RMAF 2011

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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 20, 2011 0 comments
Simaudio's Lionel Goodfield was his usual effective DJ self in the room in Colorado retailer Listen-Up was demming the Canadian company's gear. Digital front-end was the Moon Evolution 650D CD player/DAC ($8000) that Mikey Fremer raves about in the November 2011 issue of Stereophile; analog front-end was the ProJect Xperience Classic turntable feeding a Moon 310LP phono preamp; the Moon Evolution 700i integrated amplifier ($12,000) that Fred Kaplan enthusiastically reviewed for Stereophile last March, was driving Sonus Faber Cremona M floorstanding speakers ($10,000/pair). Cables were all Shunyata Black Mamba and power was sourced from a Shunyata Hydra.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 20, 2011 0 comments
The analog front end in the E.A.R. USA room was the Townshend Rock 7 turntable ($3200), with its unique system for applying damping where it is most needed, at the cartridge end of the arm rather than the pivot, fitted with the Helios Omega arm ($2800) and a Dynavector XV1S cartridge. Phono preamp was the E.A.R. 324 that both Art Dudley and Mikey Fremer have enthused over in the pages of Stereophile.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 20, 2011 2 comments
The United Home Audio room at RMAF featured Von Schweikert speakers driven by Jolida electronics, this time the Von Schweikert VR5 Anniversary Mk.2s ($30,000/pair), Jolida Fusion preamp and Fusion 200W tube monoblocks ($6000/all three). But my eye was drawn to the UHA Phase 9 tape deck, which was playing some Series 3 releases from The Tape Project, specifically Nat Adderley and his band performing "Work Song." One of the better-sounding rooms, I thought.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 20, 2011 4 comments
Magico's Alon Wolf shows off his new Q1 stand-mounted speaker ($24,950/pair), which marries the beryllium-dome tweeter from the Q3 and Q5 floorstanders with a 7" Nano-Tec–cone woofer. The sealed, hard-anodized aluminum enclosure is braced and damped to minimize resonances. Despite its relatively diminutive size—it measures 14.2" H by 9" W by 14.2" D—the Q1 weighs 60 lbs.

Driven in Chicago retailer Musical Artisans' room by by BAlabo amplification, a Zanden phono stage, a Clearaudio turntable, and a Bottlehead-modded Nagra open-reel deck to play Tape Project tapes, the Q1s produced a full-range sound that flattered female vocals without sounding mellow or lacking in transparency.

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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 20, 2011 0 comments
Providing the music for the YG Kipod Series 2 speakers driven by an Esoteric amplifier in the Synergistic Research room was a Mach 2 music server feeding USB data to Synergistic's The Music Cable D/A converter ($3599). This has a flying USB input cable on one end and two flying, single-ended analog output cables on the other, and it gets power not from the USB bus but from two mono supplies. The system was wired with Synergistic's new Element cables, which use tungsten conductors, a material chosen, I was told, using blind listening tests.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 20, 2011 0 comments
It's the perfect name for a preamp, I thought. Grand Pre, if not Grand Prix, has a certain ring to it. The first upmarket product from the company that has made a name for itself with its high-performance iDecco, iNova, and iDac, the Grand Pre will be priced at $3000. It combines the high-resolution ESS 9018 DAC chip with a buffer stage based on 12AX7 tubes, and offers both analog and digital inputs, including a 24/192k-capable USB input. Peachtree's David Solomon, shown in my photo,was demming the Grand Pre with a Simaudio Moon amplifier driving B&W 802 Diamond speakers, using Pure Music on his laptop to send it USB data.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Oct 19, 2011 Published: Oct 20, 2011 0 comments
VTL opened the 2011 RMAF with a special press event, introducing the company’s new Siegfried Series II Reference monoblock power amplifiers ($65,000/pair).
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 20, 2011 0 comments
George Cardas had had a celebratory coin minted to celebrate his company's first quarter century: "25 years helping musicians reproduce their music" it states on the front. Amen to that sentiment, George.

On the other side of the coin is a tribute to George's friend and mentor, retailer Brooks Berdan, who passed away last summer.

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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 20, 2011 0 comments
I was intimately familiar with the Sonus Faber Guarneri Evolution speakers $20,000/pair), with their matching stands ($2000/pair), in one of Listen-Up's rooms at RMAF, having measured them two days before I left for Denver. (Art Dudley is reviewing this little jewel of a speaker in the January 2012 issue of Stereophile). At RMAF, they were being bi-amped with four PrimaLuna DiaLogue 7 tubed monoblocks ($5499/pair) with AudioQuest cable, Preamp was the PrimaLuna DiaLogue 3 ($2699) and while a PrimaLuna ProLogue Classic CD player ($2999) could be seen. this had been broken in shipping and CDs were being played on a Simaudio player.

