RMAF 2012

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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 21, 2012 0 comments
Denver retailer Gold Sound’s room featured the Focal 836W speakers ($4500/pair), a three-way design related to the French manufacturer’s 826W Anniversary Edition speaker that Robert Deutsch enthusiastically reviewed in November 2010. Driven by a Cambridge Audio 851A integrated amplifier ($1795) and a Cambridge 851C CD player ($1795) and hooked up with Crystal cables, this relatively affordable system punched above its weight, producing a big, naturally balanced sound.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 21, 2012 11 comments
One of the final rooms I visited at the 2012 RMAF was Sony’s. An as-yet-to-be-named floor-standing speaker was being demmed with Pass Labs amplification, Kimber Kables, and a Mytek DSD-capable DAC, taking data over USB from a laptop. The speaker has much in common with the superb SS-AR2 that I reviewed in October, but is shorter and, as can be seen from Jason Serinus’ photo, has an intriguing array of two supertweeters above and below the tweeter.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 21, 2012 2 comments
Not listed in the Show Guide but providing the power in the Fidelis room was the Bully Sound Corporation’s 60S class-A amplifier ($7900). BSC is a new company founded by Brett D’Agostino, son of one Dan D’Agostino, and with the Harbeth Monitor 30.1 speakers ($5995/pair) so beloved by Sam Tellig, JD Souther’s “New Kid in Town,” played with J River Media Center sending the data to Bricasti’s superb M1 DAC ($8495) via USB, sounded sweet. Until I noticed the Stein Harmonizers sprinkled around the room. (You can see one sitting on top of the speaker.) Would the system sound so good without the Steins? I didn’t dare ask, though Mikey Fremer swears they made his system sound worse!
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 21, 2012 1 comments
Sunday afternoon is always the slowest time at an audio show, but you couldn’t tell it from the room dominated by Hsu subwoofers. In the only room I encountered on floors 4 and 5 of the Atrium that was playing action DVDs or Blu-rays, the movie’s obligatory, super-hyped explosions were resonating far outside the door. In what I take to be a statement about popular culture and the American obsession with violence, the darkened room was so packed that there was no way I could even stand in the doorway.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 21, 2012 8 comments
Not only was Stereophile celebrating its first half-century at RMAF, so was British speaker manufacturer KEF with the US premier of its LS50 ($1499/pair) in one of retailer Hear No Evils’s rooms. Driven by Parasound electronics—ZDAC, P7 preamp, A21 power amp—the sound was both delicate yet full-bodied. This came as no surprise as reviewing this little beauty, whose single Uni-Q drive-unit was developed from that used in KEF’s flagship Blade model, for our forthcoming December issue was a highlight of my 2012 auditioning.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 21, 2012 1 comments
When I entered the DEQX room and experienced a neutral, almost full-range sound, I assumed I was listening to the Gallo Reference speakers. But no—it was the $80 pair of RadioShack PA horns in the room corners that were playing, corrected in the digital domain with the latest DEQX DSP processor, the DEQX Mate. This is an analog in-and-out (XLR and RCA), two-channel processor that goes between the preamp and power amplifier. Bypassing the DEQX Mate resulted in the squawky balance I would have expected from the horns, with no lows or highs. Switching the DEQX Mate back in-circuit gave a sound that was evenly balanced, with good HF extension and enough upper bass to sound convincing. Color me gob-smacked!
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 21, 2012 2 comments
Classic Audio always makes good sound at Shows, and RMAF was no exception, both analog and digital sources sounding clean, clear and detailed. The system featured a pair of T-1.4 Reference speakers ($36,500/pair), this a retro-looking design combining two reflex-loaded, field-coil energized 15” woofers (one firing forward, the other downward) with a horn-loaded, field-coil energized midrange unit, and a Fostex tweeter. Amplifiers were Atma-Sphere MA1.5 monoblocks, cables were by Purist, and analog source a Brinkman Bardo turntable fitted with a Tri-Planar arm and van den Hul Grasshopper cartridge. The digital source was new to me: all from Texas-based Stahl-Tek, an Opus CD transport fed the “entry level” Ariaa D/A converter ($12,900).
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 21, 2012 3 comments
In two adjacent rooms, GTT Audio & Video showcased systems dominated by much-admired YG Acoustics loudspeakers. In the smaller set-up, the diminutive YG Acoustics Carmel ($18,000) joined the excellent PS Audio PWT Memory transport ($3500), Devialet D-Premier all-in-one DAC/Phono Stage/Integrated amp ($16,000), and Kubala-Sosna Research Emotion interconnects and speaker cable ($3000/first meter) and power cables ($1100/first meter). The chosen material, Jascha Heifetz’s classic recording of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, sounded excellent, but the system’s clarity drove home to me that he was playing so fast that much of the soul of the music was lost.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 21, 2012 0 comments
I’ve come to expect three things from Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio: great music, great sound, and great set-up. The music came first. With the new Joseph Audio Pearl3 loudspeakers (introductory price $28,500/pair) singing their hearts out, the timbres of Ben Webster and Gerry Mulligan’s saxophones were gorgeously conveyed. The same goes for the massed voices on Cantata Domine’s Scandinavian language version of “O Holy Night,” which was a favorite classical demo track at RMAF for exhibitors with analog rigs.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 21, 2012 2 comments
Austrian company Ayon was sharing the large room with Legacy, which led to some delicate choreography scheduling dems. A pair of Lumenwhite Artisan speakers ($25,000/pair) was being driven by Ayon’s Triton 3 tubed, class-A integrated amplifier ($12,500), with an Ayon S3 media server ($8500) providing the bits. Some dub-step/electronica/who-knows-what-genre tracks from Swiss band Yello rocked the house on this system!
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Oct 21, 2012 0 comments
I walked into the big Peachtree Audio room to find listening chairs scattered about in every direction, seemingly without purpose. Indeed, some listeners stood while some listeners sat and even others danced.

