I went into the SimpliFi room expecting to see the excellent Weiss MAN301 media player and effective DSPeaker room correction and D/A devices. Yes, there were there at RMAF but SimpliFi's Tim Ryan wanted to talk about the Swiss Klangwerk Ella active speaker ($15,000/pair) shown in my photo. This modest-looking floorstander uses DSP to make it work as a time-aligned virtual point source. A constrained layer-damped Corian front baffle supports an advanced Aerogel-dome tweeter from Audax and a 5.5" woofer; two more 5.5" woofers covering the same passband are placed on the speaker's sides, and all three are reflex-loaded with a downward-firing port. The advantage of this design is that it has a wide listening window on both vertical and horizontal planes, explained Tim, and indeed, on Dire Straits' "Brothers in Arms," I found that I could move up and down and from side to side without any significant change in the perceived balance.
When Jason Serinus visited the room shared by DeVore Fidelity, Tone Imports, and Oregon dealer Eugene Hi-Fi, the $12,000/pair Orangutan O/96 speakers that are Art Dudley's new reference and are shown in Jason's photo were playing. But when I visited the room, the smaller, floorstanding Orangutan O/93s ($8400/pair) were playing, and sounding very good indeed on a favorite Stephen Mejias album from Jenny Hval. (However, don't ask me about my reaction to the lyrics, which involved Ms. Hval applying an electric toothbrush to a body part other than her teeth.)
At the 2012 RMAF, Ayre Acoustics had decorated their room in the Marriott's tower to resemble a 1950s bachelor pad, complete with lava lamp. This year, the theme was Charlie's Records, complete with racks of bargain LPs offered for sale. It was great to see Ayre founder Charlie Hansen (left, above) back in action at a show, after a long hospitalization. The system featured JBL K2-9800SE speakers driven by Ayre's VX5 power amp and KX5 preamplifier, with source either an Ayre DX5 universal player or an Ayre/Bauer DPS turntable amplified by an Ayre P5 phono preamplifier.
When I walked into the On A Higher Note room at RMAF, Philip O'Hanlon was playing Doug McLeod's There's a Time LP, our May 2013 "Recording of the Month," and very good it sounded too. Turntable was a Brinkmann Bardo fitted with a TriPlanar 12" tonearm and a Brinkmann Pi cartridge, with a Luxman L590X integrated amplifier ($9500) driving the superb Vivid B-1 loudspeakers ($14,990/pair) that I reviewed in October 2011. Cables and power conditioning was by Shunyata.
The very first room I visited at the 2013 RMAF was Sony's, where they were demonstrating the HAP-Z1ES hi-rez file player ($1999) that I reported on in September. This neat device features a 1TB internal drive, Ethernet and WiFi connectivity, and can be controlled by an app running on a tablet or phone. It will upsample any format to double-DSD as well as handling native single-DSD and double-DSD files. It comes preloaded with 20 hi-rez albums from Sony, Warner, and Universal and the goal was to make file playback as easy and as fast as playing a disc. It doesn't, therefore, allow playback from a computer or NAS but a rear USB port allows the internal storage to be supplemented with an external drive.
Taiwanese speaker manufacturer used an 400Wpc/8 ohms Jeff Rowland Design Group 825 stereo amplifier and Aeris DAC to demonstrate its new Double Bass loudspeaker ($28,000/pair), with audio data sourced from a Bryston BDP-1. The Double Bass combines an MTM ribbon array with an 8" sandwich-cone mid-woofer and 12" sandwich-cone woofer in a vented enclosure that resembles, yes, a double bass.
My sleeping room at the Tech Center Marriott was next to the Jeff Rowland Design Group's sound room. The night before the show started, though I wasn't kept awake, I was puzzled by the low-level, low-frequency noises coming through the wall. When I went into the room after the show had begun to take a listen, JRDG's Lucien Pichet, who for many years had been a stalwart at Avalon Acoustics, explained that they had been breaking in the system. This comprised Raidho D1 speakers, driven by the Continuum S2 400Wpc integrated amplifier ($9800) via Cardas Clear cables, with source the Aeris D/A processor ($9800) hooked up to a Bryston BDP-1 file player. The components were supported by one of the impressively built Harmonic Resolution Systems racks.
John Wolff's Classic Audio company has been a fixture at audio shows the past few years, always showing his beautifully made speakers, combining hornloaded midrange and highs with big paper-cone woofers, most recently using field-coilenergized drivers. This year John was demming the T-3.4, which combines a field-coilenergized midrange unit, with a 4" beryllium diaphragm loaded by a wooden horn horn with a 2" throat, with a pair of 15" woofers operating below 500Hz, one firing forward, the other at the floor, and a "Ultra-High-Frequency" supertweeter operating above 12.5kHz.
Daedalus Loudspeakers has been a loyal exhibitor at RMAF, along with ModWright Instruments and WyWires. Their system showcased the Ulysses v.2 speakers ($14,950/pair) driven by a ModWright KWA 150 Signature amplifier ($8495), with the front-end a pre-production prototype ModWright Elyse DAC (price TBD) fed data from a ModWright-modded Oppo disc player, and ModWright LS 36.5 two-box preamp with tube-regulated power supply ($9995). Cables were WyWires PLatinum interconnects (from $1495) and Silver Series AC cords, with Daedalus/WyWires speaker cables. The Ulysses uses two full-range Fostex units for its midrange, combining it with twin tweeters and two proprietary 8" woofers with paper cones and corrugated surrounds originally designed by Daedalus 20 years ago for musical instrument use.
The KingSound King III electrostatic loudspeakers ($12,000/pair) sounded superb at RAF, without the sweet-spot beaming I would have expected from their width. Amplifier was the 120Wpc, $6500 Innamorata from Wells Audio that I first heard at the 2013 Newport Beach Show, with an EAR 868 tube preamp ($7395) and Kaplan cables. Source was the latest Sound Science Music Vault M7 ($5595) with an Antelope Zodiac Platinum DAC with Voltikus power supply ($5500). Analog source was a Townshend Rock 7 turntable ($3900) fitted with an Ortofon Rondo Blue cartridge ($879).