As a card-carrying member of The Insecure, I tend to clam up when I'm around people who are considerably more intelligent or well-informed than I. Consequently, I had embarrassingly little to say in the presence of Bricasti Audio's Brian Zolner, whose understanding of the various digital-filtering choices offered by his company's M1 D/A converter ($8495) was as deep as it was generously and at times even humorously offered. In any event, the Bricasti sounded fine at the front of a system in which a pair of Harbeth HL5 loudspeakers ($5690/pair) was driven by the undeniably beautiful Dan D'Agostino Momentum Stereo amplifier ($25,000).
It was that rarest of rare occasions in audio-show reporting: I entered the demonstration room of a brand that was unfamiliar to me, and was impressed at once by a sort of musical rightness I seldom hear from modern playback gear. Sure, I was familiar with the company that made the CD player, preamp, and monoblock amps in useElectrocompaniet, whose solid-state amps are among the few I consider worthy of comparison to the best tube designsbut the Austrian loudspeaker manufacturer Brodmann Acoustics was new to me. Their stand-mounted Festival S ($4500/pair), driven by a pair of Electrocompaniet AW180 monoblocks ($5425 each) allowed the solo violin in a Paganini work to have far greater than usual texture, tone, and presence. Based on my experience at RMAF, the pairing of these two brands is something you should go out of your way to hear.
OMG. It’s 4pm on Sunday, the show is over, and I have three rooms left to cover. Dash to door number one. It’s already locked. Next to door number two. It’s locked as well. Is this going to be the worst episode of Let’s Make A Deal ever known to man or audiophile, I wonder, or will I find the pot of gold behind door number three?
Well, kind of. The door opens, there are boxes everywhere, and Larry Alan Kay, former co-founder of Fithe audiophile magazine that ran all those recipes for audiophiles who like to drink and chomp while they listenis packing up the BSG Technologies QOL Signal Completion Stage.
Fried Audio (“Speakers of Truth”), out of Pontiac, Michigan, is on the scene with the Bud Fried Tower ($2995/pair), a handsome two-way, transmission line design. Manufactured in the US, the speaker is available in 10 finishes and uses a Hiquphon ferrofluid OW2 dome tweeter and two 7” Peerless Exclusive woofers. It has a rated sensitivity of 88dB, a nominal impedance of 4 ohms, and a claimed frequency response of 35Hz20kHz, +/-3dB.
Not listed in the Show Guide but providing the power in the Fidelis room was the Bully Sound Corporation’s 60S class-A amplifier ($7900). BSC is a new company founded by Brett D’Agostino, son of one Dan D’Agostino, and with the Harbeth Monitor 30.1 speakers ($5995/pair) so beloved by Sam Tellig, JD Souther’s “New Kid in Town,” played with J River Media Center sending the data to Bricasti’s superb M1 DAC ($8495) via USB, sounded sweet. Until I noticed the Stein Harmonizers sprinkled around the room. (You can see one sitting on top of the speaker.) Would the system sound so good without the Steins? I didn’t dare ask, though Mikey Fremer swears they made his system sound worse!
The big news in Soundsmith land, besides the fact that Peter Ledermann’s fastest top-of-the-line Hyperion cartridge with its cactus spine and diamond tip was making wonderful sound in multiple rooms at RMAF, was the introduction of the Hyperion Mk.II ($7500). Boasting great channel separation, its 10-year warranty includes retipping for the original owner.
Whereas the headphone enthusiasts' CanJam had been a subdued affair at the 2010 and 2011 RMAFs, this year's event seemed to have twice as many exhibitors and twice as many attendees. You can find Tyll Hertsens' informed and informative coverage of the RMAF CanJam for our sister site InnerFidelity here.
According to Bob Farinelli of Bob Carver LLC, the legendary designer has “made some adjustments” to the sound of his 35-driver Bob Carver ALS line-source speakers with active tube based crossover network ($19,700/pair). I’ll say. The sound has improved greatly since I blogged Carver’s speaker and electronics at AXPONA in early June. The system’s subwoofer may have overloaded the small roomthis is not the first or the last time you’ll read about bass overload in these blogsbut the line array’s ability to reproduce the timbre of an unnamed jazz trumpeter’s instrument was spot-on.
Rob Robinson of Channel D (Pure Music and Pure Vinyl, left) and Paul Erlandson of Lynx Studio Technologies (right), along with Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio (in absentia), had plenty of reason to smile. In addition to announcing that Channel D’s Pure Music 1.9 ($129, updated without charge for current owners) is due October 30, and Pure Vinyl 3.1 ($279) is coming out a week earlier, on October 23, the system they had assembled was producing wonderful sound despite its far less than stellar set-up. . .
Classic Audio always makes good sound at Shows, and RMAF was no exception, both analog and digital sources sounding clean, clear and detailed. The system featured a pair of T-1.4 Reference speakers ($36,500/pair), this a retro-looking design combining two reflex-loaded, field-coil energized 15” woofers (one firing forward, the other downward) with a horn-loaded, field-coil energized midrange unit, and a Fostex tweeter. Amplifiers were Atma-Sphere MA1.5 monoblocks, cables were by Purist, and analog source a Brinkman Bardo turntable fitted with a Tri-Planar arm and van den Hul Grasshopper cartridge. The digital source was new to me: all from Texas-based Stahl-Tek, an Opus CD transport fed the “entry level” Ariaa D/A converter ($12,900).
As I was heading out of the Sony room, which John Atkinson is covering separately, I spied an open door. Like a cat to a paper bag, I dove inside to discover the sensational recording engineer and producer Cookie Marenco of Blue Coast Records. A strong proponent of DSD, with which she records many of her projects (including free hi-rez downloads), Marenco was hanging in Sony’s storage area/hospitality suite prior to delivering one of her four guest demos in the adjacent Sony room. (Gus Skinas of Sonoma Systems presented three other demos, and Chad Kassem of Analogue Productions the remaining two). I promised Cookie, when snapping the photo, that I would say nothing about the tantalizing, not-yet-released products intentionally hidden from view.
Thank goodness I wasn't shooting with film: It took several frames to get a decent photo of the Da Vinci DAC ($31,000) from the California company Light Harmonic. But I didn't mind spending all that time trying, as the music was superbly tactile and compellingthanks in no small part to amplification from KR Audio Electronics, represented at RMAF by the enduringly gracious Dr. Eunice Kron.
This room was the first I went into on Sunday morning of RMAF, drawn in by a superbly natural representation of the cellos, violas, and gambas on a recording of the fifth Bach Brandenburg Concerto. (An ensemble led by Antony Holstead, I was later told.) And the chile lights didn’t hurt. Speakers were the Daedalus Orpheus ($38,500/pair) with two BOW woofers ($6080 with handbuilt crossover), driven by the ModWright 150Wpc KWA150 Signature monoblocks ($8495 each), a ModWright LS 36.5 DM preamplifier ($9995), and a Modwright Elyse DAC (price TBD) fed data by a modified Oppo BDP 95 (two tubes poked through the top panel). Speaker cables were Daedalus; interconnects and AC cords were WyWires.
Dali’s Thomas Knudsen may look a bit shy, but he was quite proud of the show debut of Dali’s Epicon 8 loudspeakers ($20,000/pair). Hidden from view were Naim’s NAC 172 streaming preamp ($2895), CD5i-2 ($1795), NAP 250-2 ($5995), and the UnitiServe SSD ($3995) network server with bit-perfect CD ripping capability.