If there’s anything that will grab this whistler’s attention, it’s the sound of another whistler who knows what she or he is doing. Given that the first thing I heard when I set foot in the room from Pro Audio Ltd. of Tower Lakes, IL was the delightful sound of whistling on Livingston Taylor’s “Isn’t She Lovely,” I was primed for a good experience. And so it was, with the system’s genuinely lovely if somewhat light-bodied sound distinguished by a captivating sense of air that is the mark of good analog.
One of many Colorado retailers that displayed at RMAF this year, Fort Collins Audio hosted the debut of the TSG planar ribbon tower line array loudspeaker ($29,000/pair). Unfortunately, the speaker sat unplayed in the corner of the room when I entered, replaced by the excellent Totem Earth ($8995/pair). Connected to a Hegel H20 amplifier ($5740), Hegel HD20 DAC ($1995), and Quicksilver Audio preamp ($3900) via Kimber Kable Bifocal XL speaker cable and Kimber Select 1126 interconnects, the system was producing fine, solid sound with nice color.
Jim Rush of PTE (Precision Transducer Engineering) of Orange, CA explained that he was using the system in his room, headlined by PTE’s The Phoenix self-powered, bi-amplified loudspeaker ($5700/pair), to conduct 10 different blind tests with five sequences. The results of his experiments, which he said demonstrated that most people couldn’t discern differences with a high degree of accuracy, are slated to be posted to PTE’s website.
When I walked into the Robyatt Audio room, I discovered that Robin Wyatt had come all the way from New York City to show people what a lovely, airy sound he could get from Jacintha’s “Here’s to Life” and other LP selections. “The man who recorded that LP used the same stereo Miyajima Kinsui cartridge that I’m using for playback,” he explained.
Art Dudley’s already mentioned the many delights in the Audio Feast room, so I’ll just add that I was particularly delighted to chat with Audio Feast’s Kenji Furukawa, pictured here with his Feastrex NF9ex F90 field-coil loudspeaker ($19,118/pair).
In the Nordost/Raidho suite, I was very impressed by the spacious, delicate, detailed sound made from a system comprising Raidho C1.1 standmounted speakers ($20,000/pair, including dedicated stand), a Simaudio CD player, Hegel amplification, Quantum Resonant Technology (QRT) power conditioning, and, of course, Nordost cabling.
Gideon Schwartz of Audioarts NYC had assembled quite an impressive system, most of whose components I had never heard before. Given the system’s price, one would reasonably expect something wonderful, if not extraordinary from Zellaton Studio Reference One loudspeakers ($52,750/pair); Nagra’s new Jazz preamplifier ($12,250, with the input and output jacks now on the back instead of the sides), 300B power amplifier ($16,950), and VPS phono preamplifier ($6850); Metronome’s C8 Reference Asymmetrical USB DAC ($22,750) and Calypso Reference transport ($43,750); Holborne’s Analog 2 Mk.2 turntable ($7495), Dualpivot tonearm ($3475, MC1 cartridge ($1975), and rack ($3975); Van Den Hul’s Cumulus 3T speaker wire ($6995/pair) and The Cloud 3T interconnects ($695/set); and a Schopper Thorens fully restored 124 Mk.2 (“priceless”).
Ever since encountering KingSound electrostatic loudspeakers at an audio show several years ago, I’ve looked forward to seeing how their line would develop. This time around, KingSound was showing its King III Full Range ESL ($12,000/pair). Driven by Bob Carver Cherry tube monoblock amplifiers ($7400/pair), Purity Audio Design Statement 2 preamplifier (approx. $12,500), and an AMR CD777 ($12,000), all hooked together by Kaplan Cables from John Atkinson’s adopted hometown of Brooklyn, the system was a joy to listen to on Chet Atkins’ recording of “Mr. Sandman.”
Whereas the headphone enthusiasts' CanJam had been a subdued affair at the 2010 and 2011 RMAFs, this year's event seemed to have twice as many exhibitors and twice as many attendees. You can find Tyll Hertsens' informed and informative coverage of the RMAF CanJam for our sister site InnerFidelity here.
It’s no surprise that Sam Tellig likes Harbeth’s Monitor 30.1 loudspeaker ($6490/pair in rosewood; seen here on Resonant Woods stands) as much as he does. (You can read about that in our November issue.) The speaker is handsome, understated, and it just looks right. Driven by Bret D’Agostino’s Bully Sound Company BSC-60s, a 60Wpc power amp built around a 1300VA toroidal transformer, the Harbeths sounded right, too. Bricasti’s M1 DAC ($8495; a favorite of both John Atkinson and John Marks) accepted signals from a Music Vault Music Streamer ($2495). Tellurium Q cables tied everything together.
What else was in the system?
Oh, yes: The Stein Music Harmonizers. And, I almost hate to tell you this, but:
In a second Audio Alternative room, I was again treated to that old, familiar Boz Scaggs classic, “Thanks to You.” I had just come from the Fidelis AV room, where I had heard the song presented with impressive speed, precision, and clarity, the sound still fresh in my mind. So, I was surprised to hear something different.
I wish I could tell you how the music sounded in the main Emotiva room. Alas, there were so many people talking about the sound of Emotiva's XSP-1 Differential Reference preamp ($899), ERC-2 Differential Reference CD player/ digital transport ($449), XPA-1 Differential Reference monoblock power amplifier ($999), XRT-6.2 Xref Tower speakers ($699/pair), and due-by-Christmastime XDA-2 fully balanced Differential DAC ($399) that I was unable to take a serious listen. Definitely good for Emotiva, if not necessarily for you the reader.
Emotiva, the Tennessee-based company whose Chinese-manufactured components have been providing a genuine taste of the high-end to large numbers of audiophiles, previewed their all-new pro line. The combination of the Stealth DC-1 24/192 DAC ($699) and Stealth 8 powered Studio Monitors ($1499/pair), due by the end of the year, was making great sound for the price.
Scores of DIYers are familiar with Madisound, a company that distributes raw drivers, passive crossover parts, and speaker building supplies, some in kit form. On display were the SEAS of Norway A26 loudspeaker kit with a 10" SEAS A26RE4 woofer and the T35C002 1.5" dome tweeterover 1 million sold, I was toldand the Scan-Speak Nada, with a 7" Illuminator woofer and 1" Beryllium dome tweeter.
I never thought that yet another listen to Rebecca Pidgeon's "There is a Rose in Spanish Harlem" would hold my attention, but, on the set-up from Avatar Acoustics' Darren Censullo, the recording sounded irresistible. I was especially seduced by the system's compelling warmth in the midrange and correctly proportioned bass. But really, everything in this room sounded really good.