So read the flyer promoting YG Acoustics' dem in room 446 I picked up in the Marriott's lobby. So I went by room 446. Twice. Neither time could I get in, such was the throng inside. But I did manage to hold my camera above the avid listeners' heads to take a shot of the Colorado company's Anat Reference speaker, which had very much impressed me when I heard it at the 2006 CEDIA Show. I am going to try to get a listen on the Show's final day, but the news that YG has hired veteran sales manager Dick Diamond away from Kimber is a sign that this new speaker manufacturer is aiming high.
Well, not really. But the Thiel CS3.7 speakers set-up in the Denver Audio Designs room could be driven either by an all-Bryston system—the new BCD-1 CD player ($2395), BP26 preamp, and a pair 7B-SST monoblocks—or an all-Simaudio Moon system: SuperNova CD player P7 preamp, and W7 power amp. I listened to "Comfortably Numb" from Pink Floyd's The Wall with both set-ups and the differences were both audible and surprising. The Moon system favored David Gilmour's paradigmatic guitar solo; the Bryston the contribution of David Mason's drums and Roger Waters' bass. I could have lived with either.
The delightful Gilbert Yeung of Blue Circle, minus the Mickey Mouse ears and Snake Oil display I encountered at the last Show, has a thing for circles. I'm not complaining. After seeing boxes upon boxes upon boxes, encountering a surfeit of circles is super. (I have a feeling someone is going to rake me over the coals in the comments section for that one.)
Of the many speakers I have reviewed over the years, the one I now regret the most having had to return to the manufacturer was the mbl 111B. No other tweeter has so efforlessly floated high-frequency sounds into my listening room like the German manufacturer's unique, omnidirectional "Radialstrahler" design. At RMAF, mbl was demming the larger 101E speaker, which Michael Fremer reviewed in October 2004. The sounds of Brian Bromberg's solo double bass on "Come Together" and Nils Lofgren's Ovation guitar on his Live Acoustic CD, played on mbl's new digital gear, were to die for.
One aspect of audio Shows that I love is the software pavilion, where audiophiles can browse new, old, are rare vinyl to their hearts' content. Acoustic Sounds’ Chad Kassem wanted to show me some of his new Analog Productions releases, but ended up telling me about his recent purchase of 30,000 sealed LPs—one and a half 53' trailer's worth—that had been in storage since 1981, the stash assembled by an eccentric collector long since passed away.
Although he looks a bit burned from being asked to play one too many Columbia LPs, whose harsh string tone belies the myth that vintage analog recordings are de facto superior to CDs, Dan Meinwald has a lot to be happy about. The EAR Acute CD player ($5900), 890 Primary Drive 70W stereo amp, 868 preamp complete with phono stage ($6900), Discmaster turntable ($20,000 without tonearm), Dynavector XVIS cartridge, and debut 3-way, open-baffle dipole loudspeakers ($7000/pair—also available in a larger model) were creating a wonderful, magical soundstage on Stokowski’s monumental recording of Smetana’s The Moldau. It’s no wonder that so many dedicated audiophiles continue to be seduced for life by EAR’s vaunted sweetness and bloom.
Kara Chaffee has every reason to smile even wider than she's smiling here. Her DeHavilland GM-70 50W SET monoblocks ($11,000/pair) and Ultraverve remote preamp ($2995) were creating one of the most wondrous, air-filled soundstages I have heard. "We aim at the heart of the music," she told me after I had spent a while listening to some of my favorite CDs.
Art loudspeakers, made in Scotland, paired up German-manufactured audio components from AcousticPlan and a line transformer from Japan to make their joint US debut at the 2007 RMAF. In two adjacent rooms, I heard two different Art models. As depicted in the photo with Art's Derek Dunlap, I first auditioned the art Stiletto 6 loudspeaker ($5000/pair), mated with AcousticPlan's Sitar hybrid-design integrated amp ($7500, complete with external power supply), Audio Technic line transformer from Japan (also debuting), and Cary Audio CD player. The Stiletto, a vented two-way made from birch plywood without use of MDF, measures 88.5dB sensitivity and has a fairly linear frequency response that starts at the mid '30s. It features a SEAS 6" coated-paper driver and a 1" soft-dome tweeter equipped with a proprietary horn to create a delightfully open soundstage. I was quite impressed with this system, which produced very warm, rich sounds that belied the speaker's diminutive size.
