Peachtree's David Solomon, seen here accosting Stereophile's Stephen Mejias (right) in the hotel's coffee bar, was in ebullient mode. He's holding Peachtree Audio's new idAC ($999), which combines the usual 24/192kHz S/PDIF inputs with a 24/96-capable USB input and an iPod dock that, like the Peachtree iDecco amplifier that is favorably reviewed by Art Dudley in our December 2010 issue, takes the audio data from the iPod in digital form. The iDAC uses the latest version of ESS's 32-bit Sabre32 D/A chip.
JH Audio, founded by Jerry Harvey (formerly of Ultimate Ears, and also known for his work as Van Halen’s audio engineer), had on display an entire line of in-ear monitors, from the single-driver JH 5 Pro ($399) to the 3-way JH 16 Pro ($1149). I listened to a bit of Tool’s “Schism,” from the album Lateralus (a John Atkinson fave), through the Ray Samuels Emmeline The Shadow (which was cute as heck), playing from an Apple iPad, and the JH 5. Nice! I was struck by the deep, grumbling lows, the expressive, truthful guitar tones, clarity of the voices, and the pure drive and impact.
As with other Shows, RMAF gave audiophiles the opportunity to stock up on LPsthe original hi-rez mediumboth old and new. This is the bazaar on the Marriott's ground floor, which was crowded throughout the Show.
Boulder-based retailer Blu Note Design had a passive display in the Marriott's loby, but its active room on the second floor of the Tower was debuting the Avalon Transcendent speaker ($15,000/pair). One of my best sounds at the Show, the 2-way, 3-driver speakers were being driven by a Jeff Rowland Design Group 625 amplifier, a Jeff Rowland Corus preamp, an Ayre C-5XEmp disc player and QB-9 DAC, with Cardas Clear cabling.
I was smitten by the sound of San Francisco-based dealer and distributor Tim Nguyen's Tone of Music equipment line-up at the California Audio Show. Tim's RMAF exhibit, which featured the Simon Yorke turntables he distributes, included the Simon Yorke S10 Record Player ($19,950), Convergent Audio Technology preamplifier ($9950) and Jl2 signature amp ($19,950), and Synergistic Research cabling. The big difference was the presence of the Lansche No.3 loudspeaker from Aaudio Imports ($30,000/pair in gloss black), a 2-way with 91dB sensitivity and frequency response of 40Hz150Hz (!) ±3dB.
t's one thing to know that you're attending what has quickly grown into the largest annual high-end show in the United States. It's something else entirely to try to take in even a third of the 180 exhibits that were spread over the width, breadth and height of the Denver Marriott Tech Center.
RMAF 2010 drew such a huge rush of attendees on the first day (October 15) as to cause at least one overly packed elevator to spend what seemed like a minute in limbo, considering whether it should dare try to ascend. When it finally determined to go up rather than crash down, it moved in fits and starts, and shuddered each time it reached a floor. I think more than one of its occupants took a vow then and there to finally lose some weight. Stereophile ran out of their new-at-the-Show November issue by the end of the second day, and when a member of the Colorado Audio Society donated his collection of back issues to us on Sunday (see the photo), they were all gone within minutes.
Show exhibits extended to eight packed floors, and down into the. . .
Welcome to retro city. Not only did the Quad ESL2805 speakers ($10,000/pair), Classic II integrated amp ($6000) and QC24 phono stage ($2449) look from another era, but the equally classic-looking Merrill-Williams turntable ($4000), clamp ring ($649), weight ($249), and 33/45 power supply ($1150) was playing Frank Sinatra's "Days of Wine and Roses."
Also distributed in the US by Aaudio Imports, the German Lansche speakers feature a horn-loaded ionic "singing flame" tweeter similar to that used by Acapella, also from Germany. In an off-site demonstration Friday night, I listened to the company's impressive-sounding flagship, the $80,000/pair, 243-lb Cubus, which combines the ion tweeter with a horn-loaded midrange unit and an 18", reflex-loaded woofer. The Lansche display at RMAF featured the somewhat more affordable three-way No.5 speakers ($40,000/pair), driven by the Ypsilon Aelius monoblocks ($34,000/pair) and PST-100 tube preamplifier ($37,000). Cabling was by Stage III, power distribution by Weizhi, and the front-end was either a Bergmann Sleipner Reference turntable and tonearm ($54,000) or the Ypsilon CDT-100 CD transport and DAC-100 D/A processor. As with many of the rooms in the Tower, the room acoustics cramped what this expensive system was undoubtedly capable of producing. But I was sufficiently impressed by the presentation that I have asked for a sample of the Ypsilon preamp for Michael Fremer to review.
Some of my happiest sonic experiences at RMAF arrived in the last two rooms I visited: the Tidal Audio/Argento Audio Cables/dCS showcase put together by Doug White of The Voice That Is (Newton Square, PA), and the Simon Yorke/CAT/Synergistic/Lansche exhibit assembled by Tim Nguyen of Tone of Music (San Francisco, CA).
A dream machine for the used LP lover: AudioDeskSysteme’s record cleaning machine cleans both sides of an 12” record simultaneously, quietly, and thoroughly, without any effort from the user. Just push a button and walk away. Five minutes later, the record is clean and dry. At $3495, however, it’s expensive. Such luxuries don’t come cheap.
I walked into Naim’s Uniti display to hear the Killers doing an alright impersonation of the Beatles. Who knew? The sound was very expressivenot a big sound, but an entirely friendly and welcoming soundin touch with the emotion of the music.
DIY hi-fi used to be an important aspect of audio magazine content 30 and more years ago, but these days it has migrated almost completely to the Internet, with just Ed Dell's AudioXpress magazine still waving the roll-your-own flag in print. Sharing a stand at RMAF were two of the Internet's most notable DIY engineers, Jan Didden from Holland (left) and Bob Cordell from New Jersey (right), and both were venturing into the print medium. Bob had advance copies of his new tome Designing Audio Power Amplifiers for sale, which I will be reviewing in Stereophile early in the New Year. Jan had the first volume of his new bookzine Linear Audio, which has articles on audio design from Bob, as well as Doug Self, Joachim Gerhardt, Nelson Pass, Siegfried Linkwitz, and many others. But if you have any interest at all in the nuts and bolts of audio design, don't wait for my reviews of these books; check them out for yourself. There's audiophile gold within their pages!
And here’s the new HiFiMan HM-602 ($439) which offers much of the functionality of the larger HM-801, but lacks that model’s modular headphone amp. It uses a Philips TDA-1543 DAC, offers 16GB onboard flash memory, and is about the size of an iPod Classic. Cool.