Danish manufacturer Vitus Audio was showing off its new RI-100 integrated amplifier ($13,000) at RMAF with a pair of YG Acoustics' two-way Carmel speakers, connecting everything with Purist Audio Design's Corvus-series cable. (Purist was celebrating its 25th anniversary at RMAF.) Running the 300Wpc amplifier's output stage in class-AB rather than class-A allows the RI-100 to be, for Vitus, relatively affordable.
"That's a familiar sightand a familiar sound." When I walked into On A Higher Note's large room on the Denver Tech Center Marriott's mezzanine floor, the speakers being demmed were the Vivid B1s that I review in the October issue. I loved the sound of the $14,990/pair B1s in my room and they were doing equally sterling duty at RMAF, driven by a Luxman M600A amplifier ($8500) and a modified Revox open-reel recorder. A 15ips tape of a cello, piano, and double bass playing what sounded like a tango by Astor Piazolla, recorded in LA's Disney Hall by Yarlung Records, had an ease to its sound that allowed the music to flow. The room had a touch too much bloom in the upper bassperhaps the Synergistic "magic bowl" you can see on the post on the wall behind the speakers was fatigued after a long day adjusting the room acoustics.
The United Home Audio room at RMAF featured Von Schweikert speakers driven by Jolida electronics, this time the Von Schweikert VR5 Anniversary Mk.2s ($30,000/pair), Jolida Fusion preamp and Fusion 200W tube monoblocks ($6000/all three). But my eye was drawn to the UHA Phase 9 tape deck, which was playing some Series 3 releases from The Tape Project, specifically Nat Adderley and his band performing "Work Song." One of the better-sounding rooms, I thought.
Von Schweikert speakers were featured in a number of rooms at RMAF, and their VR-33s ($4500/pair) were demonstrating impressive dynamics with a drum recording in the second-floor room the company was sharing with Jolida. Power was being provided by the new Jolida JD 1000RC tubed integrated amplifier, which gets 100Wpc into 8 ohms from its four matched pairs of EL34 tubes. The VR-33 weighs 103 lbs and combines an MTM array on the front panel with a rear-firing, port-loaded woofer. "Own a $15,000 speaker for only $3750" says Von Schweikert's literature. My notes said $4500, but whatever the exact price, you get a lot of speaker for the money. As you can see from the photo, the price of the VR-33 has been kept competitive by using a cloth covering for the enclosure rather than veneer.
I am always intrigued by Wavelength's combination of cutting-edge digital technology and tubes. Their room at RMAF featured new developments in both areas. Shown in the photo are the latest HS 24(32)/192 version of the Cosecant asynchronous USB DAC (left, $4000), which features the new Denominator D/A module with 9016 ESS converters, and the new Royal preamp (right, $7500). Wavelength's Gordon Rankin walked me through the design of the minimalist preamp. The input signal is taken to a transformer hat inverts the polarity and feeds high-precision Penny & Giles two-channel attenuator. The wipers of the attenuator are connected directly to the grids of two 71A triodes and that's it! (The third tube is a rectifier.) Because the single tube stage inverts polarity, the preamp output is again in correct absolute polarity.
Wes Bender’s been in the hi-fi business for a long time and he’s finally decided to open up his own shop. Wes Bender Studio NYC is perhaps the newest audio salon in New York. I say “perhaps” because new hi-fi dealers seem to be popping up like mad around here. I can't keep up. This is a good thing. The more good places we have to listen, the better chance we have of growing.
Wilson Audio Specialties Sasha loudspeakers, D’Agostino Master Audio Systems Momentum monoblock power amplifiers, Transparent Audio cables, and Peter McGrath handling the tunes via an iPad and Meridian Sooloos MC200 media center. I heard a very similar system in a shoebox of a room at the California Audio Show earlier this year. What a difference a room makes!
In a much smaller room next door to GTT Audio's main suite, YG Acoustics’ Carmel loudspeakers ($18,000/pair) were driven by a Devialet D-Premier integrated amplifier/DAC ($16,999). Source components were Bryston’s BDP-1 digital media player ($2250) and PS Audio’s Perfect Wave Transport ($3000). Cables were Kubala-Sosna’s Emotion.