Warned that the speakers and phono cartridge were not fully broken in, I entered Vana Ltd’s Room 9025 to discover Vienna Acoustics Beethoven Baby Grand SE loudspeakers ($5500/pair) paired with the debut of the Dr. Feickert Analogue Woodpecker turntable with 12 Jelco and Acoustical Systems Arché headshell ($8000) and equipped with an Ortofon Windfeld phono cartridge ($3900). Also in the system were Primare’s CD 32 CD player ($2800), I32 with MM30 media upgrade integrated amplifier ($4500), and R32 phono amp ($1200); IsoTek’s EVO3 Aquarius Mains conditioner ($2000), EVO3 Syncro active DC blocking cable ($1750), and EVO3 premier power cables ($195/each). Analysis Plus analog cables completed a system whose bass was not under control, and whose midrange was somewhat muffled, but whose highs, on an LP test pressing of Mahler’s Symphony 3, were quite wonderful.
When I entered the room sponsored by the three above entities, I heard first a CD quality file of Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre, and then a 192kHz sample-rate file of period instrument violinist Rachel Podger playing Bach. I thought the system wonderful at handling complex information, keeping everything clean, and controlling the basssuperb in fact. The only question arose when, on an SACD of mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson singing Handel, the voice was somewhat damped.
What actually transpired as the person in charge of the darkened room began to change LPs:
Me: What are you putting on?
Him: (sounding slightly hostile) What am I putting on?
Me: Yes. What music are you playing?
Him: It’s violin music.
Me: (To myself: Yes, I do know what a violin sounds like.) To him: What violin music?
Him: “I can’t pronounce it. Here, you look.”
It was all psychedelic retro in Room 9000, as Odyssey’s Klaus Bunge dimmed the lights and headed to Fillmore West as he played Iron Butterfly’s "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” Given that I was hardly prepared to drop acid in the midst of blogging the show (as in who is that strange person from Stereophile who has spent the last 15 minutes staring at our turntable while muttering something about God being the deepest groove of all?), I didn’t know what was going on equipment-wise until I found Klaus outside the room and asked which way was up.
Given that Brodmann Acoustics uses Electrocompaniet components in their design studio, the pairing of Brodmann’s FS ($4500/pair), VC 2 ($19,900/pair) and VC 7 ($24,900/pair) loudspeakers with Electrocompaniet’s AW 180 power amplifier ($5425), EC 4.7 preamplifier ($3499), ECD-2 DAC ($3099, to be reviewed in the December issue by JA), and EMT-3 transport ($3995) was especially felicitous. I’m not sure which speakers I auditionedprobably the big guysbecause things got a little crazy when someone from another publication entered the room.
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.