Ray Lombardi's international set-up was getting much better sound from JBL's 1400 Array ($11,500/pair) than at the first California Audio Show (CAS) a few months back. In fact, Diana Krall's semi-lethargic rendition of "Let's Face the Music and Dance" sounded much less doped-up than it did when I last heard it at the Aurum Cantus factory in China. The presentation featured crisp and sweet highs, and a natural midrange. Neither Sound Applications power treatment (model not specified) nor ASC Tube Traps could totally tighten up the speaker's soft bottom, but I don't recall it sounding very tight at CAS either.
What has become a familiar site at shows, Acoustic Zen loudspeakers and cabling mated with Triode electronics, has also become a welcome sound. Here, I experienced a beautiful airiness around female vocalists. "Just gorgeous," I wrote in my notes. The bass, however, was challenged, perhaps because of the room.
Although their atmospherically lit room, which looks very different in this flash-illuminated photo, was dominated visually by 10-year old Genesis loudspeaker prototypes that never made it to market, PS Audio's electronics were what the room was about. The PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport ($2999), which I own; Perfect Wave DAC ($2999) with Bridge ($799); prototype Perfect Wave amp (under $5000); and award-winning Power Plant Premier ($1999), all using Perfect Wave AC-12 ($999/meter) sounded marvelous on a CD from Natasha Atlas. Playing the Pentatone SACD of Schubert's "Trout" Quintet, the highs were especially beautiful, with violins singing with estimable delicacy. It was the best sound I've ever heard from a PS Audio show set-up. This bodes very well for their forthcoming amplifier.
RM Loudspeakers of Fort Smith, Arkansas were showing the CH-11R "True Exponential Folded Horn" ($17,500$20,000/pair) and RM-105 ported four-way ($9900$12,400/pair). I love the old school / new school look of these contrasting speakers. Playing the latter with unspecified components and cabling, I especially enjoyed the nice warmth in the bass voices of While You Are Alive, John Atkinson's 2007 recording of Cantus.
I first heard the Eficion F300 loudspeaker at RMAF or some other show perhaps two years ago. Bob Walters of the Bay Area Audiophile Society, who urged me to audition it, raved about the Eficion F300 and bought a pair. Two years later, the Eficion F-300 and Stillpoints amplifier stands and stainless steel supports have transformed my system.
Little did I know, as I began my second day at RMAF 2010, how grateful I would be for the laid back sound in the LSA Group and AudioKinesis rooms by the time the day ended. The combination of LSA1 Statement monitors ($2600/pair) and and LSA speaker stands ($379/pair), LSA standard tube hybrid integrated amp ($5000), Exemplar/Oppo CD player ($2500), and Exemplar active cabling (approx. $8000) wasn't particularly fast on my fabulous Marta Gomez recording from Chesky, but it allowed me to slow down and enjoy what was there.
As I learned when he did a demo for members of the Bay Area Audiophile Society in my home some years back, Duke LeJeune is one of the sweetest people in an industry that has its share of sweet people. When I walked into his room, his 95dB-sensitivity, 16-ohm AudioKinesis Strato Prism loudspeakers ($4400/pair) were playing some New Age music of dubious worth. The sound through an Oppo BDP-83 used as a transport, Neko D100 Mk2 DAC ($1395), and Atma-sphere's MP-1 linestage ($4850) and S-30 amplifier ($3950) was enveloping, with particularly warmth in the midrange.
I was hardly alone in my appreciation for Robert Silverman's playing. The audience was packed. Performing both Friday and Saturday nights at 6:30pm, Silverman drew large audiences that packed both downstairs and the three upstairs balconies that ringed the performance area. On Saturday night, Bea Lam of VTL was spotted in rapt attention, as was Charlie Hansen of Ayre, Stereophile's John Atkinson and Laura LoVecchio and, of course, Ray Kimber.
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.