It was all psychedelic retro in Room 9000, as Odyssey’s Klaus Bunge dimmed the lights and headed to Fillmore West as he played Iron Butterfly’s "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” Given that I was hardly prepared to drop acid in the midst of blogging the show (as in who is that strange person from Stereophile who has spent the last 15 minutes staring at our turntable while muttering something about God being the deepest groove of all?), I didn’t know what was going on equipment-wise until I found Klaus outside the room and asked which way was up.
One of the joys of audio shows is the unexpected encounter. I wandered into the Positive Feedback Online hospitality room toward the end of the first day, drawn by the rumor that they had some high-end coffee on offer to ear-weary showgoers. And there, sipping on some truly first-rate, hand-roasted java, I bumped into Swedish recording engineer Jan-Eric Persson. Persson, a Blumlein-miking purist, has been responsible for some of the most gloriously natural sounding recordings on his Opus 3 label, first on LP, then on SACD. PFO had a system set-up in their room, courtesy of Jonathan Tinn of Blue Light Audio, comprising Evolution MMMicro One speakers ($4000/pair) and a Playback Electronics IPS-3 D/A amplifier ($13,000). I took a listen to some of Jan-Eric Persson's recordings, transferred to double-DSD from analog tape and was, in a word, gobsmacked by the sheer beauty of what I was hearing.
Michigan retailer Paragon Sight & Sound's room on the Marriott's ground floor featured the Wilson Alexia speakers $48,500/pair. I was familiar with the Alexia, having just finished reviewing it for the December issue of Stereophile, as I was with Audio Research's CD9 CD player ($13,000), but not all with the Doshi Jhor 160 tube monoblocks (projected price of <$36,000/pair) that were driving the Alexias via Transparent Audio Reference XL cables, or the Doshi 3.0 tubed line stage and Doshi 3.0 tubed phono stage, both of these projected to sell for <$20,000 each. Michale Fremer was playing a Acoustic Sounds 45rpm test pressing of a Beach Boys album on the Pro-Jekt HL Signature turntable, fitted with a Koetsu Azule Platinum cartridge, when I entered the Paragon room, with all the equipment mounted on impressively engineered HRS racks and stands. "Midrange magic!" I wrote in my notebook as the Beach Boys launched into "In My Room."
There was so much going on in Audiohouse’s ParasoundMonitorKimber etc . . . room that all I’m certain of is that the system had a really nice midrange. The Monitor Audio Platinum PL200 speakers ($9000/pair), alas, were insufficiently broken in, and there was no time to return on the last day when, I’m told, the system strutted its stuff so well that Audiohouse’s David M. McPhee sold two pairs of the Platinum PL200s to attendees.
How wonderful to finally catch up with Scott and Paul McGowan, and to discover how good PS Audio’s prototype class-D amplifier with Hypex modules sounds in its temporary housing. Equally exciting was the just-launched NuWave Phono Converter (NPC, $1895), which combines a phono stage with an A/D converter that can archive LPs in both PCM and DSD formats. Paired with Von Schweikert VR-35 loudspeakers ($10,000/pair) and a custom subwoofer, the system delivered impressive deep bass on a track from Turkish artist and DJ Mercan Dede’s Breath, and lots of color on a track by Chesky artist Marta Gomez.
Earlier this year, I reviewed PSB's Alpha PS1 powered desktop loudspeakers. Pleased by their small size, great looks, and clean sound, I purchased the review samples. Now, PSB offers the matching SubSeries 100 subwoofer ($249).
Founded in 2006, the Devon, UKbased Puresound audio company is distributed in the US by NYC’s High Water Sound. Puresound’s compact M845 monoblocks ($10,000/pair) were partnered with the company’s L300 line-level preamp ($8000) to drive a pair of Horning Aristotle loudspeakers ($15,000/pair). The source was a TW-Acustic Raven turntable with a Miyajima Shilabe phono cartridge going through Puresound's P10 phono preamp ($1000) and T10 MC step-up trannie ($500).
As John Atkinson mentions below, the Marriott’s lobby level was converted into a veritable hypermarket of hi-fi goodies: music, accessories, mini systems, and more. Stereophile occupied a small table toward the end of one busy hall, where we were happy to supply free copies of our November issue, featuring on its cover NAD’s new D 3020 integrated amplifier ($499).
Resonessencewhat a great name for the equipment that closed out my three days of blogging RMAF 2013. Happily it sounded really good as well, especially when JA pointed out that the reason this simple system’s top at first seemed rolled off was because the only way to align our ears with the tweeters of the 20-year old, unusually short B&W mini-towers was to either crouch way over or kneel on the floor.
Artist Jay Paul Apodaca and his lovely wife, Houda Alaoua Apodaca, were rocking out with Roksan UK’s Oxygene touch-sensitive, Bluetooth-equipped integrated amp ($7000) at the world premiere of its limited edition Jay Paul Apodaca incarnation. As the story goes, Roksan’s owner, Tufan Hashemi, visited Jay Paul’s store in Detroit and began collecting his art. Eventually he decided to commission Jay Paul to make 12 original paintings that he could reproduce on the front of the Oxygene. Mated with Roksan’s Darius S1 loudspeaker, the artwork and system livened up the Marriott’s Tower like few other systems I heard.
How perfect. Shortly before I entered the room shared by Win Tinnon of Saskia Turntables and his friends, Dave Slagle of EMIA and Chris Kline of Telwire, relatively new singer/recording artist Lyn Stanley dropped by to hear her new LP. Lyn has an extremely special, warm mezzo, perfect what she calls “retro jazz,” which found its ideal home in the room’s fabulous sounding, clear and warm system. So did Bob McChesney’s trombone, which accompanied her with the perfect mix of edgy power and warmth. Thanks to Win’s hospitality and Lyn’s voice, this was one of my special moments at a very special show.
Listening to Scaena's Silver Ghost speakers ($153,000/system) had been a highlight of last March's AXPONA in Chicago. At the Denver Tech Center Hyatt, the speakers had been set-up by Sunny Umrao (in photo) firing diagonally across a much larger room than in Chicago. With a system comprising a dCS Vivaldi digital source driving an Audio Research Reference 75 stereo amplifier for the towers and six inexpensive Crown class-D amplifiers for the six woofer modules operating below 120Hz, the sound of a live recording of Dave Brubeck's "Rondo a la Turk" did indeed sound live.
Mated with B&W 804D speakers and Cardas Clear cabling, Simaudio’s Moon 180 MiND network player ($1250), new Moon Neo 260D CD transport w/optional DAC ($2000 + $1000), Moon Neo 380D DAC ($4350), Moon Neo 350P preamp ($3650), and Moon Neo 400M monoblock amplifiers ($4300), I was struck by the very clear, crisp, and solid sound of Jefferson Airplane’s “Come Back to Me,” sourced from an original Japanese pressing. The Neo 260D, released September 4, includes an optional asynchronous 32-bit DAC with four digital inputs that allows direct streaming and Blu-ray playback.