RMAF 2012

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Art Dudley Posted: Oct 18, 2012 0 comments
There's pretty much only one way to hear Rammstein at a hi-fi show: Visit the demonstration room of Swedish-based, American-built Sjöfn HiFi. (As close as I can tell, the name is pronounced hoofin, although you have to do something funny to the H.) Sjöfn 's Managing Director, Lars Erickson, approaches the selection of demo music with a adventurousness and whimsy—this is the man who turned me onto the great Israeli trance duo, Infected Mushroom—and the sound of his new two-way loudspeaker, The Clue ($999/pair, direct, including shipping) was up to the task. As with earlier Sjöfn designs, I have no idea whatsoever how he manages to wring such enormous scale, clarity, and impact out of such a tiny box. But he does.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 18, 2012 5 comments
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.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 18, 2012 7 comments
Nordost’s Lars Christensen has become an industry legend of sorts for the enthusiasm with which he launches into cable comparison after cable comparison. At RMAF, he notched his demos up several steps, inviting people to hear the effects that cabling, power distribution, and resonance control products from Nordost and other companies can have on system sound.

“The bottom line is, despite the science involved, if you can’t hear it, it matters not,” Nordost’s West Coast distributor Michael Marko told me outside the demo room...

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Art Dudley Posted: Oct 18, 2012 1 comments
Near-holographic imaging—an audio ideal for some hobbyists!—could be heard in the Nola suite, where the company's new KO loudspeaker ($9800/pair) was demonstrated with Audio Research amplification, Audio Research CD player, and Nordost cabling and Quantum QX4 EMF-control devices. The 3.5-way KO uses aluminum-cone woofers and is described by designer Carl Marchisotto as offering 90dB sensitivity and a nominal 8-ohm load.
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Art Dudley Posted: Oct 18, 2012 1 comments
Among the many delights in the Audio Feast room: a prototype of an autoformer-based volume control called the Finemet TVC (price TBD). The real attraction, of course, was the fact that Audio Feast played real music in their room. (They were playing a Miles Davis disc when I was there—and I don't mean one of the umpteen audiophile reissues of Kind of Blue.) I look forward to getting to know Audio Feast in the months ahead.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 18, 2012 1 comments
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.”
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Art Dudley Posted: Oct 18, 2012 4 comments
It was that rarest of rare occasions in audio-show reporting: I entered the demonstration room of a brand that was unfamiliar to me, and was impressed at once by a sort of musical rightness I seldom hear from modern playback gear. Sure, I was familiar with the company that made the CD player, preamp, and monoblock amps in use—Electrocompaniet, whose solid-state amps are among the few I consider worthy of comparison to the best tube designs—but the Austrian loudspeaker manufacturer Brodmann Acoustics was new to me. Their stand-mounted Festival S ($4500/pair), driven by a pair of Electrocompaniet AW180 monoblocks ($5425 each) allowed the solo violin in a Paganini work to have far greater than usual texture, tone, and presence. Based on my experience at RMAF, the pairing of these two brands is something you should go out of your way to hear.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Oct 18, 2012 28 comments
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).
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Art Dudley Posted: Oct 18, 2012 1 comments
Strange that I should travel 1800 miles to hear products that are designed and manufactured less than two hours from my home. Happily, the McIntosh experience at RMAF was worth the effort, especially inasmuch as the hallowed brand distinguished itself by playing real music as opposed to audiophile chestnuts. (Think of it!) I especially enjoyed some selections from the Beatles' Anthology 3 collection, played via JRiver software on an HP laptop, through a McIntosh C50 preamp ($6500) and MC452 amp ($7500), along with the McIntosh MEN220 room-correction system ($4500, which includes the microphone—but not the stand—seen in this photo). Rounding out the system were the company's recent XR100 speakers ($10,000/pair): certainly the best McIntosh loudspeakers I have yet to hear.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 17, 2012 1 comments
What more can be said about Audioengine's flagship self-powered loudspeakers, the A5 ($399/pair) and A2 ($199/pair), than has already been said? We currently use the bigger babies for sound on an antiquated TV in my husband's man cave, aka "the cottage," and they're astounding for the price. The speakers were showing off thanks to several prototype Audioengine products that are still in the development stage.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 17, 2012 14 comments
Although I was only able to stay long enough to snap a few photos and hear moderator Ken Kessler’s (Hi-Fi News) downer of an introduction, Friday evening’s post-show panel included, from left to right, HiFi Plus editor Alan Sircom, recording engineer Peter McGrath of Wilson Audio Specialties, Kathy Gornick of Thiel Audio, Michael Fremer of Stereophile and AnalogPlanet.com, Roy Hall of Music Hall and "why don’t you join me for a shot," and Kessler himself. Dan D’Agostino of D’Agostino, Inc., founder of and former designer at Krell, turned up after I had shot my photo.

John Atkinson adds: Kessler’s thesis was the high-end audio industry is dying by its own hand; that if it is to continue to exist, let alone thrive, high-end audio has to emulate the example of the luxury watch, pen, and car industries...

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 17, 2012 0 comments
Gingko Audio demmed a more than chump change system, some of whose components' names showed that imagination is alive and well in the high-end. Playing a VPI Traveler turntable ($1400) with Grado Prestige Gold ($200), Gingko Audio Cloud 9T ($349), and Gingko Audio dust cover ($279); Jolida Fusion preamp ($1500), Wells Audio Innamorata amplifier ($6000), Music Culture Technologies MC501A USB CD player ($3995), Gingko Audo ClaraVu 7 full-range loudspeakers ($6990/pair), DanaCable Black Max 88 speaker cables ($2995), and Gingko Audio Platformula rack ($2995), bass sounded decent, but a recording of Gustav Mahler's Symphony 5 that the exhibitor chose otherwise sounded bright and glassy.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Oct 17, 2012 8 comments
In the big Pikes Peak room, I heard a big, full-bodied sound that gave a gentle sparkle to electric guitars and rich texture to voices.

The system:

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 17, 2012 3 comments
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 tweeter—over 1 million sold, I was told—and the Scan-Speak Nada, with a 7" Illuminator woofer and 1" Beryllium dome tweeter.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 17, 2012 10 comments
As familiar as I may be with the Playback Designs/Evolution Acoustics set-ups that Blue Light Audio's Jonathan Tinn brings to shows—one of these, with darTZeel electronics and much bigger Evolution Acoustics loudspeakers, received my Best of Show at T.H.E. Show Las Vegas a few years back—I constantly find myself amazed by the quality of the sound. This time, with Playback Design's MPS-3 DSD-capable high-resolution CD player with USB input ($8500); an Ampex ATR-102 open-reel recorder, restored by ATR Services, Inc of York, PA, playing 15ips master tapes sourced from ATR and Puget Sound Studios; and B.M.C. Audio's AMP CS2 integrated stereo amplifier ($8400) driving Evolution Acoustics' MMMicroOne 2-way monitor loudspeakers with stands ($2500/pair), the sound of a Shelby Lynne demo safety copy of her new album, provided by ATR Services, blew me away with its solid bass, powerful slam, and great depth. True, there was a bit of an edge on Lynne's voice, but it may have been room-induced, and sure didn't stop me from writing "OMG" in my notes.

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