My photo fails to do justice to the eye-catching aesthetics of the Wadia Intuition 01 ($7500) on the stand. You can catch much better views of the modern digital integrated amplifier/DAC/preamp combo here. Offering 350Wpc into 4 ohms (190Wpc into 8 ohms), 192/24 resolution via coax, optical, and AES/EBU, and 384/32 and native DSD playback via USB, this beaut mated with Sonus faber’s equally handsome Olympica I loudspeakers ($6500/pair + $1200 optional stands) and Nordost Tyr 2 cabling to produce very mellow sounds on a track by Bill Callahan, and captivate me with the voice of Lucrecia Dalt.
There was a lot of talking going on when I entered room 8012 in the Marriott’s Tower, but Rosa Passos and bassist Ron Carter sounded very mellow through Funk Audio powered loudspeakers ($19,875/pair) David Berning ZOTL Pre One preamplifier ($12,360), Silver Circle Audio Juice Box One w/Vesuvius power conditioner, and Luminous Audio cabling. Although I don’t know if the RCA LP of tenor Jussi Björling I heard next was inherently bright, it sure sounded such through a VIP Classic 1 turntable with 3D-printed arm ($4400) outfitted with a Soundsmith Hyperion cartridge ($7500), which I know is not inherently bright, and a Dynamic Sounds Associates Phono II phono preamp ($12,000).
Mated with B&W 804D speakers and Cardas Clear cabling, Simaudio’s Moon 180 MiND network player ($1250), new Moon Neo 260D CD transport w/optional DAC ($2000 + $1000), Moon Neo 380D DAC ($4350), Moon Neo 350P preamp ($3650), and Moon Neo 400M monoblock amplifiers ($4300), I was struck by the very clear, crisp, and solid sound of Jefferson Airplane’s “Come Back to Me,” sourced from an original Japanese pressing. The Neo 260D, released September 4, includes an optional asynchronous 32-bit DAC with four digital inputs that allows direct streaming and Blu-ray playback.
There were so many exhibitors at this year’s RMAF that it was not possible to go back to rooms. One of two wonderful rooms in the Marriott Tower that I most regretted not having time to revisit, Apex Audio’s mezzanine set-up of equipment mainly distributed by Musical Surroundings produced warm, gorgeous sounds and a “midrange to die for” on Reference Recordings’ LP version of Doug MacLeod’s There’s a Time (Stereophile’s May 2013 Recording of the Month). Managing to let the brightness of the latest CD transfer of Mercury Living Presence’s stereo version of Schoenberg’s Five Pieces for Orchestra come through while remaining a joy to listen to, the system inspired me to scribble, after listening to a track from an LP of guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, “one could listen for hours without fatigue.”
At last, Nordost has augmented its four-level Sort Kone equipment support line with the threaded Sort Füt ($350/each). A mechanically tuned resonance control device designed to replace the standard spikes and stabilizers supplied with loudspeakers and racks, it boasts aluminum and bronze hybrid construction, a filial dome to minimize effects of vibration, and three internal ceramic balls that minimize contact surface area while providing physical stability. The “Premium Package” includes four Sort Füt units (which together support speakers up to 800 lbs), an adjustment tool, laser leveling, and both 8mm and 6mm threaded adaptors.
Earlier this year, Michael Lavorgna told us about Grimm Audio’s attractive and intelligent LS1 system ($39,900), which incorporates high-resolution (24-bit/192kHz-capable) A/D and D/A converters, six Bruno Putzeysdesigned NCore amplifiers, a DSP processor, USB interface, a preamp/control unit, integrated bass modules, and all the necessary cables. There is even an analog input. All you need to add, then, is a source.
The Marriott's lobby area was packed with booths, with exhibitors actively engaged with showgoers all weekend. Shown here is the booth shared by The Cable Company and sister company Ultra Systems, which was opposite the Nordost Sort Füt booth Jason Serinus wrote about below. Ethan Wood is helping an audiophile through the process of using his computer as a high-end audio source while Robert Stein looks on.
