Michael Fremer enthuses over the sound of the Esoteric E-03 phono preamplifier in our forthcoming December issue, and this $6500 component was being featured in Esoteric's ground-floor room at RMAF, fed from a VPI Scoutmaster turntable fitted with a Dynavector DV20X phono cartridge. The rest of the system, which sounded excellent on Eva Cassidy's Songbird LP, comprised Esoteric's C-03 preamp, A-03 class-A solid-state amp, and MG-20 tower speakers, hooked up with Esoteric's XL cables. (I very much liked the MG-20 when I reviewed it in the August 2008 issue.) The digital front-end was the X-05 player feeding the $4800 D-07 D/A processor, which I will be reviewing in the January 2011 issue of Stereophile.
The sound in this room blew me away. When I walked in, Dr. John's "In a Sentimental Mood" was sounding as lovely and mellow as can be. Switching gears 180°, Reference Recordings' LP issue of Stravinsky's Firebird had absolutely amazing bass. "Amazing," I wrote twice in my notes.
Colorado dealer Listen-Up had three rooms at RMAF. The first one I went into featured Sonus Faber Liuto 3-way speakers ($6000/pair) with PrimaLuna amplification and CD player (the latter the Prologue 8 that Fred kaplan and I reviewed for the magazine a couple years back) and AudioQuest cables and a SolidSteel stand. The Liuto speaker is intended to offer Cremona-like performance for half the price; it combines a 1.25" silk-dome tweeter with a 6" woven composite-cone midrange unit and a 7" magnesium-alloy cone woofer. The nicely finished enclosure follows Sonus Faber's usual technique of laminating cherry sections.
Judging by my complete lack of notes on the room occupied by Silver Circle Audio, Sutherland Engineering, and Tyler Acousticsa VPI Scoutmaster turntable was spinning tunes, with amplification from Plinius driving the speakersI would have to say that I didn’t do much listening in here. I mean, I heard music, but I was too busy enjoying my conversation with Silver Circle’s David Stanard, and I was too impressed by the appearance of the gear. From the cabinetry of the Tyler Acoustics Decade D1 loudspeakers to the hefty AC cords coming from the Silver Circle Pure Power One 5.0’s rear panel to the exposed circuitry of the Sutherland Engineering 20/20 phono preamp (review to come from Brian Damkroger), to the equipment rackhandmade by Stanard in one afternooneverything was handsome and personal and showed obvious fine craftsmanship.
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.
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!
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.
"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).
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.
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.
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).
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).