John Atkinson was one busy camper at RMAF. In addition to blogging the show and moderating Saturday afternoon's information-packed, standing room only Computer Audio Panel, John presented four hour-long seminars entitled PC AudioSqueezing the Music Till the Bits Squeak, playing all his music examples from his MacBook laptop via a Metric Halo FireWire interface. The setting was Evergreen E, the large, excellent-sounding exhibit (Sony and JBL speakers, Mark Levinson amplification, EMM Labs preamp and digital source components, Kimber kables) assembled by Ray Kimber of Kimber Kable.
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.
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.
It's hard enough to take a good photo when your subject is rapt in conversation. But when your subject is Michael Fremer, and his subject is Turntable Set-Up, the challenge is immense. Standing before a packed house of analog devotees, Michael was so animated, and so filled with information, that even my camera had a tough time staying still.
Thanks to a first-time alliance between RMAF and Head-Fi.org, the Denver Marriott Tech Center's large Event Center was ringed with exhibits and displays from headphone component manufacturers and Head-Fi community members. Strategically positioned at the show's entrance, for example, was JH Audio's custom in-ear monitor booth, which proclaimed, "We call it the JH|13 ProYou'll Call it Aural Sex." Thank God they didn't come right and say, "We give you know what."
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.
For those of us with DACs that lack USB and/or FireWire inputs, getting uncompromised, full-range sound out of our computers is a bit of a challenge. There are a number of interfaces on the market, but most are slaved to the computer's inferior clock. I've tried one of these, and it conveys neither the bass nor the clarity of my transport.
Nothing convinces more than a fabulous recording wonderfully reproduced. Wilson Audio scored big time when it engaged recording engineer Peter McGrath as its marketing VP. McGrath's recordings are legendary. When sourced from master hi-res computer files, played back using the superior Amarra Music Server software, they're pretty riveting.
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.
Todd Garfinkle of MA Recordings (right) has built an enviable reputation as one of the finest producers of quality audiophile recordings on the market. The repertoire is remarkably diverse. From performances of Bach organ music and the Chinese GuZheng to such one-of-a-kind gems as Buenos Aires Madrigal and the fabulous Será Una Noch albums, MA Recordings are as notable for their diversity of instrumentation and repertoire as their full range sound.