RMAF 2011

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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 20, 2011 0 comments
Colorado Springs retailer Audio Limits was filling one of the very large ground-floor rooms at RMAF with sound, courtesy of the massive Venture Grand Ultimate loudspeakers ($90,000/pair) driven by the new AMP M1 solid-state monoblock amplifiers from BMC ($7790 each, $15,580 pair). Source was the BMC BDCD1 belt-drive CD transport ($5990), the BMC DAC1 Pre (HR) D/A converter/preamplifier ($6290), with Silversmith The Silver interconnects and speaker cables, Stage III power cables, and Weizhi PRS-6 power distributor.

I listened to a track I haven't heard in years in this room, Michel Jonasz's "Les temps passeé," from the CD La fabuleuse histoire de mister swing (1987), and was blown away by the enormous sound, the huge dome of ambience that was defined between and behind the speakers, and the sheer effortlessness with which the music was presented.

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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 20, 2011 0 comments
Industry veteran Colleen Cardas—and yes, Colleen, I meant the word "veteran" as a compliment—has set up, with vinyl blogger Marc Phillips, a new company Colleen Cardas Imports, to distribute Unison Research amplifiers and Opera loudspeakers in the US. However, the room at RMAF CCI was sharing with Positive Feedback Online was featuring the Sonicweld Pulse Rod active speakers ($125,000/pair including DEQX DSP equalizer). Analog front-end was the Funk Firm Sapphire turntable $5000) fitted with the Funk Firm FXR-II tonearm and a Transfiguration cartridge and feeding a Unison Research Unico Nuovo integrated amplifier ($2795) used as a phono stage. Digital front-end was a laptop running Amarra feeding USB data to the new Sonicweld Divertor ($2888) which fed 24/192 S/PDIF data to the DEQX.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 20, 2011 4 comments
Taking an imaginative approach to the design of their room, rack manufacturer Dynamic Contrasts was holding the impressive BMC C1 integrated amplifier and the Esoteric UX-3SE CD player in a tight embrace with its RTS system. With Legacy Focus SE speakers, the sound in this room featured impressive dynamics and extension at both ends of the spectrum, but the sound was so loud, not only with David Essex's driving "Rock On" but also with 10cc's gentle "I'm Not In Love," that I couldn't stay. Perhaps I am just getting old.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 20, 2011 0 comments
Von Schweikert speakers were featured in a number of rooms at RMAF, and their VR-33s ($4500/pair) were demonstrating impressive dynamics with a drum recording in the second-floor room the company was sharing with Jolida. Power was being provided by the new Jolida JD 1000RC tubed integrated amplifier, which gets 100Wpc into 8 ohms from its four matched pairs of EL34 tubes. The VR-33 weighs 103 lbs and combines an MTM array on the front panel with a rear-firing, port-loaded woofer. "Own a $15,000 speaker for only $3750" says Von Schweikert's literature. My notes said $4500, but whatever the exact price, you get a lot of speaker for the money. As you can see from the photo, the price of the VR-33 has been kept competitive by using a cloth covering for the enclosure rather than veneer.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 20, 2011 8 comments
Speaker engineer Don Keele almost wrote the book on measuring speakers. so when I bumped into him at RMAF and he told me he had a new speaker on show, I went straight to his room. There, I saw and heard the CBT36, which as you can see, is very unusual in both appearance and design. CBT stands for Constant Beamwidth Transducer and is based on unclassified military underwater sound beam-forming research. There are 72 0.75" tweeters crossed over to 18 3.5" Dayton Audio midrange units, arranged in groups that, with the 36° arc of the 5'-tall array, gives sound that doesn't change its balance as the listener sits or stands. And as you can see from the mirror that Don has slipped in front of the speaker in my photo, the ground-plane reflection of the array effectively doubles its height.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 20, 2011 0 comments
It is obviously an Avalon design but the new Idea loudspeaker ($7995/pair) continues the Colorado company's goals of combining transparency and articulation with expansive soundstaging. All these qualities were in evidence at RMAF, with the Ideas driven by Electrocompaniet monoblocks on cuts from Johnny Cash and Luka Bloom. The Idea combines a 1" dome tweeter with two 7" Nomex-Kevlar–cone woofers. The woofers are loaded with a downward-firing port.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 20, 2011 3 comments
Stephen Mejias has already reported on the sound in the room shared by Wilson, Transparent, and Dan D'Agostino. I was equally impressed, agreeing with Millennia Media's John La Grou that one of Peter McGrath's classical recordings, Mahler's Symphony 5 performed by the New World Symphony under Michael Tilson-Thomas and captured with Joe Grado's omnidirectional microphones, was as good as it can get when it comes to two-channel representations of an orchestra. (John manufactures the very-low-noise mike preamps I use for my Stereophile recordings.) But I really just wanted to show another picture of the forthcoming Dan D'Agostino Momentum line preamplifier, with Dan's wife Petra lending me her hand for scale, as she rotates the volume control ring around the meter.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Oct 19, 2011 Published: Oct 20, 2011 1 comments
Avatar Acoustics’ Darren Censullo always puts together an impressive system. Every aspect seems carefully considered, made to complement the whole.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 20, 2011 3 comments
When Michael Fremer reviewed the 710 amplifier from Swiss manufacturer Soulution last August, his praise for the sound was surpassed by mine for the measured performance. "The Soulution 710 is definitely one of the best-measuring amplifiers I have encountered, " I wrote, "Color me impressed."

Denver retailer Apex Audio, which is continuing in the tradition of the late John Barnes' Audio Unlimited store, was using the Soulution 700 monoblocks ($130,000/pair), which each offer 430W into ohms, 860W into 4 ohms, were being use to drive Focal's Stella Utopia EM speakers ($90,000/pair), with their electromagnet-powered woofers via Tara Labs cables.

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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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