Very clear and open sound, with a shiny treble and lovely midrange distinguished the room that partnered four lithium battery-powered componentsa Kronos turntable ($32,000) outfitted with Lyra Atlas cartridge and Black Beauty tonearm, Veloce’s Platino Series LP-1 phono stage (NLA), Lithio Series LS-1 linestage ($18,000), and Lithio Saetta 400Wpc monoblock amplifiers ($18,000/pair)with YG Acoustic’ Kipod II loudspeakers ($38,000/pair) and Kubala-Sosna Emotion cabling.
German loudspeaker manufacturer ELAC showed its prototype Air-X403. Scheduled for launch at CES2014, the wireless loudspeaker system includes a passive model ($2800?) and an active baby with a 210Wpc, class-A/B amplifier ($4000 range total). This black, bottom-ported speaker system did a very nice job on a track by Diana Krall, a singer John Atkinson enjoys, and I do in moderation. I would never have expected such a good midrange from such small speakers.
Thanks to PS Audio’s P5 Power Plant ($3495) and Nordost’s Norse cabling, Krell’s Phantom III preamplifier ($5499, or $7000 w/optional 24/192 onboard DAC), S-350A CD 24/192 CD player ($2500), EVO 2250E amplifier ($8000), and Krell Connect ($3500) were enabling Magico’s S-1 loudspeakers ($12,600/pair) to perform wonderfully. In the room sponsored by Audio Video Logic of Iowa, a Red-Book file of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Tin Pan Alley” had great slam and midrange power, with the guitar singing clear and free in a deep soundstage.
In the room put together by Rutherford Audio of Denver, Genesis’ 7.2f loudspeaker ($12,500/pair), whose servo-controlled bass extends down to 22Hz; Burmester’s 089 CD player ($33,000), Phono 100 ($20,000), and 956 amplifier ($19,000); Thorens’ TD 2035 Black with TP92 Genesis cartridge (price given as $6399 table, priceless cartridge); and Genesis cabling made for an ear-opening combination. An LP of Count Basie and his Orchestra’s “Me and you” had huge dynamic range, a nice and warm midrange, and an aggressive top. My JVC-XRCD of Sarah Vaughan and Basie was a bit mellower, but the top was again bright.
I always have to remind myself that, despite Marantz’s “mass-market” reputation, the company’s Reference line products have more than earned their place on audiophiles’ equipment racks because they sound so good. Which leads to Marantz’s TT-15S1 turntable ($1500) and PM-14S1 integrated amp with phono stage ($2500). As best I can tell from my scribble, the table is a joint venture from Marantz and Clearaudio, and comes complete with arm and cartridge. What I am sure of is that system had a really nice midrange and lovely sound.
Norbert Lindemann tells me that his musicbook:20 ($5000) and musicbook:25 ($5500) will be available in six weeks. The musicbook:25 is a remotely controlled network player/CD player that includes a TEAC CD drive and USB-A port. It also contains a fully balanced analog preamp with analog volume control as well as class-A headphone amplifiers. The musicbook:20 lacks the 25’s CD drive.
Crescendo Fine Audio of Boulder, a year-old venture founded by music lover and second-generation audio dealer Matt Alterman, 34, made its first showing at RMAF into a major event by sponsoring two impressive rooms. In 9018, Aerial Acoustics 7T loudspeakers ($9850) danced with Ayre’s V5X 175Wpc stereo amplifier ($7950), C-5xeMP universal audio disc player ($5950), and QB-9 DSD DAC ($3250). Preamps were Octave’s tubed HP 300SE ($7000) and, for phono, Red Wine Audio’s battery powered Analogica ($1995). A VPI Classic 1 ($2800) with Sumiko Blackbird cartridge ($1099) topped a system supported by Quadraspire’s Sunoka Vent 2 bamboo shelf rack ($795/shelf), and wired with Shunyata Research cabling, with a Shunyata Triton power distributor with stainless-steel feet ($4995) making sure everything sounded at its best.
How perfect. Shortly before I entered the room shared by Win Tinnon of Saskia Turntables and his friends, Dave Slagle of EMIA and Chris Kline of Telwire, relatively new singer/recording artist Lyn Stanley dropped by to hear her new LP. Lyn has an extremely special, warm mezzo, perfect what she calls “retro jazz,” which found its ideal home in the room’s fabulous sounding, clear and warm system. So did Bob McChesney’s trombone, which accompanied her with the perfect mix of edgy power and warmth. Thanks to Win’s hospitality and Lyn’s voice, this was one of my special moments at a very special show.
No US audio show feels complete without hearing Acoustic Zen cables, interconnects, power cords, and loudspeakers connected to Triode Corporation electronics. Acoustic Zen’s Robert Lee deserved to smile, because his set-up showed everyone’s equipment at its best. Upsampled to 192kHz, a violin CD sounded gorgeous, and the low organ pedals on Saint-Saëns’ well-known “Organ Symphony” were equally convincing.
Shame on me for not writing down the name of Ron Sutherland’s adorable pooch, who stayed on my lap as we orbited to bliss with the great Johnny Hartmann. Partnering with some guys named John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner, Hartmann made magic of “They Say It’s Wonderful.” Of course, that was on LP, soundingyeswonderful thanks to a Merrill-Williams R.E.A.L. 101 table with Tri-Planar arm, Sutherland N1 full-feature line/phone preamplifier ($18,000) and Sutherland Power Block amplifier ($6000), arrayed on a Krollo Rack and connected to each other and Avalon Transcendent loudspeakers by Incline cabling.