"Gauder?" I pondered as I went into the room shared by German electronics manufacturer AVM and speaker manufacturer Gauder Akustik, "I know that name." And when I met speaker designer Roland Gauder, I remembered why the name was familiar. Roland Gauder was the designer of the Isophon Europa II loudspeaker that Larry Greenhill had favorably reviewed for Stereophile in April 2004.
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).
The combination of Octave Audio V 40 SE integrated amplifier ($5300) and Dynaudio Excite X34 compact floorstander ($3400/pair) produced some of the fastest, most agile, and muscular sounds I heard at RMAF.
Ah, Zu Audio, ever the chameleon, albeit with a distinctive color. At the California Audio Show last August, Zu paired their loudspeakers with gray-tinged tube electronics that toned down their sometimes metallic leading edge; at RMAF, with Peachtree Audio’s Grand Integrated ($4500), whose design let the true nature of Zu’s Druid Mk.V loudspeakers ($5200/pair), Submission sub ($3995/each), and Zu Event cabling, emerge in the best possible light.
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).
Every music lover/audiophile with vision longs for the same thing: those magical moments when the system disappears, the time-space continuum parts, and we find ourselves mystically transported to a place where only the transcendent wonder and beauty of musical creation exists. For me, one of those unexpected listening experiences that make life worth living occurred on the Marriott’s mezzanine, when Kevin Hayes of VAC (Valve Amplification Company) played my JVC-XRCD of Sarah Vaughan and the Duke Ellington Orchestra performing Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns.”
Naim Audio has just introduced three new great-sounding products in its NAIT (Naim Audio Integrated Series). The entry-level NAIT 5si Integrated amplifier ($1800) outputs 60Wpc into 8 ohms, and has four analog inputs (including DIN, which they think sounds best), a headphone output, and unity gain inputs for AV pre/pro or receiver. Climbing up the ladder gets you the 70Wpc Naim NAIT XS 2 integrated ($2900) and "audiophile version" 80Wpc Naim SuperNAIT 2 integrated ($4900). In addition to more inputs and features, these higher-level products include upgradeable external power supplies, which counts for a lot in Naimland.
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.
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.”
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.
“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.
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.
McIntosh’s Carl Porter was in the midst of demming McIntosh’s MEN220 room correction system ($5000) when I snapped this photo. I’ve heard this baby in action several times, and was not surprised by the positive effects its room correction, custom-EQ, and 2-way crossover had on a recording by Alison Krauss.
“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.