Barrows Wurm urged me to "take a picture because it’s beautiful." This is PS Audio's as-yet-unnamed, forthcoming transport. A replacement for the aged PS Audio Lambda used in their RMAF rack display, it should cost under $2000. Other components included the Power Plant Premiere ($2195), GCC250 class-D Control Amplifier ($3495), and DL3 DAC ($995).
Audio Note UK, shown at RMAF by its US distributor AudioFederation.com, chose the Denver Show for the world premiere of its first USB-input DAC. The DAC 0.1X, an entry-level product that features neither anti-alias filtering nor oversampling, and uses a teeny little 6111WA dual-triode output tube that is said to behave like a 12AU7 but last a staggering 100,000 hours, was making fine sound paired with a complete line of Audio Note components and cables.
Audioengine is making a name for itself with its extremely affordable powered speakers. But rather than photograph the speakers being demmed at RMAF, I concentrated on the Apple iBook running iTunes being used as the source. "What's that?" I asked, pointing to the dongle.
After my final hi-rez seminar on Sunday, and triggered by my very positive experience with the inexpensive Avalon NP2 speakers, I went across the hallway to the room Denver dealer HD Home Cinema & AV Design was using to debut Avalon Acoustics' new $9300/pair Ascendant loudspeaker. This combines the composite-dome tweeter from the NP2 with a pair of Kevlar-composite woofers in the angled, faceted enclosure that has become a de facto trademark of the Colorado company's high-end speakers. With Ayre MX-R monoblocks, Ayre C-5xe universal player, K-5xe preamp, and P-5xe power-line conditioner, and wired with Cardas cable, the Avalon system proved one of the best-sounding of the Show.
I always make a point of seeking out a Wilson dem at Shows, and in the RMAF room run by Denver dealer Audio Unlimited, I encountered not one but two systems featuring Wilson speakers. The smaller system offered WATT/Puppy 8s driven by Balanced Audio Technology's VK53 CD player and $6000 VK55SE integrated amplifier—compared to its predecessor, this now uses 6BH30 input and driver tubes, sitting on tubed current sources—and sounded sweet indeed. But the real reason to visit this room was to hear the mighty MAXX2s driven by BAT's new Rex three-chassis ultimate preamp, VK600SE solid-state monoblocks and the new Paganini three-box SACD player—transport, clock, DAC—from English company dCS. BAT's Geoff Poor put on Frank Sinatra's Nelson Riddle-arranged "What's New," which Geoff feels is the singer's finest performance. Wow! Mr. Sinatra was there in the room with us.
Santy Oropel of Twin Audio Video Inc. of Loma Linda, CA was producing some very nice sound with Triode Corporation’s TRV-A88SE, a KT88-based, 12Wpc, single-ended integrated amplifier ($1800) and TRV-4SE Limited Special Edition tube preamplifier ($2750). Everything save the faceplate and casing is made in Japan.
The sweet solidity of the violin beckoned me from down the hallway (which is far more than I can say about some of the rooms I visited). I was hardly surprised to discover that I had been lured by Edge Electronics. Paired with the Tyler Acoustics Woodmere II speakers ($8800 base price, 185 lbs each), the Edge System handled silences wonderfully. That may sound like a backhanded compliment, but I mean anything but. Playing the exquisite Elly Ameling singing Schubert to piano accompaniment, there was a stillness, poise, and grace amidst the living flow of her voice that I rarely experience from sound systems. (I experienced something similar one year in the Joule/Elrod room at CES). On display were the new Edge CD player, whose RAM circuitry is said to perform advance error correction, the G8 amp, and G2 preamp (available with optional battery supply). Actually, passive display was not what was intended. Shipping mishaps from the company's new base in Florida had actually destroyed some of the intended components, which were replaced by older versions of Edge's current models, which Steve Norber lifted from his home system a few miles away.