It is obviously an Avalon design but the new Idea loudspeaker ($7995/pair) continues the Colorado company's goals of combining transparency and articulation with expansive soundstaging. All these qualities were in evidence at RMAF, with the Ideas driven by Electrocompaniet monoblocks on cuts from Johnny Cash and Luka Bloom. The Idea combines a 1" dome tweeter with two 7" Nomex-Kevlarcone woofers. The woofers are loaded with a downward-firing port.
Magico's Alon Wolf shows off his new Q1 stand-mounted speaker ($24,950/pair), which marries the beryllium-dome tweeter from the Q3 and Q5 floorstanders with a 7" Nano-Tec–cone woofer. The sealed, hard-anodized aluminum enclosure is braced and damped to minimize resonances. Despite its relatively diminutive sizeit measures 14.2" H by 9" W by 14.2" Dthe Q1 weighs 60 lbs.
Driven in Chicago retailer Musical Artisans' room by by BAlabo amplification, a Zanden phono stage, a Clearaudio turntable, and a Bottlehead-modded Nagra open-reel deck to play Tape Project tapes, the Q1s produced a full-range sound that flattered female vocals without sounding mellow or lacking in transparency.
Providing the music for the YG Kipod Series 2 speakers driven by an Esoteric amplifier in the Synergistic Research room was a Mach 2 music server feeding USB data to Synergistic's The Music Cable D/A converter ($3599). This has a flying USB input cable on one end and two flying, single-ended analog output cables on the other, and it gets power not from the USB bus but from two mono supplies. The system was wired with Synergistic's new Element cables, which use tungsten conductors, a material chosen, I was told, using blind listening tests.
The Signal Collection exhibited a small and elegant system made up of the unique Davone Audio Ray loudspeakers ($7500/pair), jewel-like Absoluta Partenope integrated amplifier ($15,995), super skinny (just the way I like them) Black Cat Morpheus loudspeaker cables ($350/3m pair), and Stereolab Tombo interconnects and power cable (prices to be determined). MA Recordings Todd Garfinkle was selecting the tunes from his collection of wonderful SACDs and playing them through a Korg MR2000s digital recorder/playback unit ($2499).
The Tape Project’s Piper Payne is a talented mixing and mastering engineer and an active member of the Audio Engineering Society. (Be still, John Atkinson's beating heart!) She also enjoys origami, bunnies, the blues, and Bottlehead headphone amplifiers.
We didn’t listen to the Thoress F2A11 integrated amplifier, but just look at it: It’s awesome.
Entirely hand-built by Reinhard Thoress, the amplifier uses NOS Siemens F2A11 power tetrodes, which High Water Sound's Jeffrey Catalano explained, were popular in the Klangfilm cinema amplifiers of post-war Germany. Three line-level inputs are selectable by a rear-panel rotary switch, while separate volume controls for each channel can be adjusted using carefully matched high-grade rotary potentiometers. Why? I don’t know why, but it’s cool.
According to Catalano, the sound of the F2A11 is crystal clear. It “just cuts through all the BS.” There you go. The Thoress F2A11 looks like some kind of a tank, delivers about 6Wpc, and costs $8000.
The analog front end in the E.A.R. USA room was the Townshend Rock 7 turntable ($3200), with its unique system for applying damping where it is most needed, at the cartridge end of the arm rather than the pivot, fitted with the Helios Omega arm ($2800) and a Dynavector XV1S cartridge. Phono preamp was the E.A.R. 324 that both Art Dudley and Mikey Fremer have enthused over in the pages of Stereophile.
Zesto Audio was a name new to me, but their versatile Andros PS1 tubed MM/MC phono stage ($3900) was getting great sound from Billie Holiday's "Day In, Day Out," played on a Thorens TD309 player ($1900) fitted with a Dynavector DV-20X2L cartridge ($850). The rest of the system comprised a ModWright LS 100 tube preamp ($3495) and ModWright KWA 150 solid-state amplifier driving Fritz Carbon 7, Rev.5 speakers ($1795$1950/pair), wired with WyWires.
Retailer Denver Audio Designs was featuring Thiel's elegant-looking SCS4T tower speakers ($3690/pair) in its RMAF room. But the Dire Straits album playing when I entered the room had more low bass than I remembered the Thiels giving when we reviewed them. The system was familiarSimaudio Moon 360D player, 350P preamplifier, and 330A amplifier, all wired with StraightWirebut then I saw in the corners a pair of Thiel's new USS subwoofers. The towers were bring run full-range, with the subs reinforcing the sound below 40Hz.
I hope this doesn’t gross you out or make you cancel your subscription or anything, but SEXY (in all caps) is the first word that came to my mind when I walked into the room hosted by Tone Imports, DeVore Fidelity, Well Tempered Labs, and the Box Furniture Co.
There was a lot of pretty stuff to look at and listen to in here.
Totem was showing their new Element Series of loudspeakers. Both the stand-mounted Fire ($6000/pair) and floorstanding Earth ($9000/pair) use Totem’s 7-inch Torrent hand-assembled driver and employ no crossover parts in the woofer section.
I know audiophiles are not supposed to like Diana Krall. But the singer/pianist has true jazz instincts. Her version of Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You," played back an open-reel tape on a Right Sound-modified Studer A80, with the Usher Dancer Mini 2 speakers ($4999/pair) driven by Usher amps and connected with JPS Aluminata cables was gripping. Undoubtedly contributing to the quality of the sound was the fact that, like many exhibitors, Usher had made a serious attempt to modify the acoustics of their room at RMAF with acoustic treatments.
"Dimensional Purity" is the promoted benefit of Richard Vandersteen's approach to speaker design, and in one of the two rooms I went into at RMAF organized by Fort Collins retailer The Audio Alternative, the Vandersteen Tréos ($5990/pair) were living up to that promise. Driven by an Audio Research Vsi60 integrated amplifier ($4495) with the source the Bryston BDP-1 digital player and BDA-1 DAC, all hooked up with AudioQuest cable, Mark Isham's Blue Sun reproduced with excellent bass extension and clarity and a laidback but detailed midrange.