Making its debut was a platter that screamed for Michael Fremer: Kodo's The Beat MagDrive turntable ($24,000). Alas, the widely lamented "where is Michael Fremer" was starring in an opera entitled Home Remodeling Can't be Accomplished with Remote Control, and was back in New York.
At one end of the 11th floor sat the large, imposing Galibier Design Suite. It was dominated by several eye-catching products: Daedalus Audio loudspeakers, which replaced the scheduled and, from distant memory, fine Green Mountain Audio Calypso HD speakers ($14,900/pair) because the Daedalus babies were able to put out enough bass to fill the room; and Adona Master Reference stands (price not supplied) which supported the Galibier Design Stelvio-II turntable ($27,500) with its Durand Taiea tonearm ($7900) and Dynavector XV1s cartridge ($5250), and Atma-sphere MP-1 preamp ($15,000) and M-60 amplifiers ($13/600/pair). Equally important were Marigo Labs' VXi Mystery Feet ($779/set of 3), Analog 1 interconnects ($2000/pair), and Analog 1 SC speaker cable ($2000/pair).
I confess. Ever since I heard Evolution Acoustics loudspeakers at T.H.E. Show Las Vegas some years back, I have lusted after a pair. In fact, one of the big excitements on my trip to China a few months backstory forthcoming sometime before the Twelfth of Neverwas visiting the same Aurum Cantus factory that manufactures Evolution's tweeter. The combination of Evolution Acoustics MMtwo loudspeakers ($35,000/pair), darTZeel NHB-458 monoblocks ($135,000/pair), and darTZeel NHB-18 NS reference preamplifier with MC phono section ($29,000) earned my personal best of the show for the systems I auditioned at CES and T.H.E. Show 2010.
Hegel provided a great demonstration on the effects of jitter. Using a Logitech Squeezebox Touch ($299) as a source we listened to a track first through the onboard DAC in Hegel’s entry-level 70Wpc A70 integrated amplifier ($2000) and then through their outboard HD10 DAC ($1200). Speakers were the B&W 802 Diamonds ($15,000/pair).
I was mightily impressed by the sound of the bus-powered, $399 DACport USB-input headphone amplifier when I reviewed it in June. So when I was looking round the CanJam exhibit, I checked out the Centrance booth. There sat Michael Goodman, the Chicago company's managing director, with a new product with a very familiar form factor. The $795 DacMini headphone amplifier/preamplifier is the size and shape of the Mac mini computer, and offers two line-level inputs as well as USB, Toslink, and S/PDIF electrical digital inputs. Versions are planned with a power amplifier section and an iPod dock.
Audio Plus Services' John Bevier was sporting a snazzy bow tie at RMAF, echoing the sartorial sang-froid of another well-known audio distributor. More than one visitor to his room was puzzled by the apparent lack of any source component, yet the Focal 1038Be speakers ($12,000/pair) were playing the Gary Karr transcription for double bass and organ of the Albinoni Adagio and sounding sweet. John pointed to his MacBook, which was running iTunes with the Amarra front-end and sending the data via WiFi to the Micromega Airstream integrated amplifier ($4995), which has a WiFi front-end based on an Apple Airport Express router. This limits playback resolution to 16 bits and 48kHz, but for someone who wants to rip his CDs and play them with minimal fuss'n'muss, the Micromega is a contender. The system was wired with speaker cable from Crystal Cable, for which Audio Plus is now the North American distributor.
Peak Consult is a new brand for Jay Rein’s Bluebird Music, and the company’s attractive InCognito XII loudspeaker ($22,000/pair) sounded just perfectly at home with Chord Electronics’ Red Reference MkII CD player ($25,900), CPA 5000 preamp ($21, 900), and 500Wpc SPM 1400 monoblocks ($32,900/pair). Cables were Van den Hul’s Nova speaker wire ($3295) and MC Silver interconnects ($7268).
As I learned when he did a demo for members of the Bay Area Audiophile Society in my home some years back, Duke LeJeune is one of the sweetest people in an industry that has its share of sweet people. When I walked into his room, his 95dB-sensitivity, 16-ohm AudioKinesis Strato Prism loudspeakers ($4400/pair) were playing some New Age music of dubious worth. The sound through an Oppo BDP-83 used as a transport, Neko D100 Mk2 DAC ($1395), and Atma-sphere's MP-1 linestage ($4850) and S-30 amplifier ($3950) was enveloping, with particularly warmth in the midrange.
Little did I know, as I began my second day at RMAF 2010, how grateful I would be for the laid back sound in the LSA Group and AudioKinesis rooms by the time the day ended. The combination of LSA1 Statement monitors ($2600/pair) and and LSA speaker stands ($379/pair), LSA standard tube hybrid integrated amp ($5000), Exemplar/Oppo CD player ($2500), and Exemplar active cabling (approx. $8000) wasn't particularly fast on my fabulous Marta Gomez recording from Chesky, but it allowed me to slow down and enjoy what was there.
I first heard the Eficion F300 loudspeaker at RMAF or some other show perhaps two years ago. Bob Walters of the Bay Area Audiophile Society, who urged me to audition it, raved about the Eficion F300 and bought a pair. Two years later, the Eficion F-300 and Stillpoints amplifier stands and stainless steel supports have transformed my system.
RM Loudspeakers of Fort Smith, Arkansas were showing the CH-11R "True Exponential Folded Horn" ($17,500$20,000/pair) and RM-105 ported four-way ($9900$12,400/pair). I love the old school / new school look of these contrasting speakers. Playing the latter with unspecified components and cabling, I especially enjoyed the nice warmth in the bass voices of While You Are Alive, John Atkinson's 2007 recording of Cantus.
Although their atmospherically lit room, which looks very different in this flash-illuminated photo, was dominated visually by 10-year old Genesis loudspeaker prototypes that never made it to market, PS Audio's electronics were what the room was about. The PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport ($2999), which I own; Perfect Wave DAC ($2999) with Bridge ($799); prototype Perfect Wave amp (under $5000); and award-winning Power Plant Premier ($1999), all using Perfect Wave AC-12 ($999/meter) sounded marvelous on a CD from Natasha Atlas. Playing the Pentatone SACD of Schubert's "Trout" Quintet, the highs were especially beautiful, with violins singing with estimable delicacy. It was the best sound I've ever heard from a PS Audio show set-up. This bodes very well for their forthcoming amplifier.