From my listening notes, as I auditioned the classic Chet Atkins-Mark Knopfler gittar-pickin' duet "There'll be Some Changes Made": "maybe a little too rich-balanced but a good sense of pace and impressive low-frequency extension for such a small speaker...unaccompanied female voice had a beautifully liquid quality with space space space!"

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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 20, 2011 1 comments
Dan Meinwald of E.A.R. USA explained to me that his goal for RMAF was to put together a system where the individual components each cost $6000 or less. The new Marten FormFloor loudspeakers ($6500/pair) just exceed that limit, but are compensated for by the impressive new 192 DACute D/A processor from E.A.R. ($5700 in black but $6500 in chrome). The DAC was being fed audio data by the latest Diamond version of Neal van der Berg's Music Vault ($4449), which incorporates a Blu-ray drive for ripping discs, a 2TB drive for audio data, a solid-state drive for the operating system, and a Lynx aes16 audio output card.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 20, 2011 0 comments
Zesto Audio was a name new to me, but their versatile Andros PS1 tubed MM/MC phono stage ($3900) was getting great sound from Billie Holiday's "Day In, Day Out," played on a Thorens TD309 player ($1900) fitted with a Dynavector DV-20X2L cartridge ($850). The rest of the system comprised a ModWright LS 100 tube preamp ($3495) and ModWright KWA 150 solid-state amplifier driving Fritz Carbon 7, Rev.5 speakers ($1795–$1950/pair), wired with WyWires.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 20, 2011 1 comments
The eighth Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, held October 14–16 at the Denver Tech Center Marriott, with Analogue Productions' Pink Floyd presentation at the Hyatt a couple of blocks down the road, was the largest yet, with an estimated 180 brands on show. We haven't yet seen the official attendance figures, though I wouldn't be surprised if they were a little down from last year, the corridors being more comfortable. But Show organizer Marjorie Baumert, seen here obviously having fun despite the pressure, is to be congratulated for making the RMAF a fun place to spend a weekend and a superb venue to see, but more importantly, to hear the best of what high-end audio has to offer music lovers. Thank you, Marjorie—we will see you in 2012.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 20, 2011 0 comments
A large name for a large loudspeaker, Nola's Baby Grand Reference Series II, which combines four Raven ribbon tweeters with two 9" magnesium-cone woofers and four proprietary 4.5" midrange units, was being demonstrated with Audio Research Reference 250 amplifiers and front-end, Nordost cables, a QX4 system conditioner, and a Silver Circle Pure Power One 5.5 AC isolation transformer. Like many rooms at this year's RMAF, a Billie Holiday track was playing when I went into the Nola exhibit—in this case, "Lover, Come Back to me"—and even in mono, the sound was immersive. The Show speakers had an attractive piano-gloss rosewood finish and they featured the 3.5-way Unison Xtreme Crossover System, implemented on three separate boards and integrated into the speakers themselves. The speaker's price of $55,000/pair will be maintained until the New Year, when they will rise to $58,000/pair.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 20, 2011 1 comments
. . . stand-mounted speaker is hardly compact but it is a reference. TAD's Andrew Jones was showing off the speaker, which combines a hi-tech coaxial tweeter/midrange array with a port-loaded, high-excursion woofer, with all-TAD electronics, including an asynchronous USB DAC and 600W-into-4 ohms solid-state monoblocks. What did I think of the sound? Well, for that all I will say is that it echoed what I will be writing in my January 2012 review.

On passive show were TAD's new entry-level E1 floorstanding speaker. Scheduled to cost $27,000/pair, the E1 uses a beryllium-dome tweeter and is a more refined development of the Pioneer S1-EX that so impressed Kal Rubinson a few years ago.

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Stephen Mejias Posted: Oct 19, 2011 Published: Oct 20, 2011 1 comments
There was a lot to see and hear in the PSB/NAD suite. Here we see JA rocking PSB’s first headphone, the noise-cancelling M4U 2 ($400). The M4U 2 uses battery power in active mode, but also works passively without battery power. The oval ear pads are thinner at the front, thicker at the back, for increased comfort and an effective seal. The headphones come with a tangle-free cord and protective travel case. I popped them on my happy head, listened for a bit, and was impressed by the lightweight, comfortable feel.

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