"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.