RMAF 2011

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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
. . . 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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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 0 comments
I review Empirical Audio's pricey Off-Ramp 4 asynchronous USB–AES/EBU converter with its Monolith 1 battery supply in the forthcoming December issue and was impressed by the quality of its engineering as well as by its sound quality. At RMAF, Empirical's Steve Nugent showed me the Overdrive Ultra D/A converter ($10,000–$15,000), housed in a bronze case, which is well-damped. The DAC uses the Off-Ramp 4 circuit as its USB front-end and features just one analog stage following the I/V converter. Unusually, this uses a bipolar emitter follower instead of the common FET buffer. The digital circuitry is powered from the Monolith, feeding 12 Hynes-type regulators, though Steve Nugent feels that the analog stage sounds better when powered from a conventional AC-derived supply. The volume control in the DAC is elegant in that it reduces the reference voltage to the DAC chip, thus maintaining full digital resolution. There are two choices for full-scale output voltage.
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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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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 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
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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Stephen Mejias Posted: Oct 19, 2011 0 comments
There was a lot of buzz over the new high-performance, highly versatile Invicta DAC/preamp ($3395) from Resonessence Labs. The Invicta handles all resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz from all of its inputs, including asynchronous USB 2.0.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Oct 19, 2011 5 comments
Totem was showing their new Element Series of loudspeakers. Both the stand-mounted Fire ($6000/pair) and floorstanding Earth ($9000/pair) use Totem’s 7-inch Torrent hand-assembled driver and employ no crossover parts in the woofer section.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Oct 19, 2011 0 comments
I walked in during “Band on the Run,” and the sound was full of life, energy, and impact. I took a seat and scanned the deceptively small and apparently simple system: 3-way ATC SCM50SL passive loudspeakers ($11,650/pair), each way powered by its own pair of Crimson Electronics 640E Series III monoblocks ($5995/pair), a Crimson Electronics 710 preamplifier ($6995, including phono section), and Resolution Audio’s Cantata Music Center ($6000; reviewed by Jon Iverson in our November issue). All components rested neatly on simple, affordable Ikea Lack stands.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Oct 19, 2011 2 comments
How do we get more young people interested in hi-fi?
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Oct 19, 2011 0 comments
Kimber Kable’s Nate Mansfield greets everyone with a warm and friendly smile. He was presenting Kimber’s entire line of speaker cables and interconnects, from the truly affordable Tonik (see Art Dudley’s review in our November issue) and the classic PBJ to the cost-no-object Kimber Select Series. I’ve never heard Kimber Kable in my own system—a crime, I know. I’ll have to fix that sometime in 2012.

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