For audiophiles who may remember Legend Audio and their fascinating water-cooled amps, they have changed their name to Von Gaylord, and moved from Berkeley, CA to West Sacramento. Their sound has gotten even better in the process: lovely, warm, and refreshingly sweet, with eye and ear-opening sound staging, set far behind the speakers, and inviting air around images.
After a four-year hiatus, the Vacuum State of the Art Conference and Show has been resurrected. Scheduled for next weekend, May 24–26, at the Hilton Hotel in Vancouver, Washington, just across the river from Portland, Oregon, VSAC owes its renewal to audio enthusiasts and software company owners Carolyn S. and Michael Kilfoil, who have taken over from founders Dan and Eileen Schmalle.
I literally breathed a sigh of relief when I entered this room. Not that anything was wrong with the exceptional sound of the vast majority of rooms I visited. But of all the systems I auditioned, this one felt most like a safe haven. It was like coming home.
The very first room I visited at CES featured VTL and dCS electronics powering Avalon Eidelon speakers via Transparent cabling. This was a good start. I had become an instant convert to VTL sound at HE2006 last May, where Wilson Sophia speakers, driven by VTL electronics via Cardas cable and a Jadis tranposrt and DAC delivered some of the best sound I heard at the show. Since then, I've heard VTL gear in three other environments, this being the fifth. Each time, it has sounded different, but always musical.
For many of us in the press, RMAF 2010 began with VTL's well-orchestrated press breakfast launch of the new MB-450 Series III monoblocks ($18,000/pair) and TL7.5 Series III preamplifier ($20,000). Speaking before a full house that included representatives from Stereophile, The Absolute Sound, Positive Feedback On-Line, Enjoy the Music, and many other media outlets, VTL's Luke Manley explained that the Series III is VTL's first fully balanced amplifier.
11 AM Thursday, my first room at HE2005: I've just spent way over an hour listening to VTL gear in two completely different configurations. The first, in a hotel suite whose dimensions are similar to rooms in many smaller homes or larger apartments, paired the new VTL MB-450 monoblocks, TP6.5 phono preamp, and just upgraded Reference TL-7.5 linestage preamp with the Jadis JD1 Mk.II transport and JS 1 DAC, VPI Aries 3 turntable with JMW 10.5i tonearm and Benz LP cartridge, Wilson Sophia 2s, and Cardas cabling.
Music Lovers Audio of Berkeley and San Francisco had the big and small of the Wadia line on display. When I entered the room, the Wadia 571 CD/digital preamp/DAC ($13,950) was on standby, and Wadia's diminutive 170 Transport iPod dock ($379) and 151 PowerDACMini ($1195) were doing the iPhone.
Gideon Schwartz of Audioarts NYC had assembled quite an impressive system, most of whose components I had never heard before. Given the system’s price, one would reasonably expect something wonderful, if not extraordinary from Zellaton Studio Reference One loudspeakers ($52,750/pair); Nagra’s new Jazz preamplifier ($12,250, with the input and output jacks now on the back instead of the sides), 300B power amplifier ($16,950), and VPS phono preamplifier ($6850); Metronome’s C8 Reference Asymmetrical USB DAC ($22,750) and Calypso Reference transport ($43,750); Holborne’s Analog 2 Mk.2 turntable ($7495), Dualpivot tonearm ($3475, MC1 cartridge ($1975), and rack ($3975); Van Den Hul’s Cumulus 3T speaker wire ($6995/pair) and The Cloud 3T interconnects ($695/set); and a Schopper Thorens fully restored 124 Mk.2 (“priceless”).
I'm afraid the companies exhibiting in this room will not be adequately served by this blog entry. David Salz of Wireworld was not available, and I never got details on his cabling other than word that his new, top-of-the-line USB cable got caught up in FedEx drama and didn't make it to the show on time. All I know is that the big speaker was the eye-catching, glass-enclosured Waterfall Niagara from France ($54,000/pair), which has 89dB sensitivity and a frequency response of 36Hz28kHz ±3dB, and a Cary 300T SACD player ($6500) and Cary monoblocks ($10,000) were called into action. Power was conditioned by the APC units that Kal Rubinson recommends. I don't know much more, unfortunately. As I just explained to the man who just answered the phone at Waterfall Audio USA, I owe them and Wireworld one.
Unexpected amusement greeted me in the small Covenant Audio & Aaudio Imports room. As soon as I entered, an overgrown post-adolescent seated himself in the sweet spot, took one look at the visually stunning Wavac HE-833v1.3 tube monoblocks ($69,000/pair), Wavac PR-T1 tube preamp (a mere $30K), Acapella High Violin MK 888 horn speakers ($48,000/pair—where do they get these names?), and Accustic Arts Drive and DAC ($12,800 together), all held together and powered by assorted cables and power products from PranaWire, Stealth and Isoclean, and blurted out, "This looks like super-high end."