I was glad that Darren and Bonnie Censullo's Avatar Acoustics demmed four new products at RMAF, because they created a synergistic match that produced beautiful sound.
The four products were the AMR (Abbingdon Music Research) CD-777 CD player ($3995), AMR AM-777 ($3,995), Dr. Feickert Analogue Woodpecker Turntable ($4995), Dr. Feickert Analogue DFA 10.5 tonearm ($1250, or $1000 with the table), and Rethm Maarga loudspeaker ($6995/pair). I initially encountered some insipid analog drivel when I entered the room, but I thumbed through a collection of LPs and came up with a choral performance on Erato of the Vivaldi Gloria. As it turned out, the Doc himself, aka Chris Feickert, sang the very same piece in a 150-person choir two years ago.
Settling in, I enjoyed the large soundstage, ear-opening depth, realistic image placement, and, most important, sheer musicality of the experience. Whether or not you consider Vivaldi an edible pleasure, it was yummy.
Switching to digital, I played the CD layer of one of my R2D4s, the beginning of Mahler's Symphony No.2 on Channel Classics' excellent hybrid SACD. The image was placed farther back, and lacked the depth that comes naturally to vinyl. Nonetheless, the sound was extremely pleasing and tonally neutral. The AMR/Rethm combo handled the loud cymbal crashes far better than had many systems costing several times the price.
The biggest surprise for me was the fine, totally pleasing sound of the Rethm Maarga speakers. Very different in sound than the execrable Lowther-powered designs I have heard on previous occasions, the Maargas include an active woofer and heavily modified Lowther drivers. The new version of the speaker, not on display, will boast two 6" woofers and a 300W amp that will extend frequency response into the low 30s. (There's also a higher priced model, the Rethm Sedona, whose forthcoming three-woofer upgrade will extend response down into the high 20s).
Bonnie, your fans missed you at RMAF. You are loved.