A younger listener walked into the room and requested “White Winter Hymnal” by Fleet Foxes, a song I know well.
The system, built by Tempo High Fidelity: Verity Audio Amadis loudspeakers ($30,000/pair); Musical Fidelity M8700m 700W monoblock power amplifier ($12,500/pair) and M8PRE preamp ($5000); dCS Paganini stack with a Puccini clock; Vibex power conditioning; and a mix of Transparent and Basis cables.
So what if the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest doesn’t officially open until noon Friday? The Stereophile crewLR, Jason Victor Serinus, Stephen Mejias, John Atkinson, and Art Dudleyhave met for an 8AM strategy session in the Marriott’s Atrium dining area. Omelets devoured and territory divided up by floor, we can finally sit back for a moment, smile, and savor our two hours before the big 11AM pre-show press unveiling of the new Wilson Audio Alexia loudspeaker.
It’s no surprise that Sam Tellig likes Harbeth’s Monitor 30.1 loudspeaker ($6490/pair in rosewood; seen here on Resonant Woods stands) as much as he does. (You can read about that in our November issue.) The speaker is handsome, understated, and it just looks right. Driven by Bret D’Agostino’s Bully Sound Company BSC-60s, a 60Wpc power amp built around a 1300VA toroidal transformer, the Harbeths sounded right, too. Bricasti’s M1 DAC ($8495; a favorite of both John Atkinson and John Marks) accepted signals from a Music Vault Music Streamer ($2495). Tellurium Q cables tied everything together.
What else was in the system?
Oh, yes: The Stein Music Harmonizers. And, I almost hate to tell you this, but:
Taking a somewhat different, historical approach than my presentation on the same subject at the 2009 RMAF, HiFi Plus editor Alan Sircom, despite being jetlagged, forcefully showed how insensitive use of compression kills recorded sound.
It was a pleasure to make the acquaintance of Bob Neill, a fellow graduate of Amherst College and proprietor of Amherst Audio in Amherst, MA. In a system headlined by JM Reynaud Abscissa loudspeakers ($5500/pair) bi-amped with Crimson 640E monoblock amplifiers ($6000/pair), and completed by the Crimson 710 solid-state preamplifier ($7000), Resolution Audio Cantata ($6500), and Crimson interconnects ($360/1m pair) and bi-wired speaker cable ($1070/8' pair), I enjoyed the kind of cultivated sound that discriminating listeners crave. True, there was some extra resonance in the treble that made piano sound a mite metallic, but the midrange beauty of Antonio Lysy’s cello on Yarlung Records’ recording, Antonio Lysy at the Broad, was very special.
As someone who fell in love with the sound of Apogee full-range ribbon speakers in the early 1980s, I made a point of visiting the room featuring Analysis Audio planar ribbon speakers. Driven by Arion HS-500 amplifiers ($5995/pair), which combine a class-D output stage with a tube input and driver stage, via JPS cables, a track from Patricia Barber’ Companion album sounded sweet and rich on the Omega ribbons ($24,200/pair with external crossovers), but with a touch of color in the mind-bass that was audible on kick drum.
Get a grip, Serinus. The equipment may have been ringed with Christmas lights, but it was October in the Denver Marriott Tech Center, not December in the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin. Nor does Nhan Huang of Angel City Audio resemble Western conceptions of Mary's immaculate offspring. Be that as it may, or as some of my harshest critics may wish it weren'tjump to it, JohnnyRthe Melody Pure Black 101 preamp ($499), Melody M845 monoblock amplifiers ($5899/presumably for the pair), Onix CD-50 $3699), Angel City Audio P2000 power conditioner ($4499), and MG Audio interconnects and speaker cable were delivering bright and incisive sound on two unidentified jazz tracks.
After a break of too many years, it was great to again encounter the fine sound of April Music. This time, the company was showcasing three premiers: the April Music Stello Ai700 integrated amplifier ($6500), Eximus S1 stereo amplifier ($2500), and Eximus DP1 192/24 DACPreamplifier ($3200). Together with a MacBook Pro running Amarra 2.4.2, Marten’s Coltrane soprano loudspeaker and Verrastar cabling, the system sounded gorgeous on soprano Renée Fleming’s rendition of Dvorák’s “Song to the Silver Moon.” Bass was impressively solid. The speaker needed more room to shine on the very top, but the midrange and bass produced by this chain were excellent.
The sound in the room from Arte Forma of Taiwan, represented in the US by Aire Audio, completely seduced me. Playing a wonderful recording of pianist Murray Perahia performing Handel, I was captivated by the presentation’s beautiful glow and air. It felt as though a light was shining from within the piano. This system portrayed the high treble delicacy of the piano’s strings like few others.
In a second Audio Alternative room, I was again treated to that old, familiar Boz Scaggs classic, “Thanks to You.” I had just come from the Fidelis AV room, where I had heard the song presented with impressive speed, precision, and clarity, the sound still fresh in my mind. So, I was surprised to hear something different.
I walked into the Audio Alternative room with a nagging headache and walked out cured. I credit the system: Vandersteen Model 7 loudspeakers with M7 crossovers ($50,000/pair) driven by Audio Research’s Reference 250 monoblock and new two-chassis Reference 10 preamp ($30,000); AMG Viella 12 turntable fitted with a Lyra Atlas phono cartridge; and AudioQuest cables.
The song, believe it or not, was “Here Comes the Sun.”
Among the many delights in the Audio Feast room: a prototype of an autoformer-based volume control called the Finemet TVC (price TBD). The real attraction, of course, was the fact that Audio Feast played real music in their room. (They were playing a Miles Davis disc when I was thereand I don't mean one of the umpteen audiophile reissues of Kind of Blue.) I look forward to getting to know Audio Feast in the months ahead.