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).
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.
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.