It's always nice to see yourself, or at least the vehicle for your thoughts, in the spotlight. That's certainly what happened in the Peachtree-Zu room, which paired the Peachtree Audio Nova ($1200) integrated amplifier, which was featured on Stereophile’s August cover, with Zu Essence speakers ($3500/pair). Add in the Apple TV and $500 worth of Zu cables, and you have quite a nifty system that delivered excellent sound.
Todd Garfinkle of MA Recordings (right) has built an enviable reputation as one of the finest producers of quality audiophile recordings on the market. The repertoire is remarkably diverse. From performances of Bach organ music and the Chinese GuZheng to such one-of-a-kind gems as Buenos Aires Madrigal and the fabulous Será Una Noch albums, MA Recordings are as notable for their diversity of instrumentation and repertoire as their full range sound.
Genesis Advanced Technologies was demming two new products: the latest iteration of owner/designer Gary Leonard Koh's new Absolute Fidelity Music Server, whose white paper is available on the Genesis website, and a new preamp. The preamp, a joint effort between Genesis and Steve McCormack's SMC Audio, boasts all-analog switching and controls. (Fully balanced, the solid-state preamp boasts all-analog switching and controls. The basic model will be priced somewhere between $4000 and $5000, with the first model scheduled for release priced around $8000. Pictured is Bruno De Lorimier, Canadian sales rep for Genesis, who is kneeling next to the rack with the new preamp.
Until I encountered the world premiere of the imposing Wharfedale Airedale Neo loudspeaker ($20,000/pair), I hadn't run into speakers from the 70-year old company in many a year. The wait was worth it. This wonderful-sounding speaker, which weighs over 125 lbs and can handle up to 400W power, boasts point-to-point wiring, frequency response of 25Hz45kHz, and 88dB senstivity.
Cable manufacturers Nordost and Vertex AQ had good reason to present their joint seminar, "New Approach to Audio Measurement: Why Cables Really Matter," no less than five times during the show. As Art Dudley will report at length in his December "Listening" column, their groundbreaking new approach to measurement, developed by Nordost and Vertex AQ in collaboration with military electronic-engineering consultant Gareth Humphrey Jones, has produced an entirely new method for measuring the audible effects of components on sound. We're talking not only cables, support platforms, and the like, all of which can now be unequivocally shown to affect a system's sound quality, but also CD players, amplifiers, and speakers.
One of the first rooms I visited at RMAF was the one shared by Luxman and Vivid distributor On a A Higher Note and cable manufacturer Synergistic Research. Auditioning the South African Vivid Giya speakers ($58,000/pair) had been a highlight of the 2009 CES and I wanted to repeat the experience before the speakers wended their way to Wes Phillips' place for a forthcoming Stereophile review.
That the Sixth Annual Rocky Mountain Audio Fest is even taking place at the Denver Tech Center Marriott this year is something of a miracle. Just as preparations for the show were getting underway, its universally loved founder, Al Stiefel, died at the age of 66. Knowing how much the show meant to her husband, his co-show producer and greatest fan, Marjorie Baumert, vowed to preserve Al's legacy to the audiophile community. Thanks to Marjorie's dedication, perseverance, and love, and the able assistance of everyone from Marcie Miller and the Colorado Audio Society to several members of Marjorie's family, the show continues as a tribute to Al.
Accustomed as I am to the beauteous sound of mbl gear, nothing prepared me for the combination of mbl speakers and electronics, hghi-resolution files played back on a Macintosh G5 tower equipped with the latest Amarra music server software, and Wireworld cabling. Fleetwood Mac's "Gold Dust Woman" was gripping when downloaded from a 24/96 Rumours DVD-A. The depth was "this" short of unbelievable, the bass and clarity astounding, and the tonal envelope very well represented. Even FIM's 16/44 version of Bizet's "Habanera" from Carmen sounded hi-res due to the amazing depth of this system's images.
It's hard to resist the pairing of Avalon Indra speakers ($19,900/pair) with the superb VTL MB 450 Series II Signature Monoblocks ($15,000/pair). Demmed by Luke Manley of VTL (left) and Lucien Pichette of Avalon (right), the duo was mated with the VTL TL 5.5 Series II line stage ($6000) and TP 6.5 phono stage ($8500), Ayre C5xe MP ($6900) and justly praised QB9 USB DAC ($2500), Cardas Clear Cables, Rega P5 Turntable ($2200 and unheard by moi), and beautiful Finite Elemente Pagoda Master Reference Rack. This set-up from Blu Note audio & home theater especially excelled for its spacious presentation and timbral beauty. The system seemed devoid of boundaries. It was also capable of notable and rewarding low extension. A winning combo.
First introduced at RMAF 2008, where their ability to fill a HUGE (and I do mean HUGE) conference room in the Hyatt with a full Mahler orchestra blew everyone away, the Kaiser Kawero speakers ($55,000/pair), sound better than ever. And for good reason. Newly revised, and slated for import into the US, the speakers boast the marvelous, some would say incomparable Raal 7020XR double-ribbon tweeter. With 14 sq. cm of area, this tweeter seems to have no boundaries. The cabinet is of so-called bulletproof tankwood, and the special tuning feet contain more than their fair share of ebony.
Is that Billie Holiday singing, I asked? No, it turned out to be Madeleine Peyroux, to these ears a Billie copycat who learned her lessons well. Singing "Don't cry baby" on the vinyl Original Masters release of Careless Love, the performance was as clear and colorful as could be. I just loved the sound of the Aesthetix Audio Atlas mono power amps ($16,000/pair), Reah Signature phono preamp ($7000) and Calisto Signature line stage ($7000), paired with Benz's new flagship LP S phono cartridge ($5000), Clearaudio Innovation Compact Wood turntable ($7000), Helius Design's new Scorpio IV tonearm ($950$1100 depending upon length), and the solid-looking Hansen Prince speaker ($48,000/pair).
I thought I was seeing a familiar sight when I went into the RMAF room shared by Dynaudio, Wadia, and XLO. The loudspeakers, driven by humongous Octave monoblocks, appeared to be larger versions of the Accent 3 that Dick Olsher reviewed for Stereophile in the 1980s. There were more drive-units but as in the earlier design, the tweeter was placed at the bottom of the front baffle. This is the Consequence Ultimate Edition ($70,000/pair) explained Dynaudio president Wilfried Ehrenholz. The original Consequence was launched as the Danish company's flagship 25 years ago at the then astronomical price of 30,000DM/pair and has sold some 2500 pieces since then, even though it was not promoted in any major way after the mid-1990s.
There was a time when Harry Pearson, founder of The Absolute Sound and one of the high-end's true living legends, rarely ventured from the confines of his kingdom at Seacliff, Long Island. Rather than trolling for equipment at shows like countless other audio reviewers, he invited manufacturers to come to him. Flock they did, hoping that their equipment and set-up expertise would warrant a sales-insuring rave or Golden Ear from HP.