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.
The three-way, 220 lb Avior loudspeaker from Rockport Technologies ($29,500/pair) uses the same beryllium tweeter as the company's $225,000 Arrakis, complemented with all-new midrange and bass drivers that are built around Rockport's proprietary carbon-fiber sandwich/composite cones. The Avior sounded truly impressive with a Playback Designs MPS-5 CD/SACD player/DAC ($17,000), Electrocompaniet EC4.8 preamplifier ($5129), BAT VK-655SE amplifier ($14,000), and cabling from Transparent Audio. A representative from the Omaha, Nebraska dealer The Sound Environment demonstrated the system with humor, charm, candorand good music.
A pivoted straight-line-tracking tonearm? The description is far less oxymoronic than it seems, given the arrival of the Schröder LT tonearm ($8900). This fascinating and apparently very well-executed design works by augmenting the main arm pivot with an extra pivot at the base, the latter said to offer exceptionally low resistance to the arm and cartridge as they follow the inward spiral of the groove. The geometric relationship between the two pivots is such that the headshelland the cartridge and stylusmaintain perfect tangency to the groove from beginning to end. Thus the headshell requires no offset angle, which also means that no anti-skating force is required. Very cool.
Cardas Clear Skythe sample to which VP of Sales and Marketing Andy Regan is pointing in this photois the latest and most affordable of the company's "Matched Propagation" speaker cables, and is said to be ideal for owners of high-efficiency loudspeakers. The retail price is $775 for an 8' pair, terminated with Cardas spade connectors. (I have requested a review sample, and hope to report on the Clear Sky cables within the next couple of months.)
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.
Speaking of McIntosh, there was lots of Binghamton bling on display in the Totem room, where showgoers enjoyed the world introduction of the Totem Forest Signature loudspeaker ($6000/pair). Driven by a McIntosh C50 preamp and MC452 amplifier and fed by an Apple laptop running Amarra software, the Forest Signatures sounded like great all-around-ers, combining thoroughly impressive spatial performance with surprisingly good color and "body," plus a very natural top-to-bottom tonal balance. As with the Brodmann/Electrocompaniet, Wilson/VTL/dCS/Spiral Groove, Audio Feast, and MBL demonstrations, having to leave the cocoon of this room was a drag.
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.
I ended Day 1 of RMAF with my first visit ever to the MC room. Although the MC-501A CD/USB player ($3995) and MC-701 integrated amplifier ($4595) were initially driving MC’s RL-21 loudspeakers ($3495/pair) too loud, generating an unwelcome host of small room interactions, the system did an exceptional job, at more realistic volume, playing a recording of a traditional jazz trio. Not only did the music sound very alive and in the moment, but the piano also had a special illumined quality absent from many systems that cost far more than this one.
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.
Stereophile alumnus and publicist extraordinaire Jonathan ScullBel Canto, Furutech ADL, DEQX, XLOexchanges fire with the RMAF registration staff: In life as in the Leonard Cohen songbook, "Outdrew ya'" rhymes with "Hallelujah."
As I was heading out of the Sony room, which John Atkinson is covering separately, I spied an open door. Like a cat to a paper bag, I dove inside to discover the sensational recording engineer and producer Cookie Marenco of Blue Coast Records. A strong proponent of DSD, with which she records many of her projects (including free hi-rez downloads), Marenco was hanging in Sony’s storage area/hospitality suite prior to delivering one of her four guest demos in the adjacent Sony room. (Gus Skinas of Sonoma Systems presented three other demos, and Chad Kassem of Analogue Productions the remaining two). I promised Cookie, when snapping the photo, that I would say nothing about the tantalizing, not-yet-released products intentionally hidden from view.
As Jason Victor Serinus mentioned, there was a party going on in the Music Hall room; and, while this meant that you really couldn’t evaluate the sound of the system, it also meant that you were bound to actually have fun.
Hmm: Evaluate sound or have fun, evaluate sound or have fun?
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.
A younger listener walked into the room and requested “White Winter Hymnal” by Fleet Foxes, a song I know well.
The system, built by Tempo High Fidelity: Verity Audio Amadis loudspeakers ($30,000/pair); Musical Fidelity M8700m 700W monoblock power amplifier ($12,500/pair) and M8PRE preamp ($5000); dCS Paganini stack with a Puccini clock; Vibex power conditioning; and a mix of Transparent and Basis cables.
Jason Victor Serinus has already discussed the products shown by Gingko Audio, but here’s a closer look at VPI’s Traveler turntable with Gingko’s Cloud 9T vibration-control platform ($349) and dust cover ($279).