Some of my happiest sonic experiences at RMAF arrived in the last two rooms I visited: the Tidal Audio/Argento Audio Cables/dCS showcase put together by Doug White of The Voice That Is (Newton Square, PA), and the Simon Yorke/CAT/Synergistic/Lansche exhibit assembled by Tim Nguyen of Tone of Music (San Francisco, CA).
I was smitten by the sound of San Francisco-based dealer and distributor Tim Nguyen's Tone of Music equipment line-up at the California Audio Show. Tim's RMAF exhibit, which featured the Simon Yorke turntables he distributes, included the Simon Yorke S10 Record Player ($19,950), Convergent Audio Technology preamplifier ($9950) and Jl2 signature amp ($19,950), and Synergistic Research cabling. The big difference was the presence of the Lansche No.3 loudspeaker from Aaudio Imports ($30,000/pair in gloss black), a 2-way with 91dB sensitivity and frequency response of 40Hz150Hz (!) ±3dB.
I had been aware of TTWeight’s line of beautifully crafted, heavy-duty phono accessoriescenter weights and clamps, outer rings, and matsand while I knew that TTWeight’s Larry Denham also designed turntables, it wasn’t until seeing them in person that I fully understood the extent to which Denham has gone in perfecting his designs. Turntables aren’t just a hobby or side project for Denham.
Oh my, did Muddy Waters' Folk Singer sound good. I hadn't heard this audiophile classic in many a year, and my time in Mike Garner of TweekGeek.com's room convinced me that it was time for an extended revisit. Garner achieved gorgeous clarity and marvelous quiet on this recording. As I wrote in my notes, "A very special moment."
Having greatly enjoyed YG Acoustics' two-way Carmel loudspeaker ($18,000/pair) at the California Audio Show this past summer, I was eager to hear it in a different setting. This was the opportunity, paired with Veloce Audio's battery-powered set-up. The system also featured Kubala-Sosna Emotion cabling (price not supplied), the LS-1 Pure Tube linestage ($15,000)are there any impure tubes?and LP-1 Pure Tube phono module ($3000), and V-6 monoblock amplifiers ($14,000, presumably for the pair). Also doing the honors were the Amazon One turntable (price not available), and the PS Audio Perfect Wave transport/DAC combo (approx. $6000).
A familiar dem track was playing when I entered the large room from Colorado Springs retailer Audio Limits: "There'll Be Some Changes Made," from Mark Knopfler and Chet Atkins. However, rather than LP or CD, it was being played back from a PC running the J-River player and feeding the well-regarded Weiss DAC202 Firewire D/A converter ($6670). Speakers were the beautifully finished Venture Reference II Signature ($135,000/pair), which combines an AMT (Air-Motion Transformer) tweeter with a 7" graphite-coned midrange unit and four 8" graphite-coned woofer. Amplification was the Swiss FM Acoustics 811 Mk.II amplifier (455Wpc into 8 ohms, $128,800) and the FM Acoustics 245 preamp ($23,200). Power conditioning was by Isotek and Audience; racks were from Harmonic Resolution Systems. The full-range sound was superbly clean and effortless, but I couldn't help thinking that the room was not doing justice to this very expensive system's potential.
Here we see the Vitus Audio SIA-025 integrated amplifier ($20,000; 100Wpc running class-A/B) and SCD-010 CD player ($20,000) and Amphion’s Krypton 3 loudspeakers ($20,900/pair). Amphion is now distributed in North America by VMAX Services. This system was very easy to listen to. Even at low volumes, there was no lack of drama, scale, or drive. It was a pleasure catching up with VMAX’s Richard Kohlruss and meeting Vitus’ Hans-Ole Vitus, who tells me he’s got a new phono preamp that Michael Fremer will love.
For many of us in the press, RMAF 2010 began with VTL's well-orchestrated press breakfast launch of the new MB-450 Series III monoblocks ($18,000/pair) and TL7.5 Series III preamplifier ($20,000). Speaking before a full house that included representatives from Stereophile, The Absolute Sound, Positive Feedback On-Line, Enjoy the Music, and many other media outlets, VTL's Luke Manley explained that the Series III is VTL's first fully balanced amplifier.
I'm afraid the companies exhibiting in this room will not be adequately served by this blog entry. David Salz of Wireworld was not available, and I never got details on his cabling other than word that his new, top-of-the-line USB cable got caught up in FedEx drama and didn't make it to the show on time. All I know is that the big speaker was the eye-catching, glass-enclosured Waterfall Niagara from France ($54,000/pair), which has 89dB sensitivity and a frequency response of 36Hz28kHz ±3dB, and a Cary 300T SACD player ($6500) and Cary monoblocks ($10,000) were called into action. Power was conditioned by the APC units that Kal Rubinson recommends. I don't know much more, unfortunately. As I just explained to the man who just answered the phone at Waterfall Audio USA, I owe them and Wireworld one.
J. Gordon Rankin, always at the forefront at computer audio technology, had paired Wavelength's beautiful-sounding electronics with Vaughn Zinfandel loudspeakers and AudioQuest top-of-the-line Sky interconnects and Meteor speaker cables to create a system with an absolutely gorgeous midrange. That is no small accomplishment, folks.
One of the many graphs Nordost and Vertex displayed at their research presentation was of time-domain error in a CD player, ie, the difference between the data on a disc and the output of the CD player. It ain't pretty. Other graphs showed reduction in error with the addition of cables, supports, and power products (specifically, Nordost's Quantum). All these graphs will be downloadable from the websites of Nordost and Vertex EQ within a matter of weeks.
Some savvy exhibitors, such as Audioengine (seen here), have announced their presence at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2010 with banners hung across their balconies, so everyone knows where the party's at.
That's sure how it felt when I waded through the mob at the registration table. Graced by the presence of William Togno, a fellow member of the San Francisco Bay Area Audiophile Society, the registration table was swamped a good 90 minutes before the show opened on Friday. There were so many people packing into the elevators to the five floors of exhibits in the Denver Marriott Tech Center Tower that the elevator frequently refused to move; when it finally got up the courage to ascend, it alighted on each floor with a huge thump. Scary.
The Audio Alternative of Fort Collins, CO had the perspicacity to mate Wilson Audio's new Sophia III speakers ($16,900/pair) with Rega Research Limited's Osiris Integrated amplifier ($9000), Isis Valve CD player ($10,000), and P7 turntable w/Lyra Delos MC cartridge ($4195). The sound was very mellow and inviting. It was the kind of presentation that would make many an audiophilecertainly this onewelcome the Sophia Series III into their home.
Win Analog’s S Series-833 100W monoblock power amplifier (in the rear of this image) was designed to be “a statement product, both sonically and visually,” sales director John Dark explained. The amps measure 18” x 24” x 19” and weigh 200lbs. Its aluminum chassis panels are CNC-milled, 0.375” thick. That colossal tube in the center of the chassis is an RCA 833, originally employed as a radio transmitter. Dark says it was chosen here for its “very, very liquid sound.”