. Also on display were DSPeaker’s standalone Anti-Mode correction units, the 8033 C ($350) optimized for home theater applications and the two-input 8033 S ($450) for stereo systems.
Zu did an outstanding job of transforming their drab hotel room into a comfortable, swanky listening environment, utilizing Flor modular carpeting tiles, a nice lounge seat, and some sweet-looking gear: Zu’s Soul Superfly ($2600/pair), a 16 ohm loudspeaker with a claimed efficiency of 101dB, in dazzling green finish, looks right at home with Luxman’s SQ-38u integrated amplifier ($6000) and D-38u CD player ($4000) and a Peachtree Nova D/A integrated amplifier ($1199). At the time I listened, Zu was using Channel D’s Pure Music front-end software ($129) for iTunes as a source, and there was an easy, laidback feel to the music.
The newest Zu loudspeaker is the Omen. I don’t know much about it. The product literature says: “Omen is the right loudspeaker for every concert fanatic, music junky, skater fool, and snowboarding dirtbag; splitting your cash between your lifestyle outside and your lifestyle inside just got a whole lot louder!” So, Zu has a specific audience in mind. At just $999/pair it is also Zu’s most affordable speaker.
The sound was so full, so all encompassing, and so natural in the small Magico room (Tower 9022) that I doubt I'll encounter another display at RMAF that will top it. Certainly on the first day of the show, the sound achieved by (pictured, left to right) Tim Marutani of Marutani Consulting (Emeryville, CA), Alon Wolf of Magico, and Maier Shadi of The Audio Salon (Los Angeles) was so satisfying that it topped anything else I heard on Day One by a long shot. A very long shot.
Since my earliest visits to the Stereophile Show, well before I began writing for the magazine, I have always left Jeff Joseph's speaker displays with a smile on my face. This show was no different. Displaying the lovely Joseph Audio Pulsar ($7,000/pair) with not-yet-released-or-priced Pulsar stands, the combo with Ayre electronics (including the QB-9 USB DAC$2750) and Cardas Clear cabling was a joy.