Having heard at last Randy Bankert’s 97dB-sensitive Sonist Concerto 4 floorstanding loudspeakers ($5895) with electronics and cabling that do them justice, I understand what beautiful sound they are capable of producing. Together with Snake River Audio interconnects and speaker cable ($1100$2449 for a 3m bi-wire pair of speaker cables), whose outer shell shimmers like a snake slithering in the sun, the Hong Kong sourced Increcable TIA-280 80Wpc integrated amplifier, and a Cary CAD-306 Pro SACD/CD player, this system produced solid bass and beautiful highs.
What a difference the recording makes. When I first entered the room sponsored by Von Schweikert Audio, Jolida Inc. and United Home Audio, I was surprised to hear really bright sound from what I expected was a master tape played on a UHA Phase 11 open-reel deck ($22,000). But when we switched to another recording, Pat Metheny and Charlie Haden performing “Missouri Sky,” I truly enjoyed the beautiful midrange, edge-free highs, and big presentation of the system. “Very, very nice” was my ultimate assessment.
After a break of too many years, it was great to again encounter the fine sound of April Music. This time, the company was showcasing three premiers: the April Music Stello Ai700 integrated amplifier ($6500), Eximus S1 stereo amplifier ($2500), and Eximus DP1 192/24 DACPreamplifier ($3200). Together with a MacBook Pro running Amarra 2.4.2, Marten’s Coltrane soprano loudspeaker and Verrastar cabling, the system sounded gorgeous on soprano Renée Fleming’s rendition of Dvorák’s “Song to the Silver Moon.” Bass was impressively solid. The speaker needed more room to shine on the very top, but the midrange and bass produced by this chain were excellent.
In adjacent rooms, Gershman Acoustics from north of the border was showcasing the US show debut of its Idol loudspeakers ($2995/pair) and their flagship Black Swans ($45,000/pair). In both cases, Esoteric and Clearaudio sources, VAC electronics, Gershman Acoustics Hybrid speaker cable and unidentified interconnects, and Critical Mass Systems’ PXK racks ($1650/level) and Black Sapphire Filter System ($995/level) did the honors.
Not only do Metronome electronics and Rethm loudspeakers seem inextricably bound together by a common musical cause, but they also make great sound. As we await notification of model numbers and prices, as well as other components and cabling in the chain, I recall the warmth and beauty with which this system conveyed soprano Elly Ameling’s radiant voice. Rethm’s single-driver loudspeakers didn’t plumb the lower reaches of the piano as do other loudspeakers with dedicated woofers and intelligent crossover and cabinet design, but the sound of the system’s mids and highs was superb.
Since Sonic Studio dropped the price of its Amarra music software system to $189, lots more people have been enjoying its sound. Less than two months after Amarra’s last release, James Anderson announced the imminent arrival of 2.4.3 (free to current owners). He also played Reference Recordings’ superb recording of Copland’s Symphony 3, one of whose movements has become known as the “Ode to the Common Man.” Turns out that the performance was recorded using Sonic Studio’s professional Soundblade products. Played back with Amarra 2.4.3, it sounded fabulous, with absolutely tight, room-shaking bass. No doubt Amarra’s optional equalization component, which can help control bass booming created by either room nodes or less than flat loudspeaker response, had more than a little to do with the success of the presentation.
According to Bob Farinelli of Bob Carver LLC, the legendary designer has “made some adjustments” to the sound of his 35-driver Bob Carver ALS line-source speakers with active tube based crossover network ($19,700/pair). I’ll say. The sound has improved greatly since I blogged Carver’s speaker and electronics at AXPONA in early June. The system’s subwoofer may have overloaded the small roomthis is not the first or the last time you’ll read about bass overload in these blogsbut the line array’s ability to reproduce the timbre of an unnamed jazz trumpeter’s instrument was spot-on.
Assistance Audio, North American distributor for BMS, was showing off the company’s drivers. As I was soon to learn, Lacoustic, JBL, and Volti are but three of the audio manufacturers that use BMS’s drivers in their products.