This was different . . .

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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 21, 2012 1 comments
This room was the first I went into on Sunday morning of RMAF, drawn in by a superbly natural representation of the cellos, violas, and gambas on a recording of the fifth Bach Brandenburg Concerto. (An ensemble led by Antony Holstead, I was later told.) And the chile lights didn’t hurt. Speakers were the Daedalus Orpheus ($38,500/pair) with two BOW woofers ($6080 with handbuilt crossover), driven by the ModWright 150Wpc KWA150 Signature monoblocks ($8495 each), a ModWright LS 36.5 DM preamplifier ($9995), and a Modwright Elyse DAC (price TBD) fed data by a modified Oppo BDP 95 (two tubes poked through the top panel). Speaker cables were Daedalus; interconnects and AC cords were WyWires.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 21, 2012 3 comments
OMG. It’s 4pm on Sunday, the show is over, and I have three rooms left to cover. Dash to door number one. It’s already locked. Next to door number two. It’s locked as well. Is this going to be the worst episode of Let’s Make A Deal ever known to man or audiophile, I wonder, or will I find the pot of gold behind door number three?

Well, kind of. The door opens, there are boxes everywhere, and Larry Alan Kay, former co-founder of Fi—the audiophile magazine that ran all those recipes for audiophiles who like to drink and chomp while they listen—is packing up the BSG Technologies QOL Signal Completion Stage.

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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 21, 2012 0 comments
“I know that is, it’s Prince. I went to school with him!” exclaimed the woman sitting next to me. We were listening to a strangely compelling version of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” in Hear No Evil’s large ground-floor room. I have heard KEF’s flagship Blade loudspeaker ($30,000/pair) on other occasions but never under good enough conditions for me to get a handle on its sound quality. It was different at RMAF. Driven by McIntosh electronics—two MC601 600W monoblocks, a C48 preamp, and an MCD500 SACD/CD player—with a PS Audio PowerPlant regenerating the AC for the front-end components and a MacBook Pro supplying the bits, that audiophile classic “Die Tänzerin” from Ulla Meinecke was reproduced with impressive space and dynamic range.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 21, 2012 2 comments
The active L’Ocean speaker from French manufacturer Cabasse is similar in concept to the huge La Sphère that Michael Fremer reviewed in June 2008, but is smaller, cheaper—$159,000/system, compared to $205,000—and its external digital crossover can now handle 24-bit datastreams up to 96kHz. L’Ocean was demonstrated at RMAF with Esoteric digital components—Cabasse is now distributed in the US by Esoteric—and Johnny Cash’s version of the The Beatles’ “In My Life” sounded palpably real. And in a Show dominated by black boxes, the Cabasse’s White Pearl finish was very camera-friendly.

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