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.
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.
The pairing of Benchmark Audio and Studio Electric Loudspeakers had a new face, the Studio Electric Monitor ($2295/pair, or $2450/pair with handsome retro custom grill). With a frequency response of 44Hz22kHz (±4 dB), the 6 ohm impedance two-way offers 87dB sensitivity. The sound was impressive and musical, inviting extended listening.
J. Gordon Rankin, always at the forefront at computer audio technology, had paired Wavelength's beautiful-sounding electronics with Vaughn Zinfandel loudspeakers and AudioQuest top-of-the-line Sky interconnects and Meteor speaker cables to create a system with an absolutely gorgeous midrange. That is no small accomplishment, folks.
Tweak Studio, the Genesis dealer in Washington state, paired the new Genesis G7.1f loudspeaker ($8000/pair) with the Balanced Audio Technology (BAT) Vk-3ix preamp and VK 55SE amp. The match was fortuitous, with the BAT's tubey midrange bringing out the loudspeaker's considerable best. Completing the partnership were the SOTA Sapphire Series 5 turntable ($2700) with SME 4 arm and Denon 103 cartridge; Kosmic server w/500GB hybrid storage ($2295) and a bunch of options; Absolute Fidelity Component Interface cable ($1800/pair), Loudspeaker Interface cables ($3000/pair); and Power Interface cables ($1800); and a host of Kosmic Equipment stands (the stand base shelf is $1600).
In his Avatar Acoustics room, Darren Censullo put together a system featuring a Feickert Analogue Blackbird turntable ($7495) with Feickert’s DFA 10.5 tonearm ($1000) and Lyra Kleos cartridge (review to come from Michael Fremer), Abbingdon Music Research (AMR) CD-77.1 CD player ($10,995), AMR PH-77 phono preamp ($11,995, recently reviewed by Michael Fremer and John Atkinson), and AMR AM-77.1 integrated amplifier ($9995). Speaker cables, interconnects, and power cords were Acoustic System International’s LiveLine ($995/1m interconnect; $2100/2.4m cable; $1195/1.8m power cord). The gear was supported by an Acoustic System 3-shelf rack ($3500) and Acoustic System International Top Line feet ($750). Power distribution came from an Avatar Acoustics Mach 4 ($1995) and Avatar Acoustics Afterburner 8 wall outlet ($80). Acoustic System International Resonators were carefully placed around the perimeter of the room, near where the walls met the ceiling.
Fidelis, distributors of Harbeth loudspeakers and other products, was playing the classic BBC style Harbeth Super HL5 ($4995/pair), Perreaux Prisma 350 350Wpc stereo power amplifier ($8995), Wadax Pre1 preamplifier/DAC ($19,995), Sound Science MV Diamond digital server ($4500 w/iPad), and Pyon Sound Muzika Ultima turntable ($18,995). Bringing out the best this equipment can offer were the excellent Echole Obsession cables that are poised to make a major impression in the U.S. market. Four Stein boxes (little black boxes with the blue light on silver stands), which I discussed in the TweekGeek report below, were the icing on the cake, adding air and ease to the presentation.
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).