Mytek Digital's Michal Jurewicz (facing camera) was busy all weekend, demonstrating both his company's new Stereo 192-DSD DAC FireWire D/A converter (see "Music in the Round," July 2013) and his 8-channel DSD A/D converter. The latter was being used with an Ampex open-reel recorder just out of shot.
Founded in 2006, the Devon, UKbased Puresound audio company is distributed in the US by NYC’s High Water Sound. Puresound’s compact M845 monoblocks ($10,000/pair) were partnered with the company’s L300 line-level preamp ($8000) to drive a pair of Horning Aristotle loudspeakers ($15,000/pair). The source was a TW-Acustic Raven turntable with a Miyajima Shilabe phono cartridge going through Puresound's P10 phono preamp ($1000) and T10 MC step-up trannie ($500).
As John Atkinson mentions below, the Marriott’s lobby level was converted into a veritable hypermarket of hi-fi goodies: music, accessories, mini systems, and more. Stereophile occupied a small table toward the end of one busy hall, where we were happy to supply free copies of our November issue, featuring on its cover NAD’s new D 3020 integrated amplifier ($499).
One of the joys of audio shows is the unexpected encounter. I wandered into the Positive Feedback Online hospitality room toward the end of the first day, drawn by the rumor that they had some high-end coffee on offer to ear-weary showgoers. And there, sipping on some truly first-rate, hand-roasted java, I bumped into Swedish recording engineer Jan-Eric Persson. Persson, a Blumlein-miking purist, has been responsible for some of the most gloriously natural sounding recordings on his Opus 3 label, first on LP, then on SACD. PFO had a system set-up in their room, courtesy of Jonathan Tinn of Blue Light Audio, comprising Evolution MMMicro One speakers ($4000/pair) and a Playback Electronics IPS-3 D/A amplifier ($13,000). I took a listen to some of Jan-Eric Persson's recordings, transferred to double-DSD from analog tape and was, in a word, gobsmacked by the sheer beauty of what I was hearing.
"I don't want you to talk about the nuts and bolts of computer audio, FLACs and DACs and files, etc, but to talk about the impact the computer has had on high-end audio," said AudioQuest's Steve Silberman when he asked me to be on the Saturday lunchtime panel session he was organizing for RMAF. Titled "Computer Audio and Beyondthe Ever-Shifting Landscape of Hardware, Media, and Content Providers," the session featured (from right to left in my photo), as well as Silberman, Joe Harley of AudioQuest and Music Matters, Chris Connaker (ComputerAudiophile.com), Matt Ashland (J River Media Center), Gordon Rankin (Wavelength), and Matt Green (Logitech/Ultimate Ears).
I mentioned in my coverage of Steve Silberman's Computer Audio Seminar that I had been frustrated by the inability of the otherwise superb Marantz Reference NA-11S1 network player that I reviewed in October to handle every file format I sent to it. Following the seminar, I bumped into Steve in one of Colorado retailer Listen-Up's rooms where he just happened to have the Marantz players, hooked up, of course, with AudioQuest cables and with a Marantz integrated amplifier driving Sonus Faber speakers.
I have listened to Legacy's Aeris loudspeaker at earlier shows this year, but this impressive tower ($17,750/pair) sounded better at RMAF. Driven by an AVM SA8 stereo amplifier ($13,880) an AVM PA5.2 tube preamp ($5650), and AVM CD5.2 tube CD player ($6995) and wired with Morrow cables, the system reproduced the Crash Test Dummies' "Superman's Song" with authority.
It’s no exaggeration to say that I love Harbeth’s Monitor 30.1 loudspeakers ($5995/pair). No matter where I hear them, regardless of music or associated gear, I’m always impressed by the warm, full-bodied, detailed sound. In Sam Tellig’s December 2012 review, he wrote of the Harbeths, “Whatever amp I used, the tonality was superb. Never, ever fatiguing.” My thoughts, exactly.