The Eficion loudspeaker/Plinius amplification combo, favored by Eficion’s Peigen Jiang because the fast amp complements the speed of the Eficion’s distinctive, highly detailed AMT (Air Motion Transformer) tweeter, graced two adjacent rooms at RMAF. In the first, shared with FIM Music, Eficion F200 loudspeakers ($3400/pair), a Plinius SA103 amplifier ($10,150), Exemplar Audio preamp ($4250), and Exemplar-modded Oppo BDP-105 (aka the Expo T105$4750 including cost of the Oppo) produced gorgeous, full range sound and beautiful tonality on Jacques Loussier’s rendition of J.S. Bach’s Pastorale in C minor, from The Best of Play Bach. Credit is also due FIM’s remastering, which improves on the already fine sound of Loussier’s Telarc originals.
Wandering into the Blackbird Audio room, whom do I encounter but audiophile legend Dean Peer giving Trenner & Friedl’s Pharoah loudspeakers ($13,000/pair) a major run for the money. While learning that the speaker’s plywood cabinet is bottom-ported, and that it has a horn-loaded compression tweeter and 8" paper-cone woofer, Dean played various impossibly deep runs, leaps, and scales to discover that the speakers in fact react quite fast, and extend down to the subsonic level. Very very cool. I’m afraid I didn’t hear much else in the systemapologies to Heed Audio, Cardas Audio, Profundo, Colleen Cardas Imports, Unison Research, and Opera Callas loudspeakers, among othersbut I sure had a great time.
In the first of MIT’s two adjacent rooms, Steven Holt, in his last appearance with the company before moving on to Light Harmonic, showed off MIT’s newest Z-Plug 3 ($199) and Z-Plug 6 ($399) AC noise traps. Demonstrated with Audio Prism’s noise-sniffing device, these parallel power filters seemed to do a fine job of quieting things down. Also new are two power cables, the SL-Z-Cord3Fp AC Noise trap ($349) and SL-Matrix Z-Cord 6 AC Filter power cord ($699), both of which incorporate Z-series power filtration. Don’t you love these ridiculously long names that make you feel like you’ve bought something special, which, despite the name, it may very well be?
Dennis Fraker of Serious Stereo was having a ball playing his favorite Eagles Farewell 1 TourLive from Melbourne Blu-ray on an older Pioneer Elite Blu-ray player, Serious Stereo Ultra-Dynamic Attenuator ($2800 FOB), a pair of Serious Stereo 2-stage direct-coupled amplifiers ($15,750 shipped), and Serious Stereo loudspeakers boasting Altec 604 duplex 15” point-source transducers ($13,800/pair FOB). I wouldn’t call the sound audiophile nirvana, but it sure was a fun change of pace. Would have loved to have heard the components with the latest Oppo.
Lovely, warm and delicate sound, unmistakable tube bloom, and fantastic percussive impact distinguished my brief time in this room. Danny Richie of GR-Research’s open-baffle, line-source LS-X loudspeaker system ($39,000/pair), which includes two integrated servo-controlled subwoofer towers, mated extremely well with Dodd Audio’s battery-powered 34Wpc monoblock power amplifiers ($2900/pair plus battery and charger) and tube amplifier ($1199 plus battery, charger, and tweaks), and a Mac-based computer source feeding a not-yet-released dB Audio Labs Evolution DAC ($1495 or higher). Cabling was from three companies (Triode Wire Labs, PI Audio, and Electra Cable), and power conditioning from PI Audio.
Did that title get your attention? Andrew Jones’ TAD Evolution 1 loudspeakers ($29,500/pair) usually do by themselves. But, in this case, they were paired with TAD’s visually understated M600 amplifiers ($68,000, presumably for the pair), C600 preamp ($42,000), and D600 (CD/SACD) disc player ($32,000), as well as Ron LaPorte’s forthcoming Blue Smoke Entertainment Systems’ Black Box II digital music server/client ($3995) and USB to 384/32 digital output ($2995both expected late 2013).
I’ve grown quite fond of Nola Metro Grand Reference Gold loudspeakers ($33,000/pair). Mated once again with ultra-transparent, full-range Nordost Odin cabling and several Nordost Quantums ($2200/each), the system brought out the true nature of Audio Research’s CD-8 CD player ($9000), Reference 75 amplifier ($9000), and Reference 10 preamplifier ($30,000). On a recent Mercury Living Presence CD reissue of music by Chabrier, that made for an easy-on-the-ears, slightly damped top and the dominant ARC midrange that so many people love.
At a 9am press conference Saturday, October 12, whose attendance was curiously dominated by Stereophile and our sister computer audio online site, AudioStream.com, Jared Sacks of Channel Classics and Philip O’Hanlon of On A Higher Note announced the November 1 launch of nativedsd.com. A world-wide accessible, multi-label download site dedicated exclusively to native DSD recorded stereo and multi-channel studio masters, the site promises centralized shopping for native DSD recorded Edit Master files, along with information and discussion of both software and hardware. We are also assured of “extensive site-wide search capability through the use of ID3v2 compliant metadata across all labels.”
Every music lover/audiophile with vision longs for the same thing: those magical moments when the system disappears, the time-space continuum parts, and we find ourselves mystically transported to a place where only the transcendent wonder and beauty of musical creation exists. For me, one of those unexpected listening experiences that make life worth living occurred on the Marriott’s mezzanine, when Kevin Hayes of VAC (Valve Amplification Company) played my JVC-XRCD of Sarah Vaughan and the Duke Ellington Orchestra performing Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns.”
Hardly ones to shy away from the big stuff, the folks at Apex Audio Denver filled the mezzanine’s large Blanca Peak room with an I-dare-not-do-the-math system that, for starters, paired Focal Stella Utopia EM loudspeakers ($95,000/pair) with Soulution’s 500 monoblock amplifiers ($55,500/pair), 530 integrated amplifier ($49,000), 520 preamp ($26,000), and 540 CD/SACD player ($32,500). Those still breathing can add in a Transrotor Rondino Nero turntable ($14,000), Graham Phantom Supreme ($6800), and Air Tight PC-1 Supreme Cartridge ($10,500).