Astell&Kern’s AK10 portable DAC ($299) measures 2.1 ” W x 2.1 ” H x 0.5 ” D, weighs just 1.8oz, and comes with an attractive leather case. It uses a Wolfson WM8740 DAC, capable of handling 24-bit/96kHz data, and is compatible with iOs (iPhone 5 and 5th generation iPod Touch) and Android (Galaxy S3, S4, Note2, Note3) operating systems. Its USB 2.0 input means it can also be used to improve the sound of music files stored on your Mac or PCjust send the output to your headphones or stereo. Inspired by turntable design, the silver circle atop the AK10 is actually a volume control: spin it to raise or lower the volume. Sweet.
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.
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).
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.
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.
“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.
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.