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.
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.
I wonder if our expectations drop somewhat when walking into a room occupied by small, inexpensive, neatly organized gear. The contrast from the massive, overwrought, wildly expensive components found in some rooms is undeniably refreshing, and might allow the music to take center stage. Such is always the case with Audioengine, makers of adorable loudspeakers whose quality belies their small size. The more I learn about the company and the more time I spend with their speakers, the more it seems that they’re here to stay. In fact, I expect great sound from Audioengine. The company simply continues to surpass my expectations.
I'm afraid the companies exhibiting in this room will not be adequately served by this blog entry. David Salz of Wireworld was not available, and I never got details on his cabling other than word that his new, top-of-the-line USB cable got caught up in FedEx drama and didn't make it to the show on time. All I know is that the big speaker was the eye-catching, glass-enclosured Waterfall Niagara from France ($54,000/pair), which has 89dB sensitivity and a frequency response of 36Hz28kHz ±3dB, and a Cary 300T SACD player ($6500) and Cary monoblocks ($10,000) were called into action. Power was conditioned by the APC units that Kal Rubinson recommends. I don't know much more, unfortunately. As I just explained to the man who just answered the phone at Waterfall Audio USA, I owe them and Wireworld one.
What has become a familiar site at shows, Acoustic Zen loudspeakers and cabling mated with Triode electronics, has also become a welcome sound. Here, I experienced a beautiful airiness around female vocalists. "Just gorgeous," I wrote in my notes. The bass, however, was challenged, perhaps because of the room.
Dynaudio’s Mike Manousselis pulled me into his room with the familiar sounds of the XX. On display here were T+A’s more affordable R-Series components, less flashy than the V-Series, but no less elegant: G1260 R turntable ($3250 with tonearm; $3600 with arm and cartridge; $4300 with built-in phono), PA1260 R integrated amplifier ($5000), CD1260 R CD player ($3800), and MP1260 R DAC streaming client ($4200, providing internet radio, two USB inputs, and wired or wireless streaming abilities).