Like me, Vinnie Rossi (left) has recently become heavily interested in vinyl. For the show, Vinnie teamed up with Tom Hills of Hudson Audio Imports, US distributor for Scheu-Analog turntables. You can't see it here in the picture, but a small and wonderful stack of vinyl LPs, including Leila's Blood, Looms, and Blooms, Iron and Wine's Our Endless Numbered Days, and the Buena Vista Social Club's recently released live album are waiting to be played.
Luxman and Vivid distributor Philip O'Hanlon, of On A Higher Note, always has a great selection of music at Shows, and RMAF was no exception. With a system based on Vivid B1 stand-mounted speakers ($13,500/pair) driven by a Luxman 30Wpc class-A integrated amplifier via Synergistic Research cables, the sound of an open-reel dub of a Reference Recordings Malcolm Arnold orchestral piece was distinguished by an enormous, stable soundstage, and excellent dynamics, with superb resolution of low-level orchestral detail. But I just can't get used to the speaker's alien-pod appearance.
I literally breathed a sigh of relief when I entered this room. Not that anything was wrong with the exceptional sound of the vast majority of rooms I visited. But of all the systems I auditioned, this one felt most like a safe haven. It was like coming home.
I was surprised not only by the ease to the sound of my hi-rez audio files played on the system in the Wavelength room, but also by the resolution. Surprised, because I am not naturally a tube guy, and not only is Gordon Rankin's gear tubed, it is unshamedly single-ended.
A close-up of the Wavelength Cosecant v3 DAC ($3500) that I used for my hi-rez dems. Using a single 6GM8/ECC86 dual-triode to drive the single-ended, transformer-coupled output, this is one of a very few USB-input DACs on the market that runs the USB link in "asynchronous" mode, whereby the DAC controls the flow of data from the computer and not vice versa, thus drastically reducing word-clock jitter when those data are fed to the DAC chip. I was impressed by its sound, playing 24-bit/88.2kHz files from my laptop, so I have asked for a review sample.
Newcomer Virtue Audio made its debut at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest showing a colorful collection of affordable Tripath amplifiers. The 45Wpc Audiophile One ($249) integrated amp was engineered by Audience's Roger Sheker and uses VirtuCap input capacitors designed for Virtue by Audience. Inside the chassis, you'll find the cutest little heat pipe designed to maximize space and keep things cool. On the rear panel, propeller post binding posts makes making connections easy, and the amp's aluminum chassis is available in five bold colors (black velvet, snow [a kind of frosty white], red brick, clouds [a kind of frosty blue], and mesa [a kind of mustard]).
In addition to building his SLA-powered electronics and making babies, Vinnie Rossi is now the new US distributor for WLM loudspeakers. How does he do it all? The front-ported Diva Monitor ($5000/pair) uses a paper-cone coaxial drive unit, has a handy tweeter control on its back panel, and is said to provide an impressive 95dB sensitivity.
Putting together a loudspeaker kit may be an art of an older generation. I had model airplanes and cars, but I often hear older audiophiles talk about the first loudspeaker they ever built. It always kind of freaks me out.
Something happened in the middle of the tenth floor. In the remaining rooms I visited to the right of the elevatorwith apologies to all those systems I unintentionally missed due to the pathetic human limitation of being unable to be in three rooms at oncethe sound was darker, less illumined, but nonetheless quite involving. This is actually a sound that large numbers of audiophiles prefer. It's a more seasoned and mellow sound, less apt to sound bright and edgy in live rooms, and closer to the sound in acoustically dampened environments. It's truly a case of different strokes for different folks.