Hardly ones to shy away from the big stuff, the folks at Apex Audio Denver filled the mezzanine’s large Blanca Peak room with an I-dare-not-do-the-math system that, for starters, paired Focal Stella Utopia EM loudspeakers ($95,000/pair) with Soulution’s 500 monoblock amplifiers ($55,500/pair), 530 integrated amplifier ($49,000), 520 preamp ($26,000), and 540 CD/SACD player ($32,500). Those still breathing can add in a Transrotor Rondino Nero turntable ($14,000), Graham Phantom Supreme ($6800), and Air Tight PC-1 Supreme Cartridge ($10,500).
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.
I walked away from Diana Krall only to run into Elvis Costello, this time thanks to T+A's new MP3000 HV digital media player ($12,500). (A couple of weeks ago, I saw the couple walking along Prince Street in SoHo. Apparently, they’re stalking me.)
In addition to the MP3000, this small, attractive system was made of Dynaudio’s Confidence C1 loudspeakers ($9000/pair), driven by T+A’s new PA3000 HV integrated amplifier ($16,500).
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).
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.
"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).
The Danish speaker manufacturer Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries (DALI) should have a winner in its new wireless Kubik Free+Xtra Loudspeaker System. Available in black, white, or red, the optional two-part system consists of the Kubik Free ($1295), an active single-stereo speaker that can be used by itself in tight quarters, and the Xtra passive second speaker ($695) for those who want a wider soundstage and better imaging. Demmed by Thomas Knudsen in wireless aptX Bluetooth 3.0 modethe Kubik Free can also be played via USB, optical, and analog connectionsthe speaker's 100W class-D amplifier delivered lovely sound. The drivers are composed of the same proprietary DALI wood-fiber cone drivers used in DALI's big babies.
Sonus faber mated its Olympica 3 loudspeakers ($13,500/pair) with Audio Research’s Reference CD9 CD/DAC player ($13,000), Reference 75 amplifier ($9000), and SP20 preamplifier ($9000). Heard through AudioQuest Redwood cables, the system uncompromisingly conveyed the take-no-prisoners nature of the demo CD that was playing during my time in the room.
“YFS” stands for Your Final System. The company’s founder, Kevin O’Brien, worked in the A/V installation business, doing audio consulting and building systems of all prices, until around 2011, when he decided he wanted to solve that problem once and for all. To that end, the YFS HD Ref3 LE “computer transport” ($15,500) combines an 8-core processor, 32GB of double data rate type 3 (DDR3) RAM, a 1TB solid-state drive (SSD), and a SOtM USB 3.0 PCI digital output cardall with heavily modified external power supply and audio circuitry.
“Hands down great sound” I wrote of a room that combined Joseph Audio’s universally lauded Pearl loudspeakers ($31,500/pair with outrigger bases), Cardas Clear cabling, and a VPI Classic Direct with 3D arm ($30,000) outfitted with a Soundsmith Hyperion OCL cactus cantilever cartridge ($7500), with Jeff Rowland’s Capri preamp with phono option ($4300), Aeris DAC ($9800), and 825 power amp ($32,000). Sourced from computer, Boz Scaggs “Thanks to You” sounded gorgeous, and the beauty of Reference Recordings’ LP version of Vaughan Williams’ The Wasps confirmed the superiority of both the equipment chain and the Keith Johnson/Sean Martin recording team. Bass was profound, the midrange world-class, and highs just right. Transparency, too, was excellent. I wish I could have spent hours immersed in the beauty and grace of this system.
PMC’s Fact.12 loudspeaker ($19,500/pair), the English company’s new reference 3-way floorstander, includes two 6” coated aluminum-cone woofers, a 2” hand-built soft-dome midrange, and 0.75” soft-dome SONOMEX tweeter co-developed with SEAS. With a somewhat low 84dB sensitivity and 8 ohm impedance, the speaker claims a 26Hz30kHz frequency response. Paired with four new Rega componentsthe Rega Elicit-R 105Wpc integrated amplifier ($2995), Saturn-R DAC + CD transport ($2995), RP8 turntable with Apheta MC cartridge ($3995 w./cartridge), and Aria MC/MM phonostage ($1495)the system sounded quite solid playing Kraftwerk's “Autobahn.”
I’ve come to expect nothing but great and interesting music from Audioarts’ Gideon Schwartz. I walked in to Dead Can Dance’s Spirit Chaser, and, though the volume was much lower than that heard in most other rooms, the music was nevertheless engaging and in many ways more inviting: smooth and detailed, with exceptional image focus and superb stage balance.
Roger Fortier, US distributor for ADAM Audio (Advanced Dynamic Audio Monitors), paired ADAM Column loudspeakers ($7500/pair) with Clarus Audio cabling from Tributaries and Cary’s CA0211 monoblocks ($20,000/pair), SLP-05 preamp ($6500) and Cary’s brand-new, prototype, full-function media streamer ($3995). Playing Christy Baron’s oft-heard “Ain’t No Sunshine When He’s Gone,” the system produced an exceptionally nice, warm midrange with an overall touch of sweetness. It also handled bass very well.
Count on McIntosh to invariably dem something new, albeit in chassis that maintain the company’s distinctive aesthetics. This time around, Ron Cornelius showed the new MCD550 SACD/CD player ($6500) with volume control, headphone output, asynchronous USB 2.0 input, and 32-bit, “192kHz PCM/SD digital to analog conversion”; and MA8000 300Wpc integrated amplifier ($10,000) with MC/MM phono inputs, five digital inputs that decode music up to 32/192, home-theater bypass, and headphone amplifier. In an all-McIntosh set-up, the system delivered the classic warm midrange and solid bottom end I’ve come to expect. Highs, at least in this small hotel room, were a touch metallic, however.