Sjofn HiFi made a big splash at our Home Entertainment 2007 show with the Guru loudspeaker, and the company hopes to attract greater attention with their new monitor, “the clue.” I walked into the room just as a thunderous bass note was struck. “Whoa,” I thought to myself as I took the last remaining seat in the packed demo. The little Sjofn speakers ($999/pair) were partnered with electronics from Norway’s impressive Hegel: CDP4A CD player ($4500) and the 200Wpc H200 integrated amplifier ($5000). The system was small, but it produced nothing but big, room-filling sound. There was that well-controlled, thunderous bass and startlingly quick transients.
Zu did an outstanding job of transforming their drab hotel room into a comfortable, swanky listening environment, utilizing Flor modular carpeting tiles, a nice lounge seat, and some sweet-looking gear: Zu’s Soul Superfly ($2600/pair), a 16 ohm loudspeaker with a claimed efficiency of 101dB, in dazzling green finish, looks right at home with Luxman’s SQ-38u integrated amplifier ($6000) and D-38u CD player ($4000) and a Peachtree Nova D/A integrated amplifier ($1199). At the time I listened, Zu was using Channel D’s Pure Music front-end software ($129) for iTunes as a source, and there was an easy, laidback feel to the music.
What has become a familiar site at shows, Acoustic Zen loudspeakers and cabling mated with Triode electronics, has also become a welcome sound. Here, I experienced a beautiful airiness around female vocalists. "Just gorgeous," I wrote in my notes. The bass, however, was challenged, perhaps because of the room.
Attendees were treated to a fine demonstration in the Amarra room. A system featuring Focal loudspeakers and Parasound amplification was used to demonstrate the benefits of the Amarra music player software. On a desk between the loudspeakers and beside a Mac laptop was a screen, and on the screen were slides which contained simple talking points:
Acoustic Sounds’ Chad Kassem provided a wonderful demo of some of his fine Analogue Productions releases, including Jimmy Lee Robinson’s All My Life and Elvis’ 24 Karat Hitsall sounding absolutely seductive and enveloping with an extremely liquid and relaxed soundthrough a system featuring a Clearaudio Concept turntable ($1400), which Kassem was particularly fond of“for the price, this ‘table is hard to beat”and Sony’s SS-AR1 loudspeakers, seen here.
"Good grief, those look like Apogees," I muttered as I went into the Analysis Audio room and saw the Analysis Omega planar-ribbon speakers ($22,000/pair). Driven by Arion HS-500 hybrid monoblocks ($5995/pair), which combine a tube input stage with a class-D output stage, the speakers sounded a bit too warm in the upper bass on Jennifer Warnes version of Leonard Cohen's "Way Down Deep," but this could well have been a room effect. The soundstaging was to die for, in terms of stability and accuracy.
Aperion Audio introduced their new Verus Grand line of speakers: the Verus Grand Tower ($1798/pair), Verus Grand bookshelf ($598/pair), and Verus Grand center channel ($699), all with very nicely finished, curved cabinets in attractive high-gloss cherry or piano black lacquer.
Taking this year's novel room treatment prize lying down was Artemis Labs of Simi Valley, CA. Undoubtedly wishing to imprint a message that their equipment produces the sound of your dreams, on display were the Artemis Labs SA-1S ($11,000) and SA-1 ($7800) turntables; Schröder Reference SQ ($5600 Euros) and Artemis Labs TA-1 ($3500) tonearms; Artemis Labs cartridge (not yet priced), PX-1 (LCR) phono pre (ditto), LX-1 linestage (ditto encore), LA-1 linestage ($3500), and SP-1 18Wpc power amp ($18,000). Rounding out the system were the fine Verity Audio Leonore loudspeaker ($15,995/pair) and Purist Audio Design cabling.
Things are slowly heating up, as I sit here in the hotel cafe, The Trading Post. In the last few minutes I've spotted Mike Manousselis of Dynaudio, John Quick of Tempo Sales & Marketing (distributors of Nagra, Verity, dCS, and Musical Fidelity), Paul Barton of PSB Loudspeakers, Walter Swanbon of Fidelis AV, Richard Vandersteen of Vandersteen (of course), and Vinnie Rossi of Red Wine Audio.
DIY hi-fi used to be an important aspect of audio magazine content 30 and more years ago, but these days it has migrated almost completely to the Internet, with just Ed Dell's AudioXpress magazine still waving the roll-your-own flag in print. Sharing a stand at RMAF were two of the Internet's most notable DIY engineers, Jan Didden from Holland (left) and Bob Cordell from New Jersey (right), and both were venturing into the print medium. Bob had advance copies of his new tome Designing Audio Power Amplifiers for sale, which I will be reviewing in Stereophile early in the New Year. Jan had the first volume of his new bookzine Linear Audio, which has articles on audio design from Bob, as well as Doug Self, Joachim Gerhardt, Nelson Pass, Siegfried Linkwitz, and many others. But if you have any interest at all in the nuts and bolts of audio design, don't wait for my reviews of these books; check them out for yourself. There's audiophile gold within their pages!