KT Audio Imports put together a cost-no-object system, comprising: Eventus Audio Nebula loudspeakers ($65,000/pair), a large three-way design with a specified sensitivity of 91dB; Triangle Art (“Design for Perfection) Reference turntable ($16,500); NAT Audio Magma single-ended monoblock power amplifiers ($44,990/pair), rated to deliver 160W into 4 or 8 ohms; NAT Signature Phono phono preamp ($7800); and NAT Symmetrical balanced line stage ($8690).
Blues singer Jimmie Lee Robinson was singing when I entered the Aaudio Imports room, his jingling spurs sounding preternaturally real on the 6’-tall Lansche Audio 7 speakers ($108,000/pair). Like the Lansche 5.1 that I reviewed in July, the 7 uses an RF-energized corona tweeter to produce clean, transparent-sounding highs. Amplification was the new Ypsilon SET100 monoblocks ($125,000/pair) with a tubed Ypsilon PST-100 Mk.II preamp and tubed VPS-100 phono preamp, these two both favorites of Mr. AnalogPlanet, Michael Fremer.
Based in Taiwan, Lawrence Audio Co. (“Inspired by Musical Masters”) manufactures limited-edition and custom-made loudspeakers modeled after stringed instruments. Lawrence Liao, founder and chief designer, is also an interior decorator, music lover, and musician: He plays saxophone, violin, and piano.
Lawrence’s line includes the two-way, standmounted Mandolin; the slightly larger Violin; and the 3.5-way, floorstanding Cello ($18,000/pair), which was playing when I walked into the room.
Legacy's Bill Dudleston stands by the new Aeris speaker ($16,900/pair), which combines an AMT tweeter/supertweeter module (see below) with a dipole midrange unit and upper wooferthese have corrugated surrounds for maximum inearityand two sealed-box subwoofers operating below 220Hz and driven by an internal 500W ICE-power class-D amp. With an AVM amplifier and CD player,the sound of Tchaikovsky's Italian Caprice was forceful and clean, though the big bass drum thwacks clipped the amplifier at the level I had chosen for the orchestral sound in the large room Legacy was using.
Perhaps I don't spend enough time at my local Apple storewhich is, after all, only 70 minutes awaybut I confess that I'd never heard the word thunderbolt in a high-tech context before RMAF 20212. Now, having attended the computer-audio seminar moderated by my friend Michael Lavorgnaof sister site AudioStream.comI know that Thunderbolt is now the preferred interface for connecting a music-storage drive (or NAS) to a current iMac or MacBook. Seen here are panelists Rob Robinson (Channel D), Mark Waldrep (AIX and iTrax), Steve Silberman (AudioQuest), and Michael Lavorgna (left to right).
Living Sounds Audio was showing their LSA1 Statement Monitor ($2800/pair). Unlike the standard LSA1, which partners its 6.25” treated paper mid/woofer with a 1” silk-dome tweeter, the Statement uses a folded-ribbon tweeter manufactured by Aurum Cantus. In addition, the Statement has a revised crossover and features upgraded capacitors, resistors, and internal wiring.
Scores of DIYers are familiar with Madisound, a company that distributes raw drivers, passive crossover parts, and speaker building supplies, some in kit form. On display were the SEAS of Norway A26 loudspeaker kit with a 10" SEAS A26RE4 woofer and the T35C002 1.5" dome tweeterover 1 million sold, I was toldand the Scan-Speak Nada, with a 7" Illuminator woofer and 1" Beryllium dome tweeter.
At every dinner I attended with industry members during RMAF 2012, someone invariably asked, “How was the Magnepan demo?” As I soon learned, it seems that Wendell Diller’s decision to forego exhibiting at consumer showssince the last Stereophile show in San Francisco, in 2003, he has displayed product only at the annual CES trade event (not open to consumers)has only heightened buzz around the Minnesotan company’s fabled planar-magnetic loudspeakers.
There’s nothing like a good demo to change one’s opinion of what are now called Harman Luxury Audio components for the better. I had previously heard the pairing of JBL’s visually striking NDD66000 Everest loudspeaker ($60,000/pair) with Mark Levinson electronics at the speaker’s debut at CES a few years back. Although the buzz around the speaker was major, I recall thinking how dark and monochromatic the system sounded, and how it lacked the luminosity and color that I prefer.
Here, by contrast, the sound was some of the best solid-state sound I heard at the show . . .
I ended Day 1 of RMAF with my first visit ever to the MC room. Although the MC-501A CD/USB player ($3995) and MC-701 integrated amplifier ($4595) were initially driving MC’s RL-21 loudspeakers ($3495/pair) too loud, generating an unwelcome host of small room interactions, the system did an exceptional job, at more realistic volume, playing a recording of a traditional jazz trio. Not only did the music sound very alive and in the moment, but the piano also had a special illumined quality absent from many systems that cost far more than this one.
Merlin Music Systems’ Bobby Palkovic is having a better time than ever, and you could tell by the sound in his room, which was remarkably tuneful, engagingneither too forward nor too laidbackand, most of all, fun.
“I like to take things to an end, and now I’ve gotten to a point where I’m beyond happy,” Palkovic said of his Master VSM loudspeaker ($13,600/pair), which are now wired with Cardas Clear cable.
Adding to Palkovic’s pleasure is his new relationship with digital music:
Not to be outdone, Kent Loughlin of MIT (Music Interface Technologies) staged 5-minute cable comparisons in the MIT room on the 2nd floor of the Marriott’s Tower. Using a Cary CD player and Cary monoblock amplifiers, and Polk Audio monitors with Custom Sound Anchors stands, Loughlin initially chose the beautiful, albeit oft-played soprano solo from Reference Recordings’ superb version of Rutter’s Requiem to let people hear the difference that MIT’s AVT Speaker Module ($149), which added up to 10 poles of articulation, brought to MIT’s custom installation cable (80 cents/foot for 12-gauge cable with two conductors).
Listening to HDTracks’ 24/192 download of the Jimmy Cobb Quartet’s Jazz in the Key of Blue, I finally heard what a well-tuned MSB system can do. “So musical!” I wrote in my notes. Instrumental timbres were excellent, with the warmth and fullness of Roy Hargrove’s trumpet portrayed with near tube-like roundness and warmth. Combined with the air and depth conveyed by the high-res recording, and the sheer presence of the drums, the experience opened a portal to audio nirvana. I could have spent hours exploring music in multiple formats on this system, and still have wanted more. It killed me to have to leave the room so soon. Only the reality of many more rooms to cover before show’s end kept me from staying longer.
Whisky, music, and chatter were all flowing, not necessarily in that order of priority, in the Music Hall room. Actual order of importance was determined by the visitors, of whom there were plenty, with a little boost from the high-proof atmosphere. Nonetheless, amidst a din too intense for serious listening, and preparations for the evening's dance party in the hotel Atrium that Music Hall was co-sponsoring with Chicago's Tweak Studio, Roy Hall and Leland Leard were managing to give complete and cogent raps about the equipment playing through the din.