I had been impressed by the sound Classic Audio were producing from their T1.3 Reference speakers at last March's Axpona Show in Florida. In Colorado, the Michigan-based company was using the smaller T3.4 speakers, which still use a field-coilenergized 15" woofer and Fostex horn tweeter, but with slightly smaller, Tractrix-flare midrange horn crossing over at 300Hz rather than 250Hz. The speakers were being driven by Atma-Sphere M60 tube monoblocks and an MP-1 preamplifier.
I was impressed by the looks and sound of PMC’s new Fact 3 monitor ($9500/pair). PMC’s Ian Verdugo explained that the company gave the model the “deluxe audiophile treatment,” with a completely new design and modified transmission line. Shown in an attractive Tiger Ebony finish, the Fact 3 uses two 5.5” SEAS mid/woofers and a 0.75” Sonomex soft-dome, ferro-fluid cooled tweeter. On the speaker’s brushed anodized rear panel, users will find two switches for adjusting the high frequency and bass response.
See those little, white, star-shaped things? Those are room-tuning accessories from Stein Music. These were scattered, perhaps haphazardly, about the roomon the floor in front of an equipment rack (as seen here), as well as affixed to the walls and ceiling!
Audioaero’s LaSource ($44,000) combines an SACD/CD player with a preamp and DAC, and its “hybrid circuitry” makes use of 32-bit re-sampling technology and a “subminiature” tube output stage. It uses an Esoteric VRDS-NEO/VMK 5 transport mechanism and has a dedicated master clock for jitter and noise reduction.
"Bring the concert home!" declared the Jones Audio brochure. The 18-month old company, whose products are "handcrafted" in Seattle, took advantage of RMAF to debut the Jones Audio PA-M300 monoblock amplifier ($24,000/pair). This 300W into 8 ohms, 560W into 4 ohms baby, which uses a 35 lb toroidal transformer, kept company with the Jones Pre-S2 preamplifier (approx. $11,000), the Revel Ultima Salon2 loudspeakers I've lusted after on multiple occasions ($22,000/pair), a Benchmark DAC1 Pre, and Kimber cabling with WBT connectors (approx. $1000 worth).
I must admit that I had never heard of Brodmann pianos from Vienna. The only Viennese piano manufacturer I was aware of prior to the 2010 RMAF was Bösendorfer, and Brodmann's Bernd Gruhn (pictured) enlightened me, explaining that back in the day, Herr Brodmann had been Herr Bösendorfer's teacher. I mentioned that it was a coincidence that a second Viennese piano manufacturer was branching out into loudspeaker productionBösendorfer launched an idiosyncratic line of speakers at a New York Stereophile Show a few years backonly to find out that it wasn't a coincidence at all. The Brodmann speakers are designed by Hans Deutsch, who had licensed his designs to Bösendorfer. When that company withdrew from the speaker business, Deutsch approached Brodmann.
Featured in Listen-Up's third room was a bevy of new gear from Canadian manufacturer Simaudio: the Moon 310D phono stage ($1799, which Michael Fremer falls in love with in our January 2011 issue), the Moon 300D D/A processor ($1600)this handles digital data with up to 24-bits word length and 192kHz sample rate via both S/PDIF and USB and uses 32-bit Sabre DACsMoon 350P preamp, Moon 400M monoblocks, and Moon CD3.3X CD player. (Apologies for not noting the prices of these components.) Analog was being played on a Sumiko RM10-1 turntable, and the speakers were Sonus Faber's Elipsas ($18,000/pair).
Having greatly enjoyed YG Acoustics' two-way Carmel loudspeaker ($18,000/pair) at the California Audio Show this past summer, I was eager to hear it in a different setting. This was the opportunity, paired with Veloce Audio's battery-powered set-up. The system also featured Kubala-Sosna Emotion cabling (price not supplied), the LS-1 Pure Tube linestage ($15,000)are there any impure tubes?and LP-1 Pure Tube phono module ($3000), and V-6 monoblock amplifiers ($14,000, presumably for the pair). Also doing the honors were the Amazon One turntable (price not available), and the PS Audio Perfect Wave transport/DAC combo (approx. $6000).
A familiar face and voice stopped me in the corridor outside the MC (Music Culture technology) room. It was MBL founder Wolfgang Meletzky, who, following his recent departure from the Berlin-based company, has started a new company to produce more affordable electronics and speakers. The system Meletzky was demming was based on the MC RL31 3-way tower speaker ($10,000/pair), this a conventional dynamic-driver design rather than the omnidirectional type that MBL was renowned for, driven by the MC801 power amplifier (180Wpc, $3300) and MC601 preamp ($3500). Source was an Onix CD player, as MC's own player had been held up in shipping. I listened to the Dutch Turtle Records CD of Sting's "Walking on the Moon," played by a trio of saxophone, double bass, and drums. The sound offered sharply defined transients, a natural midrange, and excellent low-frequency extension, and despite the room being one of the smaller ones in the Marriott Tower, the system's high frequencies were in natural balance with the rest of the spectrum.
Perhaps the very prettiest gear of all I saw at RMAF was in the room occupied by Kaiser Acoustics, GTE Audio, and Fono Acustica. This was also the most physical sound I heard at the show; 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.
Products making their debut at the 2010 RMAF from Philip O’Hanlon’s On a Higher Note: The interesting LaSource SACD player/preamp/DAC from Audioaero ($44,000), Vivid G2 Giya loudspeaker ($50,000/pair), and Brinkmann 9.6 tonearm ($4000), Brinkmann Pi cartridge ($2700), and Brinkmann Edison tube phono stage ($12,900).
After building ModWright Instruments' reputation as a quality source for equipment mods, Dan Wright has expanded his business to include manufacturing his own components. Perhaps because his gear was called into play in a number of rooms, his own room was mobbed until Sunday, when crowds traditionally lighten up.
Patricia Barber is a secret guilty passion of mine, so when I heard the sound of her singing "The Quality of Mercy" from Café Blue coming from room 2024 in the Marriott Tower, I had to go in. The system featured GR Super V open-baffle speakers ($2495/pair as a kit), which were designed by Danny Richie, who had done some of the crossover design on the well-regarded Usher Be718 speaker. Amplifiers were Dodd Audio tube monoblocks, preamp Dodd's battery-powered tube-buffered passive design. the D/A processor was the Tranquility from dB Audio Labs. This $2395 processor was being fed data via USB from a Mac mini modded by Mach2 Music. For $1495, Mach2 supplies a turnkey Mac mini fitted with a 40GB solid-state drive and 4GB of RAM, as well as a 320GB external drive for data storage and the playback software of your choice. The mini's Snow Leopard operating system has been slimmed-down by removing anything that would otherwise interfere with the task of streaming music data from the USB port.