...was the title of the seminar presented Sunday afternoon by Audio Precision's Jonathan Novick. Audio Precision manufactures high-performance test gear (including the systems used by Stereophile for its reviews) and Novick's presentation concerned, among other things, how graphs, as published by Stereophile, are more meaningful than single figures of merit and how conventional measurements can miss problems with amplifiers that are undoubtedly audible. I came away from this presentation with some ideas on how to improve the magazine's test regime, but most telling was Novick's final slide which paraphrased Albert Einstein: "Not all that matters can be measured. Not all that can be measured, matters!."
As in previous years, the 2010 RMAF featured a full program of seminars. I moderated two of them, the first of which on Saturday morning featured Channel D's Rob Robinson demonstrating how to rip LPs to your PC. Rob flew by the seat of his pants, doing everything in full view of the packed houseincluding booting-up his Mac mini, hooking up a Music Hall turntable to a preamplifier/ADC and connecting the preamp to the computer with a FireWire linkto make the point that there was nothing intimidating about the process. (His and my thanks to AudioEngine for providing powered speakers to allow the audience to hear what was happening.) The only departure from orthodoxy was that as Robinson was using Channel D's Pure Vinyl program (reviewed by Michael Fremer last August) to capture the data, he was using the program's digital-domain RIAA correction so used a flat-response preamp rather than a true phono preamplifier.
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.
Music Hall’s inexpensive USB turntable, the two-speed, belt-driven USB-1 ($249), uses an aluminum die-cast platter, has a groovy S-shaped tonearm equipped with an Audio-Technica AT3600L moving-magnet phono cartridge, and comes in a high-gloss black finish. Overall, it resembles something Run DMC might’ve brought to a gig.
After walking me through the Naim Uniti display, Naim’s David Dever then ushered me over to a second Naim room where the company was showing off its new NDX network player ($4750, shipping this November).
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.
Driving Von Schweikert VR-3S speakers ($7995/pair) in Room 8032 was the awesome-looking Kronzilla SXI Mk.II monoblock, featuring the largest tubes I have seen in an audio amplifier. Source was the French EEra CD player, and there my handwritten notes become illegible. Apologies :-(
Despite the recession, which hit the world of high-end audio hard in 2009, every Show features many new brands. One such was Emillé from South Korea, named after a 10'-high, 18.9-ton bronze bell cast in that country in 771AD, using the "lost-wax" process. Shown in my photo is the Emillé Rapture tube monoblock power amplifier, a zero negative-feedback design that uses four 6550 output tubes to produce 110W into 8 ohms at 2% THD. Emillé products are being distributed in the US by Solos of Cerritos, CA.
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.
Not only was the sound in the Larkspur Suite familiar, so were the speakers. The $80,000/pair Acapella High Violoncello IIs being demmed were the exact same pair that I had very favorably reviewed in the September issue of Stereophile. Amplification was all-Einstein, including The Tube preamp that Michael Fremer reviewed in October.
Elsewhere in this blog, Stephen Mejias enthuses about the Kaiser Kawero loudspeakers ($66,000/pair). I first encountered these loudspeakers at RMAF 2008's Kaiser/Echole exhibit extension in the nearby Hyatt, and have coveted them ever since. Optimally paired and internally wired then and now with Echole's excellent cabling, as well as with modded tube amps that had been re-wired with Echole, the sound of this system was so large, rich, and true that it blew me away. Stephen's summation"This system, more than any other I heard at RMAF, seemed to bring the musicians and instruments into the room with really impressive body and force"rings true.
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.
Source material in the Nola room was a pair of open-reel recorders from United Home Audio, but on the one piece I listened to, Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, it sounded like a dub from LP. Not that there's anything wrong with that!
New York-based Nola was showing its Metro Grand Reference speakers at RMAF ($25,000/pair). Combining a Raven ribbon tweeter and a 4" midrange, both mounted on an open baffle, with two 6.5" reflex-loaded woofers, this slim tower, driven by an Audio Research Reference 210 power amplfier, Reference 5 preamplifier, and CD8 CD player via Nordost cabling, produced more bass than I thought possible, given its modest drive-unit array. The response is specified as being 6dB down at a low 26Hz. This was one of several systems at RMAF using the Quantum QX4 AC treatment device from Nordost.