Since Sonic Studio dropped the price of its Amarra music software system to $189, lots more people have been enjoying its sound. Less than two months after Amarra’s last release, James Anderson announced the imminent arrival of 2.4.3 (free to current owners). He also played Reference Recordings’ superb recording of Copland’s Symphony 3, one of whose movements has become known as the “Ode to the Common Man.” Turns out that the performance was recorded using Sonic Studio’s professional Soundblade products. Played back with Amarra 2.4.3, it sounded fabulous, with absolutely tight, room-shaking bass. No doubt Amarra’s optional equalization component, which can help control bass booming created by either room nodes or less than flat loudspeaker response, had more than a little to do with the success of the presentation.
After a break of too many years, it was great to again encounter the fine sound of April Music. This time, the company was showcasing three premiers: the April Music Stello Ai700 integrated amplifier ($6500), Eximus S1 stereo amplifier ($2500), and Eximus DP1 192/24 DACPreamplifier ($3200). Together with a MacBook Pro running Amarra 2.4.2, Marten’s Coltrane soprano loudspeaker and Verrastar cabling, the system sounded gorgeous on soprano Renée Fleming’s rendition of Dvorák’s “Song to the Silver Moon.” Bass was impressively solid. The speaker needed more room to shine on the very top, but the midrange and bass produced by this chain were excellent.
Don’t be scared. No one was busy rounding up illegal aliens during RMAF, thank God, but the combination of the EXD model of the BorderPatrol S20 power amplifier, which came complete with two power supply units ($16,500); BorderPatrol Control Unit EXT1 preamp ($12,250); BorderPatrol DAC EXT1 ($9750); Living Voice Avatar OBX-RW loudspeakers (from $11,750/pair); Tent Labs transport; and Electrofluidics cabling was overdriving the room. There was a captivating illumination to my CD of the Beethoven Violin Concerto, but highs were wiry, and the bass boomed like nobody’s high-end audio business in troubled times. (A common factor in this part of the hotel.)
“We have no crossover,” I was told soon after I entered the Tocaro loudspeaker room. “Our tweeter receives the full signal. And even though our speakers are 100dB or more efficient, they can handle the 175W of power that we’re feeding them.”
Developed by Miguel Herrero and hand-built in Gütersloh, Germany, the Tocaro 42D ($14,000/pair including stands) was connected by Crimson interconnects ($360/m) and Crimson bi-wire speaker cable ($1070/8’ pair) to the Resolution Audio Cantata ($6500), Crimson 710 solid-state preamplifier ($7000), and Crimson 640E monoblock amplifier ($6000/pair). I tried to do what the sign said, and forget whatever I thought I knew, but I couldn’t overlook the sound of boxy percussion on my well-played Chesky CD of Marta Gomez, nor the bright edge around her voice.
According to Bob Farinelli of Bob Carver LLC, the legendary designer has “made some adjustments” to the sound of his 35-driver Bob Carver ALS line-source speakers with active tube based crossover network ($19,700/pair). I’ll say. The sound has improved greatly since I blogged Carver’s speaker and electronics at AXPONA in early June. The system’s subwoofer may have overloaded the small roomthis is not the first or the last time you’ll read about bass overload in these blogsbut the line array’s ability to reproduce the timbre of an unnamed jazz trumpeter’s instrument was spot-on.
In adjacent rooms, Gershman Acoustics from north of the border was showcasing the US show debut of its Idol loudspeakers ($2995/pair) and their flagship Black Swans ($45,000/pair). In both cases, Esoteric and Clearaudio sources, VAC electronics, Gershman Acoustics Hybrid speaker cable and unidentified interconnects, and Critical Mass Systems’ PXK racks ($1650/level) and Black Sapphire Filter System ($995/level) did the honors.
Having heard at last Randy Bankert’s 97dB-sensitive Sonist Concerto 4 floorstanding loudspeakers ($5895) with electronics and cabling that do them justice, I understand what beautiful sound they are capable of producing. Together with Snake River Audio interconnects and speaker cable ($1100$2449 for a 3m bi-wire pair of speaker cables), whose outer shell shimmers like a snake slithering in the sun, the Hong Kong sourced Increcable TIA-280 80Wpc integrated amplifier, and a Cary CAD-306 Pro SACD/CD player, this system produced solid bass and beautiful highs.
It’s a great name, isn’t it? Your Final System, based in Rochester, NY, is an Internet-based, high-end audio consulting firm specializing in custom USB 2.0 cables and computer music servers that will travel anywhere in the US to set up their music server. Unfortunately, shit happens. YFS’s McIntosh 275 amplifier died right as the show was getting underway, they hunted around until they located Jolida electronics that were fresh out of the box. Given the insufficient break-in time, it’s inappropriate to comment on the sound of a system that also included a customized YFS HD Ref 3 Digital Music Server/Transport ($13,000), Bricasti M1 DAC ($8600), Von Schweikert VR-44 Aktive loudspeakers ($26,000/pair), and YFS cabling (including their REF USB cables ($350 each).
High Fidelity Services of Braintree, MA was producing good, solid sound on well-recorded rock on a system that mixed two products it imports and distributes, Neat Acoustics’ Ultimatum XL6 loudspeakers ($14,280/pair) and Scheu Analog’s Das Laufwerk 1 turntable with 12" Tacco arm and Scheu/Benz cartridge ($15.995), with Zanden’s Model 2500 CD player ($22,000), Model 6000 integrated amplifier ($22,000), and 1300 phono stage ($13,750); Running Springs’ Maxim power conditioner ($6400); and Chord Cable Company’s SArum cabling ($8400).
Having heard the complete Haniwa 24/192 system twice, at two shows, I confess that I don’t get it. The ad for this $18,000 system, which includes 4" speakers, digital preamplifier with channel divider and DSP, and digital amplifier with recording and playback capabilities, proclaims: “An authentic 3D image pops up from sharply focused, high resolution left and right images . . . .Then, an authentic 3D sound should pop up from sharply focused, high resolution right and left channel sounds...” What I hear from digital copies of fine classical analog recordings is bright, edgy sound.