Colorado dealer Listen-Up had three rooms at RMAF. The first one I went into featured Sonus Faber Liuto 3-way speakers ($6000/pair) with PrimaLuna amplification and CD player (the latter the Prologue 8 that Fred kaplan and I reviewed for the magazine a couple years back) and AudioQuest cables and a SolidSteel stand. The Liuto speaker is intended to offer Cremona-like performance for half the price; it combines a 1.25" silk-dome tweeter with a 6" woven composite-cone midrange unit and a 7" magnesium-alloy cone woofer. The nicely finished enclosure follows Sonus Faber's usual technique of laminating cherry sections.
Although their atmospherically lit room, which looks very different in this flash-illuminated photo, was dominated visually by 10-year old Genesis loudspeaker prototypes that never made it to market, PS Audio's electronics were what the room was about. The PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport ($2999), which I own; Perfect Wave DAC ($2999) with Bridge ($799); prototype Perfect Wave amp (under $5000); and award-winning Power Plant Premier ($1999), all using Perfect Wave AC-12 ($999/meter) sounded marvelous on a CD from Natasha Atlas. Playing the Pentatone SACD of Schubert's "Trout" Quintet, the highs were especially beautiful, with violins singing with estimable delicacy. It was the best sound I've ever heard from a PS Audio show set-up. This bodes very well for their forthcoming amplifier.
The second Listen-Up room featured PSB Synchrony One speakers ($5000/pair) driven by the NAD M2 Direct Digital amplifier ($5999), both of which were very favorably reviewed by Stereophile. Source was the NAD M5 CD player, wired with AudioQuest cables. Listen-Up has been a B&W dealer pretty much for ever, so I was surprised to see them take on PSB; a staffer told me that B&W's recent decision to have Best Buy sell its affordable speakers led this specialty retailer to look for an additional high-quality loudspeaker line to carry.
Welcome to retro city. Not only did the Quad ESL2805 speakers ($10,000/pair), Classic II integrated amp ($6000) and QC24 phono stage ($2449) look from another era, but the equally classic-looking Merrill-Williams turntable ($4000), clamp ring ($649), weight ($249), and 33/45 power supply ($1150) was playing Frank Sinatra's "Days of Wine and Roses."
Lest anyone think that we at Stereophile don't pay attention when manufacturers speak, take a look at Stephen Mejias, virtually mesmerized by Luke Manley's energetic and ever-enlightening prose. Also pictured, Steven Rochlin of Enjoythe Music, Peter McGrath of Wilson Audio, and the empty chair and scattered detritus of the photographer-in-action.
Ray Lombardi's international set-up was getting much better sound from JBL's 1400 Array ($11,500/pair) than at the first California Audio Show (CAS) a few months back. In fact, Diana Krall's semi-lethargic rendition of "Let's Face the Music and Dance" sounded much less doped-up than it did when I last heard it at the Aurum Cantus factory in China. The presentation featured crisp and sweet highs, and a natural midrange. Neither Sound Applications power treatment (model not specified) nor ASC Tube Traps could totally tighten up the speaker's soft bottom, but I don't recall it sounding very tight at CAS either.
One of my two best sounds at RMAF was from Revel's Ultima Salon2 speakers ($22,000/pair), which have been favorites of mine since Larry Greenhill's review appeared in the June 2008 issue of Stereophile. At RMAF, the Revels were being driven by Mark Levinson No.53 monoblocks ($25,000/pair), which in turn were being fed straight from the variable output of a Mark Levinson No.512 SACD player ($15,000). Cabling was all-Transparent. The superbly stable soundstaging extended beyond the physical positions of the speakers, the tonal balance was one of the most neutral I heard at the Show, and the bass was both extended and defined. I would have stayed listening for longer, but the Show only had 30 minutes more to run and I had two more rooms to visit.
RM Loudspeakers of Fort Smith, Arkansas were showing the CH-11R "True Exponential Folded Horn" ($17,500$20,000/pair) and RM-105 ported four-way ($9900$12,400/pair). I love the old school / new school look of these contrasting speakers. Playing the latter with unspecified components and cabling, I especially enjoyed the nice warmth in the bass voices of While You Are Alive, John Atkinson's 2007 recording of Cantus.
t's one thing to know that you're attending what has quickly grown into the largest annual high-end show in the United States. It's something else entirely to try to take in even a third of the 180 exhibits that were spread over the width, breadth and height of the Denver Marriott Tech Center.
RMAF 2010 drew such a huge rush of attendees on the first day (October 15) as to cause at least one overly packed elevator to spend what seemed like a minute in limbo, considering whether it should dare try to ascend. When it finally determined to go up rather than crash down, it moved in fits and starts, and shuddered each time it reached a floor. I think more than one of its occupants took a vow then and there to finally lose some weight. Stereophile ran out of their new-at-the-Show November issue by the end of the second day, and when a member of the Colorado Audio Society donated his collection of back issues to us on Sunday (see the photo), they were all gone within minutes.
Show exhibits extended to eight packed floors, and down into the. . .
The 2010 edition of the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, occupying parts of nine floors of the Denver Marriott Tech Center, is set to be the biggest and best RMAF yet. For now, guests, exhibitors, and press are enjoying "the calm before the storm." But that will soon change, and this quiet, sun-soaked hall will be one big blur of color and activity. Judging by the show's directorywhich is obviously thicker than everwe're in for some serious fun.
Selah Audio, a North Carolina speaker manufacturer that sells its products direct on the net, was showing the Verita sealed box loudspeaker ($2000/pair, or $2650 with the veneer displayed at the show). A sealed box with 84dB sensitivity and a frequency range of 60Hz20kHz, it combines the excellent RAAL ribbon tweeter from Serbia's Aleksandar Rasisavijevic with a ScanSpeak woofer.
Applause rang out after Silverman's performances. Among the most appreciative were those in the standing room section in heaven, aka the mezzanine balcony. Notice Roy Hall (third from left), who really socks it to Mikey Fremer in the "Manufacturers Comments" section of the November issue, among the admirers. On the second night, Gary Koh of Genesis was spied in rapt attention.
Featured in Listen-Up's third room was a bevy of new gear from Canadian manufacturer Simaudio: the Moon 310D phono stage ($1799, which Michael Fremer falls in love with in our January 2011 issue), the Moon 300D D/A processor ($1600)this handles digital data with up to 24-bits word length and 192kHz sample rate via both S/PDIF and USB and uses 32-bit Sabre DACsMoon 350P preamp, Moon 400M monoblocks, and Moon CD3.3X CD player. (Apologies for not noting the prices of these components.) Analog was being played on a Sumiko RM10-1 turntable, and the speakers were Sonus Faber's Elipsas ($18,000/pair).