When I entered the room sponsored by the three above entities, I heard first a CD quality file of Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre, and then a 192kHz sample-rate file of period instrument violinist Rachel Podger playing Bach. I thought the system wonderful at handling complex information, keeping everything clean, and controlling the basssuperb in fact. The only question arose when, on an SACD of mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson singing Handel, the voice was somewhat damped.
Warned that the speakers and phono cartridge were not fully broken in, I entered Vana Ltd’s Room 9025 to discover Vienna Acoustics Beethoven Baby Grand SE loudspeakers ($5500/pair) paired with the debut of the Dr. Feickert Analogue Woodpecker turntable with 12 Jelco and Acoustical Systems Arché headshell ($8000) and equipped with an Ortofon Windfeld phono cartridge ($3900). Also in the system were Primare’s CD 32 CD player ($2800), I32 with MM30 media upgrade integrated amplifier ($4500), and R32 phono amp ($1200); IsoTek’s EVO3 Aquarius Mains conditioner ($2000), EVO3 Syncro active DC blocking cable ($1750), and EVO3 premier power cables ($195/each). Analysis Plus analog cables completed a system whose bass was not under control, and whose midrange was somewhat muffled, but whose highs, on an LP test pressing of Mahler’s Symphony 3, were quite wonderful.
I discovered the popularity of the “Cartridge Alignment” seminars presented by Vana Ltd.’s Stirling Trayle and the “Speaker Set-Up” presentations by AudioBeat.com’s Roy Gregory were when I passed the closed doorway to their seminar room and discovered people already lined up for the next presentation.
With Tyll Hertsens reporting in depth on RMAF’s CANJAM 2013 at our sister site, innerfidelity.com, I’ll just briefly acknowledge the scope of this major exhibition. Hosted by Head-Fi.org, the event drew the youngest crowd in its history.
AudioStream.com's Michael Lavorgna took a front-row seat for Chad Kassem's discussion of his company's DSD download site. Photo: John Atkinson
“We’re so lucky that it’s all coming together at once,” said Acoustic Sounds’ Chad Kassem.
On the final morning of the 2013 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, editors from Stereophile, AudioStream.com, and AnalogPlanet.com gathered in Kassem’s demo room to learn more about his new Super HiRez DSD download site.
At a 9am press conference Saturday, October 12, whose attendance was curiously dominated by Stereophile and our sister computer audio online site, AudioStream.com, Jared Sacks of Channel Classics and Philip O’Hanlon of On A Higher Note announced the November 1 launch of nativedsd.com. A world-wide accessible, multi-label download site dedicated exclusively to native DSD recorded stereo and multi-channel studio masters, the site promises centralized shopping for native DSD recorded Edit Master files, along with information and discussion of both software and hardware. We are also assured of “extensive site-wide search capability through the use of ID3v2 compliant metadata across all labels.”
When I walked into the On A Higher Note room at RMAF, Philip O'Hanlon was playing Doug McLeod's There's a Time LP, our May 2013 "Recording of the Month," and very good it sounded too. Turntable was a Brinkmann Bardo fitted with a TriPlanar 12" tonearm and a Brinkmann Pi cartridge, with a Luxman L590X integrated amplifier ($9500) driving the superb Vivid B-1 loudspeakers ($14,990/pair) that I reviewed in October 2011. Cables and power conditioning was by Shunyata.
The very first room I visited at the 2013 RMAF was Sony's, where they were demonstrating the HAP-Z1ES hi-rez file player ($1999) that I reported on in September. This neat device features a 1TB internal drive, Ethernet and WiFi connectivity, and can be controlled by an app running on a tablet or phone. It will upsample any format to double-DSD as well as handling native single-DSD and double-DSD files. It comes preloaded with 20 hi-rez albums from Sony, Warner, and Universal and the goal was to make file playback as easy and as fast as playing a disc. It doesn't, therefore, allow playback from a computer or NAS but a rear USB port allows the internal storage to be supplemented with an external drive.
