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.
This is very important (and encouraging!): There were more young people at this show than at any other hi-fi show I've attended. Whereas in past years, at other shows, I have felt like the youngest dude in the house, this year, at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I met many people who were actually younger than me.
Much of Keith O. Johnson's invaluable presentation consisted of a series of graphs that demonstrated everything from jitter to the noise created by certain power cables. One of his many messages was, if folks think there are no differences between cables, I have the graphs to show otherwise. He also exhibited graphs that show how the quality of manufacture of CDs makes a huge difference in the ultimate analog signal. Want to see what a bad DAC or amplifier does, and compare it with a state-of-the-art unit? Keith can show you. Pictured is a tone-cluster wave he developed as a diagnostic tool that resembles music.
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.
If there's anything I expect from Dynaudio, it's superb bass. Dynaudio's 30th-anniversary Sapphire ($16,500/pair) certainly produced copious amounts of bass. But the speaker gave me far more than sheer volume. In combination with the Wadia 781i transport/DAC ($15,000), Pass Labs XA100.5A monoblocks ($16,000/pair), Grand Priz Monaco Amplifier Stand, and XLO Signature 3 SE-1 power cords ($1100/8'), S3-2.2 balanced interconnect ($900/m), and S3-4.2 digital cable ($455/m), the system delivered some of the most well-proportioned, beautifully delineated bass I've ever heard. The opening of Mahler's Symphony 2 is rich with the sound of cellos, violas, and basses, and this system nailed each and every line with rare beauty. On the other end of the spectrum, soprano Elly Ameling's voice radiated angelic sweetness. Pictured with the equipment they represent are Dynaudio's Michael Manousselis (l) and Wadia's Martin E. Cooper (r).
I had the great pleasure of meeting Ann Poor. That's Ann there, two-fisting it, standing beside On A Higher Note's bow-tied Philip O'Hanlon. Audiophiles may be more familiar with Ann's husband, Balanced Audio Technology's Geoff Poor. Oh, yeahI got to speak with Geoff, too, but Ann was way more interesting.
See this little guy? It's the Gradient Helsinki ($8000/pair). I'm a big fan of this weird-ass speaker. Rather than placing its drive-units within a cabinet, the drive-units are laid bare, free for the world to see, mounted onto the speaker's narrow body. Why? Free love. Free love! Cabinet resonances are eliminated. The Helsinki's dipole-radiation woofer projects sound from side to side, canceling out top-to-bottom sound waves and minimizing deleterious room reflections.