Taiwanese speaker manufacturer used an 400Wpc/8 ohms Jeff Rowland Design Group 825 stereo amplifier and Aeris DAC to demonstrate its new Double Bass loudspeaker ($28,000/pair), with audio data sourced from a Bryston BDP-1. The Double Bass combines an MTM ribbon array with an 8" sandwich-cone mid-woofer and 12" sandwich-cone woofer in a vented enclosure that resembles, yes, a double bass.
My sleeping room at the Tech Center Marriott was next to the Jeff Rowland Design Group's sound room. The night before the show started, though I wasn't kept awake, I was puzzled by the low-level, low-frequency noises coming through the wall. When I went into the room after the show had begun to take a listen, JRDG's Lucien Pichet, who for many years had been a stalwart at Avalon Acoustics, explained that they had been breaking in the system. This comprised Raidho D1 speakers, driven by the Continuum S2 400Wpc integrated amplifier ($9800) via Cardas Clear cables, with source the Aeris D/A processor ($9800) hooked up to a Bryston BDP-1 file player. The components were supported by one of the impressively built Harmonic Resolution Systems racks.
I first met Gary Gesellchen and Rick Kernen, the duo behind Vanatoo, at the 2012 Music Matters event, held at Definitive Audio in Seattle. At the time, Gesellchen and Kernen, who, through prior business relationships and active participation in the Pacific North West Audio Society, have known each other for 28 years, were just bringing their design to market. Now, the Vanatoo Transparent One powered loudspeaker ($499/pair) seems fully realized.
John Wolff's Classic Audio company has been a fixture at audio shows the past few years, always showing his beautifully made speakers, combining hornloaded midrange and highs with big paper-cone woofers, most recently using field-coilenergized drivers. This year John was demming the T-3.4, which combines a field-coilenergized midrange unit, with a 4" beryllium diaphragm loaded by a wooden horn horn with a 2" throat, with a pair of 15" woofers operating below 500Hz, one firing forward, the other at the floor, and a "Ultra-High-Frequency" supertweeter operating above 12.5kHz.
Daedalus Loudspeakers has been a loyal exhibitor at RMAF, along with ModWright Instruments and WyWires. Their system showcased the Ulysses v.2 speakers ($14,950/pair) driven by a ModWright KWA 150 Signature amplifier ($8495), with the front-end a pre-production prototype ModWright Elyse DAC (price TBD) fed data from a ModWright-modded Oppo disc player, and ModWright LS 36.5 two-box preamp with tube-regulated power supply ($9995). Cables were WyWires PLatinum interconnects (from $1495) and Silver Series AC cords, with Daedalus/WyWires speaker cables. The Ulysses uses two full-range Fostex units for its midrange, combining it with twin tweeters and two proprietary 8" woofers with paper cones and corrugated surrounds originally designed by Daedalus 20 years ago for musical instrument use.
M•A Recordings' Todd Garfinkle is proud to now offer Sera Una Noche’s beautiful La Segundaon vinyl. Garfinkle explained that the source was upsampled to 5.6MHz and that the record was then cut "on the fly." The result is "a double-DSDmastered LP."
The KingSound King III electrostatic loudspeakers ($12,000/pair) sounded superb at RAF, without the sweet-spot beaming I would have expected from their width. Amplifier was the 120Wpc, $6500 Innamorata from Wells Audio that I first heard at the 2013 Newport Beach Show, with an EAR 868 tube preamp ($7395) and Kaplan cables. Source was the latest Sound Science Music Vault M7 ($5595) with an Antelope Zodiac Platinum DAC with Voltikus power supply ($5500). Analog source was a Townshend Rock 7 turntable ($3900) fitted with an Ortofon Rondo Blue cartridge ($879).
I was as surprised as everyone else who walked into the MSB room to find the company’s Universal Media Transport Plus ($5995), Diamond DAC Plus with Diamond Base ($34,000), and 200Wpc Platinum Stereo S201 amplifier ($17,995) driving the enormous SoundLab M1PX loudspeakers.
I first heard Rockport's Avior speaker ($29,500/pair) in the VTL room at the 2012 CES where both Stephen Mejias and I were impressed by their sound. They sounded as good in the Xact Audio room at RMAF, driven by Absolare Passion Signature, zero-feedback, class-A, single-ended power amps ($48,500/pair). But contributing to the sound was the intriguing room treatment that you can see on the wall, cardboard diffusors that Xact calls the MIO and sells for $99/12 square feet.
The UK’s Neat Acoustics is distributed in the US by High Fidelity Services in Braintree, Massachusetts. Here we see the company’s Motive SX2, in sassy pink ($2395/pair), driven by a Sonneteer Orton integrated amplifier ($3795). The digital source was Sonneteer’s Byron CD player ($2795), while vinyl was being spun on a VPI Scout 2 ($2400) with a Dynavector 20-2 XL cartridge ($850). The attractive rack is the Custom Design Ikon 750 Reference ($1475). Neat, indeed.
Zesto first made its name with its Andros PS1 tubed phono preamplifier that Michael Fremer raved about in his April 2013 "Analog Corner" column. Then they launched the $7500 Leto tubed line stage, which Bob Reina will be reviewing in our February 2014 issue. Now they have the Bia 120 stereo power amplifier ($12,500), which uses a pair of autobiased KT88s per channel to produce 60Wpc. In a system featuring a Merrill Williams Real 101 turntable mounted with a TriPlanar tonearm and Dynavector XX2 cartridge, and TAD Evolution One speakers ($29,800/pair), I auditioned Steely Dan's classic "Hey Nineteen," which not only sounded superb but also got me thinking that the young girl who "don't remember ('Retha Franklin) the Queen of Soul" would now be 52!
One of our favorite small desktop loudspeakers has been significantly revised. Audioengine’s new A2+ powered loudspeaker ($249/pair) is scheduled to ship on November 1. Upgrades include a built-in 16-bit Burr-Brown DAC; variable subwoofer output; and improved binding posts, AC connection, and power supply.
SVS Sound’s Gary Yacoubian explained that his company’s speakers are designed to combine the dynamics of a home theater system with the neutrality of an audiophile system. “When voicing the speakers, we used real music that real people listen to in their homes.”
The Antelope Audio Zodiac Platinum DAC ($5500, including Voltikus power supply and remote control), seen here in the shadow of the wild Rubicon, utilizes the company’s 64-bit clocking technology, supports sampling rates up to 768kHz, and plays DSD files. It offers both analog and digital inputs, including balanced analog XLRs, unbalanced analog RCAs, AES/EBU, two coaxial, two Toslink, USB, and a 10MHz input for Antelope’s Rubidium Atomic Clock. Dual front-panel 1/4" headphone jacks, an analog volume control, and a spiffy app for PC, Mac, and mobile devices add to the fun.
Astell&Kern’s AK10 portable DAC ($299) measures 2.1 ” W x 2.1 ” H x 0.5 ” D, weighs just 1.8oz, and comes with an attractive leather case. It uses a Wolfson WM8740 DAC, capable of handling 24-bit/96kHz data, and is compatible with iOs (iPhone 5 and 5th generation iPod Touch) and Android (Galaxy S3, S4, Note2, Note3) operating systems. Its USB 2.0 input means it can also be used to improve the sound of music files stored on your Mac or PCjust send the output to your headphones or stereo. Inspired by turntable design, the silver circle atop the AK10 is actually a volume control: spin it to raise or lower the volume. Sweet.