Another thing that caught my eye in the Daedalus Audio room was this nifty, little wood case for the Logitech Squeezebox. Daedalus' Lou Hinkley told me that he had done it as a one-off project, but because so many people seem interested in it, he may decide to build more. The attractive wood case provides beneficial EMI shielding, Hinkley said.
Most audiophiles probably associate New Jersey's Symposium Acoustics with vibration control and isolation devices. However, Symposium's Peter Bizlewicz explained that he's been working on loudspeaker designs for nearly 30 years. While vibration control became a business priority, Bizlewicz continued to toil with his loudspeakers. It's no wonder that vibration control plays such a large role in his speaker design. The massive and idiosyncratic Symposium Panorama 2.0 is a "5-way, quasi point-source speaker system which marries ribbon, planar dynamic, and cone speaker technology to vibration control techniques," Peter said in one quick breath.
Music in the Symposium Acoustics room was spinning on a modified Tascam reel player. The Tascam stood tall and proud directly between the loudspeakers and atop a high Symposium Acoustics stand. I noted an interesting sonic perspective. I found myself looking up while I listened, not certain whether I was entranced by Frank Sinatra's smooth delivery or mesmerized by the spinning tape.
As I walked into the E.A.R./Marten room, Nat King Cole's voice sounded as beautiful as I have ever heard it reproduced. Through the modest-looking Marten FormFloor speakers ($6500/pair) and Marten FormSub ($4500), Reference Recordings' triumphant version of Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances was so thrillingly full and colorful that I could not hide my amazement. On Dialoghi, a demonstration-quality CD from Bob Attiyeh of Yarlung Records that Robert Levi of the Los Angeles Audio Society urged me to play, the sound of Elinor Frey' cello was as warm and beautiful as anyone would ever want it to be. I was in love.
If there's anything I expect from Dynaudio, it's superb bass. Dynaudio's 30th-anniversary Sapphire ($16,500/pair) certainly produced copious amounts of bass. But the speaker gave me far more than sheer volume. In combination with the Wadia 781i transport/DAC ($15,000), Pass Labs XA100.5A monoblocks ($16,000/pair), Grand Priz Monaco Amplifier Stand, and XLO Signature 3 SE-1 power cords ($1100/8'), S3-2.2 balanced interconnect ($900/m), and S3-4.2 digital cable ($455/m), the system delivered some of the most well-proportioned, beautifully delineated bass I've ever heard. The opening of Mahler's Symphony 2 is rich with the sound of cellos, violas, and basses, and this system nailed each and every line with rare beauty. On the other end of the spectrum, soprano Elly Ameling's voice radiated angelic sweetness. Pictured with the equipment they represent are Dynaudio's Michael Manousselis (l) and Wadia's Martin E. Cooper (r).
Could be. I saved my visit to the Audio Unlimited room almost for last on Sunday afternoon at RMAF. There was the pair of Focal Grande Utopia EMs that apparently had NY retailer Andy Singer dancing at their launch in France last spring. driven by a pair of Boulder 2050 monoblocks. Front-end was either Boulder's new 1021 disc player/music server or the Clearaudio Statement turntable. Cabling was all Tara Labs, including Mikey Fremer's reference The Zero interconnects. Musical Surroundings' Garth Leerer played me just two LPs for me to become awed by the 580 lb Focals: the Gary Karr transcription for double bass and organ of the Albinoni Adagio, which showed how effortlessly the speakers handled not just the spl but also the scale of the organ's sound, and Iona Brown's performance of Vaughan Williams' A Lark Ascending, which showed how well the speakers did delicacy.
I admit it. I have found YG Acoustics' hyperbolic promotional material off-putting. But having recently listened to the Colorado company's 4-way Anat Reference Professional speaker system in Wes Phillips' systemhe is reviewing it for our February 2009 issueI made a point of seeking the speaker out for a longer audition at RMAF.
RMAF was my first chance to hear the new McIntosh MT10 turntable ($9500) that had starred in our 2008 CES blog. But after I had listened to vinyl on the McIntosh system for a whileand very good it sounded, tooRon Cornelius drew my attention to the MCD500 SACD/CD player ($6500) at the top left of the stack shown in the photograph.
Hosted by Luxman, Synergistic Research, and Vivid Audio, the event was billed as "a private reception of fine music, conversation, and superb wine." Gus Gus played in the background, the room was filled with smiles, and, indeed, the conversation flowed as easily as the wine. While it was great to become reacquainted with some familiar faces, I also enjoyed the opportunity to make new connections.
There's nothing like ending a day at RMAF with a reminder of what the real deal sounds like. If Ray Kimber had his marching band blasting their way around the lobby, the fabulous multi-feted, Grammy Award-winning recording engineer/producer Cookie Marenco gifted us with her renowned piano teacher, Art Lande tinkling the keys in the Marriott's Atrium on Saturday night.
One of the joys of John Atkinson's RMAF panel session was discovering a remarkable unanimity of understanding and vision amongst a group of men who work in different countries on different areas of sound reproduction. Amidst scribbling seven pages of notes that barely scratch the surface of the knowledge and wisdom shared by panelists, I looked up to discover John and everyone having a ball as they spoke with one mind about the current state of the commercial recording industry, and the future of high resolution formats.
This is very important (and encouraging!): There were more young people at this show than at any other hi-fi show I've attended. Whereas in past years, at other shows, I have felt like the youngest dude in the house, this year, at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I met many people who were actually younger than me.
Much of Keith O. Johnson's invaluable presentation consisted of a series of graphs that demonstrated everything from jitter to the noise created by certain power cables. One of his many messages was, if folks think there are no differences between cables, I have the graphs to show otherwise. He also exhibited graphs that show how the quality of manufacture of CDs makes a huge difference in the ultimate analog signal. Want to see what a bad DAC or amplifier does, and compare it with a state-of-the-art unit? Keith can show you. Pictured is a tone-cluster wave he developed as a diagnostic tool that resembles music.
The more I hear Vandersteen Audio's loudspeakers, the more I find myself admiring their relaxed, controlled, natural sound. Richard Vandersteen, the fighter pilot featured in a recent banner ad on this website, was happy to present his Quattro Signature Mk.2 ($11,700/pair). It utilizes a 6.5" mid-bass driver derived from the Vandersteen Model 5A and sounded exquisite driven by Ayre amplification.