In my last blog report from T.H.E. Show in Las Vegas, I waxed ecstatic about the extraordinary, highly efficient, hand-made washi-paper Feastrex drivers distributed by Joe Cohen's Lotus Group of Northern California. The units are hand-crafted in Japan by Haruhiko Teramoto, who hand-rubs the frame, phase plug, and voice-coils of both his Feastrex D53 III 5" field-coil drivers ($39,000/pair) and D9e II 9" field-coil drivers ($31,500/pair) with traditional urushi lacquer.
After my first day of blogging, one dedicated Stereophile reader dropped John Atkinson a note to lament that I was mainly concentrating on large systems to the expense of smaller ones. Happily for all parties, one of the smaller exhibits he urged me to visitthe Feastrex roomsI had already checked out and have since blogged about.
A surprise outside the Hyatt as I went to get ready for my Sunday morning hi-rez audio dems was this SCCA Mazda race car. Sponsored by RMAF, Focal, Aesthetix, and Tara Labs, among others, driver Christine Jerritts had me enthralled telling me what it was like to take the infamous corkscrew turn at Laguna Seca Raceway. I could have lingered for a long time , but I had to get to work...
It takes people of vision to advance sound quality in an errorthank you, Mr. Freud, I mean erawhen record companies often seem set on anything but advancing the quality of music and musical reproduction. Hence, for his panel "Adventures in Digital Formats, Upsampling & Dithering," John Atkinson and RMAF's Kurt Bauer assembled an extraordinary panel.
Seriously, it's almost as if I haven't listened to any music at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. I just walk from room to room, running into people in the halls. These two weren't even exhibiting. They were simply here to have a little fun.
There's nothing like ending a day at RMAF with a reminder of what the real deal sounds like. If Ray Kimber had his marching band blasting their way around the lobby, the fabulous multi-feted, Grammy Award-winning recording engineer/producer Cookie Marenco gifted us with her renowned piano teacher, Art Lande tinkling the keys in the Marriott's Atrium on Saturday night.
One feature of this year's RMAF that has catapulted it into the major leagues of audio shows was the sheer number of well-attended workshops and panels scheduled at the Hyatt. Over the course of three days, one room featured "Let's Get Digital" with Robert Harley of The Absolute Sound, "Music Everywhere" by Steven R. Rochlin of EnjoytheMusic.com, "The New Music Label" by attorney Ned Hearn, "Adventures in Digital Formats, Unsampling & Dithering" with our own John Atkinson, "Digital Playback Equipment Design Considerations" with David Solomon of Signal Path International, and "Music Discovery" with consultant Sean Leonard. Many of these were panels, with a host of additional participants.
One of the joys of John Atkinson's RMAF panel session was discovering a remarkable unanimity of understanding and vision amongst a group of men who work in different countries on different areas of sound reproduction. Amidst scribbling seven pages of notes that barely scratch the surface of the knowledge and wisdom shared by panelists, I looked up to discover John and everyone having a ball as they spoke with one mind about the current state of the commercial recording industry, and the future of high resolution formats.
Physicist Jack Bybee of Bybee Technologies has now licensed his quantum purification nanocarbon technology to David Caplan's new company, Bybee Wire. Distributed by Laufer Teknik, the new Bybee Wire cables and power purifier include Bybee devices that clean up quantum mechanical noise at the sub-atomic level.
Are we Stereophile's yin and yang, the Mutt and Jeff, or the Lois Lane and Clark Kent of blogging? (I'll leave it you to decide who's Lois). Only our hairdressers know for sure. Que sera, sera and all that, here are two thirds of your loyal RMAF team, Stephen Mejias (right) and yours truly (or not so truly, as the case may be), shortly before trekking the Rockies to the summit of audiophile nirvana.
Here's a more modest system than some of the others featured so far that really nailed the raucous highs on a curious wind version of Revueltas' wild, ritualistic Sensemaya. Veteran high-end designer Frank Van Alstine was justly proud of his Ultra 550 hybrid power amp with its 300Wpc ($2395), Transcendence Eight vacuum-tube preamp ($1299 with optional remote and phono stage), and Insight Solid State DAC ($999). Paired with the Jim Salk Sound Veracity HT3 3-way loudspeakers with their 10" woofer ($4895), this system was making sounds worth checking out.
I know. It sounds a bit like a Beatles flashback. (Note the psychedelic colors on Ron Hedrick's face, for reasons that only the Marriott lobby's lighting designer can explain). But this seems to be a very 2008 product. Marigo's Ron Hedrick spent 2 years building 120 prototypes before releasing his VX Mystery Feet for amplifiers, DACs, and other components ($699/set of three), and TR Mystery Feet for digital transports and CD players ($659/set of three). Each support foot consists of 32 parts, with 10 constrained layers of composite material that are first heated, then pressed at 1000psi. Hand-assembled, the feet include little brass inserts on the component end to distribute energy. You balance your components on the protruding little brass thingees on one end and pray there's no earthquake.
So new that they don't yet have a price or production facility, the Red Rock Synergy speakers did wonders with Ron Carter's double bass. On the superb Chesky CD, Entre Amigos, every single note of Carter's bass was perfectly controlled, perfectly pitched, and absolutely lifelike, with not an iota of boom. The great bossa nova singer Rosa Passos was similarly treated with the utmost respect and love. The speaker features a 15" dynamic woofer, crossed over at 600Hz; a Tractrix horn-loaded magnetic-planar midrange that crosses over at 8kHz; and a ribbon tweeter of unspecified origin. Designed by Gordon Maughan, the Synergy speakers made a fitting complement to the Red Rock Audio Renaissance SE 50W triode amplifiers ($29,500/pair), Wadia 781i CD/SACD player with digital input ($14,950), and Red Rock Audio cabling. Oh how I wish Carter's bass sounded anywhere near this good on my own speakers. Here's hoping Al Stiefel and Gordon Maughan find someone to build these babies soon.