I ended Saturday's incredibly packed tour of the 15 rooms on the Marriott Tower's 10th floor with a stop in Musical Fidelity's room. It was a good choice. This was the first room at the show where I pulled out Channel Classics' superbly recorded hybrid SACD of the Ebony Band Amsterdam performing a unique arrangement of Revueltas' elemental, gutsy, phantasmagorical Sensemaya. The sense of air was immense, with amazing soundstaging that belied the small size of the room. I also loved the height of the soundstage, and the deep reaches of the bass. But as much as I savored the presentations' air and depth, this hardly laid-back system sounded a bit tipped-up in the highs, a common factor in many of the smaller rooms at the Marriott.
Departure Audio seems to take their name seriously. In a system fine-tuned by Shakti Hallographs (the candelabra-like devices at the edges of the photograph) and the infamous you know whats from Synergistic, the Fort Collins dealership was showing Canton Reference 7.2 loudspeakers ($7000, presumably for the pair), Herron Audio's VTSP-3A preamplifier ($6550) and M1 power amps ($6850, presumably for the pair), Arcam CD 37 ($2295), Blue Circle Audio BC 507 DAC ($2095, with options available), Audio Magic cabling and Oracle power conditioning ($7500). The sound was clean and incisive, which means somewhat tipped up. I would have stayed to explore more, but constant conversation in the room led me to take Departure Audio's name literally.
The sound in this room blew me away. When I walked in, Dr. John's "In a Sentimental Mood" was sounding as lovely and mellow as can be. Switching gears 180°, Reference Recordings' LP issue of Stravinsky's Firebird had absolutely amazing bass. "Amazing," I wrote twice in my notes.
"Bring the concert home!" declared the Jones Audio brochure. The 18-month old company, whose products are "handcrafted" in Seattle, took advantage of RMAF to debut the Jones Audio PA-M300 monoblock amplifier ($24,000/pair). This 300W into 8 ohms, 560W into 4 ohms baby, which uses a 35 lb toroidal transformer, kept company with the Jones Pre-S2 preamplifier (approx. $11,000), the Revel Ultima Salon2 loudspeakers I've lusted after on multiple occasions ($22,000/pair), a Benchmark DAC1 Pre, and Kimber cabling with WBT connectors (approx. $1000 worth).
Having greatly enjoyed YG Acoustics' two-way Carmel loudspeaker ($18,000/pair) at the California Audio Show this past summer, I was eager to hear it in a different setting. This was the opportunity, paired with Veloce Audio's battery-powered set-up. The system also featured Kubala-Sosna Emotion cabling (price not supplied), the LS-1 Pure Tube linestage ($15,000)are there any impure tubes?and LP-1 Pure Tube phono module ($3000), and V-6 monoblock amplifiers ($14,000, presumably for the pair). Also doing the honors were the Amazon One turntable (price not available), and the PS Audio Perfect Wave transport/DAC combo (approx. $6000).
Making its debut was a platter that screamed for Michael Fremer: Kodo's The Beat MagDrive turntable ($24,000). Alas, the widely lamented "where is Michael Fremer" was starring in an opera entitled Home Remodeling Can't be Accomplished with Remote Control, and was back in New York.
Craig Oxford and William Carpenter, CEO of Consensus Biotechnology and Consensus Biolabs of Little Rock, happily introduced me to the successors to Pipe Dreams loudspeakers, the HighEmotion Audio Pyra Bella 7 monitors ($6000/pair), Bella Basso 28 subs ($4000/pair, with 2 pairs in use), and Passare XOL crossover ($3000). (I did not audition the second system with the HighEmotion Audio Festune Bass Module). The HighEmotion speakers, which employ "a substantial amount of new technology", are the result of years of research into brain imagining technology, and "the emotional responses to music, auditory system function, physics, and electrical engineering."
At one end of the 11th floor sat the large, imposing Galibier Design Suite. It was dominated by several eye-catching products: Daedalus Audio loudspeakers, which replaced the scheduled and, from distant memory, fine Green Mountain Audio Calypso HD speakers ($14,900/pair) because the Daedalus babies were able to put out enough bass to fill the room; and Adona Master Reference stands (price not supplied) which supported the Galibier Design Stelvio-II turntable ($27,500) with its Durand Taiea tonearm ($7900) and Dynavector XV1s cartridge ($5250), and Atma-sphere MP-1 preamp ($15,000) and M-60 amplifiers ($13/600/pair). Equally important were Marigo Labs' VXi Mystery Feet ($779/set of 3), Analog 1 interconnects ($2000/pair), and Analog 1 SC speaker cable ($2000/pair).
Selah Audio, a North Carolina speaker manufacturer that sells its products direct on the net, was showing the Verita sealed box loudspeaker ($2000/pair, or $2650 with the veneer displayed at the show). A sealed box with 84dB sensitivity and a frequency range of 60Hz20kHz, it combines the excellent RAAL ribbon tweeter from Serbia's Aleksandar Rasisavijevic with a ScanSpeak woofer.