I was delighted to discover that AudioPrism, originators of the infamous green pen (aka the AudioPrism CD Stoplight), is still in business. For newbies who do not know about the green pen, Collett and those who reviewed it shook skeptics to the core when they declared that painting the edge of CDs with the green pen lowered digital edge and improved data retrieval. The backlash was tremendous. Then Krell began bathing its CD tray in green light, some people found that green-tinted CD-Rs and then black discs sounded better, CD mats with green undersides made a demonstrable improvement in sound, and the skepticism was transferred to the next tweak on the horizon.
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.
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.
Craig Oxford and William Carpenter, CEO of Consensus Biotechnology and Consensus Biolabs of Little Rock, happily introduced me to the successors to Pipe Dreams loudspeakers, the HighEmotion Audio Pyra Bella 7 monitors ($6000/pair), Bella Basso 28 subs ($4000/pair, with 2 pairs in use), and Passare XOL crossover ($3000). (I did not audition the second system with the HighEmotion Audio Festune Bass Module). The HighEmotion speakers, which employ "a substantial amount of new technology", are the result of years of research into brain imagining technology, and "the emotional responses to music, auditory system function, physics, and electrical engineering."
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).
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).
Selah Audio, a North Carolina speaker manufacturer that sells its products direct on the net, was showing the Verita sealed box loudspeaker ($2000/pair, or $2650 with the veneer displayed at the show). A sealed box with 84dB sensitivity and a frequency range of 60Hz20kHz, it combines the excellent RAAL ribbon tweeter from Serbia's Aleksandar Rasisavijevic with a ScanSpeak woofer.
For the second year running, Head-Fi held a CanJam meet at the 2010 RMAF, with headphone-oriented companies like Sennheiser, HeadRoom, Centrance, JH Audio, BeyerDynamic, Audeze, Head-Direct. Moon Audio, Ray Samuels Audio, Westone, and Ultimate Ears exhibiting in the humongous space of the Marriott's Rocky Mountain Event Center. At the bottom left of the photo is reviewer and occasional Stereophile contributor Steve Guttenberg checking out some BeyerDynamic cans.
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.
It was awesome to see the limited edition Dynaudio Sapphire, cloaked in a stunning clear blue piano lacquer over a veneer of bird’s eye maple. The sound was just as fine: cymbals and horns had a natural bite, without edge or glare, blooming and blooming and blooming into the room.
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 caught up with the always affable Lars Goller of Gamut who was very proud of the company’s new S Series speakers. Here we see Goller standing beside the S5 ($30,000/pair), which boasts a very attractive cabinet made of form-pressed solid wood over multi-layered Finnish Beech ply. Externally machined canals in the speaker’s side panels divide the speaker into segments to better control vibrations and minimize coloration, Goller explained. In addition, two large port openings of 5mm-thick solid machined aluminum are threaded directly into the speaker’s rear panel to minimize port turbulence and noise.