James Harrell’s Jumping Cactus Loudspeakers are high-efficiency designs (94dB) with isolated aluminum enclosures. The speaker’s front panels are finished in Bubinga wood, while the aluminum portions feature a nice satin black power coat. All three drive units are from Eminence. That’s a 10” paper cone woofer, a 6” paper cone midrange unit, and a 1” phenolic dome tweeter. The midrange and tweeter are secured atop the woofer enclosure via Velcro, and can be angled or moved back and forth. A passive Butterworth 1st order crossover is in its own enclosure and is velcro’ed onto the back of the speaker.
Elsewhere in this blog, Stephen Mejias enthuses about the Kaiser Kawero loudspeakers ($66,000/pair). I first encountered these loudspeakers at RMAF 2008's Kaiser/Echole exhibit extension in the nearby Hyatt, and have coveted them ever since. Optimally paired and internally wired then and now with Echole's excellent cabling, as well as with modded tube amps that had been re-wired with Echole, the sound of this system was so large, rich, and true that it blew me away. Stephen's summation"This system, more than any other I heard at RMAF, seemed to bring the musicians and instruments into the room with really impressive body and force"rings true.
Kosmic’s Joe Pittman stands beside a Sota Millenia turntable equipped with a Kosmic tonearm and Magic Diamond cartridge, sitting atop a Kosmic equipment rack. Kosmic, a company that was new to me, manufacturers a tonearm, a music server, and equipment racks, which seemed like a strange product line. When I asked Pittman about it, he simply replied that all three areas are integral to the overall performance of any system. The Kosmic Server ($2295 with 500GB hybrid drive) stores approximately 1600 CDs in FLAC format, and provides FireWire and USB 2.0 output up to 32-bit/384kHz sampling rates and TosLink up to 24/96. Kosmic is located in Seattle, WA, and is also a dealer for Genesis loudspeakers.
Also distributed in the US by Aaudio Imports, the German Lansche speakers feature a horn-loaded ionic "singing flame" tweeter similar to that used by Acapella, also from Germany. In an off-site demonstration Friday night, I listened to the company's impressive-sounding flagship, the $80,000/pair, 243-lb Cubus, which combines the ion tweeter with a horn-loaded midrange unit and an 18", reflex-loaded woofer. The Lansche display at RMAF featured the somewhat more affordable three-way No.5 speakers ($40,000/pair), driven by the Ypsilon Aelius monoblocks ($34,000/pair) and PST-100 tube preamplifier ($37,000). Cabling was by Stage III, power distribution by Weizhi, and the front-end was either a Bergmann Sleipner Reference turntable and tonearm ($54,000) or the Ypsilon CDT-100 CD transport and DAC-100 D/A processor. As with many of the rooms in the Tower, the room acoustics cramped what this expensive system was undoubtedly capable of producing. But I was sufficiently impressed by the presentation that I have asked for a sample of the Ypsilon preamp for Michael Fremer to review.
...was the title of the seminar presented Sunday afternoon by Audio Precision's Jonathan Novick. Audio Precision manufactures high-performance test gear (including the systems used by Stereophile for its reviews) and Novick's presentation concerned, among other things, how graphs, as published by Stereophile, are more meaningful than single figures of merit and how conventional measurements can miss problems with amplifiers that are undoubtedly audible. I came away from this presentation with some ideas on how to improve the magazine's test regime, but most telling was Novick's final slide which paraphrased Albert Einstein: "Not all that matters can be measured. Not all that can be measured, matters!."
The Lift, conveniently located outside the Marriott's large, central atrium, is where weary show-goers and audiophiles will raise their spirits with pints of the finest local brews. Some of those fine brews include: 1554, Fat Tire Amber, Blue Paddle, 5 Barrel Pale Ale, Titan IPA, Modus Hoperandi (ha!), Hoss, Avalanche, and Cutthroat Porter.
The sound in this room blew me away. When I walked in, Dr. John's "In a Sentimental Mood" was sounding as lovely and mellow as can be. Switching gears 180°, Reference Recordings' LP issue of Stravinsky's Firebird had absolutely amazing bass. "Amazing," I wrote twice in my notes.
As in previous years, the 2010 RMAF featured a full program of seminars. I moderated two of them, the first of which on Saturday morning featured Channel D's Rob Robinson demonstrating how to rip LPs to your PC. Rob flew by the seat of his pants, doing everything in full view of the packed houseincluding booting-up his Mac mini, hooking up a Music Hall turntable to a preamplifier/ADC and connecting the preamp to the computer with a FireWire linkto make the point that there was nothing intimidating about the process. (His and my thanks to AudioEngine for providing powered speakers to allow the audience to hear what was happening.) The only departure from orthodoxy was that as Robinson was using Channel D's Pure Vinyl program (reviewed by Michael Fremer last August) to capture the data, he was using the program's digital-domain RIAA correction so used a flat-response preamp rather than a true phono preamplifier.
Little did I know, as I began my second day at RMAF 2010, how grateful I would be for the laid back sound in the LSA Group and AudioKinesis rooms by the time the day ended. The combination of LSA1 Statement monitors ($2600/pair) and and LSA speaker stands ($379/pair), LSA standard tube hybrid integrated amp ($5000), Exemplar/Oppo CD player ($2500), and Exemplar active cabling (approx. $8000) wasn't particularly fast on my fabulous Marta Gomez recording from Chesky, but it allowed me to slow down and enjoy what was there.
It's always a joy to encounter Todd Garfinkle of MA Recordings. Here he shows his latest audiophile quality CD, Nama. Also available as a 24-bit/176.4kHz hi-rez DVD-ROM format in a plain package that belies the beauty of its contents, the recording is the rightful successor to MA's Sera una Noche and La Segunda, and features some of the same superb Argentinean artists. I can't wait to take a listen, once I dig it out of my luggage.
The sound was so full, so all encompassing, and so natural in the small Magico room (Tower 9022) that I doubt I'll encounter another display at RMAF that will top it. Certainly on the first day of the show, the sound achieved by (pictured, left to right) Tim Marutani of Marutani Consulting (Emeryville, CA), Alon Wolf of Magico, and Maier Shadi of The Audio Salon (Los Angeles) was so satisfying that it topped anything else I heard on Day One by a long shot. A very long shot.
After building ModWright Instruments' reputation as a quality source for equipment mods, Dan Wright has expanded his business to include manufacturing his own components. Perhaps because his gear was called into play in a number of rooms, his own room was mobbed until Sunday, when crowds traditionally lighten up.
A familiar face and voice stopped me in the corridor outside the MC (Music Culture technology) room. It was MBL founder Wolfgang Meletzky, who, following his recent departure from the Berlin-based company, has started a new company to produce more affordable electronics and speakers. The system Meletzky was demming was based on the MC RL31 3-way tower speaker ($10,000/pair), this a conventional dynamic-driver design rather than the omnidirectional type that MBL was renowned for, driven by the MC801 power amplifier (180Wpc, $3300) and MC601 preamp ($3500). Source was an Onix CD player, as MC's own player had been held up in shipping. I listened to the Dutch Turtle Records CD of Sting's "Walking on the Moon," played by a trio of saxophone, double bass, and drums. The sound offered sharply defined transients, a natural midrange, and excellent low-frequency extension, and despite the room being one of the smaller ones in the Marriott Tower, the system's high frequencies were in natural balance with the rest of the spectrum.