Seriously, it's almost as if I haven't listened to any music at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. I just walk from room to room, running into people in the halls. These two weren't even exhibiting. They were simply here to have a little fun.
Talk about effortless. Another room which I thought offered superb sound was occupied by Moscode, Von Schweikert, Esoteric, Placette, PS Audio, and Cardas. I think I heard the most beautiful music of all that reproduced at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in this very room. I don't even know what was playing, but what this system excelled at was communicating the all-important space between the notes.
In my last blog report from T.H.E. Show in Las Vegas, I waxed ecstatic about the extraordinary, highly efficient, hand-made washi-paper Feastrex drivers distributed by Joe Cohen's Lotus Group of Northern California. The units are hand-crafted in Japan by Haruhiko Teramoto, who hand-rubs the frame, phase plug, and voice-coils of both his Feastrex D53 III 5" field-coil drivers ($39,000/pair) and D9e II 9" field-coil drivers ($31,500/pair) with traditional urushi lacquer.
As I was about to leave the Red Wine/Hudson Audio room, Tom Hills directed my attention to a small pair of attractive speakers. "These guys always seem to get forgotten," he said. The diminutive, German-made FJ Minis are available in handsome real-wood finishes, are rated at 87dB, and cost $1295/pair. I'll be looking forward to hearing them later on during the show.
See this little guy? It's the Gradient Helsinki ($8000/pair). I'm a big fan of this weird-ass speaker. Rather than placing its drive-units within a cabinet, the drive-units are laid bare, free for the world to see, mounted onto the speaker's narrow body. Why? Free love. Free love! Cabinet resonances are eliminated. The Helsinki's dipole-radiation woofer projects sound from side to side, canceling out top-to-bottom sound waves and minimizing deleterious room reflections.
And here is Walter Swanbon of Fidelis AV, importer for Harbeth and Gradient loudspeakers. Here you can get a better sense of the size of the M40.1 loudspeakers. To Walter's left is the newest member of the Gradient family, the Laura ($3995/pair). Intended for use in conjunction with the Helsinki or as a stereo pair, the Laura employs a coaxial drive unit and is designed to be positioned in close proximity to the front wall of your listening room. It's pretty, too.
The room was standing-room only, with three rows of chairs, both side walls, and the back walls filled with folks eager to hear one of the dream systems assembled by Denver retailer Audio Unlimited. Where shall we begin: the dCS Scarlatti Stack which consists of the CD/SACD transport, DAC, master clock, and upsampler/digital-to-digital converter (by my math $81,000 total, and by anyone's math a fair hunk of change); the BAT REX linestage ($20,000), BAT VK-P10SE phono stage with new Super Pak Premiere ($16,000), BAT VK-600M SE monoblocks ($26,000); Running Springs Audio Dmitri Conditioner Premiere ($4,000); Hansen's new Audio Emperor loudspeakers ($60,000/pair); or the little bundle of TARA Omega Gold and 0.8 cables that together cost at $36,000 but probably far more? The take-no-prisoners sound was stunning. So stunning that some of the people were pinned to the back wall. Wow!
Standing beside my friend, the Gradient Helsinki, is the Harbeth M40.1 ($12,995/pair), recently reviewed by Art Dudley. It's actually larger than it appears in this photo. I love its old-school wide-baffle design.
Headroom's Tyll Hertsens and Ivy Scull. Tyll is the president and CEO, and Ivy is the VP of sales and marketing. These two know headphones and they know headphone amplifiers and they know which headphones to use with which headphone amplifiers. Beyond all that, they're really nice people to be around.
How I wish I could have seen Stephen Mejias' reaction to the Montegiro Lusso Komplet turntable ($33,000), distributed in the US by Koetsu USA. This thing looks like a cross between a tray of black and white ice cream parfaits and something from a Fellini movie. But it sure sounded good. Equipped with two arms, from SME and DaVinci, and two Koetsu cartridges, the Coral Stone Platinum ($15,000) and Onyx Platinum ($8000), the KMLK (for short) was making magic through Chario Serendipity Sovereign loudspeakers ($17,000/pair).