The sweet solidity of the violin beckoned me from down the hallway (which is far more than I can say about some of the rooms I visited). I was hardly surprised to discover that I had been lured by Edge Electronics. Paired with the Tyler Acoustics Woodmere II speakers ($8800 base price, 185 lbs each), the Edge System handled silences wonderfully. That may sound like a backhanded compliment, but I mean anything but. Playing the exquisite Elly Ameling singing Schubert to piano accompaniment, there was a stillness, poise, and grace amidst the living flow of her voice that I rarely experience from sound systems. (I experienced something similar one year in the Joule/Elrod room at CES). On display were the new Edge CD player, whose RAM circuitry is said to perform advance error correction, the G8 amp, and G2 preamp (available with optional battery supply). Actually, passive display was not what was intended. Shipping mishaps from the company's new base in Florida had actually destroyed some of the intended components, which were replaced by older versions of Edge's current models, which Steve Norber lifted from his home system a few miles away.
Toward the end of Day One, I encountered my Bay Area Audiophile Society buddy Jeff Wilson in the hallway. Jeff, a true music lover and long-time audiophile whose ears I trust, is about to open a showroom with Bob Kehn in Oakland, CA that will feature Magico, VAC, Silversmith, and other top-quality brands.
In a room tuned with the amazing Acoustic System Acoustic Resonators to sound good with the glass window exposed, Darren and Bonnie Censullo of Avatar Acoustics displayed a system distinguished by the kind of openness and air that some people would kill for. Products included the Abbington Music Research AMR CD-77 and AMR AM-77 ($8500 each, both outfitted with NOS tubes), Acoustic System Tango Speaker ($13,500/pair), Current Cable Powercord and interconnects, and a host of Acoustic Resonators. If you look closely, you may see one of the diminutive resonators ($200–$2200) on the rear window. This is one system I hope to revisit if time allows. I’d love to hear some of these products in my own listening room, which is far bigger than the hotel suites into which most systems were shoeboxed.
Having hosted an AudioKinesis speaker demo at my home for the Bay Area Audiophile Society (BAAS), I feel confident saying that Duke LeJeune is one of the dearest men in the business. Here he demonstrates his new 92dB-sensitivity, 16 ohm impedance, 170 lb Dream Maker ($9000/pair), whose "controlled-pattern, offset bipole configuration" is designed to control the relative level of reverberant energy density in the room. If that sounds like gobbledegook, the vivid presentation of the AudioKinesis/AtmaSphere combo, which was admirably clear in the higher frequencies, whet my appetite for more extended listening in the future.
I couldn't resist the wonderful sounds of Louis Prima coming from the Green Mountain Audio room. Paired with Jaton Corporation’s Operetta AP2140A 2-channel Distributor amplifier ($1000, 140Wpc into 4 ohms, 70Wpc into 8 ohms), whose "processing filter circle eliminates 99.99% of noise at maximum volume," the intriguing-looking Green Mountain Calypso loudspeaker ($10,000/pair for the next month or so before the price increases 10–15%) was producing the kind of extremely smooth sound that draws you into the music. The speaker measures 88–89dB sensitivity, and utilizes a simple, first-order crossover to achieve "perfect" time-coherence. The midrange and tweeter are also adjustable forward and back for optimal sound in the listening position. The entire system, including the speaker, was wired with Marigo wire. I constantly find that Green Mountain's innovative designs produce lovely sound. Expect a whole new line of smaller, less-expensive speakers to appear on the Green Mountain website in another month or so.
John Atkinson and I have made an agreement. When John is not taking part in any of the eight "Demonstration of Live High-Resolution Recordings" seminars he has scheduled over the course of the Fest, he will cover the exhibits in the Marriott's Atrium rooms, and I will cover exhibits in the Tower. Of course, each of us is free to cross over to the other side if we're dying to hear something. But that's the plan.
I was utterly intrigued by the innovative speakers from Dr. Shelley Katz’s UK-based Podium Sound ($5995/pair). Katz produces panel loudspeakers that mechanically vibrate via electromagnetic drivers. Inherently free from phase error and less sensitive to placement than electrostats, they operate full-range without any filters.
Santy Oropel of Twin Audio Video Inc. of Loma Linda, CA was producing some very nice sound with Triode Corporation’s TRV-A88SE, a KT88-based, 12Wpc, single-ended integrated amplifier ($1800) and TRV-4SE Limited Special Edition tube preamplifier ($2750). Everything save the faceplate and casing is made in Japan.
Nelson Pass is up to good again. Following the wonderful sound of Ella and Billy I heard in the corridor, I discovered Nelson's prototype open-baffle speaker system. It sports both a Lowther PM6A full-range driver and a pair of SEAS W26 10" woofers. The 40"-high open baffle, which at this stage of the game is not intended to be a final design statement, has no side panels, only a central brace in the rear. The system was bi-amped, with the Lowther driver fed using a 60Hz, 6dB/octave high-pass filter feeding a First Watt F3 7Wpc JFET amplifier. The woofers were driven by a Pass Labs XA30.5 fed by a 12dB/octave active crossover. No equalization was employed. That the sound was so good was especially amazing, considering that the digital front end was pieced together at the last minute after the originally intended computer drive arrived minus its charger chord. I look forward to hearing the finished product.
According to Marjorie Stiefel, who with her husband Al slaves over the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest for months on end, this year's RMAF has 142 exhibit rooms, 29 more than last year. The show, has in fact, not only reached the hotel’s size limit—the DTC Marriott is Denver's third-largest—but also exceeded Marjorie's and Al’s energetic capacity. Fried to a crisp beyond the smile, the couple is considering hiring help for next year in order to meet increased demand from such major players as Linn, McIntosh, Esoteric, dCS, Kimber, Wilson, BAT, Gamut, Clearaudio, Edge, Ayre, Nordost...you name them.