It's always nice to see yourself, or at least the vehicle for your thoughts, in the spotlight. That's certainly what happened in the Peachtree-Zu room, which paired the Peachtree Audio Nova ($1200) integrated amplifier, which was featured on Stereophile’s August cover, with Zu Essence speakers ($3500/pair). Add in the Apple TV and $500 worth of Zu cables, and you have quite a nifty system that delivered excellent sound.
The night before AXPONA's official opening, people mobbed the reception for press and exhibitors. As audiophiles chattered, drank, and ate awaythe food was a major notch above the oft-mediocre, and the bartenders quite busyChicago's Deep Blue Organ Trio turned up the heat. With Bobby Broom on guitar, Chris Foreman on organ and Greg Rockingham on drums, the heat was certainly welcome, given the freezing temperatures outside.
EAR USA’s Dan Meinwald had more to share than two new products from Tim de Paravicini; he also opened the door on lovely tube warmth. Thanks to two new sources, the EAR Acute 4/DACute 4 CD/SACD player ($13,000) and Helius Alexia turntable ($5500), the latter equipped with the Helius Omega 10” tonearm ($3100) and Dynavector KX-1s cartridge ($5450), an LP of doo-wop, and a CD of The Persuasions singing the Beatles had great height and exemplary center imaging. A Chad Kassem test pressing of the Ray Brown Trio’s Soular Energy further exhibited lovely and warm tube sound.
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.”
Episode Audio's Ira Pazandeh had one of the few home theater displays at T.H.E. Show. Arrayed before and around me were Episode Audio loudspeakers: Model EP-V front for two-channel and home theater front ($12,500/pair), Model EP-C for center channel ($6500), BASSY subwoofer ($2300), and, in the rear, two KOBRA surrounds ($4800/pair). Giving them juice were an Onkyo TX-NR 809 receiver ($995), Sony BDP-S580 CD/Blu-ray player ($149.99), AudioQuest speaker wire (approx. $50), and Monster interconnects. Playing Marta Gomez's "Maria Mulatta," I was struck with the nice depiction of air and space around the flute, as well as overwhelming bass (a problem shared by more set-ups in the Hilton sleeping rooms than I wish to count). I'd like to hear the system again, next time with adequate room treatment.
Ever since encountering the wonderful sound of Nightingale electronics, manufactured by Simetel of Rome (as in Italy), at the first AXPONA show in Jacksonville, I've looked forward to another visit with their Lancaster, PA-based USA representative, Valentina Ross. Her set-up of Nightingale Concentus open-baffle CTR-02 loudspeakers ($9750/pair), Onda 90 monoblock amplifiers ($12,450/pair), PTS-03 preamplifier ($9750), CR-1600 line conditioner ($3960), and unnamed source and cablingher assistants, who handed me literature, spoke little Englishwas one of the most attractive at the show, and the sound remarkably open and spacious.
One feature of this year's RMAF that has catapulted it into the major leagues of audio shows was the sheer number of well-attended workshops and panels scheduled at the Hyatt. Over the course of three days, one room featured "Let's Get Digital" with Robert Harley of The Absolute Sound, "Music Everywhere" by Steven R. Rochlin of EnjoytheMusic.com, "The New Music Label" by attorney Ned Hearn, "Adventures in Digital Formats, Unsampling & Dithering" with our own John Atkinson, "Digital Playback Equipment Design Considerations" with David Solomon of Signal Path International, and "Music Discovery" with consultant Sean Leonard. Many of these were panels, with a host of additional participants.
After encountering several rooms filled with overly warm, romanticized tube sound, it was a welcome shock to discover tube gear from Rogue that sounded far more neutral. Alas, the sound from Rogue’s Zeus amplifier (225Wpc, $7495) and prototype reference-level linestage preamp seemed a bit soft around the edges, lacking detail. However, who knows how much of what I heard was due to the plethora of Echo Buster paneling with which the exhibitors had tried to tame the room's acoustics. Paired with the Egglestonworks The Nine ($12,900/pair), introduced at the show, I heard much promise until competition from adjoining rooms forced me to retreat. What I did learn is the speaker uses an 8" Morel woofer, two of the same 6" Morel drivers featured in the company's earlier Andra 2, and an Eggleston favorite, the Dynaudio Ecostar tweeter. Available in virtually any automotive color, the speaker will start shipping in March.
On Saturday night, Bay Area Audiophile Society coordinator Bob Walters gave me a list of rooms he urged me to visit. Since two were on the 10th floor of the Marriott Tower, on which I had not yet set foot, I resolved to check both out. I'm glad I did. The tenth floor of the Marriott was like a gold mine. All I had to do was walk down the hall to the next room, and more glorious sound awaited me.
The phrase "save the best for last" rang true for me today. After close to five hours of listening, with ears that were beginning to scream, I heeded the advice of Sound Applications' Jim Weil and headed to the large room at one end of the 9th floor commandeered by Boulder’s Audio Federation. There I encountered the most rewarding sound I have heard at the show so far.