In addition to the Cartright cartridge setup tool, Soundsmith was showing the new EZ-Mount cartridge screws ($29.99, review to come from Michael Fremer), which allow for easy cartridge installation; Soundsmith’s new top-of-the-line Sussurro Paua moving-iron cartridge ($3499), inspired by Frank Schroder; the special edition, VPI-branded Zephyr high-output cartridge ($999), designed for use with VPI and other unipivot tonearms; and the neat, little “Intuitive” tool ($49.99), designed to make simple, precise adjustments of tracking force and azimuth to VPI tonearms!
If the Soundsmith room had been a van, it would have been rocking. (Hee-haw.) Seriously, there was a party going on in here and Peter Ledermann was the master of ceremonies, cueing up one record while a second was playing. But before I could take a seat, I was mesmerized by this awesome-looking device, the Soundsmith Cartright ($899.95, due early 2011), which resembles some sort of old-school, psychedelic Electro-Harmonix stomp box, but promises to simplify cartridge setup.
Reasonably priced cabling from Soundstring Cable Technologies of South Norwalk, CT created a polite, welcoming feel in a room that also featured ModWright and Oppo electronics and Nola bookshelf speakers.
See those little, white, star-shaped things? Those are room-tuning accessories from Stein Music. These were scattered, perhaps haphazardly, about the roomon the floor in front of an equipment rack (as seen here), as well as affixed to the walls and ceiling!
When I reported in our report from the 2009 RMAF that I perceived a degradation when Ted Denney of cable manufacturer Synergistic Research removed his tiny ART devices from the room, it triggered a debate that raged not just in the comments following that report but also in our website forum right up to today. The fact is that these small metal bowls are too small to have a significant effect on the acoustics of a room at frequencies below 10kHz or so, yet they seem to improve the accuracy and stability of stereo imaging and even tighten up the sounds of bass instruments. It is a mystery, therefore, how these devices can work. I have conjectured that perhaps they have an effect on the listener’s state of mind rather than the acoustics, but if so, then I don’t comprehend how that effect can be both repeatable and demonstrable. Whatever they doif they do anything, that istherefore, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went into my final room at the 2010 RMAF, the Synergistic room.
I was mightily impressed by the sound of the bus-powered, $399 DACport USB-input headphone amplifier when I reviewed it in June. So when I was looking round the CanJam exhibit, I checked out the Centrance booth. There sat Michael Goodman, the Chicago company's managing director, with a new product with a very familiar form factor. The $795 DacMini headphone amplifier/preamplifier is the size and shape of the Mac mini computer, and offers two line-level inputs as well as USB, Toslink, and S/PDIF electrical digital inputs. Versions are planned with a power amplifier section and an iPod dock.
"Bring the concert home!" declared the Jones Audio brochure. The 18-month old company, whose products are "handcrafted" in Seattle, took advantage of RMAF to debut the Jones Audio PA-M300 monoblock amplifier ($24,000/pair). This 300W into 8 ohms, 560W into 4 ohms baby, which uses a 35 lb toroidal transformer, kept company with the Jones Pre-S2 preamplifier (approx. $11,000), the Revel Ultima Salon2 loudspeakers I've lusted after on multiple occasions ($22,000/pair), a Benchmark DAC1 Pre, and Kimber cabling with WBT connectors (approx. $1000 worth).
We audiophiles can't resist pushing the boundaries of intimacy. Step on those cables, jostle them ampswe just gotta take a look at what's going on from all angles. Trying not to do permanent damage, here's what I spied on the back of Lowther America's Field-Coil EXR Open-Baffle loudspeaker (estimated price of $15,000/pair).
Driving Von Schweikert VR-3S speakers ($7995/pair) in Room 8032 was the awesome-looking Kronzilla SXI Mk.II monoblock, featuring the largest tubes I have seen in an audio amplifier. Source was the French EEra CD player, and there my handwritten notes become illegible. Apologies :-(
I walked into Naim’s Uniti display to hear the Killers doing an alright impersonation of the Beatles. Who knew? The sound was very expressivenot a big sound, but an entirely friendly and welcoming soundin touch with the emotion of the music.
Peachtree's David Solomon, seen here accosting Stereophile's Stephen Mejias (right) in the hotel's coffee bar, was in ebullient mode. He's holding Peachtree Audio's new idAC ($999), which combines the usual 24/192kHz S/PDIF inputs with a 24/96-capable USB input and an iPod dock that, like the Peachtree iDecco amplifier that is favorably reviewed by Art Dudley in our December 2010 issue, takes the audio data from the iPod in digital form. The iDAC uses the latest version of ESS's 32-bit Sabre32 D/A chip.
As with other Shows, RMAF gave audiophiles the opportunity to stock up on LPsthe original hi-rez mediumboth old and new. This is the bazaar on the Marriott's ground floor, which was crowded throughout the Show.
The Rosso Fiorentino Volterra, represented in the US by Avatar Acoustics, uses a crossover circuit placed in an isolated and damped box within the center of the speaker's cabinet. Here's a look inside.