Dennis Fraker of Serious Stereo was having a ball playing his favorite Eagles Farewell 1 TourLive from Melbourne Blu-ray on an older Pioneer Elite Blu-ray player, Serious Stereo Ultra-Dynamic Attenuator ($2800 FOB), a pair of Serious Stereo 2-stage direct-coupled amplifiers ($15,750 shipped), and Serious Stereo loudspeakers boasting Altec 604 duplex 15” point-source transducers ($13,800/pair FOB). I wouldn’t call the sound audiophile nirvana, but it sure was a fun change of pace. Would have loved to have heard the components with the latest Oppo.
In the first of MIT’s two adjacent rooms, Steven Holt, in his last appearance with the company before moving on to Light Harmonic, showed off MIT’s newest Z-Plug 3 ($199) and Z-Plug 6 ($399) AC noise traps. Demonstrated with Audio Prism’s noise-sniffing device, these parallel power filters seemed to do a fine job of quieting things down. Also new are two power cables, the SL-Z-Cord3Fp AC Noise trap ($349) and SL-Matrix Z-Cord 6 AC Filter power cord ($699), both of which incorporate Z-series power filtration. Don’t you love these ridiculously long names that make you feel like you’ve bought something special, which, despite the name, it may very well be?
Wandering into the Blackbird Audio room, whom do I encounter but audiophile legend Dean Peer giving Trenner & Friedl’s Pharoah loudspeakers ($13,000/pair) a major run for the money. While learning that the speaker’s plywood cabinet is bottom-ported, and that it has a horn-loaded compression tweeter and 8" paper-cone woofer, Dean played various impossibly deep runs, leaps, and scales to discover that the speakers in fact react quite fast, and extend down to the subsonic level. Very very cool. I’m afraid I didn’t hear much else in the systemapologies to Heed Audio, Cardas Audio, Profundo, Colleen Cardas Imports, Unison Research, and Opera Callas loudspeakers, among othersbut I sure had a great time.
My photo fails to do justice to the eye-catching aesthetics of the Wadia Intuition 01 ($7500) on the stand. You can catch much better views of the modern digital integrated amplifier/DAC/preamp combo here. Offering 350Wpc into 4 ohms (190Wpc into 8 ohms), 192/24 resolution via coax, optical, and AES/EBU, and 384/32 and native DSD playback via USB, this beaut mated with Sonus faber’s equally handsome Olympica I loudspeakers ($6500/pair + $1200 optional stands) and Nordost Tyr 2 cabling to produce very mellow sounds on a track by Bill Callahan, and captivate me with the voice of Lucrecia Dalt.
There was a lot of talking going on when I entered room 8012 in the Marriott’s Tower, but Rosa Passos and bassist Ron Carter sounded very mellow through Funk Audio powered loudspeakers ($19,875/pair) David Berning ZOTL Pre One preamplifier ($12,360), Silver Circle Audio Juice Box One w/Vesuvius power conditioner, and Luminous Audio cabling. Although I don’t know if the RCA LP of tenor Jussi Björling I heard next was inherently bright, it sure sounded such through a VIP Classic 1 turntable with 3D-printed arm ($4400) outfitted with a Soundsmith Hyperion cartridge ($7500), which I know is not inherently bright, and a Dynamic Sounds Associates Phono II phono preamp ($12,000).
Mated with B&W 804D speakers and Cardas Clear cabling, Simaudio’s Moon 180 MiND network player ($1250), new Moon Neo 260D CD transport w/optional DAC ($2000 + $1000), Moon Neo 380D DAC ($4350), Moon Neo 350P preamp ($3650), and Moon Neo 400M monoblock amplifiers ($4300), I was struck by the very clear, crisp, and solid sound of Jefferson Airplane’s “Come Back to Me,” sourced from an original Japanese pressing. The Neo 260D, released September 4, includes an optional asynchronous 32-bit DAC with four digital inputs that allows direct streaming and Blu-ray playback.
There were so many exhibitors at this year’s RMAF that it was not possible to go back to rooms. One of two wonderful rooms in the Marriott Tower that I most regretted not having time to revisit, Apex Audio’s mezzanine set-up of equipment mainly distributed by Musical Surroundings produced warm, gorgeous sounds and a “midrange to die for” on Reference Recordings’ LP version of Doug MacLeod’s There’s a Time (Stereophile’s May 2013 Recording of the Month). Managing to let the brightness of the latest CD transfer of Mercury Living Presence’s stereo version of Schoenberg’s Five Pieces for Orchestra come through while remaining a joy to listen to, the system inspired me to scribble, after listening to a track from an LP of guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, “one could listen for hours without fatigue.”
At last, Nordost has augmented its four-level Sort Kone equipment support line with the threaded Sort Füt ($350/each). A mechanically tuned resonance control device designed to replace the standard spikes and stabilizers supplied with loudspeakers and racks, it boasts aluminum and bronze hybrid construction, a filial dome to minimize effects of vibration, and three internal ceramic balls that minimize contact surface area while providing physical stability. The “Premium Package” includes four Sort Füt units (which together support speakers up to 800 lbs), an adjustment tool, laser leveling, and both 8mm and 6mm threaded adaptors.
Ah, Zu Audio, ever the chameleon, albeit with a distinctive color. At the California Audio Show last August, Zu paired their loudspeakers with gray-tinged tube electronics that toned down their sometimes metallic leading edge; at RMAF, with Peachtree Audio’s Grand Integrated ($4500), whose design let the true nature of Zu’s Druid Mk.V loudspeakers ($5200/pair), Submission sub ($3995/each), and Zu Event cabling, emerge in the best possible light.
Hardly ones to shy away from the big stuff, the folks at Apex Audio Denver filled the mezzanine’s large Blanca Peak room with an I-dare-not-do-the-math system that, for starters, paired Focal Stella Utopia EM loudspeakers ($95,000/pair) with Soulution’s 500 monoblock amplifiers ($55,500/pair), 530 integrated amplifier ($49,000), 520 preamp ($26,000), and 540 CD/SACD player ($32,500). Those still breathing can add in a Transrotor Rondino Nero turntable ($14,000), Graham Phantom Supreme ($6800), and Air Tight PC-1 Supreme Cartridge ($10,500).