RMAF 2007

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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 14, 2007 1 comments
I went into the Esoteric room to take a listen to the digital components that build on the performance of the excellent SA-60 universal player that graced our October cover. But my attention was drawn to a pair of elegant loudspeakers sporting the Esoteric name. The Mg20 floorstander ($8410/pair) and bookshelf Mg10 ($5500/pair plus stands) feature tweeters and woofers fabricated from the very light metal magnesium, which is said to have an optimal combination of stiffness and self-damping. It has not been previously used in speakers (other than in alloys) because it degrades with exposure to the air. However, Esoteric collaborated with a British company to develop an effective protective coating.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 13, 2007 0 comments
Walking to the Kimber dem, I heard the familiar sounds of the Beatles' "Come Together" coming from the open door of the Usher room. I had to go in. A pair of the Taiwanese manufacturer's Dancer Be-718 two-ways ($2795/pair) was playing the song, fed by the LP release of Love on an Oracle tonearm/turntable fitted with a Zyx Atmos cartridge, which in turn was feeding the Oracle Temple phono stage, Oracle DAC 1000 preamp, and Usher's R.15 amplifiers. Cabling was all JPS Aluminata. Considering the large room, the relatively small Dancers appeared to have no problem filling it with sound. This is a speaker that deserves review coverage in Stereophile, I feel.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 13, 2007 0 comments
"How often do you hear no limiting, no compression, no mixing, and no equalization? Recorded in DSD and played back the same way today" announced the blurb for Ray Kimber's IsoMike dem at RMAF. Inrigued, I entered the ginormous Ballroom F to be confronted by a system costing no less than $507,288! The six pairs of humongous Sound Lab ProStat 922 electrostats were joined by two pairs of a prototype speaker from Sony in Japan, all driven by no fewer than 8 Pass Labs X350.5 monoblocks. Source was Ray's latest four-channel DSD master files stored on a Genex hard-disk recorder and decoded by EMM Labs DACs. Kable was all-Kimber, of course.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 13, 2007 0 comments
I was utterly intrigued by the innovative speakers from Dr. Shelley Katz’s UK-based Podium Sound ($5995/pair). Katz produces panel loudspeakers that mechanically vibrate via electromagnetic drivers. Inherently free from phase error and less sensitive to placement than electrostats, they operate full-range without any filters.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 13, 2007 0 comments
After a hard day's morning presenting my hi-rez digital audio dems, I wandered into the Marriott's Atrium to sip on a Starbucks Grande Cafe Mocha. There I enjoyed some fine singing and guitar picking from Dan Weldon on the Zu Audio stand. The Utah cable'n'speaker company, whose modification of the classic Denon DL103D cartridge will be reviewed in the December issue of Stereophile, was presenting live music throughout the Show, with their high-sensitivity speakers used as the PA. Nice one, guys.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 12, 2007 Published: Oct 13, 2007 1 comments
According to Marjorie Stiefel, who with her husband Al slaves over the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest for months on end, this year's RMAF has 142 exhibit rooms, 29 more than last year. The show, has in fact, not only reached the hotel’s size limit—the DTC Marriott is Denver's third-largest—but also exceeded Marjorie's and Al’s energetic capacity. Fried to a crisp beyond the smile, the couple is considering hiring help for next year in order to meet increased demand from such major players as Linn, McIntosh, Esoteric, dCS, Kimber, Wilson, BAT, Gamut, Clearaudio, Edge, Ayre, Nordost...you name them.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 13, 2007 0 comments
The sweet solidity of the violin beckoned me from down the hallway (which is far more than I can say about some of the rooms I visited). I was hardly surprised to discover that I had been lured by Edge Electronics. Paired with the Tyler Acoustics Woodmere II speakers ($8800 base price, 185 lbs each), the Edge System handled silences wonderfully. That may sound like a backhanded compliment, but I mean anything but. Playing the exquisite Elly Ameling singing Schubert to piano accompaniment, there was a stillness, poise, and grace amidst the living flow of her voice that I rarely experience from sound systems. (I experienced something similar one year in the Joule/Elrod room at CES). On display were the new Edge CD player, whose RAM circuitry is said to perform advance error correction, the G8 amp, and G2 preamp (available with optional battery supply). Actually, passive display was not what was intended. Shipping mishaps from the company's new base in Florida had actually destroyed some of the intended components, which were replaced by older versions of Edge's current models, which Steve Norber lifted from his home system a few miles away.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 13, 2007 1 comments
Having hosted an AudioKinesis speaker demo at my home for the Bay Area Audiophile Society (BAAS), I feel confident saying that Duke LeJeune is one of the dearest men in the business. Here he demonstrates his new 92dB-sensitivity, 16 ohm impedance, 170 lb Dream Maker ($9000/pair), whose "controlled-pattern, offset bipole configuration" is designed to control the relative level of reverberant energy density in the room. If that sounds like gobbledegook, the vivid presentation of the AudioKinesis/AtmaSphere combo, which was admirably clear in the higher frequencies, whet my appetite for more extended listening in the future.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 13, 2007 2 comments
