Last spring's Axpona show in Jacksonville gave me a first opportunity to audition some of Grant Fidelity's bargain-priced Chinese imports. I really liked what I heard. Despite cries of foul from a few of those posting comments to the blog who depicted Grant as the cause of the entire high-end slowdown in the US, and me as a conspirator in the eventual collapse of Western Civilization, the word is clearly out. Grant's room at RMAF was mobbed, so mobbed by attendees who were eager to chat away while the music played that nothing short of blowing a police whistle would have quieted them down. (A few systems at RMAF sounded like police whistles, but that's another story).
Oh my, did Muddy Waters' Folk Singer sound good. I hadn't heard this audiophile classic in many a year, and my time in Mike Garner of TweekGeek.com's room convinced me that it was time for an extended revisit. Garner achieved gorgeous clarity and marvelous quiet on this recording. As I wrote in my notes, "A very special moment."
Doshi Audio of Virginia was proudly displaying their handcrafted Jhor monoblock amplifiers ($18,995/pair) and Alaap V2.1 full-function preamplifier ($14,995). Partnered with the oft-encountered Wilson Audio Sasha, and Transparent XL series cabling, the system excelled in midrange strength as it threw an exciting soundstage. Although lacking ultimate bass control, the system rendered take-no-prisoners rock in accurately brash and brazen fashion.
Applause rang out after Silverman's performances. Among the most appreciative were those in the standing room section in heaven, aka the mezzanine balcony. Notice Roy Hall (third from left), who really socks it to Mikey Fremer in the "Manufacturers Comments" section of the November issue, among the admirers. On the second night, Gary Koh of Genesis was spied in rapt attention.
Taking this year's novel room treatment prize lying down was Artemis Labs of Simi Valley, CA. Undoubtedly wishing to imprint a message that their equipment produces the sound of your dreams, on display were the Artemis Labs SA-1S ($11,000) and SA-1 ($7800) turntables; Schröder Reference SQ ($5600 Euros) and Artemis Labs TA-1 ($3500) tonearms; Artemis Labs cartridge (not yet priced), PX-1 (LCR) phono pre (ditto), LX-1 linestage (ditto encore), LA-1 linestage ($3500), and SP-1 18Wpc power amp ($18,000). Rounding out the system were the fine Verity Audio Leonore loudspeaker ($15,995/pair) and Purist Audio Design cabling.
Reasonably priced cabling from Soundstring Cable Technologies of South Norwalk, CT created a polite, welcoming feel in a room that also featured ModWright and Oppo electronics and Nola bookshelf speakers.
The Audio Alternative of Fort Collins, CO had the perspicacity to mate Wilson Audio's new Sophia III speakers ($16,900/pair) with Rega Research Limited's Osiris Integrated amplifier ($9000), Isis Valve CD player ($10,000), and P7 turntable w/Lyra Delos MC cartridge ($4195). The sound was very mellow and inviting. It was the kind of presentation that would make many an audiophilecertainly this onewelcome the Sophia Series III into their home.
Since my earliest visits to the Stereophile Show, well before I began writing for the magazine, I have always left Jeff Joseph's speaker displays with a smile on my face. This show was no different. Displaying the lovely Joseph Audio Pulsar ($7,000/pair) with not-yet-released-or-priced Pulsar stands, the combo with Ayre electronics (including the QB-9 USB DAC$2750) and Cardas Clear cabling was a joy.
For many of us in the press, RMAF 2010 began with VTL's well-orchestrated press breakfast launch of the new MB-450 Series III monoblocks ($18,000/pair) and TL7.5 Series III preamplifier ($20,000). Speaking before a full house that included representatives from Stereophile, The Absolute Sound, Positive Feedback On-Line, Enjoy the Music, and many other media outlets, VTL's Luke Manley explained that the Series III is VTL's first fully balanced amplifier.
The sound was so full, so all encompassing, and so natural in the small Magico room (Tower 9022) that I doubt I'll encounter another display at RMAF that will top it. Certainly on the first day of the show, the sound achieved by (pictured, left to right) Tim Marutani of Marutani Consulting (Emeryville, CA), Alon Wolf of Magico, and Maier Shadi of The Audio Salon (Los Angeles) was so satisfying that it topped anything else I heard on Day One by a long shot. A very long shot.