I’m afraid I hit High Water Sound’s room at the end of the fourth floor at a time when, overwhelmed by how many systems I had left to visit before show’s end, could only muster the words “very nice sound” in my notes. Clearly I owe you an apology, and Jeffrey Catalano’s high-end emporium a visit the next time I’m in New York City.
Every time I see High Water Sounds’ Jeffrey Catalano, he introduces me to another outstanding piece of music (or three) that I need to own immediately. During RMAF 2012, one of those pieces was The Architecture of Loss, by Icelandic composer and founder of the excellent Bedroom Community label, Valgeir Sigurdsson.
Although I was only able to stay long enough to snap a few photos and hear moderator Ken Kessler’s (Hi-Fi News) downer of an introduction, Friday evening’s post-show panel included, from left to right, HiFi Plus editor Alan Sircom, recording engineer Peter McGrath of Wilson Audio Specialties, Kathy Gornick of Thiel Audio, Michael Fremer of Stereophile and AnalogPlanet.com, Roy Hall of Music Hall and "why don’t you join me for a shot," and Kessler himself. Dan D’Agostino of D’Agostino, Inc., founder of and former designer at Krell, turned up after I had shot my photo.
John Atkinson adds: Kessler’s thesis was the high-end audio industry is dying by its own hand; that if it is to continue to exist, let alone thrive, high-end audio has to emulate the example of the luxury watch, pen, and car industries...
There's pretty much only one way to hear Rammstein at a hi-fi show: Visit the demonstration room of Swedish-based, American-built Sjöfn HiFi. (As close as I can tell, the name is pronounced hoofin, although you have to do something funny to the H.) Sjöfn 's Managing Director, Lars Erickson, approaches the selection of demo music with a adventurousness and whimsythis is the man who turned me onto the great Israeli trance duo, Infected Mushroomand the sound of his new two-way loudspeaker, The Clue ($999/pair, direct, including shipping) was up to the task. As with earlier Sjöfn designs, I have no idea whatsoever how he manages to wring such enormous scale, clarity, and impact out of such a tiny box. But he does.
Tone Audio’s founder, Jeff Dorgay, seated in the center of the photo, made sure to bring his lava lamp to set the tone in his publication’s hospitality suite on the 5th floor of the Marriott Atrium. Enjoying the ambiance were Shelly Williams of GIK Acoustics and John Derko of Digital Audio Review. Tone Audio celebrated its 7th anniversary at RMAF, Stereophile its 50th!
Without, of course, wishing in any way, shape, or form for the title of his four seminars, “Just How ‘Absolute’ Is Recorded Sound?,” to be misconstrued as referring to a certain publication based on what I personally consider a dubious concept, Stereophile editor John Atkinson used everything from a drumstick to a cowbell, both sounded “live” and played back on the seminar room’s stereo system, to convey the message: “Nothing is real. How the recording art affects what you think you hear!” As John proceeded to point out that the brain combines information from separate left and right loudspeakers into a single stereo image, my own brain began to repeat the refrain, “30 or so more rooms in the hall, 30 or so more rooms, If one of those rooms should end up uncovered, your ass will be plastered far into the wall.” Hence I vamoosed, and now leave it to John to say more about the content of his seminar.
What a difference the recording makes. When I first entered the room sponsored by Von Schweikert Audio, Jolida Inc. and United Home Audio, I was surprised to hear really bright sound from what I expected was a master tape played on a UHA Phase 11 open-reel deck ($22,000). But when we switched to another recording, Pat Metheny and Charlie Haden performing “Missouri Sky,” I truly enjoyed the beautiful midrange, edge-free highs, and big presentation of the system. “Very, very nice” was my ultimate assessment.
I’ve come to expect three things from Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio: great music, great sound, and great set-up. The music came first. With the new Joseph Audio Pearl3 loudspeakers (introductory price $28,500/pair) singing their hearts out, the timbres of Ben Webster and Gerry Mulligan’s saxophones were gorgeously conveyed. The same goes for the massed voices on Cantata Domine’s Scandinavian language version of “O Holy Night,” which was a favorite classical demo track at RMAF for exhibitors with analog rigs.
Not only was Stereophile celebrating its first half-century at RMAF, so was British speaker manufacturer KEF with the US premier of its LS50 ($1499/pair) in one of retailer Hear No Evils’s rooms. Driven by Parasound electronicsZDAC, P7 preamp, A21 power ampthe sound was both delicate yet full-bodied. This came as no surprise as reviewing this little beauty, whose single Uni-Q drive-unit was developed from that used in KEF’s flagship Blade model, for our forthcoming December issue was a highlight of my 2012 auditioning.
“I know that is, it’s Prince. I went to school with him!” exclaimed the woman sitting next to me. We were listening to a strangely compelling version of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” in Hear No Evil’s large ground-floor room. I have heard KEF’s flagship Blade loudspeaker ($30,000/pair) on other occasions but never under good enough conditions for me to get a handle on its sound quality. It was different at RMAF. Driven by McIntosh electronicstwo MC601 600W monoblocks, a C48 preamp, and an MCD500 SACD/CD playerwith a PS Audio PowerPlant regenerating the AC for the front-end components and a MacBook Pro supplying the bits, that audiophile classic “Die Tänzerin” from Ulla Meinecke was reproduced with impressive space and dynamic range.
Cardas Clear Skythe sample to which VP of Sales and Marketing Andy Regan is pointing in this photois the latest and most affordable of the company's "Matched Propagation" speaker cables, and is said to be ideal for owners of high-efficiency loudspeakers. The retail price is $775 for an 8' pair, terminated with Cardas spade connectors. (I have requested a review sample, and hope to report on the Clear Sky cables within the next couple of months.)
Ever since encountering KingSound electrostatic loudspeakers at an audio show several years ago, I’ve looked forward to seeing how their line would develop. This time around, KingSound was showing its King III Full Range ESL ($12,000/pair). Driven by Bob Carver Cherry tube monoblock amplifiers ($7400/pair), Purity Audio Design Statement 2 preamplifier (approx. $12,500), and an AMR CD777 ($12,000), all hooked together by Kaplan Cables from John Atkinson’s adopted hometown of Brooklyn, the system was a joy to listen to on Chet Atkins’ recording of “Mr. Sandman.”