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.
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.
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.