The company’s Jack Arnott explained that BMS’s drivers can be found everywhere from soundstages in LA to naval paging systems and home audio installations. “I’m using my own cabinets so you can see what’s inside,” he said. “I am using Home Depot speaker cable because I am selling speaker components, not speaker cable." Well, I must say that both Tony Bennett and K.D. Lang’s duet on “La Vie en Rose” and the opening chorale from Glenn Gould’s second recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations sounded quite beautiful.
It was great to again encounter Silverline’s flagship Grand Bolero loudspeaker ($35,000/pair), displayed by Scot Markwell of Southern California’s Audio Summa. Together with Kuzma’s Stagi S NSE 12" w/TVA tower and Crystal Cable Silver ($2950) and Stabi SD in brass w/external power supply ($3700); BEL’s 1001 Mk.IV amplifier (NFS); and Furutech’s Lineflux RCA interconnects ($2704/1.2m pair), Speakerflux speaker cables ($3645/2m pair), and Powerflux power cords ($3007/1.8m each), the system produced admirable full-range sound.
“We have no crossover,” I was told soon after I entered the Tocaro loudspeaker room. “Our tweeter receives the full signal. And even though our speakers are 100dB or more efficient, they can handle the 175W of power that we’re feeding them.”
Developed by Miguel Herrero and hand-built in Gütersloh, Germany, the Tocaro 42D ($14,000/pair including stands) was connected by Crimson interconnects ($360/m) and Crimson bi-wire speaker cable ($1070/8’ pair) to the Resolution Audio Cantata ($6500), Crimson 710 solid-state preamplifier ($7000), and Crimson 640E monoblock amplifier ($6000/pair). I tried to do what the sign said, and forget whatever I thought I knew, but I couldn’t overlook the sound of boxy percussion on my well-played Chesky CD of Marta Gomez, nor the bright edge around her voice.
High Fidelity Services of Braintree, MA was producing good, solid sound on well-recorded rock on a system that mixed two products it imports and distributes, Neat Acoustics’ Ultimatum XL6 loudspeakers ($14,280/pair) and Scheu Analog’s Das Laufwerk 1 turntable with 12" Tacco arm and Scheu/Benz cartridge ($15.995), with Zanden’s Model 2500 CD player ($22,000), Model 6000 integrated amplifier ($22,000), and 1300 phono stage ($13,750); Running Springs’ Maxim power conditioner ($6400); and Chord Cable Company’s SArum cabling ($8400).
People sat up and took notice when Sanders Sound Systems released their Model 10 full-size electrostatic loudspeakers with analog electronic crossover amplifiers a few years back. The latest version, Model 10c ($13,000/pair) was delivering solid, full-range sound from a system that also includes Sanders Magtech Stereo amplifier ($5000), new preamplifier that combines both line and phono stages ($4000), and their own interconnects and speaker cables.
Every time I see High Water Sounds’ Jeffrey Catalano, he introduces me to another outstanding piece of music (or three) that I need to own immediately. During RMAF 2012, one of those pieces was The Architecture of Loss, by Icelandic composer and founder of the excellent Bedroom Community label, Valgeir Sigurdsson.
Vanatoo is certainly giving other companies a run for their money with their Transparent One powered loudspeakers ($499$549/pair, dependent upon finish). Deferring to Michael Lavorgna’s recent review on Stereophile’s sister publication, AudioStream.com, I can simply say that the bass and sheer energy coming out of these small speakers was extremely impressive. In fact, it was so impressive that the folks running the demo felt the need to frequently tell the large crowd that everything was coming out of the two speakers, without aid of a subwoofer or any other hidden device.
At every dinner I attended with industry members during RMAF 2012, someone invariably asked, “How was the Magnepan demo?” As I soon learned, it seems that Wendell Diller’s decision to forego exhibiting at consumer showssince the last Stereophile show in San Francisco, in 2003, he has displayed product only at the annual CES trade event (not open to consumers)has only heightened buzz around the Minnesotan company’s fabled planar-magnetic loudspeakers.