Swedish manufacturer Sjofn was luring visitors into its room with an attractive woman drawing their attention to a poster on the wall outside the door announcing (the clue). Inside the room was a pair of unprepossessing stand-mounted speakers, driven by a Hegel amplifier via Supra cables. The two-way, ported Sjofn speakers ($999/pair) were taking full advantage of their boundary loading to produce a big sound.
George Cardas had had a celebratory coin minted to celebrate his company's first quarter century: "25 years helping musicians reproduce their music" it states on the front. Amen to that sentiment, George.
On the other side of the coin is a tribute to George's friend and mentor, retailer Brooks Berdan, who passed away last summer.
Something strange and awesome was going on in the Zu Audio room. The lights were low, an evil but alluring sound was filling the room, and the company’s Sean Casey was crouched down in a corner, surrounded by vinyl.
I stuck my head in the door of Room 8009. "That's Willie Nelson," I recognized that distinctive voice. "But what's he singing? Wait a second, that's Peter Gabriel's 'Don't Give Up'WT...?" I had to go in and take a seat. Daedalus Athena three-way speakers ($9950/pair) were being driven by AMR AM-77 monoblock amplifiers which in turn were being fed signal from a First Sound Presence Deluxe tubed preamp ($9200). Source was AMR's impressive CD-77 CD Processor. Nice, very nice.
Angel City Audio built a system comprising their Trinity loudspeaker ($6999/pair), Melody Pure Black 101 preamplifier ($4499), and Melody M835 monoblock power amplifiers ($5899/pair), along with an Onix XCD50 CD player and Melody cables and interconnects.
When Michael Fremer reviewed the 710 amplifier from Swiss manufacturer Soulution last August, his praise for the sound was surpassed by mine for the measured performance. "The Soulution 710 is definitely one of the best-measuring amplifiers I have encountered, " I wrote, "Color me impressed."
Denver retailer Apex Audio, which is continuing in the tradition of the late John Barnes' Audio Unlimited store, was using the Soulution 700 monoblocks ($130,000/pair), which each offer 430W into ohms, 860W into 4 ohms, were being use to drive Focal's Stella Utopia EM speakers ($90,000/pair), with their electromagnet-powered woofers via Tara Labs cables.
April Music presented the new Eximus DP1 DAC-preamplifier ($2995), which offers six digital inputs, including USB 2.0; two analog inputs, including a front-panel Aux; three analog outputs, including a front-panel headphone jack; and supports resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz.
It was a pleasure to finally meet Nick and Jennifer Atocha, makers of the most beautiful record cabinets I’ve ever seen. In the imaginary future of my mind, I will live in an old brownstone with extremely high ceilings, wide plank floors, cool chandeliers, a spiral staircase, a grand fireplace, a secret library, sky lighting, and at least three or five (I don’t like even numbers) of Atocha’s record cabinets.
Jennifer very slyly warned me of the possibilityno, inevitabilityof my dear Ikea Expedit shelves collapsing beneath the weight of all my precious vinyl. I frowned.
Colorado Springs retailer Audio Limits was filling one of the very large ground-floor rooms at RMAF with sound, courtesy of the massive Venture Grand Ultimate loudspeakers ($90,000/pair) driven by the new AMP M1 solid-state monoblock amplifiers from BMC ($7790 each, $15,580 pair). Source was the BMC BDCD1 belt-drive CD transport ($5990), the BMC DAC1 Pre (HR) D/A converter/preamplifier ($6290), with Silversmith The Silver interconnects and speaker cables, Stage III power cables, and Weizhi PRS-6 power distributor.
I listened to a track I haven't heard in years in this room, Michel Jonasz's "Les temps passeé," from the CD La fabuleuse histoire de mister swing (1987), and was blown away by the enormous sound, the huge dome of ambience that was defined between and behind the speakers, and the sheer effortlessness with which the music was presented.
In the room presented by Audio Physic, Acoustic Signature, and Trigon, music was sweet and nuanced, played at low volumes, but nevertheless involving and deeply enjoyable. I admired the subtlety of touch, richness of texture, and ease of flow. We listened to a few minutes of One Foot in the Gutter, a live, 1960s recording by the Dave Bailey Sextet, and I swear I could hear the joy and humor in the band’s playing.
Audioarts also presented a system comprising BMC amplification (supported by a SolidSteel stand) and Zellaton loudspeakers ($24,950/pair). Every Zellaton driver is completely handmade and takes up to three weeks to produce. The speaker cabinet uses a semi-open construction meant to minimize cabinet resonances.
In my opinion, one of the coolest-looking systems of the show was pieced together by New York City’s Audioarts: Rethm Maarga loudspeakers ($8750/pair), Fi amplification, and a Lector CDP-6 CD player. The sound was just as good as the appearance: immediate and realistic, with a rich, detailed midrange.