Veteran speaker engineer Albert Von Schweikert wasn't in the room at the time, but his astounding VR-9SE ($90,000/pair) was making the quite a sound in his absence. The smaller sibling of the flagship VR-11SE, this 350 lb, two-module mini-behemoth was paired with VAC's brand-new Phi-200 100Wpc amplifier, Signature linestage ($14,000), and recently-released Phi Alpha D/A Converter ($7500). An older Oracle transport and what appeared to be Cardas Golden Cross cabling completed the system. Any notion that tube equipment lacks control in the bass was blown to pieces by this system's tremendous authority in the bass region and beautiful presentation on high. Fabulous sound.
The room was standing-room only, with three rows of chairs, both side walls, and the back walls filled with folks eager to hear one of the dream systems assembled by Denver retailer Audio Unlimited. Where shall we begin: the dCS Scarlatti Stack which consists of the CD/SACD transport, DAC, master clock, and upsampler/digital-to-digital converter (by my math $81,000 total, and by anyone's math a fair hunk of change); the BAT REX linestage ($20,000), BAT VK-P10SE phono stage with new Super Pak Premiere ($16,000), BAT VK-600M SE monoblocks ($26,000); Running Springs Audio Dmitri Conditioner Premiere ($4,000); Hansen's new Audio Emperor loudspeakers ($60,000/pair); or the little bundle of TARA Omega Gold and 0.8 cables that together cost at $36,000 but probably far more? The take-no-prisoners sound was stunning. So stunning that some of the people were pinned to the back wall. Wow!
And here is Walter Swanbon of Fidelis AV, importer for Harbeth and Gradient loudspeakers. Here you can get a better sense of the size of the M40.1 loudspeakers. To Walter's left is the newest member of the Gradient family, the Laura ($3995/pair). Intended for use in conjunction with the Helsinki or as a stereo pair, the Laura employs a coaxial drive unit and is designed to be positioned in close proximity to the front wall of your listening room. It's pretty, too.
Music in the Symposium Acoustics room was spinning on a modified Tascam reel player. The Tascam stood tall and proud directly between the loudspeakers and atop a high Symposium Acoustics stand. I noted an interesting sonic perspective. I found myself looking up while I listened, not certain whether I was entranced by Frank Sinatra's smooth delivery or mesmerized by the spinning tape.
In addition to building his SLA-powered electronics and making babies, Vinnie Rossi is now the new US distributor for WLM loudspeakers. How does he do it all? The front-ported Diva Monitor ($5000/pair) uses a paper-cone coaxial drive unit, has a handy tweeter control on its back panel, and is said to provide an impressive 95dB sensitivity.
At last year's CES, the crowds surrounding the Red Wine Audio room were so large and enthusiastic that I had very little opportunity to speak with Red Wine's owner, Vinnie Rossi. Here, at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I decided to beat the crowds and make Red Wine Audio my first stop.
As I was about to leave the Red Wine/Hudson Audio room, Tom Hills directed my attention to a small pair of attractive speakers. "These guys always seem to get forgotten," he said. The diminutive, German-made FJ Minis are available in handsome real-wood finishes, are rated at 87dB, and cost $1295/pair. I'll be looking forward to hearing them later on during the show.
Like me, Vinnie Rossi (left) has recently become heavily interested in vinyl. For the show, Vinnie teamed up with Tom Hills of Hudson Audio Imports, US distributor for Scheu-Analog turntables. You can't see it here in the picture, but a small and wonderful stack of vinyl LPs, including Leila's Blood, Looms, and Blooms, Iron and Wine's Our Endless Numbered Days, and the Buena Vista Social Club's recently released live album are waiting to be played.
Most audiophiles probably associate New Jersey's Symposium Acoustics with vibration control and isolation devices. However, Symposium's Peter Bizlewicz explained that he's been working on loudspeaker designs for nearly 30 years. While vibration control became a business priority, Bizlewicz continued to toil with his loudspeakers. It's no wonder that vibration control plays such a large role in his speaker design. The massive and idiosyncratic Symposium Panorama 2.0 is a "5-way, quasi point-source speaker system which marries ribbon, planar dynamic, and cone speaker technology to vibration control techniques," Peter said in one quick breath.
I was pretty much stunned by the gorgeous Scheu Diamond ($2995 without tonearm). Standard finishes for this 'table are black, clear, blue (!), pink (!!), and gold glitter (!!!), but the one we see here, made special for the show, boasts an elegant wood finish. The Diamond uses an external motor with speed controls, and, as shown, sports a Schroeder Model 2 tonearm ($2450) and Allaerts Mk.2 cartridge ($5300). We listened to a couple of tracks off the excellent Fleet Foxes album, and I was impressed by the wide soundstage and overall smooth presentation.