I’ve grown quite fond of Nola Metro Grand Reference Gold loudspeakers ($33,000/pair). Mated once again with ultra-transparent, full-range Nordost Odin cabling and several Nordost Quantums ($2200/each), the system brought out the true nature of Audio Research’s CD-8 CD player ($9000), Reference 75 amplifier ($9000), and Reference 10 preamplifier ($30,000). On a recent Mercury Living Presence CD reissue of music by Chabrier, that made for an easy-on-the-ears, slightly damped top and the dominant ARC midrange that so many people love.
Did that title get your attention? Andrew Jones’ TAD Evolution 1 loudspeakers ($29,500/pair) usually do by themselves. But, in this case, they were paired with TAD’s visually understated M600 amplifiers ($68,000, presumably for the pair), C600 preamp ($42,000), and D600 (CD/SACD) disc player ($32,000), as well as Ron LaPorte’s forthcoming Blue Smoke Entertainment Systems’ Black Box II digital music server/client ($3995) and USB to 384/32 digital output ($2995both expected late 2013).
Lovely, warm and delicate sound, unmistakable tube bloom, and fantastic percussive impact distinguished my brief time in this room. Danny Richie of GR-Research’s open-baffle, line-source LS-X loudspeaker system ($39,000/pair), which includes two integrated servo-controlled subwoofer towers, mated extremely well with Dodd Audio’s battery-powered 34Wpc monoblock power amplifiers ($2900/pair plus battery and charger) and tube amplifier ($1199 plus battery, charger, and tweaks), and a Mac-based computer source feeding a not-yet-released dB Audio Labs Evolution DAC ($1495 or higher). Cabling was from three companies (Triode Wire Labs, PI Audio, and Electra Cable), and power conditioning from PI Audio.
Dennis Fraker of Serious Stereo was having a ball playing his favorite Eagles Farewell 1 TourLive from Melbourne Blu-ray on an older Pioneer Elite Blu-ray player, Serious Stereo Ultra-Dynamic Attenuator ($2800 FOB), a pair of Serious Stereo 2-stage direct-coupled amplifiers ($15,750 shipped), and Serious Stereo loudspeakers boasting Altec 604 duplex 15” point-source transducers ($13,800/pair FOB). I wouldn’t call the sound audiophile nirvana, but it sure was a fun change of pace. Would have loved to have heard the components with the latest Oppo.
In the first of MIT’s two adjacent rooms, Steven Holt, in his last appearance with the company before moving on to Light Harmonic, showed off MIT’s newest Z-Plug 3 ($199) and Z-Plug 6 ($399) AC noise traps. Demonstrated with Audio Prism’s noise-sniffing device, these parallel power filters seemed to do a fine job of quieting things down. Also new are two power cables, the SL-Z-Cord3Fp AC Noise trap ($349) and SL-Matrix Z-Cord 6 AC Filter power cord ($699), both of which incorporate Z-series power filtration. Don’t you love these ridiculously long names that make you feel like you’ve bought something special, which, despite the name, it may very well be?
If you’re going to spend time scrubbing records, the task might as well be made fun and easy. That seems to have been Jonathan Monks’ goal when he designed the new discOveryOne record-cleaning machine ($2495, base price).
Wandering into the Blackbird Audio room, whom do I encounter but audiophile legend Dean Peer giving Trenner & Friedl’s Pharoah loudspeakers ($13,000/pair) a major run for the money. While learning that the speaker’s plywood cabinet is bottom-ported, and that it has a horn-loaded compression tweeter and 8" paper-cone woofer, Dean played various impossibly deep runs, leaps, and scales to discover that the speakers in fact react quite fast, and extend down to the subsonic level. Very very cool. I’m afraid I didn’t hear much else in the systemapologies to Heed Audio, Cardas Audio, Profundo, Colleen Cardas Imports, Unison Research, and Opera Callas loudspeakers, among othersbut I sure had a great time.