Here's an up-close look at the Merrill-Williams Audio table featured in the Quad room. The base is made of Rubber Elastomer Acoustic Laminate (aka R.E.A.L.got it?), and the platter of Bakelite resin composite. tHE outboard power transformer, clamping ring, etc. are not pictured. Despite its English-sounding name, the company is based in Memphis.
Audio Plus Services' John Bevier was sporting a snazzy bow tie at RMAF, echoing the sartorial sang-froid of another well-known audio distributor. More than one visitor to his room was puzzled by the apparent lack of any source component, yet the Focal 1038Be speakers ($12,000/pair) were playing the Gary Karr transcription for double bass and organ of the Albinoni Adagio and sounding sweet. John pointed to his MacBook, which was running iTunes with the Amarra front-end and sending the data via WiFi to the Micromega Airstream integrated amplifier ($4995), which has a WiFi front-end based on an Apple Airport Express router. This limits playback resolution to 16 bits and 48kHz, but for someone who wants to rip his CDs and play them with minimal fuss'n'muss, the Micromega is a contender. The system was wired with speaker cable from Crystal Cable, for which Audio Plus is now the North American distributor.
Music Hall’s inexpensive USB turntable, the two-speed, belt-driven USB-1 ($249), uses an aluminum die-cast platter, has a groovy S-shaped tonearm equipped with an Audio-Technica AT3600L moving-magnet phono cartridge, and comes in a high-gloss black finish. Overall, it resembles something Run DMC might’ve brought to a gig.
I ended Saturday's incredibly packed tour of the 15 rooms on the Marriott Tower's 10th floor with a stop in Musical Fidelity's room. It was a good choice. This was the first room at the show where I pulled out Channel Classics' superbly recorded hybrid SACD of the Ebony Band Amsterdam performing a unique arrangement of Revueltas' elemental, gutsy, phantasmagorical Sensemaya. The sense of air was immense, with amazing soundstaging that belied the small size of the room. I also loved the height of the soundstage, and the deep reaches of the bass. But as much as I savored the presentations' air and depth, this hardly laid-back system sounded a bit tipped-up in the highs, a common factor in many of the smaller rooms at the Marriott.
After walking me through the Naim Uniti display, Naim’s David Dever then ushered me over to a second Naim room where the company was showing off its new NDX network player ($4750, shipping this November).
Jason Victor Serinus got the scoop on Mistral, represented in the US by California’s Napa Acoustic, at the AXPONA show earlier this year. I was just as impressed by the looks of the little 40Wpc Mistral MM-4 SE integrated amplifier ($699). It reminded me a lot of the Shanling MC-30 Music Center.
Products making their debut at the 2010 RMAF from Philip O’Hanlon’s On a Higher Note: The interesting LaSource SACD player/preamp/DAC from Audioaero ($44,000), Vivid G2 Giya loudspeaker ($50,000/pair), and Brinkmann 9.6 tonearm ($4000), Brinkmann Pi cartridge ($2700), and Brinkmann Edison tube phono stage ($12,900).
New York-based Nola was showing its Metro Grand Reference speakers at RMAF ($25,000/pair). Combining a Raven ribbon tweeter and a 4" midrange, both mounted on an open baffle, with two 6.5" reflex-loaded woofers, this slim tower, driven by an Audio Research Reference 210 power amplfier, Reference 5 preamplifier, and CD8 CD player via Nordost cabling, produced more bass than I thought possible, given its modest drive-unit array. The response is specified as being 6dB down at a low 26Hz. This was one of several systems at RMAF using the Quantum QX4 AC treatment device from Nordost.
At RMAF 2009, Nordost shook up quite a few audiophiles by announcing preliminary results of research that can measure and validate the positive effects after market cabling, supports, and power products. One year later, Nordost announced that the research, jointly conducted by Nordost's competitor, Vertex AQ of the UK in collaboration with military electronic-engineering consultant and sonar expert Gareth Humphries-Jones of North Wales, has taken a major step forward.
Source material in the Nola room was a pair of open-reel recorders from United Home Audio, but on the one piece I listened to, Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, it sounded like a dub from LP. Not that there's anything wrong with that!
Perhaps the very prettiest gear of all I saw at RMAF was in the room occupied by Kaiser Acoustics, GTE Audio, and Fono Acustica. This was also the most physical sound I heard at the show; 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.
I was impressed by the looks and sound of PMC’s new Fact 3 monitor ($9500/pair). PMC’s Ian Verdugo explained that the company gave the model the “deluxe audiophile treatment,” with a completely new design and modified transmission line. Shown in an attractive Tiger Ebony finish, the Fact 3 uses two 5.5” SEAS mid/woofers and a 0.75” Sonomex soft-dome, ferro-fluid cooled tweeter. On the speaker’s brushed anodized rear panel, users will find two switches for adjusting the high frequency and bass response.