RMAF 2013

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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 21, 2013 0 comments
I went into the SimpliFi room expecting to see the excellent Weiss MAN301 media player and effective DSPeaker room correction and D/A devices. Yes, there were there at RMAF but SimpliFi's Tim Ryan wanted to talk about the Swiss Klangwerk Ella active speaker ($15,000/pair) shown in my photo. This modest-looking floorstander uses DSP to make it work as a time-aligned virtual point source. A constrained layer-damped Corian front baffle supports an advanced Aerogel-dome tweeter from Audax and a 5.5" woofer; two more 5.5" woofers covering the same passband are placed on the speaker's sides, and all three are reflex-loaded with a downward-firing port. The advantage of this design is that it has a wide listening window on both vertical and horizontal planes, explained Tim, and indeed, on Dire Straits' "Brothers in Arms," I found that I could move up and down and from side to side without any significant change in the perceived balance.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 21, 2013 1 comments
"That's a lot of bass!" I was listening to the audiophile version of Nine-Inch-Nails' "A copy of a copy..." on Bryston's three-way Mini-T stand-mounted speakers ($2695/pair). The speaker's woofer has a large half-roll surround, suggesting good linearity at large excursions, which was confirmed by the fullrange sound in the room. The rest of the system included Bryston 28B monoblocks, hooked up with StraightWire cables and with a Bryston BDP-2 file player and BDA-1 DAC as the source.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 21, 2013 0 comments
Colorado Springs-based HiFi Imports were demming their system in one of the Marriott's very large ground-floor rooms. Speakers were the Venture Grand Ultimate Mk.IIs from Belgium ($98,000/pair), which combine Venture's proprietary 2" tweeter, which uses a graphite-pulp-composite diaphragm, with a 7" midrange unit and four 7" woofers. All the lower-frequency drivers use carbon-fiber/graphite-composite cones and the speaker's frequency range is specified as 22Hz–60kHz with a 92dB sensitivity.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 21, 2013 9 comments
As had happened at the 2008 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, there were so many exhibitors wanting to show their wares at the 2013 show that there was some overflow housed at the nearby Hyatt Regency Tech Center. I'll be writing about the Scaena and Wilson exhibits at the Hyatt in stories to be posted later, but the first room I went into featured speakers from a company of which I had been unaware, Missouri-based Vapor Audio (www.vaporsound.com). The floor-standing Joule Black speakers ($12,995/pair) were being demmed with a BMC preamplifier and monoblock amplification, but beyond that I have nothing to write as no-one in this room seemed interested either in playing me music or giving me any information.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 21, 2013 0 comments
Very clear and open sound, with a shiny treble and lovely midrange distinguished the room that partnered four lithium battery-powered components—a Kronos turntable ($32,000) outfitted with Lyra Atlas cartridge and Black Beauty tonearm, Veloce’s Platino Series LP-1 phono stage (NLA), Lithio Series LS-1 linestage ($18,000), and Lithio Saetta 400Wpc monoblock amplifiers ($18,000/pair)—with YG Acoustic’ Kipod II loudspeakers ($38,000/pair) and Kubala-Sosna Emotion cabling.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 21, 2013 1 comments
How wonderful to finally catch up with Scott and Paul McGowan, and to discover how good PS Audio’s prototype class-D amplifier with Hypex modules sounds in its temporary housing. Equally exciting was the just-launched NuWave Phono Converter (NPC, $1895), which combines a phono stage with an A/D converter that can archive LPs in both PCM and DSD formats. Paired with Von Schweikert VR-35 loudspeakers ($10,000/pair) and a custom subwoofer, the system delivered impressive deep bass on a track from Turkish artist and DJ Mercan Dede’s Breath, and lots of color on a track by Chesky artist Marta Gomez.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 21, 2013 7 comments
When Jason Serinus visited the room shared by DeVore Fidelity, Tone Imports, and Oregon dealer Eugene Hi-Fi, the $12,000/pair Orangutan O/96 speakers that are Art Dudley's new reference and are shown in Jason's photo were playing. But when I visited the room, the smaller, floorstanding Orangutan O/93s ($8400/pair) were playing, and sounding very good indeed on a favorite Stephen Mejias album from Jenny Hval. (However, don't ask me about my reaction to the lyrics, which involved Ms. Hval applying an electric toothbrush to a body part other than her teeth.)
