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).
Audioquest's Joe Harley showed off a system using Ayre electronics and Vienna Acoustics speakers, whose lovely midrange and easy-on-the-ears presentation was made possible by Audioquest Sky interconnects, Meteor Flat Rock Series speaker cable, Energy 100 power cords, and the new top-of-the-line Diamond USB cable (the latter shown in the photo with Harley). All of these cables, including the USB, utilize Audioquest's DBS dielectric bias system to keep the cables at peak capability 24 hours a day. (A FireWire cable is in development).
Last spring's Axpona show in Jacksonville gave me a first opportunity to audition some of Grant Fidelity's bargain-priced Chinese imports. I really liked what I heard. Despite cries of foul from a few of those posting comments to the blog who depicted Grant as the cause of the entire high-end slowdown in the US, and me as a conspirator in the eventual collapse of Western Civilization, the word is clearly out. Grant's room at RMAF was mobbed, so mobbed by attendees who were eager to chat away while the music played that nothing short of blowing a police whistle would have quieted them down. (A few systems at RMAF sounded like police whistles, but that's another story).
Oh my, did Muddy Waters' Folk Singer sound good. I hadn't heard this audiophile classic in many a year, and my time in Mike Garner of TweekGeek.com's room convinced me that it was time for an extended revisit. Garner achieved gorgeous clarity and marvelous quiet on this recording. As I wrote in my notes, "A very special moment."
Doshi Audio of Virginia was proudly displaying their handcrafted Jhor monoblock amplifiers ($18,995/pair) and Alaap V2.1 full-function preamplifier ($14,995). Partnered with the oft-encountered Wilson Audio Sasha, and Transparent XL series cabling, the system excelled in midrange strength as it threw an exciting soundstage. Although lacking ultimate bass control, the system rendered take-no-prisoners rock in accurately brash and brazen fashion.
Applause rang out after Silverman's performances. Among the most appreciative were those in the standing room section in heaven, aka the mezzanine balcony. Notice Roy Hall (third from left), who really socks it to Mikey Fremer in the "Manufacturers Comments" section of the November issue, among the admirers. On the second night, Gary Koh of Genesis was spied in rapt attention.
Taking this year's novel room treatment prize lying down was Artemis Labs of Simi Valley, CA. Undoubtedly wishing to imprint a message that their equipment produces the sound of your dreams, on display were the Artemis Labs SA-1S ($11,000) and SA-1 ($7800) turntables; Schröder Reference SQ ($5600 Euros) and Artemis Labs TA-1 ($3500) tonearms; Artemis Labs cartridge (not yet priced), PX-1 (LCR) phono pre (ditto), LX-1 linestage (ditto encore), LA-1 linestage ($3500), and SP-1 18Wpc power amp ($18,000). Rounding out the system were the fine Verity Audio Leonore loudspeaker ($15,995/pair) and Purist Audio Design cabling.
Reasonably priced cabling from Soundstring Cable Technologies of South Norwalk, CT created a polite, welcoming feel in a room that also featured ModWright and Oppo electronics and Nola bookshelf speakers.
The Audio Alternative of Fort Collins, CO had the perspicacity to mate Wilson Audio's new Sophia III speakers ($16,900/pair) with Rega Research Limited's Osiris Integrated amplifier ($9000), Isis Valve CD player ($10,000), and P7 turntable w/Lyra Delos MC cartridge ($4195). The sound was very mellow and inviting. It was the kind of presentation that would make many an audiophilecertainly this onewelcome the Sophia Series III into their home.
The Audio Alternative had a number of rooms on the 9th floor of the Denver Marriott Tech Center Tower, the largest of which boasted an impressive set-up. Audio Research Corporation's Anniversary Edition Reference Preamplifier ($24,995), Reference 210 amplifiers ($19,900/pair), Reference Phono 2 ($11,995), Reference CD8 ($9995) and DAC 8 ($4995) were dancing with Vandersteen 7 speakers ($45,000/pair); Linn LP12 turntable, Ekos SE tone arm and Lyra Titan cartridge ($24,000 total); AudioQuest Wild Blue Yonder XLR interconnects ($16,800 for 26'). Wildwood speaker cables ($11,600 for 8'), NRG WBY AC power cords ($4400 for 12'), and WBY XLR interconnects ($4200 for 3'); and Harmonic Resonance Systems SXR 1921 isolation stand ($4995), M3X 2123 isolation base ($2895), and R1-1921 ($1095). (Whew!) The room was full of people making too much noise; the sound loud (there was no choice), impressively big and solid. Short of blowing a whistle, there was nothing I could do except collect literature and promise myself that at the next show, I'll finally get a chance to hear the Vandersteen 7s that received raves at the 2010 CES.
I was hardly alone in my appreciation for Robert Silverman's playing. The audience was packed. Performing both Friday and Saturday nights at 6:30pm, Silverman drew large audiences that packed both downstairs and the three upstairs balconies that ringed the performance area. On Saturday night, Bea Lam of VTL was spotted in rapt attention, as was Charlie Hansen of Ayre, Stereophile's John Atkinson and Laura LoVecchio and, of course, Ray Kimber.
The Rosso Fiorentino Volterra, represented in the US by Avatar Acoustics, uses a crossover circuit placed in an isolated and damped box within the center of the speaker's cabinet. Here's a look inside.
The name sounds somewhat cold and diabolical, but the sound was quite inviting. Machined from a full solid slab of aluminum (FSS aluminum), this was the first time that the CRM reference monitors ($8000/pair) and prototype fully active CRS subs ($12,000) were played at a show. You'll note from the photo that, for height's sake, the CRM sits atop the not-auditioned CRG compact reference grand. The CRM has 84dB sensitivity and an impedance of 8 ohms, a response that extends from 45Hz to 20kHz, and claims a "technologically far ahead" crossover.