As expected, Bel Canto Design's complement of components fully lived up to their reputation for affordable excellence. The top-of-the-line e.One CD2 CD transport/player ($2995), prototype DAC 3.5 (price not yet set), two REF500M Balanced mono amplifiers ($1995/each), REF VBS1 Virtual Battery Supply, which can power up to three front-end products ($1495), USB Link 24/96 USB to /SPDIF link ($495), and new USB Lightlink High Speed Optical ST glass-fiber link (price not supplied) were fed by an Airport Express-equipped computer server. As Bel Canto President Michael McCormick explained, "The DAC 3.5's excellent jitter rejection is at the center of the system." A Running Springs Power Conditioner completed the chain… except for one major component, the speakers.
Having just heard a Bay Area Audiophile Society (BAAS) demo of the PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport ($2999), Perfect Wave DAC ($2999), and Power Plant Premier ($2199), all hosted by the ever-engaging Paul McGowan, I was very eager to hear PS Audio's front end powered by an early prototype of PS Audio's forthcoming class-D Perfect Wave amplifier. Using Focus Audio Master 2.5 speakers ($20,000/pair), two MartinLogan Descent subs, and a complement of Perfect Wave AC12 power cables ($699/meter) and older PS Audio speaker cables not currently on the market, the system delivered the kind of clean, impressively full range sound that has made PS Audio a legend in the industry.
On Saturday evening, at show's close, Bea and Luke Manley of VTL, with the support of Nordost, hosted a Martini tribute to the recently departed founder of Stereophile, the inimitable J. Gordon Holt. Located outside Nordost's Humboldt Peak room on the Denver Marriott Tech Center's mezzanine, the tribute drew a huge crowd of industry icons.
Bless Ray Kimber's heart. For at least the last three years, Kimber Kable has transported live musicians to RMAF so that we could always have a fresh, live reference in our heads as we traipsed room-to-room listening to canned performances.
At least two people I know came up to me in the hallways of the Marriott to urge me to check out Intuitive Audio's new Gamma Summit speakers ($10,000/pair). As soon as I walked into the room, the fabulous bass on Patricia Barber's rendition of "Keep on Using Me Until You Use Me Up"I'm guessing at the titletold me why. The system's riveting presentation also featured the kind of musical highlights for days that audiophiles love. Next I heard the same Mahler Symphony 2 recording I've been playing a lot at RMAF 2009. The speakers did an extremely fine job of controlling and highlighting the bass line, and also sounded very vibrant on top. Congratulations to designer Dale Pitcher for a job well done.
Until I encountered the world premiere of the imposing Wharfedale Airedale Neo loudspeaker ($20,000/pair), I hadn't run into speakers from the 70-year old company in many a year. The wait was worth it. This wonderful-sounding speaker, which weighs over 125 lbs and can handle up to 400W power, boasts point-to-point wiring, frequency response of 25Hz45kHz, and 88dB senstivity.
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.
Okay, boys and girls, does size really matter? Certainly in the case of Legacy Loudspeaker Systems. These $46,000/pair behemoths, which dwarf Legacy President Bill Dudleston, possess tremendous authority below the belt, and project an image big enough to do justice to a full symphonic orchestra. It was hard to get all the details down amidst the din leaking in from other rooms, but I'm pretty sure their lower 15" sealed woofer is driven by its own 1000W module, while everything else, including the open-air top 15" woofer, is driven by external amplification.