Over in the Tech Center Hyatt, Mark Schifter's AV123 corralled a huge room in which to showcase their soon-to-be-shipped flagship LS9 Focus Line Source speaker ($5999/pair). Powered by gorgeous Dodd Audio KT-88 monoblocks (approx. $40,000/pairthere was no literature on hand), the brand new Ultra Fi Music Stream USB-connectable DAC ($3499) with a proprietary analogue output stage designed by Larry Moore, a Ridge Street Audio USB cable that he waxes ecstatic about, and a laptop equipped with every kind of classical music (except what I wanted to hear), the system was creating astoundingly large-scale, believable images and enveloping sound. While designer Danny Richie's proprietary woofer array was issuing tremendous bass, a touch of brittleness on the highs gave evidence of the fact that the planar-magnetic tweeters had hardly broken in. You can bet that I'll be back again on Sunday to hear how they sound with some more hours on them. What this speaker does for the price is astounding.
Standing beside my friend, the Gradient Helsinki, is the Harbeth M40.1 ($12,995/pair), recently reviewed by Art Dudley. It's actually larger than it appears in this photo. I love its old-school wide-baffle design.
Not every breakthrough product available through cable manufacturer Nordost costs an arm and a leg. The new Quantum Resonant Technology products distributed worldwide by Nordost Corporation are a prime example. While the QX-2 costs $1700, and the larger QX-4 costs $2500, their amazing effects on sound suggest a product I'd expect to cost far more.
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.
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.