One of the joys of John Atkinson's RMAF panel session was discovering a remarkable unanimity of understanding and vision amongst a group of men who work in different countries on different areas of sound reproduction. Amidst scribbling seven pages of notes that barely scratch the surface of the knowledge and wisdom shared by panelists, I looked up to discover John and everyone having a ball as they spoke with one mind about the current state of the commercial recording industry, and the future of high resolution formats.
Much of Keith O. Johnson's invaluable presentation consisted of a series of graphs that demonstrated everything from jitter to the noise created by certain power cables. One of his many messages was, if folks think there are no differences between cables, I have the graphs to show otherwise. He also exhibited graphs that show how the quality of manufacture of CDs makes a huge difference in the ultimate analog signal. Want to see what a bad DAC or amplifier does, and compare it with a state-of-the-art unit? Keith can show you. Pictured is a tone-cluster wave he developed as a diagnostic tool that resembles music.
It takes people of vision to advance sound quality in an errorthank you, Mr. Freud, I mean erawhen record companies often seem set on anything but advancing the quality of music and musical reproduction. Hence, for his panel "Adventures in Digital Formats, Upsampling & Dithering," John Atkinson and RMAF's Kurt Bauer assembled an extraordinary panel.
One feature of this year's RMAF that has catapulted it into the major leagues of audio shows was the sheer number of well-attended workshops and panels scheduled at the Hyatt. Over the course of three days, one room featured "Let's Get Digital" with Robert Harley of The Absolute Sound, "Music Everywhere" by Steven R. Rochlin of EnjoytheMusic.com, "The New Music Label" by attorney Ned Hearn, "Adventures in Digital Formats, Unsampling & Dithering" with our own John Atkinson, "Digital Playback Equipment Design Considerations" with David Solomon of Signal Path International, and "Music Discovery" with consultant Sean Leonard. Many of these were panels, with a host of additional participants.
There's nothing like ending a day at RMAF with a reminder of what the real deal sounds like. If Ray Kimber had his marching band blasting their way around the lobby, the fabulous multi-feted, Grammy Award-winning recording engineer/producer Cookie Marenco gifted us with her renowned piano teacher, Art Lande tinkling the keys in the Marriott's Atrium on Saturday night.
Are we Stereophile's yin and yang, the Mutt and Jeff, or the Lois Lane and Clark Kent of blogging? (I'll leave it you to decide who's Lois). Only our hairdressers know for sure. Que sera, sera and all that, here are two thirds of your loyal RMAF team, Stephen Mejias (right) and yours truly (or not so truly, as the case may be), shortly before trekking the Rockies to the summit of audiophile nirvana.
After my first day of blogging, one dedicated Stereophile reader dropped John Atkinson a note to lament that I was mainly concentrating on large systems to the expense of smaller ones. Happily for all parties, one of the smaller exhibits he urged me to visitthe Feastrex roomsI had already checked out and have since blogged about.
Not every breakthrough product available through cable manufacturer Nordost costs an arm and a leg. The new Quantum Resonant Technology products distributed worldwide by Nordost Corporation are a prime example. While the QX-2 costs $1700, and the larger QX-4 costs $2500, their amazing effects on sound suggest a product I'd expect to cost far more.
The room was standing-room only, with three rows of chairs, both side walls, and the back walls filled with folks eager to hear one of the dream systems assembled by Denver retailer Audio Unlimited. Where shall we begin: the dCS Scarlatti Stack which consists of the CD/SACD transport, DAC, master clock, and upsampler/digital-to-digital converter (by my math $81,000 total, and by anyone's math a fair hunk of change); the BAT REX linestage ($20,000), BAT VK-P10SE phono stage with new Super Pak Premiere ($16,000), BAT VK-600M SE monoblocks ($26,000); Running Springs Audio Dmitri Conditioner Premiere ($4,000); Hansen's new Audio Emperor loudspeakers ($60,000/pair); or the little bundle of TARA Omega Gold and 0.8 cables that together cost at $36,000 but probably far more? The take-no-prisoners sound was stunning. So stunning that some of the people were pinned to the back wall. Wow!
If there's anything I expect from Dynaudio, it's superb bass. Dynaudio's 30th-anniversary Sapphire ($16,500/pair) certainly produced copious amounts of bass. But the speaker gave me far more than sheer volume. In combination with the Wadia 781i transport/DAC ($15,000), Pass Labs XA100.5A monoblocks ($16,000/pair), Grand Priz Monaco Amplifier Stand, and XLO Signature 3 SE-1 power cords ($1100/8'), S3-2.2 balanced interconnect ($900/m), and S3-4.2 digital cable ($455/m), the system delivered some of the most well-proportioned, beautifully delineated bass I've ever heard. The opening of Mahler's Symphony 2 is rich with the sound of cellos, violas, and basses, and this system nailed each and every line with rare beauty. On the other end of the spectrum, soprano Elly Ameling's voice radiated angelic sweetness. Pictured with the equipment they represent are Dynaudio's Michael Manousselis (l) and Wadia's Martin E. Cooper (r).