I've heard TAD's high-tech CR1 loudspeakers ($42,000/pair) on other occasions, at other shows. But they've never sounded as good as they did at RMAF, where they were demonstrated with electronics from a new company called Zesto (a great, un-self-conscious name that sounds like an affiliate of Slusho, the imaginary Japanese soft-drink company created for the 2008 film Cloverfield). The source was a Merrill-Williams REAL 101 turntable ($7200) with Triplanar arm ($5800), Dynavector XX2 MkII cartridge ($1985), and Zesto Andros phono stage ($4300) and Leto preamp ($7500), plus GamuT D200 amp ($6000) and WyWires cabling which, like the Zesto gear, comes from Thousand Oaks, CA. On selections by Illinois Jacquet and others, this system sounded richly textured and very involving.
I don't know if it's a case of careful component and/or cable matchingWilson Audio, after all, favors VTL electronics and Transparent Cabling, and Spectral always dems with its own, MIT-manufactured cablingor just better engineering, but my experience of Teresonic single-driver loudspeakers has shifted dramatically for the better over the years.
With a fanfare at 4pm, Sunday October 14, in the Denver Tech Center Marriott's Atrium, the Denver Broncos Half-Time Band, courtesy of Kimber Kable's Ray Kimber, brought the Show to a close. According to Show organizer Marjorie Baumert, "We had about 150 more exhibitors (according to the badges), about 3600 attendee days (approximately 100 more than last year). We had 1295 attendees pre-register and that was an all-time record (last year was 1100). . .
I wish I could tell you how the music sounded in the main Emotiva room. Alas, there were so many people talking about the sound of Emotiva's XSP-1 Differential Reference preamp ($899), ERC-2 Differential Reference CD player/ digital transport ($449), XPA-1 Differential Reference monoblock power amplifier ($999), XRT-6.2 Xref Tower speakers ($699/pair), and due-by-Christmastime XDA-2 fully balanced Differential DAC ($399) that I was unable to take a serious listen. Definitely good for Emotiva, if not necessarily for you the reader.
Michael Lavorgna, editor of our sister site AudioStream.com, moderated a computer audio seminar on RMAF’s first day. Participants, from left to right: David Chesky (HDtracks.com), Andreas Koch (Playback Designs), Gordon Rankin (Wavelength Audio), Rob Robinson (Channel D Software), Mark Waldrep (AIX Records), Steve Silberman (AudioQuest), and Michael Lavorgna.
I walked into the big Peachtree Audio room to find listening chairs scattered about in every direction, seemingly without purpose. Indeed, some listeners stood while some listeners sat and even others danced.
The natty Barnaby Fry, Philip O’Hanlon’s rival in the bow tie department, was getting good sound from a handmade-in-the-UK system, consisting of Rega’s RP6 Limited Edition Union Jack Version turntable, shown complete with cartridge and electronic speed control ($2095), Apollo-R CD player ($1095), DAC ($995), and Brio-R integrated amp ($895). Chord cabling held the system together (and a whole lot more), and fed signal from the electronics to MC’s twenty.21 ($2600$2800/pair, depending upon finish), a stand mount monitor from the same Professional Monitoring Company that is said to help standardize the BBC’s studio sound.
Beyond all doubt, the most heralded debut at a show filled with more product debuts than could fit in our show preview was the unveiling of the Wilson Audio Alexia loudspeaker ($48,500/pair). Introduced at back-to-back press conferences, the speaker and its elite companions made a stunning impression.
If there's one thing that Dave Wilson (pictured above) knows besides crossover design and time domain alignment, it's the sound of live, unamplified music performed in spaces that do it full justice...
Todd Garfinkle of MA Recordings was so busy cueing up music for visitors on the three headphone amps in his room that he barely had time to talk. I’m a huge MA Recordings fan, finding their choice of music from all genresthere’s even a recording of music composed and performed by Stereophile Contributing Editor/Web Monkey Jon Iverson. Alternesiaand their sound quality on both CD and high-resolution discs unique and compelling. In the photo, Todd is listening to his latest CD, Résonance, on which Nina Ben David plays music from baroque to contemporary on viola da gamba.
Thiel’s long-awaited trickle-down speaker from 2008’s ground-breaking CS3.7, the CS2.7 ($9900/pair), made its North American debut in one of the Denver Audio Designs rooms. It combines the coaxial HF/MF unit that the late Jim Thiel developed for the ‘3.7 with a proprietary 8” woofer, reinforced with a passive radiator to give claimed bass extension to below 35Hz. Frequency response is specified as 35Hz20kHz ±2.5dB, and crossover filters, of course, are all first-order. (No impedance spec was given; Thiel speakers have always been current-hungry.) The CS2.7s were demmed with Aragon Iridium 400W monoblocks ($7998/pair), an Aragon Sound Stage digital preamp ($4499), an Arcam CD37 SACD/CD player ($2299), an Arcam FMJ D33 D/A processor, and Straight Wire Expressivo interconnects and speaker cables, and Straight Wire Blue Thunder AC cords. The sound of Ryan Adams’ “Dirty Rain” had extended lows, grain-free highs, and superbly stable, well-defined stereo imaging.
“We have no crossover,” I was told soon after I entered the Tocaro loudspeaker room. “Our tweeter receives the full signal. And even though our speakers are 100dB or more efficient, they can handle the 175W of power that we’re feeding them.”
Developed by Miguel Herrero and hand-built in Gütersloh, Germany, the Tocaro 42D ($14,000/pair including stands) was connected by Crimson interconnects ($360/m) and Crimson bi-wire speaker cable ($1070/8’ pair) to the Resolution Audio Cantata ($6500), Crimson 710 solid-state preamplifier ($7000), and Crimson 640E monoblock amplifier ($6000/pair). I tried to do what the sign said, and forget whatever I thought I knew, but I couldn’t overlook the sound of boxy percussion on my well-played Chesky CD of Marta Gomez, nor the bright edge around her voice.
Speaking of McIntosh, there was lots of Binghamton bling on display in the Totem room, where showgoers enjoyed the world introduction of the Totem Forest Signature loudspeaker ($6000/pair). Driven by a McIntosh C50 preamp and MC452 amplifier and fed by an Apple laptop running Amarra software, the Forest Signatures sounded like great all-around-ers, combining thoroughly impressive spatial performance with surprisingly good color and "body," plus a very natural top-to-bottom tonal balance. As with the Brodmann/Electrocompaniet, Wilson/VTL/dCS/Spiral Groove, Audio Feast, and MBL demonstrations, having to leave the cocoon of this room was a drag.
The people from TweekGeek (“Funny Name, Serious Audio”) have a great thing going. They’re starting the Knights of the Listening Room, “a group of friends where audiophiles can share their audio systems…”
Vapor Audio’s Rick LaFaver had reason aplenty to smile. Playing MA Recordings’ fabled CD of Sera Una Noche: La Segunda, his system nailed the timbre of instruments spot on. I was amazed at the depth he achieved from his small speakers, and took special note of the realistic decay of the sound of brushes on cymbals and bells being struck. “The hollow resonance of the percussion seems real,” I wrote in my notes.