If the Soundsmith room had been a van, it would have been rocking. (Hee-haw.) Seriously, there was a party going on in here and Peter Ledermann was the master of ceremonies, cueing up one record while a second was playing. But before I could take a seat, I was mesmerized by this awesome-looking device, the Soundsmith Cartright ($899.95, due early 2011), which resembles some sort of old-school, psychedelic Electro-Harmonix stomp box, but promises to simplify cartridge setup.
Kosmic’s Joe Pittman stands beside a Sota Millenia turntable equipped with a Kosmic tonearm and Magic Diamond cartridge, sitting atop a Kosmic equipment rack. Kosmic, a company that was new to me, manufacturers a tonearm, a music server, and equipment racks, which seemed like a strange product line. When I asked Pittman about it, he simply replied that all three areas are integral to the overall performance of any system. The Kosmic Server ($2295 with 500GB hybrid drive) stores approximately 1600 CDs in FLAC format, and provides FireWire and USB 2.0 output up to 32-bit/384kHz sampling rates and TosLink up to 24/96. Kosmic is located in Seattle, WA, and is also a dealer for Genesis loudspeakers.
Clean and refreshing music and sound in the Audioengine room, from left: A5 active loudspeaker ($349/pair), P4 passive loudspeaker ($249/pair), N22 desktop amplifier ($199), and A2 active loudspeaker ($199; reviewed by Bob Reina).
One of the many graphs Nordost and Vertex displayed at their research presentation was of time-domain error in a CD player, ie, the difference between the data on a disc and the output of the CD player. It ain't pretty. Other graphs showed reduction in error with the addition of cables, supports, and power products (specifically, Nordost's Quantum). All these graphs will be downloadable from the websites of Nordost and Vertex EQ within a matter of weeks.
Ray Lombardi's international set-up was getting much better sound from JBL's 1400 Array ($11,500/pair) than at the first California Audio Show (CAS) a few months back. In fact, Diana Krall's semi-lethargic rendition of "Let's Face the Music and Dance" sounded much less doped-up than it did when I last heard it at the Aurum Cantus factory in China. The presentation featured crisp and sweet highs, and a natural midrange. Neither Sound Applications power treatment (model not specified) nor ASC Tube Traps could totally tighten up the speaker's soft bottom, but I don't recall it sounding very tight at CAS either.
Acoustic Sounds’ Chad Kassem provided a wonderful demo of some of his fine Analogue Productions releases, including Jimmy Lee Robinson’s All My Life and Elvis’ 24 Karat Hitsall sounding absolutely seductive and enveloping with an extremely liquid and relaxed soundthrough a system featuring a Clearaudio Concept turntable ($1400), which Kassem was particularly fond of“for the price, this ‘table is hard to beat”and Sony’s SS-AR1 loudspeakers, seen here.
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.
In addition to the Cartright cartridge setup tool, Soundsmith was showing the new EZ-Mount cartridge screws ($29.99, review to come from Michael Fremer), which allow for easy cartridge installation; Soundsmith’s new top-of-the-line Sussurro Paua moving-iron cartridge ($3499), inspired by Frank Schroder; the special edition, VPI-branded Zephyr high-output cartridge ($999), designed for use with VPI and other unipivot tonearms; and the neat, little “Intuitive” tool ($49.99), designed to make simple, precise adjustments of tracking force and azimuth to VPI tonearms!
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.
I had been aware of TTWeight’s line of beautifully crafted, heavy-duty phono accessoriescenter weights and clamps, outer rings, and matsand while I knew that TTWeight’s Larry Denham also designed turntables, it wasn’t until seeing them in person that I fully understood the extent to which Denham has gone in perfecting his designs. Turntables aren’t just a hobby or side project for Denham.
At RMAF 2009, Nordost shook up quite a few audiophiles by announcing preliminary results of research that can measure and validate the positive effects after market cabling, supports, and power products. One year later, Nordost announced that the research, jointly conducted by Nordost's competitor, Vertex AQ of the UK in collaboration with military electronic-engineering consultant and sonar expert Gareth Humphries-Jones of North Wales, has taken a major step forward.
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.