I always make a point of seeking out a Wilson dem at Shows, and in the RMAF room run by Denver dealer Audio Unlimited, I encountered not one but two systems featuring Wilson speakers. The smaller system offered WATT/Puppy 8s driven by Balanced Audio Technology's VK53 CD player and $6000 VK55SE integrated amplifier—compared to its predecessor, this now uses 6BH30 input and driver tubes, sitting on tubed current sources—and sounded sweet indeed. But the real reason to visit this room was to hear the mighty MAXX2s driven by BAT's new Rex three-chassis ultimate preamp, VK600SE solid-state monoblocks and the new Paganini three-box SACD player—transport, clock, DAC—from English company dCS. BAT's Geoff Poor put on Frank Sinatra's Nelson Riddle-arranged "What's New," which Geoff feels is the singer's finest performance. Wow! Mr. Sinatra was there in the room with us.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 13, 2007 0 comments
One aspect of audio Shows that I love is the software pavilion, where audiophiles can browse new, old, are rare vinyl to their hearts' content. Acoustic Sounds’ Chad Kassem wanted to show me some of his new Analog Productions releases, but ended up telling me about his recent purchase of 30,000 sealed LPs—one and a half 53' trailer's worth—that had been in storage since 1981, the stash assembled by an eccentric collector long since passed away.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 13, 2007 0 comments
John Atkinson and I have made an agreement. When John is not taking part in any of the eight "Demonstration of Live High-Resolution Recordings" seminars he has scheduled over the course of the Fest, he will cover the exhibits in the Marriott's Atrium rooms, and I will cover exhibits in the Tower. Of course, each of us is free to cross over to the other side if we're dying to hear something. But that's the plan.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 13, 2007 0 comments
Nelson Pass is up to good again. Following the wonderful sound of Ella and Billy I heard in the corridor, I discovered Nelson's prototype open-baffle speaker system. It sports both a Lowther PM6A full-range driver and a pair of SEAS W26 10" woofers. The 40"-high open baffle, which at this stage of the game is not intended to be a final design statement, has no side panels, only a central brace in the rear. The system was bi-amped, with the Lowther driver fed using a 60Hz, 6dB/octave high-pass filter feeding a First Watt F3 7Wpc JFET amplifier. The woofers were driven by a Pass Labs XA30.5 fed by a 12dB/octave active crossover. No equalization was employed. That the sound was so good was especially amazing, considering that the digital front end was pieced together at the last minute after the originally intended computer drive arrived minus its charger chord. I look forward to hearing the finished product.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 13, 2007 0 comments
A definite eye-catcher, the $25,999/pair spherical Proclaim Audioworks DMT-100 speaker system features an external crossover that facilitates the ability to balance stereo output in difficult listening environments. (The crossover includes an L-pad bypass option to ensure "the cleanest possible signal path...for audio purists.") Each driver is independently mounted in a spherical enclosure cast from a proprietary high-density laminate. Fine-tunable for one's room, each driver can be adjusted up to 45° off-axis; they also afford up to 12" vertical and horizontal positioning flexibility for the tweeter and midrange modules. Daniel Herrington's babies, designed by ear, are so new that their sensitivity has yet to be measured.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 13, 2007 0 comments
In a room tuned with the amazing Acoustic System Acoustic Resonators to sound good with the glass window exposed, Darren and Bonnie Censullo of Avatar Acoustics displayed a system distinguished by the kind of openness and air that some people would kill for. Products included the Abbington Music Research AMR CD-77 and AMR AM-77 ($8500 each, both outfitted with NOS tubes), Acoustic System Tango Speaker ($13,500/pair), Current Cable Powercord and interconnects, and a host of Acoustic Resonators. If you look closely, you may see one of the diminutive resonators ($200–$2200) on the rear window. This is one system I hope to revisit if time allows. I’d love to hear some of these products in my own listening room, which is far bigger than the hotel suites into which most systems were shoeboxed.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 13, 2007 0 comments
We first encountered the South African Vivid speaker, designed by B&W alum Laurence Dickie, at a CES a couple of years ago and was impressed with their clarity, dynamic range capability, and freedom from coloration and distortion. For whatever reason, the brand failed to get a foothold in the US, but it was announced at RMAF that Vivid was now being distributed by On a Higher Note. I sat down in the sweet spot and after listening to a rather nice recording of Aaron Neville singing "Save the Last Dance for Me," Philip O'Hanlon put on a DVD-A he had burned on his PC using the $49 Cirlinca program and was playing back on a Weiss Jason transport and Medea DAC, which On A Higher Note is also now distributing. Now there was a familiar sound—it was the 24/88.2 master of my recording of the slow movement from the Mozart Clarinet Quintet, which I had completely forgotten sending Philip a few years back.

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