One of many Colorado retailers that displayed at RMAF this year, Fort Collins Audio hosted the debut of the TSG planar ribbon tower line array loudspeaker ($29,000/pair). Unfortunately, the speaker sat unplayed in the corner of the room when I entered, replaced by the excellent Totem Earth ($8995/pair). Connected to a Hegel H20 amplifier ($5740), Hegel HD20 DAC ($1995), and Quicksilver Audio preamp ($3900) via Kimber Kable Bifocal XL speaker cable and Kimber Select 1126 interconnects, the system was producing fine, solid sound with nice color.
Steve (Sze) Leung, a neighbor of Stereophile’s Wes Phillips and a joy to boot, made my day when he played a 45 rpm audiophile pressing of Elvis’ “Are you Lonesome Tonight.” As the great one began to intone the chapters of this teenage melodrama with tongue-in-cheek sincerity, the sound was so vivid and lifelike that images of the night I tried to ask Ellen Schmidt to go steady flooded through my mind.
Squeezed into a small hotel room were the towering Gbell Epoque loudspeakers ($70,000/pair), driven by Artemis MK II monoblock amplifiers ($120,000), Stahl-Tek’s Opus DAC ($40,000) and Opus CDT ($37,000), with connections courtesy of Purist Audio Design 25th Anniversary cabling. How all this would have played out in a larger room, I do not know, but here, both period instrument and modern violins sounded edgy on different recordings, and bass was out of control on a third recording of a Mahler symphony.
Robert Kelly of German Physiks strikes a pose worthy of a Kraftwerk album cover while showing off the company's newest loudspeaker, the Unlimited Mk.II ($13,500/pair). With the company's omnidirectional DDD driver handling everything above 200Hz, the Unlimited Mk.II had an unsurprisingly open and spacious sound, with the same sort of near holographic imaging I heard in the Nola room: very impressive.
In adjacent rooms, Gershman Acoustics from north of the border was showcasing the US show debut of its Idol loudspeakers ($2995/pair) and their flagship Black Swans ($45,000/pair). In both cases, Esoteric and Clearaudio sources, VAC electronics, Gershman Acoustics Hybrid speaker cable and unidentified interconnects, and Critical Mass Systems’ PXK racks ($1650/level) and Black Sapphire Filter System ($995/level) did the honors.
The November issue of Stereophile was new at RMAF and free to Showgoers. We were kept busy all weekend replenishing the stock on our booth, which were literally walking away. But no prizes for spotting the enigmatic suggestion in Eric Swanson's cover photo of the VPI Traveler turntable.
When I entered Vienna Acoustics' room, their new Beethoven Baby Grand Symphony Edition (SE) ($4,500/pair), set to ship in November, was playing everything but Beethoven. Thanks to Boulder Electronics' 865 integrated amplifier ($12,500) and 1021 CD/Net DAC ($26,000), the latter streaming music from a Macbook Pro; IsoTek's Sigmas power mains filter network ($3,000); and Analysis Plus Silver Opal cabling, Jack McDuff's tenor sax filled the room with lovely, warm sound. The untreated room was not the kindest to the speaker's bass response, but everything above sounded great.
Gingko Audio demmed a more than chump change system, some of whose components' names showed that imagination is alive and well in the high-end. Playing a VPI Traveler turntable ($1400) with Grado Prestige Gold ($200), Gingko Audio Cloud 9T ($349), and Gingko Audio dust cover ($279); Jolida Fusion preamp ($1500), Wells Audio Innamorata amplifier ($6000), Music Culture Technologies MC501A USB CD player ($3995), Gingko Audo ClaraVu 7 full-range loudspeakers ($6990/pair), DanaCable Black Max 88 speaker cables ($2995), and Gingko Audio Platformula rack ($2995), bass sounded decent, but a recording of Gustav Mahler's Symphony 5 that the exhibitor chose otherwise sounded bright and glassy.
Jason Victor Serinus has already discussed the products shown by Gingko Audio, but here’s a closer look at VPI’s Traveler turntable with Gingko’s Cloud 9T vibration-control platform ($349) and dust cover ($279).
When I entered the DEQX room and experienced a neutral, almost full-range sound, I assumed I was listening to the Gallo Reference speakers. But noit was the $80 pair of RadioShack PA horns in the room corners that were playing, corrected in the digital domain with the latest DEQX DSP processor, the DEQX Mate. This is an analog in-and-out (XLR and RCA), two-channel processor that goes between the preamp and power amplifier. Bypassing the DEQX Mate resulted in the squawky balance I would have expected from the horns, with no lows or highs. Switching the DEQX Mate back in-circuit gave a sound that was evenly balanced, with good HF extension and enough upper bass to sound convincing. Color me gob-smacked!
Near-holographic imagingan audio ideal for some hobbyists!could be heard in the Nola suite, where the company's new KO loudspeaker ($9800/pair) was demonstrated with Audio Research amplification, Audio Research CD player, and Nordost cabling and Quantum QX4 EMF-control devices. The 3.5-way KO uses aluminum-cone woofers and is described by designer Carl Marchisotto as offering 90dB sensitivity and a nominal 8-ohm load.
It was nearing the end of the day of the first day of the show, and I hadn't covered nearly enough exhibits to ensure blogs for every room on floors 4 and 5, plus a number of others that I had agreed to cover. That, I figured, was why I found myself increasingly breathless as I ran from room to room, listening to less and less music before jotting down a few notes and heading out the door.
Then I entered the Coincident Speaker Technology room, heard some gorgeous music, and realized the underlying reason for my near-frantic pace.
Stereophile alumnus and publicist extraordinaire Jonathan ScullBel Canto, Furutech ADL, DEQX, XLOexchanges fire with the RMAF registration staff: In life as in the Leonard Cohen songbook, "Outdrew ya'" rhymes with "Hallelujah."
Having heard the complete Haniwa 24/192 system twice, at two shows, I confess that I don’t get it. The ad for this $18,000 system, which includes 4" speakers, digital preamplifier with channel divider and DSP, and digital amplifier with recording and playback capabilities, proclaims: “An authentic 3D image pops up from sharply focused, high resolution left and right images . . . .Then, an authentic 3D sound should pop up from sharply focused, high resolution right and left channel sounds...” What I hear from digital copies of fine classical analog recordings is bright, edgy sound.
Anders Ertzeid, VP of Sales and Marketing for Hegel, introduces the Norwegian company’s new H300 integrated amplifier ($5500). This amp includes a 32-bit DAC, 5 digital inputs and 5 analog inputs, and uses a high-precision clock circuit said to eliminate jitter.