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 21, 2013 1 comments
"Together, We Make Beautiful Music" proclaimed the one-sheet that was handed to me in this room. "You are listening to a complete audio system that cost under $15,000," it continued, adding that "we put together this relatively modest playback system to better demonstrate the musical purity and refinement produced with products manufactured by: Mojo Audio, Atomic Audio Labs, VH Audio." $15,000 doesn't sound "relatively modest" to me, but the sound in this room was surprisingly good considering that the speakers were a DIY design using a full-range 8" unit and the amplifiers were vintage Allen organ tube models, based on the Williamson circuit.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 21, 2013 0 comments
Bent Holter, founder of and designer for the Norwegian company Hegel, explained that his circuits are based on work he had done designing ultra–low-noise preamplifiers for the European CERN laboratory. Hegel's new H80 D/A integrated amplifier ($2000) replaces the H70, which was introduced in 2010, and uses the low-noise preamp circuit from the $5500 H300 amplifier and Hegel's patented feed-forward "Sound Engine" amplifier topology. It has two single-ended analog inputs, one balanced analog input, and five digital inputs, including USB. Though this doesn't operate in the usual asynchronous mode, it uses a proprietary topology said to eliminate jitter. The H80 offers 75Wpc into 8 ohms compared with the H70's 70W.
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John Atkinson Posted: Oct 21, 2013 0 comments
Denver retailer Gold Sound was featuring Focal's new tower speaker, the Aria 948 ($5000/pair), in its room at RMAF, in a system featuring a Cambridge Audio 851E preamp ($1799) and Cambridge 851W 200–350Wpc amplifier ($2499), both also new at the show. Front ends were either a Cambridge 851C CD player or a VPI Classic turntable fitted with the 3D-printed tonearm and an Ortofon Cadenza Bronze MC cartridge and amplified with a Parasound Halo JC3 phono preamp.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 21, 2013 0 comments
By the time I reached the Tower’s 11th floor—my final floor, thank God—at 5:35pm on Saturday, I had been at it for over 8.5 hours, and my cold and fever were at their peak. It felt as though nothing short of the Balm of Gilead could bring me solace. But when I heard, in succession, impressively full-range sound and excellent low-bass definition on Mahler’s Symphony 2, and gorgeous warmth and color on everything soprano Arleen Auger sang, I felt as though I could simply float through the rest of the day in a state of peace.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 20, 2013 1 comments
Shame on me for not writing down the name of Ron Sutherland’s adorable pooch, who stayed on my lap as we orbited to bliss with the great Johnny Hartmann. Partnering with some guys named John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner, Hartmann made magic of “They Say It’s Wonderful.” Of course, that was on LP, sounding—yes—wonderful thanks to a Merrill-Williams R.E.A.L. 101 table with Tri-Planar arm, Sutherland N1 full-feature line/phone preamplifier ($18,000) and Sutherland Power Block amplifier ($6000), arrayed on a Krollo Rack and connected to each other and Avalon Transcendent loudspeakers by Incline cabling.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 20, 2013 0 comments
Crescendo Fine Audio of Boulder, a year-old venture founded by music lover and second-generation audio dealer Matt Alterman, 34, made its first showing at RMAF into a major event by sponsoring two impressive rooms. In 9018, Aerial Acoustics 7T loudspeakers ($9850) danced with Ayre’s V5X 175Wpc stereo amplifier ($7950), C-5xeMP universal audio disc player ($5950), and QB-9 DSD DAC ($3250). Preamps were Octave’s tubed HP 300SE ($7000) and, for phono, Red Wine Audio’s battery powered Analogica ($1995). A VPI Classic 1 ($2800) with Sumiko Blackbird cartridge ($1099) topped a system supported by Quadraspire’s Sunoka Vent 2 bamboo shelf rack ($795/shelf), and wired with Shunyata Research cabling, with a Shunyata Triton power distributor with stainless-steel feet ($4995) making sure everything sounded at its best.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 20, 2013 0 comments
In the room put together by Rutherford Audio of Denver, Genesis’ 7.2f loudspeaker ($12,500/pair), whose servo-controlled bass extends down to 22Hz; Burmester’s 089 CD player ($33,000), Phono 100 ($20,000), and 956 amplifier ($19,000); Thorens’ TD 2035 Black with TP92 Genesis cartridge (price given as $6399 table, priceless cartridge); and Genesis cabling made for an ear-opening combination. An LP of Count Basie and his Orchestra’s “Me and you” had huge dynamic range, a nice and warm midrange, and an aggressive top. My JVC-XRCD of Sarah Vaughan and Basie was a bit mellower, but the top was again bright.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Oct 20, 2013 0 comments
In German Physiks’ room on the 11th floor of the Denver Tech Center Marriott, the Unlimited Mk.II loudspeakers ($13,500/pair) were mated with Vitus Audio’s RCD-100 CD player ($12,750), RD-100 D/A converter ($11,250), and RS stereo power amplifier. Held together by Purist Audio Design’s Corvus balanced interconnects ($2100/1m pair), fabulously named Aqueous Aureus digital cable ($705/1m), and Venustas speaker cable ($5450/7m pair), the system displayed a lovely midrange with a bit of hard edge on a golden oldie, Sara K’s “If I Could Sing the Blues.” (Who remembers the audio show where this track was playing in at least 7 rooms, if not more?) Regardless, I found the superb sense of depth and air uncanny.

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